Donald Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer was sentenced to three years in prison in Manhattan on Wednesday morning. The sentencing comes as a result of Cohen's guilty pleas in two separate cases: one filed by federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York, the other by the Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Charges from the SDNY include bank and tax fraud, to which Cohen pleaded guilty in August, admitting to neglecting to report $4 million in income and evading $1.4 million in taxes related to personal business activity. Cohen also pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for arranging hush-money payments leading up to the 2016 election, to the effect of $300,000, to two women alleging to have had sexual relationships with Trump during his current marriage. One payment was made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal by American Media Company, which owns National Enquirer. The other, made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, was made by Cohen himself.
Cohen was able to delay sentencing after his August hearing in exchange for cooperating with the Special Counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Last month, he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal that Trump and the Trump Organization pursued continuously during his election campaign.
In a sentencing memo released on Friday, the Special Counsel's Office confirmed that Cohen had indeed cooperated, stating that he had "provided, and is committed to continuing to provide, relevant and truthful information" to the ongoing investigation.
In court, a visibly emotional Cohen took responsibility "for each act that I pled guilty to: The personal ones to me and those involving the President of the United States of America."
Cohen's cooperation and remorse, however, had little bearing on his sentence. While defense attorneys hoped for leniency, Judge William Pauley noted that "each of these acts is an offense against the United States," and categorized Cohen's behavior as "a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct."
This week, after months of denying having any knowledge of payments to McDougal and Daniels, the president identified them as "private transactions," and claimed that even if they were in violation of campaign finance laws, that the violation should be considered a civil offense—and that the blame belongs solely to Cohen.
Trump employed Cohen for over a decade as a personal lawyer and as an executive in the Trump Organization. In his remarks before the court, Cohen referred to his years in Trump's employ as "a personal and mental incarceration." He also apologized to the American public, saying "I blame myself," and attributing his actions to "[his] own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man."
Cohen is expected to surrender on March 6.
Rebecca Linde is a writer and cultural critic in NYC. She tweets about pop culture and television @rklinde.
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