Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former personal attorney and longtime fixer, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday for a range of crimes, including issuing hush-money payments to women who claimed to have slept with Trump, tax evasion, and lying to Congress about the extent of Trump's business dealings in Russia.
In his remarks, Judge William Pauley III reportedly spoke of the "smorgasbord" of crimes committed by the former Trump loyalist. "Each of these crimes standing alone warrant considerable punishment," the judge said.
The sentencing followed a slew of guilty pleas made in separate cases involving federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and by special counsel Robert Mueller. Most notably, Cohen admitted last month to arranging hush payments at Trump's direction “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”
In their sentencing recommendation, prosecutors argued that Cohen deserved a "substantial" prison term of several years, because he had “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends."
"His offenses strike at several pillars of our society and system of government: the payment of taxes; transparent and fair elections; and truthfulness before government and in business," they wrote.
Tearing up, Cohen apologizes to the public: "You deserve to know the truth and lying to you was unjust."
— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) December 12, 2018
Cohen's lawyer, Guy Petrillo, had asked for leniency, pointing out that his client has expressed a willingness to cooperate with prosecutors. On Wednesday, Petrillo painted Cohen as a victim that had "the misfortune to be counsel to the president," and whose primary offense was his instinct to help. "He does not engage in sharp business practices," Petrillo said, according to Courthouse News.
Petrillo: "No bank has ever lost money dealing with Michael Cohen. I’ll say that again: No bank has ever lost money dealing with Michael Cohen. No friend in need has ever been turned away."
— erica orden (@eorden) December 12, 2018
In February, Cohen admitted to paying $130,000 to adult film star Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels. Two months later, the FBI raided Cohen's Manhattan office and residence, uncovering materials related to a payment made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also claims she had an affair with the president.
The evidence, along with Cohen's guilty plea, implicates President Trump in crimes for which Cohen is going to prison. Cohen has admitted that he paid out the hush money "in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office." The raid also opened the door for Mueller to convict Cohen for lying to Congress about the candidate's push to bring the Trump real estate brand to Moscow. Last month, Cohen admitted that he made the "misstatements to be consistent with [Trump's] political messaging and out of loyalty to [Trump.]" It's widely believed that documents recovered by Mueller that formed the basis of that conviction could potentially implicate other Kremlin-linked Trump figures, including Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort.
Unlike Trump Jr. or Manafort, it seems unlikely that Cohen will be the beneficiary of a presidential pardon anytime soon. Following news of Cohen's guilty plea, the president told reporters that his longtime employee was "a weak person and not a very smart person.”
Cohen, who once said that he would "take a bullet" for the president, admitted on Wednesday that his weakness was "a blind loyalty to Donald Trump." He will surrender to begin his sentence on March 6th.
Following the sentencing, Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, released a statement highlighting his client's cooperation in discussing "Donald Trump's misconduct over the years."
The statement continued, "At the appropriate time, after Mr. Mueller completes his investigation and issues his final report, I look forward to assisting Michael to state publicly all he knows about Mr. Trump—and that includes any appropriate Congressional committee interested in the search for truth and difference between facts and lies. Mr. Trump's repeated lies cannot contradict stubborn fact."