President Donald Trump’s long-time attorney and ‘fixer’ is facing prison time. Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight counts of financial fraud, tax evasion, and campaign finance violations, saying the president directed him to pay off two women who each claim to have had affairs with the president.
It’s not clear yet what this all means for the president, but Cohen did point a finger of blame directly at the commander in chief, saying Trump told him to do it.
Cohen implicated Trump when he pled guilty to violating campaign finance rules by paying hush money to the two women.
Deputy US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Robert Khuzami said, “Mr. Cohen pled guilty to two campaign finance charges, one for causing an unlawful corporate contribution and a second one for personally making an excessive personal contribution, both for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.”
Eleven days before the election, Cohen paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels who claimed she had a one-night stand with Trump. The president initially said he knew nothing about it.
Cohen said in federal court Tuesday that he made the payments “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.”
It’s not clear if Trump broke the law and legal experts say it would be hard to prove in court. But Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, told MSNBC that Trump is guilty.
“It was a crime for President Trump to direct Michael Cohen to the crime of a campaign finance donation that exceeded the legal limitations,” Davis said.
But Politico points out the documents outlining Cohen’s plea deal don’t appear to provide any examples or evidence that Trump directed Cohen to do anything.
And the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said there was “no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president.”
But legal experts say there could be problems for the president if he is heard on tape directing Cohen to pay the women with campaign funds.
Cohen’s guilty plea could add to Democratic calls to impeach the president.
Legal analysts say a sitting president cannot be indicted, but he can be impeached, which is a political, not a criminal response.
Harvard Law School Prof. Emeritus Alan Dershowitz explained, “Violation of election laws are regarded as kind of jaywalking in the realm of things about elections and there are so many of them. Every administration violates the election laws. Every candidate violates the election laws when they run for president.”
In addition to the two campaign finance counts, Cohen is also facing one count of giving a false statement to a bank and five counts of tax evasion.
He could face up to 65 years in prison, although sentencing guidelines only recommend around four to five years.
Meanwhile, Cohen’s guilty plea came at almost the same time that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of eight financial crimes in a trial arising from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, even though it has nothing to with Russia collusion.
But for now, the focus is clearly on Cohen’s case, and the implications it may or may not have for President Trump.