A federal judge in New York sentenced President Donald Trump’s former long-time attorney Michael Cohen to 36 months in prison on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to several charges earlier this year.
Cohen, 52, admitted to lying last year to Congress in connection to a Trump Tower deal in Moscow after prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team charged him with making false statements.
He also pleaded guilty in August to eight charges including multiple counts of tax evasion and arranging illicit payments to silence women who posed a risk to Trump's presidential campaign.
Update 9:00 a.m. EST: President Donald Trump broke his silence Thursday morning and responded via Twitter, maintaining he had nothing to do with Cohen breaking the law.
Update 6:00 p.m. EST: President Donald Trump refused to answers questions about his former attorney Michael Cohen Wednesday after signing an executive order in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.
CNN is reporting Trump ignored reporters’ questions about Cohen’s three year prison sentence handed down Wednesday in New York.
CNN also reported, citing inside sources, that Trump is “seething” over the Cohen case and, again, called him “a liar.”
Update 1:55 p.m. EST: Cohen prompted American Media Inc. to purchase the rights to Karen McDougal’s story about an affair she claims she had with Trump years before the 2016 presidential election, federal prosecutors with the Southern District of New York confirmed Wednesday.
McDougal claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. The rights to her story were bought in August 2016 by American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer, the Wall Street Journal reported in July, McDougal’s story was never published.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that officials previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with American Media Inc. Company officials admitted to making the $150,000 payment “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen also paid adult film star $130,000 in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006. Prosecutors said Cohen was reimbursed for his payment to Daniels in monthly installments “disguised as payments for legal services pursuant to a retainer, when in fact no such retainer existed.”
“Cohen made or caused both of these payments in order to influence the 2016 election and did so in coordination with one or more members of the campaign,” prosecutors said in a news release.
Update 12:45 p.m. EST: U.S. District Judge William Pauley said Wednesday that Cohen’s cooperation with prosecutors "does not wipe the slate clean" of his crimes.
Pauley sentenced Cohen to serve three years in prison for crimes including tax evasion, lying to Congress and arranging illicit payments to silence Daniels and McDougal.
Cohen’s former attorney, Lanny Davis, said in a statement released Wednesday that Cohen “continues to tell the truth about Donald Trump’s misconduct over the years.”
“Mr. Trump’s repeated lies cannot contradict stubborn facts,” Davis said. “Michael has owned up to his mistakes and fully cooperated with Special Counsel Mueller in his investigation over possible Trump campaign collusion with Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”
Trump has accused Cohen of lying to authorities in order to get a lighter sentence and denied any wrongdoing.
Update 12:15 p.m. EST: Cohen will be required to surrender to authorities on March 6 to serve the 36-month sentence handed down Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley III also required Cohen forfeit $500,000 and pay $1.4 million in restitution and $50,000 in fines, the news site reported.
Update 12:05 p.m EST: U.S. District Judge William Pauley III sentenced Cohen to 36 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to eight charges in New York over the summer, Newsday reported.
He was sentenced to two months for lying to Congress. The sentence will run concurrent with the New York sentence.
“Cohen pled guilt to a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct," Pauley said before handing down the sentence Wednesday, according to CNN.
Pauley credited Cohen for his cooperation with Mueller's team, however, he added that as an attorney, "Mr. Cohen should have known better," Newsday reported.
Update 11:50 a.m. EST: Cohen said he takes “full responsibility” for the charges he's pleaded guilty to while addressing the court Wednesday.
“This may seem hard to believe but today is one of the most meaningful days of my life,” he said, according to CNN. “I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen that I deeply admired."
Update 11:45 a.m. EST: Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Nicolas Roos said Wednesday that Cohen's crimes carried a "tremendous societal cost," CNN reported.
“In committing these crimes, Mr. Cohen has eroded faith in the electoral process and compromised the rule of law,” Roos said.
Update 11:35 a.m. EST: Jeannie Rhee, an attorney for special counsel Robert Mueller's team, said in brief comments in court Wednesday that Cohen provided investigators with "credible information" related to the investigation into Russian election meddling, Newsday reported.
"Mr. Cohen has sought to tell us the truth, and that is of utmost value to us," Rhee said.
Update 11:15 a.m. EST: Cohen's attorney, Guy Petrillo, said in court Wednesday that Cohen cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office "knowing that he'd face a barrage of attack by the president," according to the Courthouse News Service.
Petrillo said Cohen “offered evidence against the most powerful person in our country,” CNN reported.
Update 10:55 a.m. EST: Cohen arrived at the federal courthouse in Manhattan early Wednesday ahead of an 11 a.m. sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge William Pauley III.
Original report: Federal prosecutors in New York have asked that Cohen receive a “substantial prison term” of around four years, saying in a court filing last week that he'd failed to fully cooperate with investigators and overstated his helpfulness. Cohen’s attorneys have argued for leniency, arguing that some of Cohen's crimes were motivated by overenthusiasm for Trump, rather than any nefarious intent.
The president has denied that he had affairs with either McDougal or Daniels, but prosecutors said Cohen orchestrated payments to the women at Trump’s direction. On Monday, the president wrote in a tweet that the payments were “a simple private transaction,” and not a campaign contribution.
Trump said that “even if it was” a campaign contribution, Cohen should be held responsible.
“Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me,” Trump wrote. “Cohen (is) just trying to get his sentenced reduced. WITCH HUNT!”
A sentence of hard time would leave Cohen with little to show for his decision to plead guilty, though experts told The Associated Press that Wednesday's hearing might not be the last word on his punishment.
Cohen could have his sentence revisited if he strikes a deal with prosecutors in which he provides additional cooperation within a year of his sentence, said Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit and Los Angeles.
"Few things spark a defendant's renewed interest in cooperating faster than trading in a pair of custom Italian trousers for an off-the-rack orange jump suit," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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