Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen jailed for three years over payments to women
Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer, Michael Cohen, has been jailed for three years over hush money payments to two women.
He was sentenced in New York for crimes including tax evasion, lying to Congress and arranging illicit payments to silence women who threatened Mr Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.
Prosecutors claimed Cohen paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 (£103,000) and helped to arrange a $150,000 (£119,000) payment to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, so they would keep quiet about their past relationships with Mr Trump. The president denies having the affairs.
The payments violated campaign finance law.
However, Cohen’s lawyers argued the defendant should be spared jail after he cooperated in multiple federal investigations involving the president.
But US district judge William H Pauley III threw out their arguments and said the 52-year-old deserved a harsh punishment.
Cohen said his “blind loyalty” to the billionaire tycoon made him feel like he had a duty to “cover up” his “dirty deeds”.
The lawyer’s crimes included evading $1.4m (£1.1m) in taxes and misleading Congress about talks with Russians over a Trump skyscraper project in Moscow.
The US leader called for a tough sentence for Cohen, who he previously branded a liar.
Mr Pauley said Cohen’s cooperation with investigations did not “wipe the slate clean” before adding that he “appears to have lost his moral compass”.
The judge said the lawyer “should have known better” than to commit his crimes.
As part of Wednesday’s sentence, Cohen was ordered to forfeit $500,000 (£396,000) and repay almost $1.4m (£1.1m).
Cohen, who once said he would “take a bullet” for the president, told prosecutors the payments were directed by Mr Trump, implicating the US leader in a possible campaign finance law violation.
“It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man [Mr Trump] that led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” Cohen said during the hearing.
“I felt it was my duty to cover up his own dirty deeds.”
The lying to Congress charge was brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and any possible collusion.
Guy Petrillo, defending Cohen, told the court: “He [Cohen] came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in the country.”
Cohen’s adviser, Lanny Davis, said the former political fixer will “state publicly all he knows” about the president after Mr Mueller’s investigation concludes.
Mr Trump denies any collusion with Moscow.
Cohen must now hand himself in on 6 March to start his sentence.