Michael Cohen pleads guilty to 9 counts including tax, bank fraud

President Trump's former longtime attorney and fixer was sentenced to 36 months in prison for tax evasion, tax fraud and campaign violations.
23:38 | 12/12/18

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Transcript for Michael Cohen pleads guilty to 9 counts including tax, bank fraud
And. Hey welcome to the brief him on this Wednesday on Devin Dwyer and ABC news in Washington Johnson to cheer senior investigative producers here great to have you with us a big news day today coming at a new York at the federal district courthouse there. In Manhattan as president trumps former personal attorney and longtime fixture Michael Cohen. Has been sentenced to prison three years in fact he'll serve behind bars starting in March. Followed by three additional years of supervised release this is for. He's guilty pleas in five sets of charges spanning two cases one involving the southern district of New York one involving special counsel. Robert Mueller and John when you your take on this because you've been covering this case from the beginning you've been dealing with Michael Cohen. This is a year very scared for years. A very Bre former brash individual difficult individual. -- hit ball as some have described him for president trump today he was dealt the blow he was very contrite but the judge said. Basically you should've known better as it as an attorney. He's headed Donald Trump let him down a dark path for a long time working than me he's been over a decade. As Donald Trump's and he bragged about being Donald Trump's personal pit bull and time that the president needed him Michael was they are jumping in it the president. And businessman trump didn't like this story that was written amount him if there were. Situations like what we store with stormy Daniels and Karen make dual Michael was called in to deal that was Michael's job at the Trump Organization he had one of the closed his offices. A 1264 trump tower to Donald Trump just a few doors away. And he knows everything about not just the the personal situations had we been talking about but also. Knows about the trauma foundation knows about other areas of the Trump Organization and you know that I'm tower. Moscow deal which of course is there Robert Mueller team was looking into in the motor teen today as special counsel prosecutor in federal court said. He actually been quite forthcoming very truthful very cooperative in contrast to. The prosecutors in an a couple of other cases here there are dealing with his personal crimes the tax invasion. The bank fraud ass exit did involve the president this that he was less. Whatever company and there. Interesting thing and many things relationship and those injures seemingly soaring court is the represented her from the special counsel's office saying. That as it related to information with business dealings with Russia Michael Cullen was quite helpful to their investigation whereas as you mentioned. Prosecutors in the southern district said he was completely on helpful thing that happens there and added. That's partly why the judge gave him a stiff sentence for what the judge called bush Morga sport of crimes. This was a slightly lower than the recommended sentence which was four to five years three years. If for what Michael Cohen said was his blind loyalty to president trump certainly. Extraordinary was an emotional scene inside the courtroom are Erica terse he was very joins us now. From New York air and paint us a picture you were in in the room. What was the reaction when the sentence was handed down. Michael Cohen stood impassively as the judge handed down that three year sentence followed by supervised release imposed. Fines and restitution of more than a million dollars and so Michael Cohen is going to have to pay. But his impassive that he after time of his sentence I think. Really was in contrast to his emotional tone. When he stood before the court. He was evidently emotional at one point his voice catching as he turned to face his parents who came to court with him. To watch him get sentenced and he he apologized he said I'm sorry. And he spoke often. Of his family he quoted. Victor Frankel in man's search for meaning and talked about this being the most meaningful day of his life because he's city gets his freedom back. For a man about to go to prison it was hard to think of freedom but he said he'd been. Shackled to Donald Trump for most of his professional career even the judge made mention. Of how professionally tied. To Donald Trump and the Trump Organization Michael Cohen was and today Cohen made clear his split from a man for whom he said. Once that he would take a bullet he said that. Donald Trump had led him down a dark path. He felt obligated to cover up for Trump's dirty deeds but he now said it was going to be his life's work to make sure that history did not remember him Cohen. As the villain in Trump's story. An and Aaron is that gas queues and are you sort Michael Cohen summing times as much as I did. It just seems like the picture you're painting such a juxtaposition. From the man that we would see defending president cable TV yelling brash I mean. Total 180 from what happened court say based on what you saw. Michael cone was not a man to be trifle with if you didn't like what you were writing if you didn't like what you were saying it even if you just got his way. And in court he was far more contrite than I think we have never seen him and that he says he's in keeping with his goal to to get his Stanley. Out of the prolonged spotlight it's why he said he never entered into a formal cooperation agreement. With federal prosecutors in New York he said he didn't want to put his family through. Something that could obligate him four for months if not years and so he was willing to take his lumps and his attorney said that was part. Of an extraordinary choice that Michael Cohen made his attorney tested. As almost heroic. That Michael Cohen decided to cooperate he said it's not like your average defendant this is someone who had a seat at the