Donald Trump knew hush money was wrong, says Cohen

Michael Cohen right US President Donald Trump's former lawyer arrives at federal court for his sentencing for dodging taxes lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws in New York, Dec. 12 2018

His astonishing response overnight included a barrage of confusing and angry tweets as well as a freakish appearance on Fox News.

Taken together, some of the people who know Trump and his business and campaign best are now cooperating with the government, although former campaign chair Paul Manafort's deal blew up over his alleged "lies" to investigators.

Cohen was on Wednesday sentenced to three years in jail for crimes including tax evasion, bank fraud and lying to Congress. If Trump had any other benefit from it, not only would it not qualify as a campaign expense, it would be prohibited from being considered one by FEC regulation, as former FEC commissioner Brad Smith explained this week.

In another potentially worrisome legal development for Trump, prosecutors announced that the publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper struck a deal with them to avoid charges over its role in paying hush money to McDougal, who said she had a relationship with the president in 2006 and 2007.

A related question is whether he knew about the payments.

President Donald Trump publicly broke his silence Thursday morning on the sentencing of his former personal attorney and "fixer" Michael Cohen. "I never directed him to do anything incorrect or wrong".

Cohen dismissed any speculation that he wanted to embarrass Trump, but argued he instead felt he needed to "fix the mistake that I made".

Everyone in that courtroom, including the judge, concluded that you directed Cohen to commit a crime.

Pleading for leniency in a packed Manhattan courtroom before US District Court Judge William H. Pauley III, Michael Cohen said he had been led astray by misplaced admiration for Trump.

Cohen pleaded guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations which Trump can argue did not involve campaign finance. "Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did-including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook", he wrote on his favorite social media platform. "Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly.stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance".

Trump denies having affairs with the women who were paid off just weeks before the election in which Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

"You now have a second defendant or group of defendants saying that these payments were made for the primary objective of influencing the election, and that it was done in coordination with Trump and his campaign", said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine.

One additional aspect of Cohen's sentencing is that it allows Congress to move forward in inviting Cohen to oversight hearings (or subpoenaing him) in order to find out more about Trump's ties to Russian Federation. I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped - can this be so? The sentence represents the longest prison sentenced imposed to date in connection with special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

"Whatever he did, he did on his own", Trump said.

The president, however, took to Twitter Thursday, saying he didn't tell Cohen to do anything wrong.

"(Trump) was trying to hide what you were doing correct?"

When reminded that Trump had also repeated those claims in an interview on Fox News, Cohen called the remarks "inaccurate".

There is evidence some Trump associates discussed the upcoming WikiLeaks dump of the hacked emails. But so far, Mueller has not indicated that he could prove this.

Trump has raised an unprecedented $100 million for his 2020 reelection campaign.

Prosecutors have implicated Trump in a crime, but haven't directly accused him of one.

'Because what that means is, this is not simply Michael Cohen's word against Donald Trump's, it is now Donald Trump's word against everyone else, ' he added.

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