Trump directed hush money, says his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen

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Washington, Aug 22 (IANS) US President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty in a Manhattan court to violating campaign finance laws.

He said he did so at the direction of “the candidate”, for the “principal purpose of influencing (the) election”, BBC reported.

Cohen’s admission on Tuesday was related to hush money paid to Trump’s alleged mistresses.

The 51-year-old admitted eight counts, including tax and bank fraud in a plea deal with prosecutors.

Trump ignored questions about Cohen as he arrived on Tuesday evening for a pre-scheduled rally in West Virginia.

The White House also declined to comment.

The plea came as a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of bank and tax fraud charges.

Cohen said he had been directed by “a candidate for federal office” — presumed to be Trump himself — to break federal election laws.

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The indictment against Cohen carries up to 65 years in prison.

But his plea deal includes a much more lenient custodial sentence of up to five years and three months, said Judge William Pauley.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to — five counts of tax evasion; one count of making false statements to a financial institution; one count of wilfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution; one count of making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate or campaign.

His sentencing was set for December 12. He was released after posting a bail of $500,000.

Reporters in court said Cohen’s voice quavered as he answered routine questions from the judge.

He was asked whether he had consumed any alcohol or drugs before making his guilty plea. Cohen told the judge he had only had a glass of 12-year-old Glenlivet, a single-malt scotch, with dinner the night before.

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Speaking to reporters outside court, a prosecutor said Cohen’s crimes were “particularly significant” because he is a trained lawyer.

Robert Khuzami, the deputy US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said: “Cohen disregarded that training, disregarded that tradition and decided that he was above the law, and for that he will pay a very, very serious price.”

Federal investigators have been scrutinising Cohen’s business activities for months, including a taxi business owned by him and his family.

–IANS

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