The sentencing of Michael Cohen and the disclosure of a key agreement with another one-time ally of President Trump intensified the focus on Trump’s alleged role in coordinating efforts to suppress the stories of two women to protect his 2016 campaign, the Wall Street Journal reports. The legal saga has led Trump’s own Justice Department to implicate him in federal crimes, exposing him to potential legal and political peril as he enters the second half of his term. Cohen, Trump’s longtime fixer and personal lawyer, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison. He had pleaded guilty to nine felonies, including campaign-finance violations related to payments he arranged during the 2016 presidential campaign to silence two women who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.
Prosecutors said American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent, admitted to coordinating with the Trump campaign in making an illegal payment. The company said paid $150,000 payment to a former Playboy model to quash her story of an affair with Trump to prevent it from influencing the election—not for legitimate editorial reasons. Because American Media has provided “substantial” assistance, the government won’t prosecute the company. Cohen, 52, apologized for lying to the public and told the judge his “blind loyalty to Trump” had led him astray from his values. “Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds, rather than listen to my own inner voice,” Cohen said. Statements by Cohen and American Media could undercut Trump’s ability to argue the payments weren’t intended to protect his campaign. U.S. District Judge William Pauley said Cohen admitted to a “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct,” including crimes that undermined democratic institutions. He ordered Cohen to pay $1.3 million in restitution and $100,000 in fines, as well as forfeit $500,000. Cohen reports to prison March 6