Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen pleads guilty to charges over hush money

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of US President Donald Trump, has pleaded guilty to campaign-finance violations and other charges, saying he made payments to influence the 2016 election at the direction of a candidate for federal office. 

Cohen, 51, appearing in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday, pleaded guilty to one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate campaign contribution and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution.

He said he arranged to make payments “for (the) principal purpose of influencing (the) election” at the direction of a candidate for federal office but did not give the candidate’s name.

Cohen, who agreed to a plea bargain with federal prosecutors earlier in the day, also pleaded guilty to five counts of tax fraud and one count of making false statements to a financial institution.

Federal prosecutors in New York began investigating Cohen after a referral from US Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has been investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

Investigating for months

The FBI raided his hotel room, home and office on April 9, seizing more than 4 million items.

The search of Cohen’s files sought bank records, communications with the Trump campaign and information on money payments made in 2016 to two women: former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who received $150,000, and the adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who received $130,000.

The New York Times reported earlier this week, based on anonymous sources, that prosecutors have been focusing on more than $20m in loans obtained by taxi businesses that Cohen and his family own.

Cohen had gained notoriety as Trump’s loyal “fixer” before the FBI raid. And Trump branded it “a witch hunt,” an assault on attorney-client privilege and a politically motivated attack by enemies within the FBI.

But the president’s initial support for Cohen has since degenerated into a public feud.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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