How Trump's statements on hush money have shifted as investigation progressed

Saturday, 15 Dec, 2018

Cohen, 52, apologised Wednesday for covering up the "dirty deeds" of his ex-boss as he was handed jail time for multiple crimes including hush money payments implicating Trump.

The Cohen case has intensified the legal pressures on former reality television star Trump, whose almost two-year presidency has been clouded by multiple investigations and lawsuits, including a USA special counsel probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, possible collusion between Moscow and Trump's campaign and possible obstruction of justice.

Asked why he should be believed now, Cohen said: "Because the special counsel stated emphatically that the information that I gave to them is credible and helpful".

Trump lashed out at Cohen over the tapes, claiming they were illegal.

Trump has insisted he only found out about the payments after they were made, despite the release of a September 2016 recorded conversation in which Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing a deal to pay McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair.

"Nothing at the Trump organisation was ever done unless it was run through Mr Trump", he said.

If Cohen is truthful that he arranged the payment at Trump's request, then there is no good innocent explanation of Trump's behavior. Cohen facilitated the payments. "It is called 'advice of counsel, '" Trump wrote on Twitter. He also tweeted that "Attorney-client privilege is dead!"

Judge Pauley said Cohen "appears to have lost his moral compass" and that the lawyer "should have known better" than to dodge taxes, lie to Congress and violate campaign finance laws.

Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for his role in making hush money payments to women who alleged affairs with Mr Trump. But that may be tougher for Trump than it was for Edwards given the proximity of the president's payment to the election - timing that, on its face, suggests a link between the money and his political ambitions.

On Thursday, Trump blamed Cohen for any wrongdoing and said he never directed the lawyer to break the law. "Whatever he did, he did on his own".

In his ABC interview, Cohen rejected those accusations, saying they're "absolutely not true". When asked for his take, Cohen said it sure "seems like" Trump is afraid, because "that's what he does" in these situations.

Earlier this week, Trump compared his situation to one involving President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. In order to be a campaign contribution, the in-kind action has to be exclusively for the objective of the campaign. The fines stemmed from the campaign's failure to report a batch of contributions, totalling almost $1.9 million, on time in the final days of the campaign.

After initially denying knowledge of the payments, Trump later said they were "a simple private transaction" and not campaign finance contributions. Trump has denied the affairs and any involvement in the payments. He said the charges were "unrelated to me".

Trump said in a Fox News interview later Thursday that he now regrets having hired Cohen.

Neither Guy Petrillo, a lawyer for Cohen, nor Jay Sekulow, an attorney for Trump, immediately responded to requests for comment.

Cohen went on to apologize for the 'unbearable pain that my associations and my actions brought to my entire family, ' and said: 'I take full responsibility for each act'. "Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about that?" "I gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty", he said. We don't know the exact specifics of where those donations came from, but given how disproportionate they are compared to Trump's predecessors, Mueller's team would be abdicating their responsibility if they didn't at least probe whether the past campaign finance criminality they uncovered is connected to Trump's 2020 campaign.

Cohen, who pleaded guilty to all the charges against him, told the court that he had felt it was his "duty to cover up".