“I take full responsibility for each act that I pled guilty to — the personal ones to me and those involving the president of the United States of America,” Cohen said in federal court in Manhattan before he was sentenced.
“Blind loyalty” to Trump “led me to take a path of darkness instead of light,” Cohen told the judge.
And that loyalty, Cohen said, led to his effort to cover up president’s ’dirty deeds. ”
Cohen is due to surrender to prison on March 6. In addition to his time in prison, at a location to be determined, Cohen must pay a $50,000 fine for lying to Congress about a proposed real estate deal in Russia by the Trump Organization.
Judge William Pauley, before imposing sentence, said, “Mr. Cohen pled guilt to a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct.”
And each of these crimes standing alone warrant considerable punishment, ” Pauley said.
The sentence of 36 months was on the low end of what prosecutors had suggested was appropriate for Cohen’s crimes, but much more than the sentence of no time behind bars that Cohen’s lawyers had requested.
Federal prosecutors in New York had urged Pauley to impose “a substantial term of imprisonment” on Cohen, perhaps up to five years or more.
In a recent court filing, they noted his cooperation with prosecutors, which began even before he first pleaded guilty last summer.
The White House has no immediate comment on Cohen’s sentence.
“Life is tough and Michael Cohen accepts that. We accept that,” defense attorney Guy Petrillo said in arguing for leniency before Pauley announced the sentence.
“Mr. Cohen had the misfortune to have been counsel to the president.”
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight charges, which included tax crimes, lying to banks and violating campaign finance laws. Those charges were filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Cohen received 36 months in prison for that case.
He pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress about an aborted deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. That case was lodged by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is continuing to investigate the possibility that the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Cohen was sentenced to two months in prison for that case. But that time will run concurrent with his other sentence.
Cohen admitted lying to Congress by understating Trump’s knowledge of and involvement in the Moscow project. Cohen falsely claimed the effort to build the tower died in early 2016. But he and the Trump Organization continued pursuing the deal as late as June 2016, when Trump was on the verge of getting the Republican nomination for president and only five months before the election.
Cohen’s other crimes included campaign finance violations relating to his facilitation of two hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal shortly before the 2016 presidential election. Both women say they had sex with Trump a decade earlier.
Prosecutors said the payments were made “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump, and that the money was paid to “influence the election.”
The White House has denied Trump had sex with either woman.
Mueller has said Cohen went “to significant lengths to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
Petrillo, in asking Pauley for a light sentence, said Wednesday that Cohen offered “his relevant knowledge” to Mueller’s team, before ever pleading guilty, “knowing that he’d face a barrage of attack by the president.”
“He knew that the president might shut down the investigation,” Petrillo said.
Cohen, he said, “came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in our country.”
A prosecutor in Mueller’s office, Jeannie Rhee, said Cohen gave the special counsel “valuable information” about links between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians.
But a prosector from the Southern District of New York, Nicholas Roos, in contrast told the judge that Cohen “didn’t come anywhere close to assisting this office in an investigation.”
Roos said the charges against Cohen “portray a pattern of deception, of brazenness and of greed.”
Roose also said that in assisting in paying off Trump’s purported paramours to have them keep quiet before voters went to the polls on Election Day in 2016, “Mr. Cohen has eroded faith in the electoral process and compromised the rule of law.”
Trump has not been criminally charged in the case. But Cohen’s admissions in his cases leave open the possibility that Trump could face prosecution, particularly once he leaves the White House.
Trump in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, when asked if he had talk about campaign finance laws with Cohen, said, “Michael Cohen is a lawyer. I assume he would know what he’s doing.”
“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 said.
When asked about statements by prosecutors that some people who had worked for Trump either met or had business with Russians before and during the presidential campaign, Trump said, “The stuff you’re talking about is peanut stuff.”
In a statement after the sentencing, Cohen’s advisor, attorney Lanny Davis, said, “Michael Cohen, former attorney to Donald Trump, continues to tell the truth about Donald Trumps misconduct over the years.”
“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 the difference between facts and lies. Mr. Trumps repeated lies cannot contradict stubborn facts,” Davis said.
“While Mr. Mueller gave Michael significant credit for cooperation on the core issues, it is unfortunate that [Southern District for New York] prosecutors did not do the same. To me, their judgment showed a lack of appropriate proportionality,” Davis said