After a heated and prolonged investigation by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney pleaded guilty to eight counts in federal court on Tuesday, Aug. 21. Michael Cohen’s charges included tax fraud, false statements regarding bank reporting, campaign finance and payments tied to his false reporting that included “hush money” to two women with whom he was having extramarital affairs. The two women included Stephanie Clifford, an adult film actress under the name Stormy Daniels, and Karen McDougal, a Playboy model. Payments were pulled from the 2016 presidential election fund for Trump in an agreement that both women will not go public about their affairs.
Clifford was paid $130,000 for her silence in the matter, in which Cohen was charged with “making an excessive campaign contribution,” according to CNN’s article published on Aug. 22. The payment was connected to a Trump campaign contribution, because if Clifford had gone public with the affair, the news could have negatively impacted the campaign.
Before the 2016 election, McDougal had threatened to go public with her affair connected to Cohen. This prompted the paid agreement for her silence on the matter, which Cohen believed would have poor results for Trump’s election. Cohen worked with an unnamed media company (which court filings later named “a media company that owns, among other things, a popular tabloid magazine”) to pay McDougal for her silence. This money was, according to Cohen in his court hearing, a means of “influencing the election,” which totaled $150,000.
Cohen later claimed the money was repaid “by the candidate” of the 2016 election, though he did not speak a name. Instead, Cohen’s court filing refers to an “Individual-1, who by January 2017 had become president of the United States,” according to CNN.
Evidence was gathered by a tape-recorded conversation between Cohen and Trump regarding the extramarital affairs with Clifford and McDougal, obtained by CNN and released to the public. The taped conversation discusses the purchase of the rights to McDougal’s story on the matter of the extramarital affair.
Both women have gone public since the court filing, claiming to have had sexual affairs with both Trump and Cohen, which Trump has denied. As of Aug. 29, Michael Avenatti, Clifford’s lawyer, has asked for her civil lawsuit against Trump, which was filed back in April to be expedited. The suit was initially filed under a defamation claim, after Trump threatened her credibility on Twitter in response to a sketch of a man who had harassed her in 2011. The man in the sketch was depicted telling her to “leave Trump alone.” Then, the man proceeded to threaten her daughter, according to the New York Times. The suit was filed under the notion that Trump wrongfully accused her of lying about a man who had harassed her.
Later, she filed a new suit against Trump and Cohen under the claim she was pressured into remaining silent about her affair with Trump, stating that the agreement she signed was “null and void” since Trump did not sign it himself.
‘‘Both women have gone public since the court filing, claiming to have had sexual affairs with both Trump and Cohen, which Trump has denied.’’
Avenatti wishes to move forward with the suit and listen to Trump’s hearing under oath.
Further examination of Cohen’s plea deal shows that he has also concealed over four million dollars from the IRS while providing false income information in accordance with a $500,000 home equity loan.
Cohen has worked as Donald Trump’s personal attorney since 2006, until his termination in May 2018. Before becoming Trump’s attorney, he worked for Melvyn Estrin in Manhattan as a personal injury lawyer. He was a partner for the law firm Phillips, Nizer, Benjamin, Krim & Ballon in 2006 before joining the Trump Organization. He has been accused of aiding Trump in colluding with Russia during the summer of 2016, to which Robert Mueller, former FBI director and attorney, has provided evidence of. Cohen has since denied that claim.
A student at West Chester University who has chosen to remain anonymous stated that at the start of Trump’s presidency, they had “given him a chance,” believing that Trump could “keep things in order until the next election.”
The student believes that “if a candidate means well, but sleeps around with other people, I’m not really going to care. I’m going to care if they do a good job as President,” regarding the affairs with Clifford and Daniels. They believe that the affair regarding the women is “corrupt rich people being corrupt rich people” who “are abusing their power and funds.” The student also believes that Cohen should “receive repercussions” for his dishonesty regarding his tax evasion and use of the “hush money” to influence the election.
Cohen will potentially face a maximum of 65 years in jail time, which he accepted in order to “protect his family.” He does not believe he will receive a presidential pardon for his sentence.Cohen’s full plea agreement can be read on CNBC, along with a summarization of his charges.
Sam Walsh is a third-year student majoring in special education and English with a minor in autisim studies. ✉ SW850037@wcupa.edu.