Trump’s former lawyer gets three years in prison for hush-money scandal

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Michael D Cohen, a former lawyer for US President Donald Trump, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday after denouncing Trump and explaining that “I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”

Cohen gave an emotional apology to the court for his involvement in a hush-money scandal that could threaten the Trump presidency — a scheme to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with Trump to protect his chances before the 2016 election. Cohen said his blind loyalty to Trump led him to ignore “my own inner voice and my moral compass.”

The sentencing in federal court in Manhattan capped a startling fall for Cohen, 52, who had once hoped to work by Trump’s side in the White House but ended up a central figure in the inquiry into payments to an adult-film star and a former Playboy model before the 2016 election.

Judge William H Pauley III called Cohen’s crimes a “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct” and added, “Each of the crimes involved deception and each appears to have been motivated by personal greed and ambition.”

He added that Cohen’s particular crimes — breaking campaign finance laws, tax evasion and lying to Congress — “implicate a far more insidious harm to our democratic institutions.”

“As a lawyer, Cohen should have known better,” the judge said.

Cohen had pleaded guilty in two separate cases, one brought by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, the other by the office of the special counsel, Robert S Mueller III, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Before he was sentenced, a solemn Cohen, standing at a lectern, sounded emotional, but resolved, as he told the judge he had been tormented by the anguish and embarrassment he had caused his family.

“I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” he said, “and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” — a reference to Trump — “that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”

Cohen then apologised to the public: “You deserve to know the truth and lying to you was unjust.”

Rudolph Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, called Cohen’s assertion he had acted out of loyalty to Trump “a complete lie.”

“I feel sorry for him,” Giuliani added. “He’s a pathetic serial liar.”

Federal agents raided Cohen’s office and home in April, and he later turned on Trump, making the remarkable admission in court that Trump had directed him to arrange the payments.

Trump at first denied knowing anything about the payments, but then acknowledged that he had known about them. This week, he insisted that the payments were “a simple private transaction” — not election-related spending subject to campaign-finance laws.

He also maintained that even if the hush-money payments were campaign transactions in violation of election law, that should be considered only a civil offense, not a criminal one.

Since Cohen came under investigation, Trump has mocked him as a “weak person” who was giving information to prosecutors in an effort to obtain leniency when he is sentenced.

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