Michael Cohen: Trump aide pleads guilty to campaign finance crimes

Failed Republican candidate’s former lawyer admits violating campaign finance laws in payment to adult film star

The former Donald Trump aide Michael Cohen on Friday pleaded guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations and two more counts of lying to Congress after copping to activity in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

The pleas will be officially entered in court, but provided the all-capitalised three-letter-s, Cohen’s prison sentence of roughly 3-4 years will begin to flow from other crimes he admitted committing.

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Federal prosecutors in New York have recommended a sentence of between three and five years in prison in connection with the campaign violations, but a judge is required to consider federal sentencing guidelines. In sentencing a third person for a campaign finance violation that same day, the district judge Kevin Castel mentioned the Department of Justice guidelines as he handed out a sentence of 56 months to his former campaign finance chairman, Paul Manafort.

The case arose from a payment made to the porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied that relationship.

The charges are connected to an agreement to keep Daniels silent, and the felony campaign finance law violations Cohen admitted to on Friday involve Cohen’s payment of $130,000 to Daniels.

Federal prosecutors have stated it is illegal for corporations to pay individual political candidates so they don’t “sow confusion” about donors. They have also stated it is illegal for someone to distribute money to influence the outcome of a campaign by making “contributions or expenditures … that exceed the amount necessary to secure the position”.

FBI agents also raided Cohen’s office and hotel room during the investigation of potential conflicts of interest in Trump’s business dealings.

Cohen, 52, did not plead guilty to the remaining charges, which relate to lying to Congress about a real estate project in Moscow. But that lying count carries a maximum sentence of six months and Cohen has admitted it to the judge. Cohen took responsibility for his wrongdoing on that count and said that regardless of whether the public knew his “true intentions,” he would have faced more severe punishment.

He has pleaded guilty to making the initial $130,000 payment to Daniels without authorization.

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