Donald Trump

Former Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

Cohen blames Trump for sending him down a "path of darkness"

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Michael Cohen
JOHN ANGELILLO/UPI/Newscom

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen will serve three years in federal prison for eight counts of tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions, a federal judge decided this afternoon.

While most of the charges are not directly connected to President Donald Trump, two of the counts involve Cohen's role in laundering payments to buy the silence of two women during the 2016 election who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. Cohen has said he arranged the payments directly at the request of Trump, something that has been mentioned in the prosecutors' sentencing request for Cohen.

Cohen was also sentenced to two months for lying to Congress about the dates on which Trump's business organization negotiated with Russian officials about a possible Trump Tower hotel in Moscow. Cohen had told Congress that negotiations ended before the primary season began in 2016, but in reality the negotiations continued well into the summer. This was a separate plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Mueller recommended that a sentence for this separate crime be served concurrently with the other crimes. The tax and fraud charges, meanwhile, were filed by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, not Mueller. The judge agreed with Mueller's recommendation.

At the sentencing hearing, Cohen took responsibility for his actions, but also blamed Trump for leading him down "a path of darkness instead of light." Mind you, he was a well-paid bully with a reputation for legal threats, and pretty nasty ones at that, against anybody who came at Trump or the Trump organization. There is no version of this story in which Cohen is anything other than a creep.

Trump has since completely distanced himself from Cohen, claiming that Cohen is lying in order to get a lesser sentence for his other crimes. Except, because Trump cannot control himself, he also tweeted out a defense of these actions that he claims Cohen lied about, saying that this was a "simple private transaction" (as part of that infamous "smocking gun" tweet).

Reason's Jacob Sullum previously noted that whether Cohen's plea comes back to haunt Trump may depend on whether Trump actually grasped that these payments counted as illegal campaign donations. Read more of Sullum's analysis here.

UPDATE: Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York announced this afternoon that American Media Inc., the company that owns the National Enquirer, has entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the feds in exchange for acknowledging their role in making the $150,000 hush money payment to keep one of the women, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, quiet.

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  1. “Reason’s Jacob Sullum previously noted that whether Cohen’s plea comes back to haunt Trump may depend on whether Trump actually grasped that these payments counted as illegal campaign donations. ”

    Also depends on whether they DID count as illegal campaign donations. Pleading guilty doesn’t establish that, and I can’t say I found Sullum very persuasive on the matter.

    1. Sullum is an idiot. So, you can be forgiven for finding him unpersuasive.

    2. Also depends on whether they DID count as illegal campaign donations.

      That’s the million dollar question of course. Unfortunately campaign finance laws are vague and open to interpretation enough that just about any sitting politician and any president in recent memory could probably be found “guilty” of breaking them depending on how one interprets the various laws. Which, of course, means “they” (whoever “they” are – Deep State actors, opposition party loyalists, whoever) can probably find dirt on anyone “they” want to.

      Honestly, I’m surprised no one’s tried this tactic to get rid of a president or any other hated politician before. We’re pretty much in full blown banana republic status here, and have been for a while but no one’s noticed. And it’s unlikely that enough people will start to care anytime soon to do anything about it.

      1. The problem with impeachment over campaign finance violations is that the Democrats don’t own the Senate. And that is important not just because it means they will never remove Trump from office. It is important also because that means the Republicans would set the rules of evidence and determine who if any witnesses would be called in an impeachment trial.

        The two other times that impeachment has happened or nearly happened was with Nixon and Clinton and in both cases the opposition party controlled the Senate. This would have prevented in Nixon’s case and did prevent in Clinton’s case the President from putting on a wide ranging defense. Indeed, Hillary Clinton infamously wrote a memo when she was working on the Watergate Committee claiming the Senate had the right to deny Nixon any defense at all.

        1. “The problem with impeachment over campaign finance violations is that the Democrats don’t own the Senate. And that is important not just because it means they will never remove Trump from office.”

          You’re assuming Democrats want Trump removed from office. They don’t. They’d prefer the odious but ineffective Trump over the odious and possibly effective Pence. They’re playing with the goal of removing him from office in November, 2020.

