Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty, Admits to Making Illegal Payments at Direction of Candidate to Influence Election

Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer for President Donald Trump, has struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors, NBC News reported on Tuesday.

Cohen came under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York City earlier this year. They had received a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors had been eyeing Cohen's business dealings. The New York Times reported that federal authorities were looking into $20 million in loans for taxi businesses linked to Cohen.

By Tucker Higgins and Kevin Breuninger

August 21, 2018 "Information Clearing House" -   Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer for President Donald Trump, agreed to plead guilty on Tuesday to eight charges related to tax fraud, excessive campaign contributions, making false statements to a financial institution, and unlawful corporate contributions at a court hearing in New York on Tuesday.

Two of those charges appear to relate to Trump directly. Cohen admitted on Tuesday to making payments to two women at the direction of an unidentified candidate for political office. Those payments, Cohen said, were made to influence the outcome of the election.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

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Cohen had surrendered to the FBI on Tuesday afternoon. The president's former confidant came under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York City earlier this year after they received a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors had been eyeing Cohen's business dealings for months, and in April seized thousands of items from Cohen's New York office and hotel room. The New York Times reported Sunday that federal authorities were looking into $20 million in loans for taxi businesses owned by Cohen and his family.

Experts have said that any deal could have dramatic implications for the president, who has worked closely with Cohen for more than a decade. The deal Cohen reached, however, does not appear to include cooperation with investigators, The New York Times reported, citing two people familiar with the matter. Cohen could still choose to cooperate.

Prosecutors have an incentive to seek plea bargains even without a cooperation agreement because they conserve substantial resources by striking deals, said Nick Gravante, a partner of New York-based law firm Boies Schiller.

"If a defendant is willing to admit guilt, why bother taking him to trial and proving it?" Gravante said in an email.

On the flip side, Gravante said, Cohen's plea has no real effect on Trump's legal situation if he doesn't cooperate aside from the bad optics it creates.

News of the plea deal comes as the president's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort awaits a verdict on bank fraud and tax charges in the first trial brought by the special counsel.

A spokesperson for Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis declined a request for comment from CNBC.

Cohen, a longtime friend and advisor to the president, once said he would take a bullet for Trump. But in recent months, Cohen began to signal that he could cooperate with investigators. In an interview with ABC News in July, Cohen said he put "family and country" before Trump.

Prosecutors were looking into a $130,000 hush money payment Cohen facilitated to porn star Stormy Daniels just a few weeks before the November presidential election. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing Trump and Cohen to void the non-disclosure agreement that bars her from discussing an alleged affair she had with Trump.

Investigators were examining whether the payment could constitute a campaign finance violation.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which is leading the inquiry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

This article was originally published by "CNBC" -

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Information Clearing House.

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Manafort convicted on 8 counts; mistrial declared on 10 other charges

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