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Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion, Campaign Contribution Violation

Trump 'fixer' Michael Cohen now the target of prosecutors
AFP/File EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ
KRISTINA WONG

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, making false statements to a bank, and campaign contribution violations on Tuesday.

The tax evasion and false statement to bank charges stemmed from Cohen failing to report more than $4 million in income between tax years 2012 and 2016, avoiding taxes of more than $1.4 million. That income stemmed from his ownership of taxi medallions, or permits allowing a taxi driver to operate.

The campaign contribution charges stemmed from his payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom claimed to have had sexual relationships with Trump more than a decade ago and planned to sell their stories to news outlets.

Prosecutors argued that although Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 and McDougal $150,000 from his own accounts, since it was made on behalf of a presidential candidate and was later reimbursed by the Trump Organization, it constituted an unlawful and corporate contribution and an excessive campaign contribution.

According to the charging documents, individual contributions to any presidential candidate, including expenditures coordinated with a candidate or his political committee, were limited to $2,700 per election, and presidential candidates and their committees were prohibited from accepting contributions from individuals in excess of this limit.

Corporations are prohibited from making contributions directly to presidential candidates, and candidates were prohibited from accepting corporate contributions.

Cohen pled guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a bank, one count of causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution.

Cohen claimed that he made the payments at the direction of Trump, prompting speculation that it could implicate Trump as well.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said Cohen’s indictments could mean that Trump is an “unindicted co-conspirator.” A sitting president cannot be indicted.

“If prosecutors accept what is in this indictment, then the president just became an unindicted co-conspirator,” Turley told Fox News on Tuesday. “…if they believe that what’s in this indictment was true [that] he was directed to make this payment.”

News of the plea deal came the same time Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted on five charges of tax fraud, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts, and two charges of bank fraud.

Although both men came under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was charged with looking for Trump campaign collusion with Russia, none of the alleged crimes had anything to do with Russia.

Both men were named in the unverified and salacious Trump dossier as the Trump campaign’s liaison with Russia.

However, Cohen could still cooperate with investigators in order to reduce his sentence, and Manafort faces another trial in Washington, D.C. Cohen’s lawyer, former Clinton lawyer Lanny Davis, said his client has information about “hacking.”

But the Washington Examiner‘s Chief Political Correspondent Byron York suggested it is unlikely Cohen has anything incriminating related to Russia.

“Mueller handed off Cohen matter to federal prosecutors in NY. Hasn’t said why, but generally agreed was because actions involved did not fall under Mueller’s core Trump-Russia assignment,” York tweeted.

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