Michael Cohen pleads guilty to 8 counts

By Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner and Brian Ries, CNN

Updated 8:11 a.m. ET, August 22, 2018
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6:30 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Giuliani: "There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President"

From CNN's Evan Perez

President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, reacting to Michael Cohen's plea, said, “there is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government's charges against Mr. Cohen"

"It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen's actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time," Giuliani said.

Note: In court today, Cohen said that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office," he kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public. 

6:23 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

This is 1st time since Watergate a US President has been accused of campaign finance violation, expert says

Lawrence M. Noble, the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission and a CNN contributor, said that Michael Cohen's plea marks the first time in nearly 50 years that a US President has been accused of being a part of a campaign finance crime.

“This is the first time since Watergate that a President has been accused of being personally involved — directing and coordinating — a campaign finance violation," Noble said. 

Cohen’s under-oath admission — in which he said he violated campaign finance law "in coordination and at the direction” of Trump — holds specific and significant weight for the President.

“It’s unusual for a candidate to be personally liable” in a campaign violation, Noble said, “but if you can show that a candidate knew about the violation and knew about the act and participated, then the candidate can be personally liable.” 

Typically, criminal prosecution would be likely in a case like this where there is evidence of a knowing and willful violation of campaign finance laws against corporate and excessive contributions, and at this large of a dollar amount.

“I think all three of those have definitely been met in the sense that this would be something eligible for criminal prosecution,” Noble said, drawing comparisons to the charges brought against former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in 2011.

This reading of campaign finance violations stops at the prosecutors’ desks, however, as they decide how to interact with standing Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. 

 

6:18 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Cohen's ready to "tell the truth about Donald Trump," his lawyer says

Michael Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis said his client decided to plead guilty today because he's ready to "put his family and country first and tell the truth about Donald Trump."

Cohen pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court Tuesday to eight criminal counts and said that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" he kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public.

Here's what Davis said about Cohen's plea:

5:42 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

READ ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's plea deal

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday to eight criminal counts including tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations tied to his work for Trump.

Cohen said in a plea deal that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" he kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public.

Read Cohen's entire plea agreement right here.

5:16 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Michael Cohen pleads guilty to 8 counts

From CNN's Mark Morales

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty today to eight counts that include tax evasion and campaign finance violations.

  • Counts 1 to 5: Evasion of Assessment of Income Tax Liability
  • Count 6: False Statements to a Bank
  • Count 7: Causing an Unlawful Corporate Contribution
  • Count 8: Excessive Campaign Contribution

In a plea deal, he said that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" he kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public.

A sentencing date is set for December.

Watch more:

4:13 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Michael Cohen is in the courtroom

From CNN's Erica Orden

Michael Cohen entered the courtroom in Manhattan federal court minutes after 4 p.m. ET, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and gold tie. He smiled and nodded at several reporters in attendance to cover the proceedings.

Cohen’s attorney Guy Petrillo entered moments after his client.

Also in court to observe Cohen’s guilty plea were Deputy US Attorney Robert Khuzami and the US Attorney’s office’s chief of the public corruption unit.

4:08 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Cohen once served as the Republican National Committee's deputy finance chairman

From CNN's Rebecca Berg and Dana Bash

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal attorney, had served as deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee.

But he resigned this year due to ongoing probes into his business dealings, including a hush money payment he made before the election on Trump's behalf to porn actress Stormy Daniels.

"This important role requires the full time attention and dedication of each member," Cohen wrote in an email to RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. "Given the ongoing Mueller and (Southern District of New York) investigations, that simply is impossible for me to do."

Why this matters: Cohen is expected to plead guilty today in New York to multiple counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud as part of a plea deal, according to three sources. 

Prosecutors have yet to release details about the charges.

3:52 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

The IRS had to sign off on today's plea deal

From CNN's Laura Jarrett

The Justice Department's Tax Division and the IRS had to approve the deal because it is tax-related, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office, as well as the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section and Criminal Division, were also consulted on the charges in the Michael Cohen case, the source confirmed.

But the timing of the plea came down to negotiations between prosecutors at the US attorney’s office in New York and Michael Cohen’s attorneys.

3:35 p.m. ET, August 21, 2018

Why Cohen's plea deal could be a significant blow for Trump

From CNN's Kara Scannell, Shimon Prokupecz, Laura Jarrett and Erica Orden

Michael Cohen was part of President Trump's inner circle for more than a decade, working as his personal attorney at the Trump Organization and continuing to advise the President after the election.

Cohen once said he would take a bullet for Trump, but the relationship between the two men has frayed since an FBI raid in April of Cohen's office, hotel room and home.

Trump has distanced himself from Cohen, who has told friends he has felt isolated, according to the friends. Last month, Cohen told ABC News his loyalty is to his family and country first, not the President.

Why it matters: As part of a plea deal under discussion earlier Tuesday, Cohen was not expected to cooperate with the government, one source told CNN. However, by pleading guilty both Cohen and prosecutors would avoid the spectacle and uncertainty of a trial.

The Cohen investigation was referred to the Southern District of New York by special counsel Robert Mueller. If the plea deal does not include cooperation by Cohen, then it is unclear if he would follow through on his previous assertion to friends, according to sources, that he is willing to talk to Mueller.