      2. So, if the Democrats want to impeach Trump on campaign finance violations, they are going to have to live with Trump putting on a full defense before the Senate. What would such a defense be? It would be threefold and in the alternative. First, that Trump never knew about the payment and thus if there was any violation it was on Cohen’s part not Trump’s. Second, that even if he knew about the payment, it is not a violation of campaign finance law. Third, even if it were a violation, it does not rise to the level of being an impeachable offense.

        It is the third defense that would be a nightmare for the Democrats. One of the arguments why the violation is not an impeachable offense is that other similar and more serious violations of campaign finance law by previous Presidents were not considered to be an impeachable offense. Past practice is a reasonable argument for what constitutes a “high crime and misdemeanor” and would be admissible in any impeachment trial should the majority decide it is. That means Trump’s defense could open up the vaults and go into all of the campaign violations of the Obama, and both Clinton campaigns. Moreover, Trump’s defense could subpoena witnesses with knowledge of these violations if the majority choose to allow it. The trial will be a parade of Democratic operatives being asked to explain the various and sundry dirty dealings of the last few Democratic Presidential campaigns. I wish the Democrats luck with that.

        1. Forth: Here are all the members of Congress who are equally guilty of the same offense.

          A major part of Clinton’s impeachment defense was proving to the House managers that he could take them down; The blackmail info he’d accumulated in Filegate was passed on to Flynt, who destroyed Livingston with it. The GOP establishment immediately started playing to lose.

          Trump could do the same, as Congress is lousy with members paying hush money. Call it the Samson in the temple” strategy: If they take him down, he takes them down with him.

      3. This is serious banana republic shit.

        Irks me how gleeful and stupid reason is about this thing too. Magazine is turning to trash. There is no libertarian position that even supports campaign finance laws. Yet not even noted in any article.

        1. Selective prosecution, perjury traps, and presecutors finding the man and then inventing the crime are totally Libertarian because TRUMP!!

          Reason is pissing away whatever credibility they had over this. Worse, they are making Libertarians in general look like clowns

          1. This whole thing is a libertarian goldmine. There are so many issues here that can be boiled down to: government fucking sucks and they will fuck you every chance they get.

            But no, we get silence or barely restrained glee as long as government is going after the wrong thinkers.

            Reason has become a fraud.

          2. This whole thing is a libertarian goldmine. There are so many issues here that can be boiled down to: government fucking sucks and they will fuck you every chance they get.

            But no, we get silence or barely restrained glee as long as government is going after the wrong thinkers.

            Reason has become a fraud.


      4. We’re pretty much in full blown banana republic status here, and have been for a while but no one’s noticed

        Plenty of us noticed, it’s just that there isn’t anything to be done about it. The entrenched permanent bureaucracy is more powerful than the elected representatives who arguably are in control of them, and our entire judicial branch is unrecognizable from when it was founded.

        1. And Reason can’t get over its class snobbery and dislike of Trump to see that if the bureacracy can take him down, they can take any elected official down and we no longer have a Republic. It is just unbelievable how short sighted they are being about this.

          1. I wouldn’t mind if they took down elected officials… with equality under the law.

            The problem is that this is nowhere to be found. In fact, they are making up charges (collusion, NDAs as campaign cotributions) that aren’t even against the law and never have been.

            We have political operatives creating crimes out of thin air in order to take down political opposition. Then transparently neglecting to apply these made up laws equally. Libertarians should be losing their shit over this.


            1. I wouldn’t mind if they took down elected officials… with equality under the law.

              Precisely. That’s why you’ll see a lot of comments that look like whataboutism. It’s because people are pissed off that the other teams criminals get a free pass, while the criminals on their own team are prosecuted for non-existent crimes instead of actual crimes they might have done.

              There are tons of good reasons to criticize a Republican, but has it ever occured to Reason authors that the biggest insult you can level against a Republican is that they aren’t very Republican (RINO) whereas Democrats are shifting to out-and-out ‘own the means of production’ socialists?

              Gee, what’s more dangerous? Obviously Trump and the Republicans. We’re supposed to be nice to the socialists!

              1. It’s because people are pissed off that the other teams criminals get a free pass

                They are above obeying the 1A, 2A, campaign finance laws, etc. Their “living consititution” dogma fuels their corruption; no law applies to them.

