Cohen says he broke campaign finance law 'at direction of candidate'

Michael Cohen, President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE’s longtime personal attorney, said Tuesday he violated campaign finance laws "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office," an indirect reference to the president.

Cohen pleaded guilty to bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance law violations in the Southern District of New York. While reviewing the charges, Cohen told the judge that he made a $130,000 payment at the direction of the candidate for federal office to keep someone quiet, and was later repaid by that same candidate.

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At no point did Cohen refer to Trump by name, but the account matches Cohen's payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels in October 2016.

Cohen additionally told the judge he made a contribution of $150,000 at the direction of the candidate, which aligns with his payment to secure the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal's account of an alleged affair with Trump.

The Justice Department (DOJ) alleged in a court filing in the case that Cohen “coordinated with one or more members of the campaign” about the payments. It does not specify how many campaign employees, or who besides the candidate Cohen may have worked with. 

The payments ensured that two unnamed women did not speak to the press prior to the 2016 election, the DOJ alleges. 

The documents appear to reference Trump as “individual-1,” saying that the person began a presidential campaign “on or about June 16, 2015.”

In a statement after Cohen's court appearance, Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami alleged that the president's former lawyer "worked to pay money to silence two women who had information that (Cohen) believed would be detrimental to the 2016 campaign and to the candidate."

Both payments were intended to influence the 2016 election, prosecutors said.

Cohen later submitted falsified invoices to the candidate's company to be reimbursed for the payments, prosecutors said. They did not provide specifics, but appeared to be referring to the Trump Organization.

Khuzami said that Cohen’s crimes demonstrated “a pattern of lies and dishonesty over an extended period of time.

“They are significant in their own right, they are particularly significant when done by a lawyer,” Khuzami said. 

He added that Cohen “decided he was above the law, and for that he is going to pay a very, very serious price.”

Prosecutors did not take questions, and Cohen did not stop to speak with reporters as he exited the courthouse.

Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution, and one count of making an unlawful corporate contribution.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of making an excessive campaign contribution on Oct. 27, 2016, which is the same date he finalized a payment to Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement over an alleged affair with Trump. 

The $130,000 payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was completed just weeks before the 2016 election. She is now suing Cohen and the president for defamation and to void the nondisclosure agreement about the affair.

Trump initially denied knowing anything about the payment to Daniels, but later acknowledged that he reimbursed Cohen for the expense, which he insisted had nothing to do with the campaign.

Cohen is due in court in December for sentencing.

The president was en route to a campaign rally in West Virginia when Cohen pleaded guilty.

—Updated at 6:10 p.m.