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Trump ex-lawyer Cohen cuts plea deal: US media

By AFP 21 August 2018
Caption
(FILE) - Michael Cohen (C), President Donald Trump's personal attorney leaves following a hearing at United States Federal Court in New York, New York, USA, 30 May 2018 (issued 21 August 2018). US President Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, enters into a plea deal with federal prosecutors in New York according to media sources. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, has agreed to plead guilty to charges stemming from a federal investigation of his business dealings and possible campaign finance violations, US media reported Tuesday.

There was no initial confirmation of the plea deal reported by several media including NBC News and The New York Times, or of the specific charges involved, but Cohen was set to appear in Manhattan criminal court at 4 pm (2000 GMT).

CNN reported that the deal includes prison time for the president’s long-time fixer, who played a behind-the-scenes role in making hush payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

The development came on the same day as a former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, faced a fourth day of deliberations in his tax evasion and bank fraud trial.

A Cohen guilty plea would avoid a high profile trial, but also could require him to cooperate with investigators probing whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in its efforts to sway the 2016 US presidential elections.

Neither prosecutors in Manhattan nor Cohen’s attorney would comment on the matter.

Guilty pleas are common in the United States when it appears prosecutors have sufficient evidence for a conviction if the case goes to trial.

The FBI raided Cohen’s home and office on a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into whether Trump sought to obstruct the Russia meddling probe.

Cohen — who once declared he was so loyal he would “take a bullet for the president” — was involved in efforts to hush allegations from a former Playboy model about an affair with Trump.

He also paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels to silence her own claims of an alleged one-night stand with Trump in 2006, just before the election.

Talk of a plea deal comes days after The New York Times reported that Cohen is also under investigation for potential tax and bank fraud, possibly exceeding $20 million via loans obtained by the taxi medallion business he owns with his family. DM

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