        2. “The entrenched permanent bureaucracy is more powerful than the elected representatives who arguably are in control of them,”

          Or, stated in the alternative, the Republicans were not very effective in running the country over the current Congressional term. Will a split-control be more effective? Hard to say. The R’s in the Senate will have to deal with the D’s in the House in order to get even basic tasks done. Maybe that will light a fire. I have my doubts. Will the D’s go overboard investigating Trump for doing Trumpy things? Will the R’s get it together and bring more than talk? My opinions on those questions are slightly stronger than “doubts”. Maybe the damfools will get together, work for the betterment of everyone, and a glorious new age will begin. Hey, it’s at least theoretically possible.

      5. In 2008 & to a lesser extent in 2012, Obummy’s campaign withdrew the CVV requirement from its donation website & millions of illegal foreign donations poured in, mostly from China…..Nothing at all happened to Obummy or his campaign….What Trump did is kindergarten stuff compared to that & to impeach for that is hilarious!…Trump can also use a defense, he was trying to keep his marriage intact & not hurt his wife, etc…

        1. “Nothing at all happened to Obummy or his campaign”

          Gosh, maybe you should call your congressman, and ask what the DOJ is doing? I mean, it’s run by Republicans, and the only reason they wouldn’t be interested in investigating Democrats would be if the R’s had equally thin and white skeletons in their closets, right?

          1. Well, by 2012 the DOJ was run by the DEM that Obummy picked, one Holder The Racist Scolder….BTW, Repubs complained a lot about what Obummy was doing in 2008 & like I said NOTHING HAPPENED!!

    3. Also depends on whether they DID count as illegal campaign donations.

      Doubt it. Trump is absolutely right about one thing. When he said he could fuck a dead goat on the sidewalk in front of an elementary school during recess and not lose a single vote. That’s completely true. And the reverse is true too – there’s nothing he could do that will gain a single vote.

      1. I think he can win votes in 2020 that he didn’t in 2016. There are a good number of Republicans who didn’t vote for him because they didn’t trust him who will now vote for him after he has been in office and none of the predictions of the nation’s doom over him being elected has come true. Trump will benefit a lot from being the devil the country knows in 2020.

        1. I certainly think he is more likely to be re-elected in 2020 than he was to be elected in 2016. Voters no longer view a ‘one-term presidency’ as the default. Carter/Bush/LBJ were all defeated because they lost the support of their own party. That won’t happen to Trump. Those are the only true one-termers (JFK being dead and Ford never having been elected to a first term are oddballs) dating back to before FDR.

          But that’s not about anything Trump does but about what he will be in 2020 – a sitting Prez

          1. LBJ isn’t a “true one termer”, in the sense that he served more than one term.

        2. 2020 is a long way away in both political and outrage culture years. These things get decided in real time now.. And while I don’t subscribe to the effectiveness of any of the back window defenestration tactics of the #resistance ? Stormygate, Russian ‘collusion’, campaign finance violations, emoluments, 25th Amendment, NYC tax fraud case, et al ? I think absent a more belligerent 2019 deep state coup the most likely thing to get President Trump drummed out of office or not reelected would be for him to overplay his own hand in how much the voters who currently support him (new and old) will continue to tolerate his behavior for another 2-6 years.

          Granted most of the rabid media flacks and politicos attacking him are immoral, unethical, craven, mendacious hypocrites themselves but the president sometimes doesn’t know when to let sleeping dogs lie. People love a fighter and a counterpuncher and an anti-PC warrior until they get tired of him. And then suddenly they don’t love him at all.

  2. What was the total amount of the tax evasion? Anyone know? Otherwise the Russia collusion case seems pretty weak. Yes I definitely think there was collusion – but it was on stirring up terrorism and using that as a pretext to disrupt oil production to boost prices. But there is no hint of that here. I know Cohen’s a bad guy, but I still kinda feel sorry for him. #convictslivesmatter

    1. And trump threatens Saudi to not reduce production. Probably haven’t heard your theory because it makes no sense.

    2. “Otherwise the Russia collusion case seems pretty weak.”

      Was Cohen even accused of colluding with Russia?
      Not counting the one where he lied about Trump doing “business” in Russia, under oath.

  3. Cohen blames Trump for sending him down a “path of darkness”

    Right… It couldn’t possibly be that Cohen is just a complete scumbag all on his own. The Devil Trump made him do it. Sure. Whatever it takes for him to sleep at night, I guess.

