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Michael Cohen pleads guilty to 8 charges

By Danielle Haynes
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Michael Cohen pleads guilty to 8 charges
Attorney Michael Cohen walks out of a federal courthouse after pleading guilty to campaign finance fraud and tax evasion on Tuesday. Photo by Corey Sipkin/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 21 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty Tuesday to paying two women to keep silent about affair allegations in order to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen appeared in court in New York City to enter the guilty plea on eight counts, which include five counts of tax evasion, and one count each of excessive campaign contribution, causing an unlawful corporate contribution and false statements to a bank. He was released on $500,000 bond.

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The judge scheduled his sentencing for Dec. 12. He faces between 46 months and 63 months in prison.

Cohen said he paid $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels -- also known as Stephanie Clifford -- shortly before the 2016 presidential election for her to keep quiet about an affair she said she had with Trump after he married first lady Melania Trump. Cohen said he made the payment "at the direction of the candidate," referring to Trump. Cohen said he also paid former Playboy Karen McDougal, who also said she had an affair with Trump.

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Trump has denied both affairs.

U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami said Cohen also failed to report an income of more than $4.3 million, which cost the United States $1.3 million in taxes.

"In addition, Mr. Cohen pled guilty to two campaign finance charges," Khuzami added, speaking outside the Manhattan courthouse where Cohen entered his plea. "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. In addition, what he did was he worked to pay money to silence two women who had information that he believed would be detrimental to the 2016 campaign and to the candidate, and the campaign."

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Trump's private attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said Cohen's plea doesn't implicate the president.

"There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government's charges against Mr. Cohen," Giuliani said. "It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen's actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time."

Cohen surrendered to the FBI on Tuesday afternoon before appearing in court before U.S. District Judge William Pauley III.

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The FBI began investigating Cohen earlier this year after a referral from the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller. On April 9, the FBI raided Cohen's home, hotel room and office as part of a criminal probe related to his taxi medallion business, bank loans and the payment to Daniels.

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Giuliani said in May that the president reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 payment, but campaign funds were never used. The Office of Government Ethics said the payment should have been reported in Trump's 2017 financial disclosure.

It's not clear if Cohen agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. Cohen worked for the Trump Organization and was part of Trump's inner circle for about a decade. At one point Cohen said he would take a bullet for the president, but recently said his first loyalty was to his family and country.

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CNN reported in July that Cohen told friends Trump knew in advance about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between members of his campaign and Russians who said they had negative information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The friends said Cohen said he was willing to speak to Mueller about that meeting.

Mueller is investigating whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded in that possible interference.

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