Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen sentenced to 3 years in prison

updated / CBS News

Michael Cohen sentenced to 3 years in prison

Reporting by Clare Hymes, Paula Reid and Kathryn Watson

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, during a sentencing hearing in federal court in Manhattan in which Cohen claimed he acted out of "blind loyalty" to President Trump. The judge declared he will serve time for a "smorgasbord" of fraudulent crimes.

Cohen will turn himself in for his "smorgasbord" of fraudulent crimes March 6, the judge said.

That sentencing stemmed from Cohen pleading guilty to campaign finance violations related to payments to women alleging affairs with Mr. Trump. Cohen will serve his term concurrently with a two-month sentenced imposed for lying to Congress over a proposed Trump Tower Moscow project, a charge brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. The court is fining him $50,000 each for the separate cases.

In court Wednesday, Cohen claimed loyalty to Mr. Trump led him to "take a path of darkness instead of light." Cohen described being in a "mental and physical incarceration," blaming his ties to the president as what brought him before the court Wednesday. He spoke of the president's recent attacks on him in which he called him a "liar," "rat" and weak. He said the president was "correct," but for a different reason.

"My weakness can be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump, and I was weak for not having the strength to question and to refuse his demands," Cohen said.

Cohen claimed he was "motivated by personal greed and ambition," adding that he "thrives on his access to wealthy and powerful people," and eventually became one his self.

Cohen teared up at the podium, apologizing to his family and to the American people for his actions. As he was given 36 months by the judge, Cohen's shoulders slumped forward slightly and he shook his head from left to right, apparently in disbelief.

Cohen's father was sitting in the aisle in a wheelchair, and he and his wife were crying at various points throughout the proceeding. Cohen's father, Maurice Cohen, told CBS News after the sentencing, "I'm dizzy. My world is spinning out of control."

Cohen attorney Lanny Davis said in a statement that Cohen "continues to tell the truth about Donald Trump's misconduct" — and looks forward to sharing more publicly.

"At the appropriate time, after Mr. Mueller completes his investigation and issues his final report, I look forward to assisting Michael to state publicly all he knows about Mr. Trump – and that includes any appropriate congressional committee interested in the search for truth and the difference between facts and lies," Davis said in a statement to CBS News. "Mr. Trump's repeated lies cannot contradict stubborn facts."

What Michael Cohen's prison sentence means for Trump

Cohen's sentencing marks a major milestone in legal developments against former Trump associates.

Prosecutors said last week they believe Cohen committed illegal acts at the direction of Mr. Trump, named "Individual 1" in court filings. The president has denied directing Cohen to do anything illegal.

Mr. Trump's relationship with Cohen has soured in recent months. When Cohen's apartment and office were raided in April, the president called him a "good man," and the raid, a "disgraceful situation." Last week, the president declared his longtime lawyer "weak" and "not a very smart person."

"Michael Cohen is lying and he's trying to get a reduced sentence for things that have nothing to do with me," the president told reporters on the White House South Lawn last week.

The president doesn't appear inclined to give Cohen a pardon, although he hasn't ruled out the possibility of doing so for his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Manafort has pleaded guilty to fraud counts related to his business transactions, but Mr. Trump has praised him.

First published on December 12, 2018

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