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Trump Organization approved $420,000 in reimbursements to Michael Cohen

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michael cohen plea deal
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
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  • Prosecutors said in a Tuesday court filing that the
    Trump Organization approved $420,000 in reimbursements to
    Michael Cohen in connection to his efforts to silence women who
    claimed to have had affairs with Donald Trump.
  • Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts related to tax
    evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations.
  • Cohen said he broke campaign finance laws “at the
    direction” of Trump.

The Trump Organization approved $420,000 in reimbursements to
Michael Cohen related to his efforts before the 2016 election to
silence women who claimed to have had affairs with President
Donald Trump, according to new court filings.

Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to five counts of tax evasion,
one count of bank fraud, one count of making an illegal corporate
contribution, and one count of making an illegal campaign finance
contribution.

Cohen said he made the corporate and campaign finance
contributions “at the direction” of Trump.

According to the charging document, prosecutors say Cohen
approached Trump Organization executives asking to be reimbursed
for “election-related” costs following the election, and that he
began receiving the payments in February 2017.

Trump’s lead defense attorney, Rudy Giuliani, previously
confirmed that Trump reimbursed Cohen for his payments to women,
which included a $130,000 hush money deal with the porn star
Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election.

Giuliani said Trump’s payments to Cohen’s were made for his legal
services, and Trump later said on Twitter that he paid Cohen back
via a monthly retainer in order to stop “false and extortionist
allegations” about an alleged affair with Daniels.

But Tuesday’s filing offers the most detailed look yet into the
full scope of Trump’s payments to Cohen and how they were made.

Specifically, prosecutors say Cohen “sought reimbursement for
that money by submitting invoices to the candidate’s company,
which were untrue and false.”

“They indicated that the reimbursement was for services rendered
for the year 2017, when in fact the invoices were a sham,” the
document said.

Legal experts said Tuesday that Cohen’s statement that he
violated campaign finance laws at Trump’s direction opens the
president up to potentially significant criminal liability.

Trump could face scrutiny “on some combination of solicitation,
aiding and abetting, and conspiracy,” said Andrew Wright, a
former associate in the White House counsel’s office under
President Barack Obama.

“If Donald Trump conspired with Cohen to commit felonies as a
candidate, the only thing that might protect him is the question
of whether he couldn’t be indicted for the duration of his tenure
in office,” he added.

Current Department of Justice (DOJ) policy states that a sitting
president cannot be indicted. Legal scholars said that while
Mueller or other federal prosecutors will likely not charge Trump
because of that, he may be listed in court documents related to
Cohen as an un-indicted co-conspirator.

Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor from the District of
New Jersey, noted that Trump would not be shielded from criminal
prosecution once he leaves office.

Giuliani said Tuesday that “there is no allegation of any
wrongdoing against the President in the government’s charges
against Mr. Cohen. It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr.
Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a
significant period of time.”

But the former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti pointed
out
 that if Cohen’s statements today were
contradicted by other evidence prosecutors have, or if they did
not believe Cohen, prosecutors would not have accepted the plea.

Cohen’s guilty plea means he would be available as a witness in
any potential prosecution of Trump during or after his
presidency. He could also implicate others in criminal
wrongdoing, who may in turn have evidence against Trump and
testify to that in order to protect themselves.

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