Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen reaches plea deal: reports

Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of US President Donald Trump, is expected to plead guilty to charges stemming from a federal investigation of his buisness dealings and possible campaign finance violations, the Associated Press has reported. 

There was no initial confirmation of the plea deal reported by several other media outlets, including NBC News and the New York Times, or of the specific charges involved, but Cohen is set to appear in a criminal court in New York at 4pm local time (20:00GMT). 

CNN reported that the deal includes prison time for the president’s long-time fixer, who played a behind-the-scenes role in making hush payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

Cohen was seen earlier on Tuesday leaving his apartment and travelling to the midtown Manhattan offices of one of his attorneys, former federal prosecutor Guy Patrillo. At the courthouse, security officers had set up barricades outside the main entrance.

Trump denies knowing about Russia meeting in Trump Tower

Cohen’s lawyers and the US Attorney’s office declined comment on Tuesday.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from New York, said it is still unknown was Cohen will plead guilty to, or what he is offering to prosecutors in return.

“There’s a lot of speculations about what Michael Cohen knows and what he could say about President Trump, as someone who has been with him for so long,” Saloomey said.

The development came a day after prosecutors signaled that Cohen could be charged before the end of the month in a case that has been a distraction for the White House with the midterm elections approaching.

Without a resolution, it is believed that prosecutors would put off a decision on how to go forward with the case until after the election in compliance with an informal Justice Department policy of avoiding bringing prosecutions that could be seen as political and influence voters.

Investigating for months

Prosecutors had been investigating Cohen for possible fraud related to his businesses 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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