Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen reaches plea deal with prosecutors

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AUGUST 21, 2018

Michael Cohen is shown leaving federal court in New York in April. – AP Photo/Mary Altaffer/File

NEW YORK – Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

Cohen will plead guilty to charges stemming from a federal investigation in New York. A hearing in the Cohen case has been scheduled at federal court in Manhattan for 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The plea could have significant implications for Trump, ever since his former fixer and his attorney, old Clinton hand Lanny Davis, began signaling this summer that Cohen might cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

When reached by NBC, Davis said he cannot comment on advice of counsel since there is an ongoing investigation. Cohen has previously denied wrongdoing.

The Cohen probe is being led by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, but any cooperation agreement would likely extend to other federal investigations.

Cohen, who once bragged he’d take a bullet for Trump, hinted in July that may have changed. “I put family and country first,” he told ABC.

In addition to bank and tax fraud questions arising from Cohen’s taxi business, federal prosecutors are looking into whether the hush-money payments Cohen arranged with women who claimed they had sexual encounters with Trump amount to violations of campaign finance law.

FBI agents raided Cohen’s office and hotel room in April and seized documents and electronics. According to people with knowledge of the search warrant, agents were looking for information related to a $130,000 transaction between Cohen and adult film star , who allegedly had an affair with Trump more than a decade ago, as well as information about a reported payment of $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also says she had an affair with Trump, and information about the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump was heard making vulgar boasts about women.

The FBI has also monitored his phone calls with a pen register, meaning that the incoming and outgoing phone numbers were recorded but not the content of the calls.

In July, Davis released a phone conversation that Cohen secretly recorded in which Trump mentions “cash” in relation to a possible payment involving McDougal.

Made two months before the presidential election, the tape appears to show Cohen, who was Trump’s personal attorney at the time, discussing “how to set the whole thing up with funding.” At one point, Trump appears to ask “what financing?” and seems to ask “pay with cash?”

Cohen appears to then say “No, no, no, no, no, no, I got …” before Trump is heard saying, or asking, “check,” and then the recording abruptly ends. Although the exact wording on the tape is unclear at times, it does make it clear that Trump was aware of the model’s allegation of the affair and the plans to pay to ensure her silence.

Several major companies say Cohen contacted them after Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 presidential election promising access to the new administration. An official with the pharmaceutical company Novartis said the company signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with Cohen, and AT&T also said it has met with Cohen. AT&T confirmed in an email to employees saying it had hired “several consultants” in early 2017 to help it “understand” the incoming administration.

Both Novartis and AT&T said they had been contacted by Mueller’s investigators.

Cohen, 51, was a vice president of the Trump Organization when he left the company in May. A former personal injury lawyer, he began working for the company in 2007 after helping Trump win a fight with the board at his condominium tower near the United Nations. He also owns numerous taxi medallions, which allow drivers to operate yellow cabs in New York.

He became known for taking aggressive action to defend Trump’s interests.


Courtesy: NY Times

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