Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen and campaign chairman Paul Manafort convicted of financial crimes

Both the US President's former lawyer and campaign chairman pleaded guilty to financial crimes and fraud • Former lawyer Michael Cohen directly implicated Trump in paying 'hush money' to women whom he had affairs with, including adult film actress Stormy Daniels 

Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen leaving court.
Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen leaving court.

US President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty in a Manhattan court to violating campaign finance laws, potentially leaving the president himself in legal jeopardy.

Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges including campaign finance violations and directly implicated Trump in paying “hush money” to women with whom he allegedly had affairs.

Cohen also admitted that he worked “with and at the direction of the same candidate” to deliver a $130,000 (£100,000) payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to silence her claims about an affair.

The indictment against Cohen carries up to 65 years in prison, but his plea deal includes a much more lenient custodial sentence of up to five years and three months, said Judge William Pauley.

US President Donald Trump refused to comment about the charges.
US President Donald Trump refused to comment about the charges.

Trump ignored questions about Cohen as he arrived on Tuesday evening for a pre-scheduled rally in West Virginia. The White House also declined to comment.

Earlier during the day, Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, was convicted on another eight charges of bank and tax fraud.

 “This is the worst hour of Trump’s entire presidency – no, make that entire life,” tweeted Norman Eisen, a former special counsel to President Barack Obama for ethics and government reform.

The two cases raise grave questions about Trump’s presidency. Since his election, his national security adviser, personal lawyer, campaign chairman, deputy campaign manager and a foreign policy aide have all admitted or been convicted of crimes.

The cases arose from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Tuesday’s events represent a significant victory for Mueller, who has been under pressure from Trump’s supporters to wind up what the president calls a “witch hunt”.

Cohen claimed Trump directed him to make payments that violated campaign finance laws in an effort to stop Stormy Daniels, the pornographic film actor, and Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model, going public about alleged extramarital affairs. In entering the plea, Cohen did not name the two women, nor Trump.

Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, asked in a tweet: “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?” Trump has denied any knowledge of the payments at the time they were made.

Meanwhile, in Alexandria, Virginia, after the fourth day of jury deliberation, Manafort was found guilty of bank fraud, tax fraud and failure to report a foreign bank account.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of decades in prison, but he avoided conviction on some charges,  with the jury saying it could not reach a consensus on 10 out of 18 total counts.

In Charleston, West Virginia, arriving for a rally on Tuesday night, Trump told reporters: “This has nothing to do with Russian collusion. These are witch hunts and it’s a disgrace.”

Despite his conviction on federal charges, Trump called Manafort a “good man”, adding: “He was with Ronald Reagan, he was with a lot of people.”

Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, claimed the government’s charges against Cohen contained “no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president”, Reuters reported.

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