President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, bank fraud, and tax evasion in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. Cohen said in court he made the payments that constituted illegal campaign donations “in coordination with and at the direction of a federal candidate for office.” (Spoiler: It was Donald Trump.)
The guilty plea came as part of a deal with federal prosecutors in New York who were looking into his payments during the 2016 presidential campaign to Stormy Daniels, a pornographic actress who claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Trump. Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her signing a nondisclosure agreement; Cohen was later reimbursed by the president, according to Rudy Giuliani, who is now serving as Trump’s personal attorney. Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of bank fraud associated with a home equity loan he used to raise money for the Daniels payment, an illegal campaign contribution, and an excessive campaign contribution. The tax evasion counts involved more than $4.1 million in unreported income, mostly from his taxi-medallion business and interest on a personal loan. He also filed false invoices to the Trump Organization for legal services in order to receive money for the hush money payments. The charges could mean a prison sentence of 46 to 63 months.
This hardly marks the end of the Trump-Daniels imbroglio. Daniels’ omnipresent lawyer and possible Democratic presidential candidate Michael Avenatti tweeted that Cohen’s guilty plea may allow them to continue a civil case Daniels filed against Trump to get out of the nondisclosure agreement and even force Trump to answer questions in a deposition. The judge overseeing that case had issued a stay in April, citing Cohen’s likely coming indictment.