The U.S. president’s personal attorney is accused of tax evasion, lying to Congress and violating election laws.
Three years in prison for Michael Cohen – another problem, and a serious one, for his ex-boss Donald Trump. Last Wednesday, a Manhattan court sentenced the 52-year-old ex-lawyer, finding him guilty on nine counts, almost all of them financial crimes, from millions of dollars of tax evasion to bank fraud. All of them except one: the payments of $130,000 to the porn star Stormy Daniels and $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal, to convince them to stay silent about their 2005 sexual exploits with the then-New York property mogul. The payments, however, occurred in 2016. The agreement with Daniels was only concluded on Oct. 28, 2016, just a few days before the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump’s team hid the transaction, violating the transparency laws imposed on candidates during their electoral campaigns. The government prosecutor maintained that in this instance, Cohen acted “at the direction of” Trump,” and in his final statement to the court, as a last-ditch attempt to avoid prison, Cohen implicated the leader of the country: “I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today, and it was my own weakness, and a blind loyalty to this man [Trump] that led me to choose a path of darkness over light. … [T]ime and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass.”
The U.S. president always reacts violently, but for several weeks now his line of defense has continued to retreat. At the beginning of the year, he denied all knowledge of any “transaction” with his ex-lovers. Now he says, “anything that may have occurred” should be considered a “private” matter. At the same time, The Donald has brutally lashed out against the man who was nicknamed his pit bull, tweeting on Dec. 3, “He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself. … He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.” Now, however, the situation could go dangerously askew for Trump. In January, the Democrats will assume control of the House of Representatives, using this case as a point of departure for other congressional inquiries into Trump’s “dirty deeds.” For the moment, though, the majority of the opposition is not considering initiating the impeachment process of bringing an accusation against the president.
Robert Mueller’s report on “Russiagate” – the theory that the then-Republican front-runner’s clan colluded with the Kremlin to sabotage Hillary Clinton – could prove decisive at this point. The special counsel’s office filed a brief in the New York court, concluding that Cohen had not lied to the FBI but rather “was extensively collaborating” in the investigation.* It is precisely Mueller’s lenient attitude that is now alarming the Oval Office. How far will they push Cohen? What will he reveal – if he hasn’t already – about Trump’s affairs? Cohen has also been sentenced to two months in prison, which will run concurrently with the three-year sentence, for not telling the truth to Congress about the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow. The contacts, including the political contacts, to run the project were initially made in 2015 and lasted until 2016. Trump’s ex-fixer will need to present himself at the federal prison next March 6, accompanied by the harsh judgment of Judge William H. Pauley III: “He committed a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct, each of the crimes involved deception and each appears to have been motivated by personal greed and ambition. As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better.”
*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.