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Americas

Trump's former lawyer sent to prison as Trump denies involvement

media Michael Cohen exits Federal Court after entering a guilty plea in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 29, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, was sentenced to a total of three years in prison on Wednesday for his role in making illegal hush-money payments to women to help Trump’s 2016 election campaign and lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan sentenced Cohen to 36 months for the payments, which violated campaign finance law, and to two months for the false statements to Congress. The two terms will run simultaneously. The judge set March 6 for Cohen’s voluntary surrender.

Cohen pleaded guilty to the campaign finance charge in August and to making false statements in November.

Cohen, 52, had walked into court on Wednesday morning with his wife, son and daughter, amid a crowd of photographers and reporters.

Federal prosecutors in New York charged that Cohen, just before the November 2016 election, paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 and helped arrange a $150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal so the women would keep quiet about their past relationships with Trump, who is married. Trump denies having the affairs.

Prosecutors have said the payments violated campaign finance laws. Cohen told prosecutors the payments were directed by Trump, implicating the president in a possible campaign finance law violation.

Federal law requires that the contribution of “anything of value” to a campaign must be disclosed, and an individual donation cannot exceed $2,700.

Cohen faced sentencing on a separate charge of lying to Congress brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Cohen pleaded guilty to that charge last month.

“He came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in the country,” one of Cohen’s lawyers, Guy Petrillo, told the court on Wednesday, arguing for leniency. Cohen cooperated knowing “the president might shut down” Mueller’s investigation, Petrillo said.

Another of Cohen's attorneys, Lanny Davis, said that Cohen now looked forward to assisting special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 US elections.

Trump has denied any collusion with Russia and has accused Mueller’s team of pressuring his former aides to lie about him, his campaign and his business dealings. Russia has denied U.S. allegations of interfering in the election to help Trump.

He sent a series of tweets the day after Cohen was sentenced. In them, Trump also insisted that he "did nothing wrong" in regards to campaign finance laws.

Cohen had blamed Trump's influence and "dirty deeds" at his sentencing.

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