    Although he may not want to sleep too soundly for the next three years. Something about “fresh meat” comes to mind.

    1. Yeah, The Orange Man made him lie on loan applications and cheat on his taxes.

    2. “Something about “fresh meat” comes to mind.”

      Yeah, those white-collar criminal in federal minimum-security lockup are ANIMALS.

  4. Trump’s going down this time for sure.

    1. Like Stormy Daniels did on his weird dick.

    2. The walls are closing in. It’s the beginning of the end. Mueller and the Democratic House will remove this Russian puppet government in 2019.

      1. They’re not even trying to. They’re trying to remove him in November 2020. The only thing worse for them than President Trump in 2019 would be President Pence in 2019.

  5. blamed Trump for leading him down “a path of darkness instead of light.”

    lol

    There is no version of this story in which Cohen is anything other than a creep.

    “I don’t care if it hurts
    I want to have control
    I want a perfect body
    I want a perfect soul

    I want you to notice
    When I’m not around
    You’re so fuckin’ special
    I wish I was special”

    1. Take time with a wounded hand
      ‘Cause it likes to heal
      Take time with a wounded hand
      ‘Cause I like to steal
      Take time with a wounded hand
      ‘Cause it likes to heal, I like to steal

      I’m half the man I used to be

  6. Uh oh. James Clapper must be crapping his pants now that lying to Congress is considered a crime.

    1. It is only a crime if someone who doesn’t kowtow to Democrats does it.

      This is literally how our justice system works. Wonder if Bharara scared Reason into compliance.


      1. It is only a crime if someone who doesn’t kowtow to Democrats does it.

        This is how you can tell that rule of law is dead. Coincidentally, it’s also how you can tell who is really in charge of the country regardless of who may be elected.

        1. The rule of law never was.

          1. I realize that philosophically a person will always be over the law and therefore pure rule of law is an impossibility, but there’s a wide margin between perfect rule of law and none whatsoever. When those who are over the law are also above it, that is dead rule of law.

    2. James Crapper is a Deep State Swamp Creature & therefore has LIFETIME IMMUNITY!!

  7. Lying to Congress is a crime? So when does Hillary go to jail?

    1. And Clapper, Comey, Brennen, Holder and pretty much the entire Obama administration.

      1. At least Hillary was smart enough to go with “I can’t recall”. Playing dumb can go a long way to avoid perjury traps.

        Clapper came back and told Congress, I gave you the least untruthful answer I could”. Which is like saying yeah, I lied, what are you going to do about it? He admitted lying to them. To their face.

        But even Chuck Schumer knows not to mess with the intel community evidenced by his don’t mess with them because they will screw you six ways to Sunday comment.

        1. The fact that the former Senate Majority leader is legitimately afraid to criticize our federal law enforcement apparatus out of fear of reprisal should give everyone pause. That is much bigger than anything Trump could do.

          1. But no, let’s shit ourselves over whether Trump was thinking mean thoughts when he fired that sniveling pussy Comey.

  8. Trump knew Cohen was lying to Congress. Apparently Trump was directing him to do so. That’s another conspiracy on top of the conspiracy to cheat campaign finance disclosure.

  9. I guess now paying blackmailers is a worse crime than blackmailing. #METHREE!

  10. Hasn’t there been some new developments in that evil bitch’s email “problem”?

    It’s difficult to keep up these days.

    1. “Hasn’t there been some new developments in that evil bitch’s email “problem”?”

      Nope. Ivanka knew that she was supposed to wait for her official government email account, and didn’t. But that’s old news.

  11. Don’t lie to those banks! That’ll get ya. You can lie all day, but not to them.

    THEY can lie to YOU six ways from Sunday, of course. But the banks are cherished, vulnerable institutions that need protection.

    Oh, and same for the IRS of course.

    With these wonderful designs of federal law, you can be nailed for political reasons, but the good thing is you can reduce your sentence if you’ll just plead guilty to a bull shit charge where the prosecutors have a weak case, such as a questionable campaign finance violation, if it helps them make the bigger political target look bad.

  12. Screw the Wall – use the money to build a new wing at Leavenworth to hold the Clintons, Obamas, Trumps, senators, house members, even LP candidates, and etc. etc. who fall victim – knowingly or not – to the stupid, convoluted, and
    incomprehensible rules about campaign financing.

  13. Hmmmm…

    If it’s a crime to pay off mistresses because they might impact your campaign, and the people who facilitate this are due for a 3-year govt holiday, there are 435 offenders who will need rooms.

    https://preview.tinyurl.com/y8m7l37n

    1. Correct. I pointed this out yesterday.

      1. It was stupid then, too.

    2. But Trump got that money back yesterday. Does it still count? Should Stormy be sent to prison for campaign violations? Maybe she can share a cell with Rodham and Huma. Why does anyone think Rodham would not enjoy a stint in a woman’s prison? The subsequent film adaption will be a blockbuster.

  14. When will Mueller stop all this stalling and finally restore the election to its true and rightful owner Hillary Clinton?

  15. This is what they get people for?

    Know what? Nab and prosecute Hillary once and for all.

    Until then…fuck da system.

  16. Trump’s Ex-Lawyer Didn’t Violate Campaign Finance Laws, and Neither Did the President
    In the unsuccessful prosecution of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, campaign donors made payments to Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter, a videographer who was actually working on his presidential campaign.

    Unlike Daniels and McDougal, Hunter was paid $1 million while directly working for the campaign and Edwards. Her payments did not go through the Edwards campaign’s account, but the government tried to claim they were campaign expenditures because they were intended to protect Edwards’ reputation during his presidential run and thus “influence” the election.

    Yet a jury acquitted Edwards on the charge of accepting an illegal campaign donation and failed to reach a verdict?resulting in a mistrial?on the other charges, which included filing false reports with the Federal Election Commission for not listing the payments to his mistress.

    1. What’s pissing off Democrats is that public opinion of Edwards misdeeds sank him, whereas no one gives a shit about Trump. Amusing, since this is literally a rerun of the Clinton impeachment. I think Democrats are mostly angry because their moral attacks on Trump don’t work like they’re supposed to on a Republican. They thought they had a lock on the immorality vote, but Trump has blown up that misconception.

      Turns out, people only seem to give a shit about the morality of a candidate when their backs aren’t against a wall. Go figure.

      1. Clinton happened. Without Bill Clinton, no Trump.

      2. People didn’t give a shit about the Clinton stuff. Bob Dole ran on the single message of “where is the outrage” and got his ass handed to him. Ultimately, most people don’t care that much about politics and don’t see politicians as the kinds of heroes people in politics and media do. So, they really don’t give a shit if a politician is a bad guy, as long as he does what they want him to do.

    2. Did Edwards use his own money? I don’t think so. So there’s another dif.

      1. That is a difference that makes the case against Trump even weaker than the one against Edwards.

        1. Another difference is did Edwards repay whatever donors money was used to pay his mistress? I mean, even if you assume Cohen was effectively donating to the campaign doesn’t that mean that you never get the money back?

          1. If he repaid the money the best thing you can say is that it is exactly like what Trump did.

  17. Assuming Trump isn’t impeached, I think he will pardon Cohen just before leaving office.

    1. I think he wins re-election and pardons all of these people the day after.

      1. And you think that’s a good thing because… Trump is pure as innocent snow and the prosecutors are all in a giant conspiracy? Correct?

        1. Hey look, another strawman. Tony sure has a lot of those in his closet. It’s enough to wonder if he has a wicker fetish.

      2. I think you’re both wrong.

        Cohen turned on Trump. He isn’t quite Russian dictator-level on this, so Cohen won’t wind up nerve-gassed out in the prison yard, but he sure can hold a grudge. The only way Cohen gets a pardon is if there’s something he held back that’s much more salacious or much more treasonous than what’s come out so far.

    2. Cohen betrayed Trump and was also sentenced for other crimes unrelated to the campaign. Trump will not pardon Cohen.

  18. If we’ve learned anything from this scenario is that if you’re going to be in the business of representing the greatest country on earth then you better make sure you’re a saint and PERFECT in every way because if you’re not the chickens WILL come home to roost and shit all over your bed in the process!

    Now, back to this stupid border wall demand that Drumpf is trying to extort from the Democrats.

    1. You realize that using the “Drumpf” moniker makes you look like an immature 12 year old moron, right?

      1. Yes I do.

  19. Yes I do.

  20. So this proves that stuff about Russia and shit, right?

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