Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer of U.S. President Donald Trump, has plead guilty to federal charges including campaign finance law violations.
In doing so, he admitted that Trump directed him to pay USD $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, the former porn star also known as Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with the man who’d become president.
Before a United States District Court in Manhattan, Cohen said he organised the 2016 payment to Clifford, and orchestrated another monetary deal involving ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, “at the direction of the candidate,” and “for the principal purpose of influencing the election”.
Doing so constitutes a breach of U.S. campaign finance law, which explicitly prohibits that kind of undisclosed payment designed to keep potentially volatile information from potential voters.
In a statement to NBC News, Clifford said her lawyer “Michael [Avenatti] and I are vindicated and we look forward to the apologies from the people who claimed we were wrong.”
The guilty plea should serve as a pretty massive blow to Trump, who originally denied having any knowledge of the payments. Then again, reality is cooked these days, so Trump might just deny involvement with the payments even harder.
It’s also a telling about-face for Cohen, who pledged his total loyalty to Trump until the FBI raided his offices and home at the behest of special counsel Robert Mueller.
While today’s guilty plea doesn’t directly link Cohen and Trump to Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, it does open up an interesting possibility – The New York Times notes that if Cohen were to cough up any testimony potentially linking the Trump campaign to collusion, Mueller may have the power to offer leniency regarding Cohen’s sentence.
Fun times for all. Except Cohen and Trump, that is.