Cohen sentenced to three years in prison

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for a series of crimes he committed while working for Trump.

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III sentenced Cohen to 36 months in jail in Manhattan federal court Wednesday morning. The sentence stems from eight federal charges he pleaded guilty to in August, including campaign finance violations tied to a scheme to pay off women alleging affairs with Trump in order to prevent damaging information from surfacing during the 2016 presidential campaign.

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His sentence also entails two months to be served concurrently for a single charge of lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump property in Moscow, which Cohen pleaded guilty to in late November as part of a deal with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE. That deal guarantees his cooperation in Mueller's ongoing Russia investigation.

Cohen will be allowed to voluntarily surrender to federal authorities on March 6.

He has also been ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution, forfeiture of $500,000 and a fine of $50,000.

His sentencing caps months of scrutiny of Trump’s onetime loyal confidant and personal “fixer” but is unlikely to temper focus on the president’s potential legal exposure.

"Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak, and it was correct but for a much different reason than he was implying," Cohen said, according to multiple reports. "It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds."

He described himself as having been in “personal and mental incarceration” since accepting a job with Trump.

Cohen arrived at the federal courthouse in Manhattan shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday morning for his sentencing before Judge Pauley, flanked by his wife and two children.

Cohen, 52, was facing significant prison time. Federal sentencing guidelines called for him to face between 51 and 63 months — four to five years — in prison for the tax fraud, false statements and campaign finance violations he pleaded guilty to in August. The false statements count carried comparatively less jail time.

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Federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York argued that Cohen should face a “substantial” jail term despite his ongoing cooperation in the Mueller probe and other open investigations.

Cohen, meanwhile, had asked the judge for extreme leniency. His lawyers argued in a memo filed last month that Cohen should be sentenced to time served, citing his cooperation with federal officials.

Federal prosecutors in part cited Cohen’s decision not to enter into a formal cooperation agreement with the Southern District, which would have bound him to providing information to the government on all matters they deem appropriate. Cohen has voluntarily met with federal prosecutors in New York and other state officials concerning ongoing investigations and through his attorneys has offered to continue to provide assistance after his sentencing.

Last month, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to the House and Senate intelligence committees about the nature and duration of discussions within the Trump Organization about a now-defunct proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Cohen told congressional committees that the talks ended in January 2016 when in reality they continued into June of that year, at which point Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee for president. Mueller said in November that Cohen deliberately lied in order to minimize Trump’s involvement in the project and limit the scope of the ongoing Russia investigation.

Mueller asked that Cohen be allowed to serve any sentence imposed for lying to Congress concurrently, citing his valuable and ongoing cooperation in the investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. 

Pauley said Wednesday that Cohen deserved credit for his cooperation in Mueller’s probe but that his crimes warranted “specific deterrence.”

It was four months ago that Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges and in dramatic courthouse testimony implicated his former boss in the scheme to cover up alleged affairs. 

The campaign finance violations stem from payments Cohen arranged for adult-film star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal in order to prevent their allegations of affairs with Trump from surfacing during the presidential race. Prosecutors say that the payments, which each exceeded $100,000, amounted to campaign contributions in excess of the federal limit.

Last week, a filing from federal prosecutors in New York suggested they have evidence beyond Cohen’s account that Trump directed the payments. 

In another ominous development for Trump, prosecutors in Manhattan announced Wednesday they had reached a non-prosecution agreement securing the cooperation of AMI, the parent company of National Enquirer that helped pay McDougal as part of the scheme. The company has admitted that it made the payments to suppress McDougal’s story and prevent it from influencing the election.

Trump has reacted angrily to Cohen’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate with the special counsel, deeming his former attorney a liar only interested in getting himself a lighter sentence. Trump has also minimized the payments, saying they were a “simple private transaction” and not a violation of campaign finance law and that any violation would be a civil infraction.

“Number one, it wasn’t a campaign contribution. If it were, it’s only civil, and even if it’s only civil, there was no violation based on what we did. OK?” Trump told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

Nicolas Roos, a federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said in court Wednesday that Cohen’s crimes carried “tremendous societal cost” and “eroded faith in the electoral process,” according to Bloomberg.

“Even powerful and privileged individuals cannot violate these laws with impunity,” Roos said. 

Updated at 12:51 p.m.