Donald Trump in for an uncomfortable time as Michael Cohen kicks off a cascade of sentences – Donald Trump’s America
Michael Cohen (L) is going to jail. He says he covered up Mr Trump’s “dirty deeds”. (Reuters: Stephanie Keith/AP: Wong Maye-E)
“I did nothing wrong. I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” Donald Trump said in a series of lengthy tweets the morning after his former “fixer” was sentenced to three years in jail.
The comments were repeated in an interview on Fox News.
@realDonaldTrump tweet: I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel,” and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly……
@realDonaldTrump tweet: ….stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance. Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not…
@realDonaldTrump tweet: ….guilty even on a civil basis. Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did-including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook. As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!
Cohen had earlier told a court: “I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”
“I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” he said.
“And it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” — a reference to Mr Trump — “that led me to choose a path of darkness over light”.
Michael Cohen went down over tax and bank fraud, campaign finance violations and lying to congress about Mr Trump’s business dealings in Russia.
He lied to Congress to create the impression that negotiations to build a Trump tower in Moscow were over before the 2016 campaign was properly underway, something that doesn’t reflect well on the President as the intersecting pieces of the Russia puzzle come together.
More directly though, it’s Cohen’s claim that he made, and deliberately concealed, hush money payments to Trump’s alleged mistresses Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal at the direction of his boss that has the President lashing out.
“Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence,” Mr Trump tweeted.
Things don’t look great for Trump
Constituting a criminal campaign finance violation, the payments could also eventually land the President in jail if he’s proven to have been involved (although probably not until he’s out of office).
Cohen had hoped for leniency given his cooperation with the Special Counsel’s investigation.
That doesn’t “wipe the slate clean”, the judge said on Wednesday.
“This court … believes a significant term of imprisonment [is justified].”
@conorduffynews photo tweet: Just after he said his job was to cover up President Donald Trump’s dirty deeds, lawyer and former fixer Michael Cohen was sentenced here in New York to 3 years jail
Cohen apologised to the “people of the United States” and told the judge he took full responsibility for his actions.
He explained that he’s been “living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen that I deeply admired”.
This was the day he was getting his freedom back, he said.
@ElizLanders tweet: COHEN in court moments ago: “Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds” he said.
@maggieNYT tweet: Giuliani called the notion that Cohen had acted out of blind loyalty to Trump “a complete lie.” He noted that Cohen had “tape-recorded his client. Even if you’re minimally loyal to a client, you don’t tape-record a client.”
As a quick reminder, this is the guy who just last year said he’d take a bullet for the President.
But speaking on Fox News, Mr Trump said Cohen did “very low-level work. He did more public relations than he did law”.
As the judge read the sentence, Cohen wiped away tears and hung his head. Those in the courtroom described him as looking broken.
@kylegriffin1 tweet: As the judge the read sentence, Cohen closed his eyes and shook his head slightly as if in disbelief. As the fines were read out, Cohen shut his eyes, shook his head and put his left hand to his face and pinched his brow. He looked shaken, hung his head.
@conorduffynews video tweet: Michael’s going to jail was shouted out as Cohen left court with his family. He has until March to surrender to serve his 3 year jail term. He plead guilty to 9 charges including campaign finance violations over hush payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen Mcdougal
The tabloid that facilitated the payments has admitted it paid Ms McDougal $US150,000 “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicise damaging allegations about the candidate”.
In an agreement to avoid prosecution, they’ve officially linked the Trump campaign to the hush money.
Mr Trump, when asked directly by reporters, has previously said he didn’t know about the payments.
And anyway: “They’re not criminal. They put those two charges on to embarrass me.”
There’s audio of Cohen and Mr Trump discussing the payoffs, by the way.
Cohen isn’t alone
Cohen’s sentencing is one of a series that will cascade over the next couple of months. It’s going to be an uncomfortable time in the White House as Mr Trump’s former associates are sentenced for lying and cheating.
