Manafort found guilty of fraud, Cohen pleads guilty to campaign-finance violations

(CBS Marketwatch): Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Tuesday was found guilty on eight charges including tax fraud, as the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen said he violated campaign-finance law at Trump’s direction.

The developments played out in less than 60 minutes that the popular Drudge Report site labelled “Trump Hell Hour.”

Manafort was accused by special counsel Robert Mueller of bank fraud, tax fraud and money laundering, mostly relating to his representation of Ukraine’s pro-Russian government. The jury could not agree on another 10 charges against Manafort, and the judge declared a mistrial on those counts.

The charges against the 69-year-old Manafort never directly touched the central issue that Mueller has been investigating, which is whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia.

“It’s a very sad thing that happened, but it has nothing to do with Russian collusion,” Trump said of Manafort ahead of a campaign rally in Charleston, West Virginia. He again called Manafort a “good man” and the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” and a “disgrace.” Trump didn’t comment on Cohen.

Two of the eight counts that Cohen pleaded guilty to did directly implicate Trump. Cohen said he acted for the “principal purpose of influencing the election” as he admitted making an unlawful corporate campaign contribution as well as an excessive one.

Cohen represented Trump in paying $130,000 in hush money to the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels, who alleged on the eve of the election that she had sex with the real-estate magnate years before. Cohen made the payment before getting reimbursed by Trump, or who the plea agreement calls “Individual-1,” referring to someone who began his presidential campaign on June 16, 2015. Trump has denied the relationship.

Cohen made a similar payment to Karen McDougal, who also alleges she had an affair with Trump.

The 51-year-old Cohen also pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud, in part relating to loans he obtained for his taxi medallion business. Cohen did not report $4.1 million in reported income, authorities alleged.

“These are very serious charges that reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty,” said Robert Khuzami, who as deputy U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York oversaw the case. “They are particularly significant when done by a lawyer.”

Cohen’s prison sentence will be as much as five years, the judge in the case said. Cohen’s sentencing will be in December.

Facing decades in prison, Manafort is evaluating all his options, his lawyer said.

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