Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen jailed for three years

Michael Cohen, once referred to as President Donald Trump's right hand man will serve 36 months in jail
Michael Cohen, once referred to as President Donald Trump’s right hand man will serve 36 months in jail

Michael Cohen, the former lawyer to Donald Trump who once said he’d take a bullet for the president, has been given a 36-month prison sentence.

He is the first member of Mr Trump’s inner circle to be jailed over the special counsel’s inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

He has pleaded guilty to crimes including campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress.

In a New York court on Wednesday Cohen lashed out at his former boss.

The 52-year-old told Judge William Pauley that Mr Trump caused him to “follow a path of darkness rather than light”.

He told the court his “weakness was a blind loyalty to Donald Trump” and that he “felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds”.

The sentencing was related to two separate cases brought by the Southern District of New York and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for his role in making hush money payments to women who alleged affairs with Mr Trump.

Mr Trump has acknowledged the payments despite denying the affairs, and called them a private transaction unrelated to his campaign.

He will serve that term concurrently with a two-month sentence he was given for lying to Congress about a possible Trump Tower project in Moscow, a charge levelled by Special Counsel Mueller.

The judge gave Cohen until 6 March to report to jail at the Otisville prison in upstate New York.

In addition the jail term, he was also ordered to forfeit nearly $2m (£1.6m).

As he left the court, he did not pause to speak to reporters.

What are the charges?

The special counsel had reached a plea deal with Cohen on one count of lying to Congress given his co-operation with the Russia investigation.

The president’s former lawyer admitted to making false statements to Congress about a Trump property deal in Russia during the 2016 election.

During the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, his lawyer Guy Petrillo, said the special counsel’s investigation “is of utmost national significance, no less than seen 40 years ago in Watergate,” referring to the scandal that brought down Republican President Richard Nixon in 1974.

Cohen’s other convictions for tax evasion and bank fraud charges are unrelated to the president.

In exchange for a more lenient sentence, he had offered information regarding his campaign finance violations, including paying adult film star Stormy Daniels hush money at the behest of “the candidate”, in an apparent reference to Mr Trump.

Relations between Cohen, once considered Mr Trump’s right-hand man, and the president have soured over the course of his criminal trials.

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Mr Trump, who has labelled Mr Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt”, has repeatedly criticised his former ally since he began co-operating with investigators.

He told reporters last month that Cohen was “weak” and “not a very smart person”.

Who else has been implicated?

In other Russia investigation developments, former US national security adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted to lying to the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambassador, has asked for leniency.

Flynn’s attorneys requested he serve no prison time as he has co-operated with the special counsel’s investigation from the start.

Last week, the special counsel’s team announced that they would not be pursuing jail time for Flynn as he provided “substantial” details regarding the Trump campaign team and Russian officials.

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