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Michael Cohen timeline: From I would ‘take a bullet’ for Trump, to a plea deal

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michael cohen plea deal court
Michael
Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and
fixer, exits federal court, August 21, 2018 in New York City.
Cohen reached an agreement with prosecutors, pleading guilty to
charges involving bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance
violations.

Drew Angerer/Getty
Images


  • Michael Cohen, formerly one of President Donald Trump’s
    closest allies, shocked the world when he implicated Trump in
    two federal crimes during his guilty plea to eight felonies on
    Tuesday.
  • One lawyer told Business Insider that, given the
    severity of the charges Cohen is facing, he likely had no
    choice but to take a plea deal or potentially risk spending the
    rest of his life in prison. 
  • Lanny Davis, one of Cohen’s attorneys, gave Business
    Insider some insight into what motivated Cohen to turn on
    Trump.

Michael Cohen, the longtime personal lawyer and fixer to
President Donald Trump, shocked the world on Tuesday when he
pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes in the Southern District
of New York, and directly implicated President Donald Trump in
two of them.

Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of
bank fraud, one count linked to an unlawful corporate
contribution, and one count stemming from an illegal campaign
contribution. During his hearing, Cohen said he committed the
latter two offenses “at the direction” of then-candidate Trump
with the intent of influencing the 2016 election.

Both the illegal corporate and campaign contributions refer to
Cohen’s efforts to quash negative stories about Trump’s alleged
affairs with porn star Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal,
just weeks before the election.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York
initially began investigating Cohen for potential campaign
finance law violations in part because of a $130,000 hush-money
payout to Stormy Daniels, but the inquiry expanded to Cohen’s
potential tax and bank fraud relating to
his taxi medallion business. 

But Cohen’s transformation is perhaps most notable because of the
dramatic manner in which he turn away from Trump; having gone
from saying he would “take a bullet” for Trump, to incriminating
him in two serious federal crimes, possibly throwing the US into
uncharted constitutional territory. 

Jeffrey Cohen, a practicing attorney in New York City (no
relation to Michael Cohen), told Business Insider in a Wednesday
phone call that, given the severity of the federal charges
involved, taking a plea deal was, in his view, the best way for
Cohen to hedge his bets in this matter.

“His lawyers almost definitely knew he was going to lose,” he
said. “If you take a plea before trial, you do better than if you
try to approach a deal after the government has invested the time
and money in trying the case, In this case, my feeling is that he
just didn’t have a choice.” 

Deputy US Attorney Robert Khuzami said Cohen’s conduct reflected
a “pattern of lies and dishonesty” in
a press
conference
 after Cohen’s hearing and said
they were “particularly significant when done by a lawyer.”

“They were going to crucify him,” Jeffrey Cohen speculated. “If
he went to trial and he lost, he would have gone to jail for the
rest of his life.” 

Lanny Davis, a lawyer who represents Michael Cohen, told Business Insider on
Wednesday
that, if his client has chosen to go to trial, he
could have faced up to 65 years of prison, if convicted. Under
the plea agreement, Cohen will likely serve three to five years.

An official sentence will be handed down on December 12.

‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’

Cohen’s claim that he violated federal laws specifically at the
behest of Trump was believed to have caught some by surprise.
Prosecutors did not explicitly lay out that connection in Cohen’s
court documents and Cohen did not have to reveal that
information.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti explained the
significance in an article for Politico Magazine. 

“It’s not clear whether federal prosecutors knew in advance that
Cohen would implicate Trump, but if they had any reason not to
believe him, they were obligated not to permit Cohen to lie to
the judge,” he wrote. “Because they didn’t, we know that his
statements were consistent with the other evidence in their
possession.”

In his remarks to Business Insider, Lanny Davis
said Cohen “started to unload on me about Trump’s
suitability to be president, his temperament, the Twitter, the
venom, the anger,” long before Tuesday’s announcement.

Davis described Trump’s controversial summit with Russian
President Vladimir Putin as the “straw that broke the
camel’s back” for his client. 

He said that Trump’s public doubting of his intelligence
community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016
election in favor of Putin’s denial made his client “very
emotional.” He described Cohen as feeling “liberated” after
entering his guilty pleas and having the freedom to now speak his
mind. 

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