DONALD Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen faces a jail term after pleading guilty to paying Stormy Daniels for her silence “at the direction of the US president”.
He also allegedly recorded Trump discussing hush money payments to alleged Playboy mistress Karen McDougal. Here is more about him.
Who is Michael Cohen?
Michael Dean Cohen is a lawyer who has worked for Donald Trump for several years.
He was born on Long Island, New York, in 1966, the son of a nurse and a surgeon.
Cohen studied his undergraduate degree at American University in Washington DC before studying law at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lasing, Michigan.
He has been a member of both the Democratic and Republican parties during his life.
What are the claims about Cohen secretly recording Trump?
Trump is alleged to have been taped by Cohen as the pair discussed paying off Playboy bunny Karen McDougal who claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump.
The recording, made two months before the election in 2016, was reportedly seized by the FBI along with scores of others and Cohen’s mobile phones and computers.
Agents confiscated the items after raiding the the lawyer’s office, home and a hotel room earlier this year.
Cohen was being investigated for, among other things, paying hush money to women, including porn vixen Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, to clam up about their alleged flings with Trump.
He later said in an extraordinary admission in court that he paid Ms Daniels “at the direction of the candidate” — i.e Mr Trump — as he pleaded guilty to campaign finance and other charges.
This came just hours after reports emerged confirming he had struck a plea bargain with prosecutors.
He said the payment was “for the principal purpose of influencing the election”.
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When did he start working for Donald Trump?
Cohen became an executive at the Trump Organisation and by 2011 gained a reputation as The Donald’s “pitbull”.
He had bought several homes in buildings owned by Trump before joining his organisation and has been a high profile supporter and defender of him in the media for some years.
Cohen had been the National Deputy Finance Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
What has Cohen said about the Russian meddling probe?
Cohen vowed to protect his family and country first in an explosive interview distancing himself from the US President.
The lawyer, who once said he would take a bullet for the billionaire businessman, said he would fight back if Trump or his legal team tried to discredit him.
He also indicated he would be cooperative with prosecutors investigating his business dealings and probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.
Cohen, who hasn’t been charged, wouldn’t say if he would cooperate with prosecutors in the probe.
He has claimed Trump knew about the now infamous meeting with the Russians where they offered campaign “dirt” on Hilary Clinton.
An investigation led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller is looking at alleged links to the Trump campaign though the President has denied he knew anything about it.
Cohen’s claims contradict repeated denials by Trump, who says he knew nothing about the meeting until he was approached about it last year by the New York Times.
The lawyer reportedly doesn’t have proof of this conversation, such as audio recordings, however he is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Did he pay $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels?
Cohen admitted paying porn star Stormy Daniels £92,000 days before the US election in 2016.
On August 21, 2018, he pleaded guilty in court to making to the hush payment ‘at the direction of the US president’.
The New Yorker, 51, told a court he arranged payments to both Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
Stormy has regularly claimed the payment made to her was hush money – to stop her being interviewed about her alleged affair with the now US President.
Daniels, 39, real name Stephanie Clifford, alleges that she slept with Trump following a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada in 2006.
Trump denied knowing anything about the payment to Daniels – in his first public comments on the sex scandal.
He continued: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”
On April 9 the FBI raided Cohen’s offices in Manhattan seizing records relating to the payment.
According to Vanity Fair the FBI also spent several hours raiding Michael Cohen’s hotel room at the Loews Regency in New York.
Stephen Ryan, Cohen’s lawyer, called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary”.
He said: “The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients.
“I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
But after reaching a plea bargain with prosecutors, Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance and other charges — and admitted making the payment to Daniels “at the direction of the candidate” Mr Trump.
Cohen, who earlier agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors, also pleaded guilty to five counts of tax fraud and one count of making false statements to a financial institution.
The attorney now faces a jail term of up to five years and three months , and his bail was set at £390,000.
He will be sentenced on December 12.
What are the Ukraine allegations?
In May 2018, the BBC reported Mr Cohen was paid at least $400,000 to set up a White House meeting between Mr Trump and the president of Ukraine.
Sources in Kiev claim the payment was made by go-betweens acting for President Petro Poroshenko.
Cohen denies the allegation and there is no suggestion Trump knew about the alleged payment.
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