US President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has reportedly entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. It could mean Cohen providing information to US Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has “tentatively” reached an agreement with federal prosecutors in New York to plead guilty to tax and bank fraud charges and campaign finance violations, according to US media.
A guilty plea would avoid a high profile trial and reduce Cohen’s legal costs. DW’s Washington Bureau chief Alexandra von Nahmen said the decision could be “motivated by trying to help his family and reach a deal to reduce his jail time.”
Cohen has already admitted to being involved in paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump.
The broadcaster CNN reported that the deal will likely involve jail time for Trump’s one-time loyal fixer, within a range from 36 to 60 months behind bars.
Initial reports indicate that Cohen has not agreed to testify in other matters.
A court hearing has been set for 16.00 local time (22.00 UTC). A federal prosecutor is expected to speak to the media after the hearing.
The financial probe
The FBI raided Cohen’s home and office in April on a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in swaying the 2016 US presidential election.
Since then speculation has mounted that Cohen could ‘flip’ and divulge some important information in the ongoing probe in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Trump has denied any collusion and has called the Mueller investigation a witch hunt, while Russia has denied meddling in the election.
Mueller’s investigation, which began in May 2017, has resulted in the indictment of over 30 people and five guilty pleas. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is currently on trial in Alexandria, Virginia, for 18 counts of financial crimes resulting from the Mueller probe.
What are the charges?
Cohen has been under investigation in the southern district of New York for alleged bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance violations.
Prosecutors have reportedly been focused on money passing through a limited liability corporation, Essential Consultants, Cohen set up when working for Trump.
A month before the 2016 election, Cohen used the company to make a $130,000 (€110,000) payment to the pornographic actor Stormy Daniels.
Prosectors are also looking into loans of up to $20 million taken by taxi cab businesses operated by Cohen and family members, The New York Times reported.
After Trump was elected president Cohen allegedly used the company to charge corporations in the US and abroad for access to the new president. Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has disclosed bank reports showing that several companies, including AT&T, Novartis and a South Korean defense contractor, paid Cohen at least $1.8 million in consulting fees. Cohen’s other clients reportedly included a US-based investment firm with ties to a Russian oligarch.
jbh/rt (AP, Reuters)