Tuesday, August 21, 2018

AP Sources: Cohen Pleading To Bank, Campaign Finance Fraud


Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building, in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Cohen could be charged before the end of the month with bank fraud in his dealings with the taxi industry and with committing other financial crimes, multiple people familiar with the federal probe said Monday. Image: Richard Drew/AP


BY TOM HAYES

NEW YORK (AP)
— Michael Cohen, the lawyer who gained notoriety as President Donald Trump’s loyal “fixer,” reached a plea agreement on Tuesday and will plead guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud, bank fraud and tax evasion, according to two people familiar with the deal.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

They said the campaign finance charges involve payments to two women. It was not clear if the deal requires Cohen’s cooperation with the Russia probe or other investigations.

Cohen, 51, is due to appear in federal court in New York at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Security officers were setting up barricades outside the main entrance and a federal prosecutor is expected to speak to the media after the proceeding.

Cohen was seen earlier leaving his apartment and traveling to the Manhattan offices of one of his lawyer, former federal prosecutor Guy Petrillo, and going into a building where the FBI has its New York offices.

Both Cohen’s lawyers and the U.S. Attorney’s office declined comment on Tuesday.

The development came a day after prosecutors signaled that Cohen could be charged before the end of the month in a case that has been a distraction for the White House with the midterm elections approaching.

Absent a quick resolution, it’s believed that prosecutors would have put off a decision on how to go forward with the case until after the election in compliance with an informal Justice Department policy of avoiding bringing prosecutions that could be seen as political and influence voters.

Prosecutors had been investigating Cohen for possible fraud related to his businesses for months. The FBI raided his hotel room, home and office on April 9, seizing more than 4 million items.

The search of Cohen’s files sought bank records, communications with the Trump campaign and information on hush money payments made in 2016 to two women: former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who received $150,000, and the porn actress Stormy Daniels, who got $130,000.

Daniels’ hard-charging lawyer, Michael Avenatti, later upped the drama by disclosing bank reports showing that Cohen had been hustling behind the scenes to cash in on his close relationship with the president.

The records revealed that several companies, including AT&T, Novartis and a South Korean defense contractor, had collectively paid Cohen at least $1.8 million in consulting fees for his insights into the new administration. Among Cohen’s other clients was a U.S.-based investment firm with close ties to a Russian oligarch.

Avenatti tweeted that Cohen’s plea agreement should open the door to questioning Trump under oath in Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against him about “what he knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it.”

The New York Times reported earlier this week, based on anonymous sources, that prosecutors have been focusing on more than $20 million in loans obtained by taxi businesses that Cohen and his family own.

Cohen had gained notoriety as a staunch Trump loyalist before the FBI raid, which the president branded “a witch hunt,” an assault on attorney-client privilege and a politically motivated attack by enemies in the FBI.

The president’s initial support for Cohen has since degenerated into a public feud, prompting speculation that, to save himself, Cohen might be willing to tell prosecutors some of the secrets he helped Trump keep.

Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.
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