By Campaign Agent Imogen Granger
As Trump nears the end of his second year in office, qualms about the legitimacy of the election have yet to be put to bed. The latest in the proceedings concerning Trump is the case against Michael Cohen, Trump’s ex-lawyer, who has just pleaded guilty to violating finance laws in the 2016 election.
Michael Cohen, 51, became a close friend and personal aid of Trump whilst being his most trusted lawyer throughout his presidential campaign. He grew up idolising Trump and jumped at the opportunity to be his legal advisor. Cohen became part of the Trump family and has been described as the Presidents ‘Pit Bull’, once admitting that he would ‘take a bullet’ for him.
In April earlier this year, the FBI raided Cohen’s office in New York to help build a case against him. Four months later, on Tuesday 21st August, Cohen pleaded guilty to counts of ‘tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, wilfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and making a campaign contribution at the request of a candidate or campaign’. By pleading guilty he admits to paying hush money to Trump’s alleged lovers in order to keep them quiet before the election and keep the scandal away from the campaign. The media has particularly focused on claims from Porn Star Stormy Daniels who says she was paid $130,000 by Cohen himself just days before the election, to keep her from going to the press about an affair she had with the President. Cohen has said the payments were made for the “principle purpose of influencing the election”. The payment made vastly exceeds the legal limit for a contribution ($2,700) and was concealed when it should have been disclosed by the Trump Campaign as a campaign contribution.
Unsurprisingly, Trump has said that he didn’t know about the payment being made to the two women in question, however Rudy Giuliani, another of Trump’s attorneys, stated that Cohen was reimbursed by Trump for the hush money. Once again Trump appears to be caught in a lie whereby it becomes his word against Cohen’s.
It is interesting that Cohen, once such an ardent follower of Trump, has decided to cut allegiances and take the plea bargain, throwing the President under the bus. By taking the plea, he has reduced his sentence from sixty-five years to five years and three months – a likely prison sentence of 46 to 63 months according to the judge. Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis has told press that Cohen is ‘willing to tell everything about Donald Trump that he knows’. Part of the plea deal is that Cohen must appear in court as part of a separate investigation into the Trump Foundation.
While it remains uncertain exactly how much Cohen knows, and how much he is willing to divulge, Mr Davis says his client has knowledge of whether Trump knew in advance about the computer hacking which undermined Hilary Clinton during the election. Cohen is also claiming that he has knowledge of a meeting in New York between Trump campaign aides and a Russian delegation. Trump has denied knowledge of this meeting, however this would be a huge blow to the President if evidence could prove an attack on Clinton or his collusion with the Russians.
Allegations made by Cohen will have certainly made Trump squirm. Once a loyal friend and advisor, Cohen has turned against Trump to save his own skin and will almost certainly have evidence to help the FBI in a case against the President himself.
Sources and Further Reading
- ‘Michael Cohen: Trump ex-lawyer 'happy' to aid Russia probe’, BBC (22 Aug 2018)
- ‘Michael Cohen trial: Trump accused of directing hush money’, BBC (22 Aug 2018)
- Joe Sommerlad, ‘Who is Michael Cohen?: The New York fixer who could bring down Trump's presidency’, The Independent (23 Aug 2018)
- M Haberman, S LaFraniere, D Hakin, ‘Michael Cohen Has Said He Would Take a Bullet for Trump. Maybe Not Anymore.’, The New York Times (20 Aug 2018)
- B V Vorris, C Berthelsen, P Hurtado, ‘Michael Cohen’s Lawyer Says Trump Directed Him to ‘Commit a Crime’, Bloomberg (21 Aug 2018)
- Brennan Weiss, ‘Inside the close relationship between Trump and his 'pit bull' lawyer Michael Cohen, who paid Stormy Daniels, says he'd 'take a bullet' for Trump, and was raided by the FBI’, Business Insider UK (10 Aug 2018)
Image: Ken Lund @flickr