table of power. And so cooperating came when extraordinary consequences and Michael Cohen even talked about the tweets from president front that he is into are calling him weak. For deciding to cooperate and what it Cohen say he said. The president was right that he was weak that he never could find his own voice to tell them not to cover up for Donald Trump's dirty deeds. And we do know that Aaron Michael Cohen in court there his attorney Lanny Davis told Jorge show Stephanopoulos here and ABC at just after the sentence was announced that. This sort of marks a new chapter for Michael Cohen he expects to continue speaking out. Pressing his case against the president revealing the truth in his words who will be certainly something to watch the president. Just a few minutes ago was asked about. The sentence today he's been uncharacteristically. Quiet so far today let's go to the White House our line Zack. Is standing by lot of the president was just tossed a bunch of questions at an executive order signing what he had. This thing that's right you know everybody of course very interested here in the White House find out what president trump thinks of his former attorney and fix there. And and write me and Michael Cohen getting that sentence. I want you a little to the sound of the president there. A he or rather here in the in the White House. As reporters asked him about that area should take a listen. Hey yeah. And he. The president there he was at a signing ceremony for four opportunities L is trying to. And bring some new economic relief to distract depressed areas in the United States. And he heard very clearly as you can see questions about Michael Cohen of course he didn't answer any of them he shook hands with the participants in the signing ceremony and then took off. I've been monitoring Twitter in fact to see if he had anything that he wants to say on Twitter because you know DeVon he has been talking quite a bit on Twitter when it comes to Michael Cohen saying that this is a witch hunt saying that he is not responsible for the mistakes that home made and in some categories that's true the financial crimes. That was all that the tax evasion that was personally beneficial to go and that was his own issue it was on time to the president but then there were other things that we here in. In in these affidavits in his cooperation that he was trying to do this at the behest of individual number one individual number one being president. Donald Trump and and he said then. At one point that it was a sick and it was a simple private transaction. That payments for four. Stormy Daniels and Karen McDoogle and that it was wrongly being called a campaign contribution and on a key the president also said that it's the lawyers liability if he made a mistake. Not me trying to pick. All of it. On Michael Cohen rather then assumed any of the responsibility himself of course we know that the special counsel investigation may come to an opposite conclusion done. Yeah no I really is gonna know a lot I mean I am not seeing that video that that we just threw to but what's very interest thing. In that the people around the president that signing one of them is pastor Darrell Scott and most all's individuals. Actually belong during the campaign to the president's. National diversity coalition was a group of individuals put together. To help the president sort of reach the African American community. Guess who put that group together. Michael Collins on one and only contributions he needs of the campaign Syrian January another indication of how closely interwoven they wore I don't think that the president base and everything we've heard today is completely out of the woods yet even though he declared that. The colon sentencing sort of exonerated him let's bring in our legal analyst Kate shot she joins us by phone Kate. Wanted to get your take on the the implications the potential liabilities for the president. In what we heard today and in that courtroom. Michael Cohen saying he's provided a lot of information to prosecutors looking into the president potential wrongdoing by the president. And those prosecutors praising him for the true form that's in completeness and some of that information. Yet that's right Kevin for the special counsel's filing in court. To me I I thought contained a lot of reasons for the president to be quite nervous so. They describe Michael Collins history of cooperation and that he you know they detail a significant about it assistant that he is already provided that the meetings. But most interest in testing the fact that he's described as providing continuing and ongoing cooperation. Regarding topics under investigation and they don't say more than that. But you know I'd presume to White House is really interest in what he did he would continue to provide them. And how individual one who is president trump. And potentially other members of his inner circle might be implicated. One other thing is it it's not he's got a treat your second could in theory it's possible that it can provide a significant continued. On going assistant. But the special counsel's office. And advocate like could in theory about this what happened the could in theory be back in court suggesting a reduction in sentence here and of course. I reported to begin answering that sentence yet I'm but it sounds like his dealings with them are very much ongoing. Very much ongoing he promised to cooperate further with the special counsel. John you've been treated tracking his involvement there with the special counsel as well did does seem like they have relied heavily. On the people closest to trump and now. Michael Cohen becoming the second one to beast is serving time behind bars and palm manna for also time to be behind bars already. This is is this really extraordinary boy. It's also extraordinary and that in no manner towards cooperation deal has gone bust and in the air saying that he is life from wasn't helpful. Where is Colin clearly you know as much as prosecutors and seven district aren't happy with him. Muller's team appears well I mean they've gotten