Michael D. Cohen, the former lawyer for President Trump, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday morning in part for his role in a scandal that could threaten Mr. Trump’s presidency by implicating him in a scheme to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with him.
The sentencing in federal court in Manhattan capped a startling fall for Mr. Cohen, 52, who had once hoped to work by Mr. Trump’s side in the White House but ended up a central figure in the inquiry into payments to a porn star and a former Playboy model before the 2016 election.
Judge William H. Pauley III said Mr. Cohen had committed a “veritable smorgasbord” of crimes involving deception and “motivated by personal greed and ambition,” each of which “standing alone warrant serious punishment.
But he added that Mr. Cohen’s crimes — breaking campaign finance laws, tax evasion and lying to Congress — “implicated a far more insidious harm to our democratic institutions.”
“As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better,” the judge said.
Before he was sentenced, a solemn Mr. Cohen, standing at a lectern, sounded emotional but resolved as he told the judge he had been tormented by the anguish and embarrassment he had caused his family.
“I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” he said, “and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” – a reference to Mr. Trump – “that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”
Mr. Cohen said the president had been correct to call him “weak” recently, “but for a much different reason than he was implying.”
“It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass,” Mr. Cohen said.
Mr. Cohen then apologized to the public: “You deserve to know the truth and lying to you was unjust.”
Federal agents raided Mr. Cohen’s office and home in April, and he later turned on Mr. Trump, making the remarkable admission in court that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange the payments.
Mr. Trump at first denied knowing anything about the payments, but then acknowledged that he had known about them. This week, he insisted that the payments were “a simple private transaction” — not election-related spending subject to campaign-finance laws.
He also maintained that even if the hush-money payments were campaign transactions in violation of election regulations, that should be considered only a civil offense, not a criminal one.
Since Mr. Cohen came under investigation, Mr. Trump has mocked him as a “weak person” who was giving information to prosecutors in an effort to obtain leniency when he is sentenced.
In fact, Mr. Cohen did not formally cooperate with prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. In addition to the campaign-finance violations, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to charges tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and lying to Congress.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum