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Jailed Trump lawyer blames his crimes on "blind loyalty"


US President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison.

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His crimes include orchestrating hush payments to women in violation of campaign laws before the 2016 election and financial wrongdoing, posing potential legal and political risks to Trump.

In the Manhattan courtroom, Cohen told US District Judge William Pauley that “blind loyalty” led him to cover up for Trump’s “dirty deeds”.

The sentencing capped a stunning about-face by a lawyer who once said he would “take a bullet” for Trump.

Cohen said in a guilty plea in August that he was directed by Trump to make hush money payments to two women – former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels – who said they had past sexual affairs with the president. Trump has denied the affairs and any involvement in the payments.

Pauley sentenced Cohen to 36 months for the payments and to two months for Cohen’s lies to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.

The two terms will run simultaneously. The judge set March 6 for Cohen’s voluntary surrender.

As part of the sentence, the judge ordered Cohen to forfeit $US500,000 ($A692,000) and pay restitution of nearly $US1.4 million ($A1.9 million).

Pauley referred to Cohen’s behaviour as a “smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct” marked by deception and “motivated by personal greed and ambition.”

Cohen, 52, walked into court with his wife, son and daughter amid a crowd of photographers and reporters. His 23-year-old daughter, Samantha, and 19-year-old son, Jake, both wept silently in the courtroom, the son wiping his eyes with his jacket sleeve. After being sentenced, Cohen walked over to his daughter and kissed her head.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to charges including tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations in a case brought by federal prosecutors in New York.

Cohen was sentenced 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.

“It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” Cohen told the judge during the sentencing hearing, referring to Trump.

“I felt it was my duty to cover up his own dirty deeds,” Cohen added.

The Mueller investigation represents a threat to Trump’s presidency. Mueller, who also is examining whether the president has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe, has secured guilty pleas from several former Trump aides including his former campaign chairman and national security adviser, as well as a series of Russia individuals and entities.

– Reuters

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