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The Latest: Cohen says hush money paid to influence election (UPDATED)

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    Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building, in New York, Tuesday. 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.

    RICHARD DREW / AP

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    Michael Cohen, formerly a lawyer for President Trump, leaves his hotel July 30 in New York. Cohen, claims Trump knew in advance about a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between a Russian lawyer, Trump's eldest son and aides.

    RICHARD DREW / AP

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NEW YORK — Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer," pleaded guilty Tuesday to campaign-finance violations and other charges, saying he and Trump arranged the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election.

The guilty plea came almost at the same moment former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted in Alexandria, Virginia, of eight financial crimes in the first trial to come out of special counsel Robert Mueller's sprawling Russia investigation.

In a deal reached with federal prosecutors, Cohen, 51, pleaded guilty to eight counts in all, including tax evasion and making a false statement to a financial institution. He could get about four to five years in prison at sentencing Dec. 12.

In entering the plea, Cohen did not name the two women or even Trump, recounting instead that he worked with an "unnamed candidate." But the amounts and the dates all lined up with the payments made to Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal.

Cohen said the first payment was "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office," and the second was made "under direction of the same candidate."

As cable networks were showing split-screen coverage of the dueling conviction and plea bargain by two former loyalists, Trump boarded Air Force One in the afternoon on the way to a rally in West Virginia. He ignored shouted questions to reporters about both former aides, retreating to his private stateroom on the airliner.

Cohen's plea follows months of scrutiny from federal investigations and a falling-out with the president, whom he previously said he would "take a bullet" for.

The FBI raided Cohen's hotel room, home and office in April and seized more than 4 million items. The search sought bank records, communications with Trump's campaign and information on a $130,000 payment to Daniels and a $150,000 one to McDougal. Both women claimed Trump had affairs with them, which he denies.

Trump denied to reporters in April that he knew anything about Cohen's payments to Daniels, though the explanation from the president and his attorney Rudy Giuliani have shifted multiples times since.

The president has fumed publicly about what he felt was government overreach, while privately worrying about what material Cohen may have after working for the Trump Organization for a decade. Trump branded the raid "a witch hunt," an assault on attorney-client privilege and a politically motivated attack by enemies in the FBI.

"Obviously it's not good for Trump," Sol Wisenberg, who conducted grand jury questioning of President Bill Clinton during the Whitewater investigation, said of Cohen plea bargain.

"I'm assuming he's not going to be indicted because he's a sitting president, Wisenberg added. "But it leads him closer to ultimate impeachment proceedings, particularly if the Democrats take back the House."

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which provides legal advice and guidance to executive branch agencies, has held that a president cannot be indicted while in office. Trump's lawyers have said that Mueller plans to adhere to that guidance, though Mueller's office has never confirmed that. There would presumably be no bar against charging a president after he leaves the White House.

Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, noted that the deal does not require Cohen to cooperate, but does not preclude it from happening, which should be worrying to the president and his allies.

"What it shows is that the people close to the president have criminal exposure and it may mean they don't need Cohen to cooperate," she said.

Levenson argued that the deal also knocks back the argument that the investigations swirling around Trump are a "witch hunt."

"No longer can you say Mueller is on a witch hunt when you have his own lawyer pleading guilty to things that were designed to impact the election," she said.

Mueller's team is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The team referred the case involving Cohen's financial dealings to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

Before the election, Cohen had been a trusted member of the Trump organization, working out of an office in Trump Tower next to one used by his boss.

He raised millions for Trump's campaign and, after being interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee last year, told Vanity Fair that Trump had no part in the suspected Russian conspiracy to tamper with the election.

The president's initial support for Cohen after the raid soon 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.

When Cohen's team produced a recording he had made of Trump discussing one of the hush-money payments, Trump tweeted: "What kind of lawyer would tape a client? So sad!"

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Latest on a financial fraud probe involving Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen (all times local):

5:15 p.m.

Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen says that he made hush money payments to two women "at the direction" of Trump.

Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami told reporters on Tuesday after Cohen's guilty plea that he submitted invoices to the candidate's company to obtain reimbursement for the unlawful campaign contributions.

Cohen pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud stemming from hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The 51-year-old Cohen said in federal court in New York on Tuesday that he made the payments in coordination with Trump, who wasn't named, to influence the election. Both women claimed Trump had affairs with them, which he denies.

