Michael Cohen

AP Photo/Richard Drew

Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty To Charges Involving Hush Money

August 21, 2018 - 1:49 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) — President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges including campaign finance fraud, stemming from hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Cohen, 51, pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, and one count each of false statements to influence lending, unlawful corporate campaign contribution, and excessive campaign contribution.

WCBS 880’s Mack Rosenberg said Cohen was soft-spoken and spoke in a monotone when he entered his plea. He was asked by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III to outline his alleged crimes, and then he answered a series of questions and answered yes to basically all of them – establishing the guilty plea.

The courtroom where proceedings happened was 99.9 percent full when Rosenberg arrived. He had to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television in one of two overflow rooms.

Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami said at a news conference that the tax evasion charges stemmed from Cohen’s evasion of taxes from 2012 through 2016. Khuzami said Cohen failed to report about $4.1 million in reported in come – about $2.5 million from an internet payment from a personal loan, $1.3 million from his taxi medallion business, and hundreds of thousands of dollars from brokerage commissions and consulting fees.

The false statement charge was connected to an application for a home equity line of credit that Cohen received while failing to disclose more than $14 million in debt, Khuzami said.

Khuzami did not name Trump, Daniels, or McDougal in talking about the unlawful campaign contributions. But he did say Cohen had tried to influence the 2016 election by paying to silence two women “who had information that he believed would be detrimental to the 2016 campaign and to the candidate.”

Daniels and McDougal claim Trump had affairs with them, which he denies.

Khuzami also said Cohen went to the candidate’s company – without naming the Trump Organization – for reimbursement for services rendered – when in fact he had rendered no legal services.

“It was simply a means to obtain reimbursement for the unlawful campaign contribution,” Khuzami said.

The plea deal carries a term of as much as five years and three months in prison. Cohen will be sentenced Dec. 12.

A judge set Cohen's bail at $500,000.

"We are a nation of laws, and the essence of what this case is about is justice," Khuzami said.

Khuzami said Cohen had decided he was "above the law, and for that he will pay a very significant price."

As Cohen walked out of court, people were heard chanting, “Lock him up!” and “Guilty!”

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.

There are no allegations of wrongdoing against President Trump in the case against Cohen. CBS News Justice Correspondent Paula Reid reported there is no indication that Cohen has agreed to testify or present eveidence against President Trump or anyone else.

Former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean talked about the verdict with KCBS All News Radio San Francisco’s Patty Reising and Jeff Bell Tuesday. Dean’s remarks about Trump were not forgiving.

“It’s a big day and it’s a bad day, and I think Mr. Cohen has pretty clearly established we have a criminal for a president,” Dean said.

Dean said it is a bad day for President Trump, “but it’s a bad day for the country when we have this kind of problem.”

The president, in West Virginia Tuesday, declined to comment on the Cohen news, walking away from reporters. 

Cohen's plea follows months of scrutiny from federal investigations and a falling out with the president, whom he previously said he'd "take a bullet" for.

Investigators have been probing whether Cohen committed bank or tax fraud in connection with his financial and business dealings including loan activities.

The president has lashed out against Cohen without naming him on Twitter, after news broke that Cohen had secretly recorded conversations with him. 

Cohen, as CBS News has previously reported, has been under intense pressure to cooperate with federal investigators. The investigation into Cohen is separate from Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump associates, but Mueller did refer potential evidence to the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report.)