Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer”, has been sentenced to three years in jail for lying to Congress and his role in the payment of hush money to women who said they’d had affairs with the president.
In a statement read out in court, the 52-year-old apologised to the public and said: “You deserve to know the truth and lying to you was unjust.
“Today is the day that I am getting my freedom back. I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen I deeply admired.”
Cohen’s words quickly laid bare how much this opinion had changed when he said: “The President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world mocks me, calling me a rat.
“Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again i felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to charges that just before the election, he paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 (£103,000) and helped arrange a $150,000 (£119,000) payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal so the women would keep quiet about their relationships with Trump.
Trump, who is married to Melania and was at the time of the alleged incidents, denies having the affairs. He also said in a tweet on Monday that the payments were a “simple private transaction” and did not violate the law.
The sentencing caps the stunning about-face of someone who once famously said he would “take a bullet” for President Trump but has now directly implicated him in criminal conduct.
So how did it come to this?
Cohen joined the Trump Organisation, the umbrella company for all of Trump’s business interests, as a lawyer in 2006 and quickly worked his way into his bosses inner circle.
By 2011 he was referred to as “Trump’s pit bull” and an interview with ABC News that year shows why.
He said: “If somebody does something Mr Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr Trump’s benefit.
“If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.”
In 2016, with Trump’s presidential campaign in full swing, Cohen was wheeled out for the cameras to fight his bosses corner in the face of polls predicting disaster.
One interview in particular garnered a lot of coverage for Cohen’s truly bizarre response to questioning from CNN’s Brianna Keilar.
Keilar: “You guys are down [in the polls]....
Cohen: “Says who?”
Cohen: “Says who?”
Keiler: “Most of them. All of them?”
Cohen: “Says who?”
And on it goes.
Things began to fall apart for Cohen in January of last year when the infamous ‘Trump Dossier’ was published that alleged Trump’s associates conspired with foreign agents to help influence the presidential election.
Most damning for Cohen were accusations he had travelled to Prague for secret meetings with Russians, a claim he denied. He even tweeted a picture of his passport to try and prove it.
It would later transpire Cohen travelled to Prague via Germany and therefore did not have a Czech stamp in his passport due to the European Union’s Schengen passport area freedom of movement laws.
In 2017 and in to 2018 further revelations tumbled out as Cohen became the subject of Congressional investigations as well as Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe into possible collusion.
- Meeting Ukrainian opposition politician Andrey Artemenko to discuss a plan to lift sanctions against Russia in 2017
- Being paid by Ukraine to arrange meetings between the country’s president and President Trump
- Making the aforementioned hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal
In May 2018, it was announced Cohen was no longer Trump’s lawyer, prompting a scathing tweet from the President.
By this time Cohen was under federal criminal investigation, his office and home being raided by the FBI in April.
He officially surrendered to the FBI on 21 August and pleaded guilty to eight charges related to campaign finance violations, alleging the President himself had directed him to pay hush money to two women with whom he’d had affairs.
Then at the end of last month he also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Organisation skyscraper in Moscow, further muddying the President’s claims that he and his associates had had no contact with Russians during the election campaign.
The proposal to build a tower bearing Trump’s name in the Russian capital ultimately did not materialise.
Cohen provided false statements to both the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees to create the impression the project had ended by the time the political primary season began, the charging document said.
Mueller’s sentencing recommendation was more generous, saying Cohen had provided valuable information about contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
“He’s a weak person and not a very smart person,” Trump said to reporters at the time.
“He’s got himself a big prison sentence. And he’s trying to get a much lesser prison sentence by making up this story.”
The Russia probe continues...