The other charges Cohen pleaded guilty to involve bank fraud and income tax evasion.

As part of his plea agreement, Cohen agreed not to challenge any sentence from 46 to 63 months.

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4:55 p.m.

Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer," Michael Cohen, has pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud stemming from hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The 51-year-old Cohen said in federal court in New York on Tuesday that he made the payments in coordination with Trump, who wasn't named, to influence the election. Both women claimed Trump had affairs with them, which he denies.

The other charges Cohen pleaded guilty to involve bank fraud and income tax evasion.

As part of his plea agreement, Cohen agreed not to challenge any sentence from 46 to 63 months.

Cohen's plea follows months of federal scrutiny and a falling out with the president, whom he previously said he'd "take a bullet" for.

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4:45 p.m.

Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen, has pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud stemming from hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The 51-year-old Cohen entered the plea in federal court in New York on Tuesday. The other charges involve bank fraud and income tax evasion.

As part of his plea agreement, Cohen agreed not to challenge any sentence from 46 to 63 months.

Cohen's plea follows months of scrutiny from federal investigations and a falling out with the president, whom he previously said he'd "take a bullet" for.

FBI raids in April sought bank records, communications with Trump's campaign and information on payments to Daniels and McDougal.

Both women claimed Trump had affairs with them, which he denies.

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4:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has told a federal judge he plans to plead guilty to federal charges.

Cohen is facing a judge in federal court in New York on Tuesday.

The charges include campaign contribution violations, tax evasion and making a false statement to a financial institution.

The investigation into Cohen has pulled back the curtain on Cohen's role as the president's loyal "fixer."

Earlier this year he admitted arranging a $130,000 payment to quiet porn actress Stormy Daniels' claims that she had an affair with Trump

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4:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump's former personal attorney has entered a federal courtroom in New York where two people familiar with his case say he will plead guilty to federal fraud charges.

Michael Cohen sat down by himself at the defense table Tuesday before he was joined by his lawyer, Guy Petrillo.

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

They say the campaign finance charges involve payments to two women.

The investigation into Cohen has pulled back the curtain on Cohen's role as the president's loyal "fixer."

___

3:10 p.m.

Two people familiar with the financial fraud investigation of Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, say he will plead guilty to federal charges including campaign finance fraud, bank fraud and tax evasion.

Cohen is due to appear in court in New York at 4 p.m. Tuesday. He was earlier seen going into an FBI building.

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

They say the campaign finance charges involve payments to two women.

The investigation into Cohen has pulled back the curtain on Cohen's role as the president's loyal "fixer."

Earlier this year he admitted arranging a $130,000 payment to quiet porn actress Stormy Daniels' claims that she had an affair with Trump.

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2:45 p.m.

Two people familiar with the financial fraud investigation of Donald Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, say he has reached a plea agreement.

Cohen is due to appear in federal court in New York at 4 p.m. Tuesday. He was earlier seen going into a building where the FBI has its New York offices.

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

They did not know the details of the agreement.

The investigation into Cohen has pulled back the curtain on Cohen's role as the president's loyal "fixer."

Earlier this year he admitted arranging a $130,000 payment to quiet porn actress Stormy Daniels' claims that she had an affair with Trump.

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1:35 p.m.

Two people familiar with the financial fraud investigation of Donald Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, say his lawyers are in negotiations with prosecutors that could result in a plea deal, possibly within hours.

The people say the lawyer could plead guilty in Manhattan federal court as early as Tuesday afternoon, if a deal is struck requiring cooperation with the government. The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the case.

Cohen was Trump's longtime personal lawyer until weeks ago. He was seen going into his lawyers' offices early Tuesday.

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.

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12:10 p.m.

A New York judge has formally ended the attorney-client privilege review of items seized from President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, leaving prosecutors to decide what's next in their fraud probe.

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood on Tuesday publicly filed an order that was signed Monday, ending attorney Michael Cohen's effort to bar as privileged some items seized by the FBI in April raids on his dwellings.

The judge had appointed a special master to review 4 million items. She says she agrees with the special master 7,146 items are privileged, eight are partially privileged and 285 are highly personal.

She says Cohen, Trump or the Trump Organization wanted another 57 items designated privileged but agreed not to contest the special master's findings.

Cohen's then-lawyer called the use of search warrants "completely inappropriate."


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