Here’s a reminder of who has been charged so far:
@kylegriffin1 tweet: * Papadopoulos: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced. * Patten: Pleaded guilty. * Manafort: Pleaded guilty. * Cohen: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced. * van der Zwaan: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced. * Gates: Pleaded guilty. * Pinedo: Pleaded guilty. * Flynn: Pleaded guilty.
Next cab off the rank is former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who’ll be sentenced on Tuesday.
His attorneys have echoed the Special Counsel in asking for no jail time for Flynn, citing his “extensive” cooperation with investigators.
@realDonaldTrump tweet: They gave General Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated – the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI. They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!……
@ShumonPro tweet: Donald Trump weighed in on General Michael Flynn in a Fox News interview, calling the former national security adviser a “respected person” and suggesting that he was pressured to “make up a story” to investigators. He also said Flynn may be a “tougher kind of guy than Cohen.”
However, the latest theory from the President is that the prosecutors convinced Flynn that he lied, when he didn’t.
“Maybe they scared him enough that he made up a story, but I have a feeling that maybe he didn’t — he’s a tougher kind of a guy than Cohen — but they took a general that they said didn’t lie. And they convinced him he did lie to make some kind of deal. And now they’re recommending no time. You know why? Because they’re embarrassed they got caught.”
Flynn has been interviewed 19 times by the Special Counsel’s team, which has recommended no jail time because he’s been such a key witness.
Tuesday’s sentencing could be very interesting.
1. “Trump’s temper tantrum”
Mr Trump and Democratic congressional leaders clashed in his office on Monday over a spending bill to prevent a partial government shutdown.
It started as what was supposed to be a tidy photo op and quickly devolved into a full-blown argument, unfolding live.
It ended with Mr Trump saying he’d be “proud to shut down the government” if he doesn’t get $US5 billion in funding for a border wall with Mexico.
The Democrats have offered $US1.6 billion to be used more widely on border security.
Congress faces a December 21 deadline. If they don’t compromise, approximately a fourth of the government will shut down.
A new poll shows 57 per cent of Americans believe the President should compromise (and only 36 per cent believe the wall is worth the shutdown).
The Department of Homeland Security put out a very official statement lauding the merits of their fence.
“We are not replacing short, outdated and ineffective wall with similar wall. Instead, under this President we are building a wall that is 30-feet high,” it said.
2. Who’s the boss?
Pundits thought that Nick Ayers was a shoe-in. The 36-year-old rising star is currently Vice-President Mike Pence’s chief of staff.
But he turned down an offer to replace General John Kelly as White House chief of staff.
Cue the speculation, intrigue and feckless tea-leaf reading.
@realDonaldTrump tweet: Fake News has it purposely wrong. Many, over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position. Why wouldn’t someone want one of the truly great and meaningful jobs in Washington. Please report news correctly. Thank you!
It’s a fair question, Mr President. Who wouldn’t jump at the career-launching, second-most-powerful seat in Washington?
You might ask Reince Priebus, Mr Trump’s first COS, who was fired by tweet while speaking to reporters on the tarmac at an airport.
“Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50,” Mr Priebus said.
Mr Trump has about two weeks until Mr Kelly’s last day on the job, although it’s rumoured his tenure might have to be extended.
A bevy of names are swirling about in the political ether — everyone from a North Carolina congressman to his former deputy campaign manager or his acting Attorney-General.
Chris Christie’s name is out there. Newt Gingrich has been mentioned. Former Republican candidate Rick Santorum turned it down on live TV.
@adamcbest video tweet: Nothing could possibly be more humiliating than Rick Santorum turning down the Chief of Staff position live on television. OUCH. This is the mother of all rejections.
One name we can definitely rule out is Michael Cohen.
@samstein tweet: Two years ago, Michael Cohen had visions of being chief of staff. He then began soaking up mega contracts from major companies to influence the president. Trump winning was going to be a gold mine for him. And now… he’s going to jail for three years.
Asked for an update on the field the President said he had five candidates:
“We are interviewing people now,” he said.
“Really good ones.
“Mostly well known. Terrific people.”