so much helpful information from him and those debriefing sessions as we're just talking that was teeth they're not gonna end just because he's going off to jail they will check in with Michael Babel run things by Michael and he knows quite Wallace Kate also notes quite completely is that. If he is still cooperative and if dean want to go to bat for him. Immediately could reduce his sentence in time you never know three years is a long time even get six months last revealed political win for him. And finally development after the sentencing that's interesting to note and you've been following this is well that's this third party involved in. One aspect of the Cohen case the payments to former adult actress stormy Daniels. By Michael Cohen book by the president to keep her story quiet. Some of that money secure McDougal the other woman involved here was paid through EMI the American immediate unique. Media aim which is the owner of The National Enquirer that's fine here and brain aspirant today at the good that debt interest in development the camp out today afterwards the southern district ignorance and look we're not gonna prosecute AMI were not gonna prosecute David Pecker yeah but we did get a lot of information. What was most -- here's a got a lot of information linking to a deal for months ago city. Unsealed. Information today than in September they entered into a cooperation deal. With AM I the publishers of the national inquirer and they are the ones that paid Karen me to all the former Playboy playmate. What he did is that they paid her for practice known as catch and kill meaning that they agreed it will give you a 150000. Dollars. Don't chairs story basically killing the story. It was successful now trump me dead teal really we deed packer who was the CEO at the time packer stepped down he also entered into a separate cooperation deal prosecutors. But AM lying in that filing that was disclosed today so that they not only spoke to calling in with Tina Packer but they also spoke to members of the trump campaign. We don't know who that is now that further gets the point here that we've all been talking about of the campaign finance violations. Other people potentially implicated in that if the scope was beyond simply Michael Cohen that's right beyond me in my beyond the president who initially said he didn't know anything about these payments. So it does seem that there's going to be some more thread to pull. On that and and it's an activity that was very close to Election Day 2016. Art Johnson to cheer chief investigators are producer thank you so much John our thanks to teach our legal analyst Erica terse he is reporting from New York great to have as well. I'm will be back out with Lana Zack shortly. Hot meanwhile moving on another major story that is consuming Washington today and the White House is increasing pressure. On the trump administration to do something to punish Saudi Arabia this after the killing the murder. Jamarcus shall be the Washington Post columnist if that Turkish. Turkish Consulate of the Saudi government the president has said that there is no smoking gun here the CIA top lawmakers today getting briefed. That there is very compelling evidence and now. The secretary of state Mike Pompeo appearing on FOX & Friends this morning even giving a grilling from those anchors about why the administration isn't doing more to Nicholas. This is still a developing set of facts with respect to the murder of Jamal should give it intelligence community's working diligently on that. The direct evidence is what I've said before the direct evidence isn't yet available may show up tomorrow may have showed up overnight I haven't seen it. So direct evidence. Hasn't seen it but of course Gina house will be CIA director has been. Making repeated trips to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on what she says is very compelling evidence. Here's what one in the top house Democrats who was brief just a few hours ago what he had to say after hearing that evidence from Jean Hassell to Nicholas. One of the things that I want to do with the foreign affairs committee is as presumptive chair. Is to make sure that we look at a lot of houses. Of our government and how it relates to other governments around the world. And certainly. Our relationship with Saudi Arabia it's an important relationship by a wounded denigrated. What downgraded. Saudi Arabia is an important country and important. Partners. I don't think. We can simply look the other way when things half. Spring in her state depart reporter Connor Fannie and Connor the drumbeat here at the firm more action against Saudi Arabia it's building. What are you hearing from the State Department on how they might counter what congress plans to do in the next few days. Well its interest in giving the argument from the State Department from the Pentagon as well. Has been to sort of downplayed the role that the united seats has in Yemen with the Saudi led coalition there. You know this war powers resolution. Gaining steam in the senate. Would withdraw all US military support and they're now beginning to argue that the actually the US military is not involves really if it's not. Being active combat and so any resolution that will withdraw them would be sort of Null and void because. There's nothing to withdraw. As he said you know that that vote advancing in the senate just now so that they will be gained in debate about the war powers resolution yellow. Let's talk about that Connor we're seeing a live picture right now of the senate floor senators as you said just now. Voting to take action bipartisan this is a significant moment now. Republicans and Democrats in the United States congress voting to hold Saudi Arabia accountable they're voting on let's take a look at what's in this resolution to resolute resolutions on the table today. They're beginning debate on a resolution brought by Bernie Sanders. And Michael Lee a liberal and a conservative of all people. Here's what it calls for a call for the end to US support of the Saudi led coalition in Yemen as you were saying that has been. Reduce lately but they want an end to it they've also asked. For the the drug administration to pull out all forces from Yemen and they also. Are trying to send a message to Saudi Arabia that the actions against jamarcus shall be. Are unacceptable Connor this sort of a a resolution is and somewhat toothless but it would be significant coming from the United States congress. You know deathly would send a message that thing to book Saudi Arabia and to the White House that this business as usual relationship that the from the administration has been trying to go about. Would not be welcome he's no longer welcome in the United States senate as he said he wouldn't really do too much of what mattered that much on the ground in Yemen. For the conflict there especially because this resolution would then have to pass the house representatives and just this morning house leadership. Actually put the squash on that they they vote they sorry the included. This resolution in farm bill vote to block it and so it won't see the president's desk anytime soon at least until next year with the Democrats take control of the house. It's. All right Conor Finnegan to see department thinks so much Connor and if we were showing also there resolution by Bob Corker senator of Tennessee Republican. That would also punish specifically punish the crown prince of Saudi Arabia for his role in the Kirsch showed he killing. That is expects to be voted on later this week as well also keep an eye on the United States senate thanks to Connor. Off finally today were moving nine towards said the shut down potentially of the United States government a partial shut down. Funding for the US government a significant portion of it will run out four days before Christmas on December 21 year in town John Parkinson our hill reporter. Tracking where things stand there the impact that a partial shutdown would have John you've been sort of crunching the numbers digging into. What this would mean you found out that actually 75%. Of the government would continue running even if they didn't solve this crisis but 25% of it. Which shut down is that right. Yeah that's right and you know if you look at this were only nine days away from a shutdown but the really seems to be. No urgency to pass a funding bill at least at this point this week. On deep crack down to the numbers you have 380000. Federal employees it would be furloughed. And then another 10430000. That would be deemed essential staff don't have to continue working without pay. So you talked about this being just four days before Christmas a lot of these federal workers they're not making you know really competitive wages because they are in the federal government. And so you know many of them working paycheck to paycheck. You know this is of a problem I think for allow lawmakers looking at a potential shut down just a few days. Ahead of Christmas yet thousands of workers W paychecks were also seen on the screen now what if our government services are in limbo we see food and drug safety inspections NASA would shut down our tax collectors just we're just a few months from tax day the auditors at the IRS would be. Put off of work environmental cleanup at certain project passport processing of course. I would be put on hold. Also things like the NTSB which investigates transportation accidents they would be put off of work and bottom line is you were seen John. Hundreds of thousands of workers or be asked to work without pay including many of them. Law enforcement officials deemed essential Border Patrol agents in the like TS and the like. That is not an insignificant thing at a time when many people are spending a lot of money looking to be with their families. Around the holidays. Yeah you know I think congress really over the last decade or so is really struggled with appropriations. Congress has that constitutional responsibility they have the power of the purse. And so you saw over the last few months lawmakers they can see that this was kind of coming so I think they tried to get rid of all the low hanging from. At least tackle some of these things like. Defense. Veterans affairs. Health and human services labor some of those issues they've already passed and funded so that's. You know the the big 75%. Of government that we've seen is already been paid for and signed into law by the president so. You know you still looking on about 30% of the workforce that kid really feel the brunt of this shut down. If we get their next week and no more appropriation bills are passed in the next few days. 30% of the workforce looking at possibly being put off from work John Parkinson any tea leaves before let's ago. On how this could play out in the next it days or so. I really think the next Monday and Tuesday are going to be the really critical days. House majority leader Kevin McCarthy has canceled two days of legislative business so that the negotiators that are on the Appropriations Committee. Can sit down behind closed doors and just hash out all the details and get this done right we know that there hung up on border security. But they do feel like they're close on six of these other titles for appropriations. And so they can get something done on Monday and Tuesday on those maybe they can you know. Tackled 28%. Of that thirty that's left you know and and maybe lessen the impact. Of a shutdown. We're looking at possibly just a continuing resolution for that Homeland Security bill. And also lawmakers. Majority leader Kevin McCarthy in the Republican leaders here. Are still considering whether to take a vote. On this five billion dollar question for the border wall. And we could see some action on that next week right now looks like they're still trying to determine whether they have the votes and if that's the appropriate strategy to go forward as they negotiate with Democrats. All right that border wall at the center of all of this standoff over government funny and as you said John Parkinson 25%. Of the government. At risk of shutting down thousands hundreds of thousands of workers potentially without work just before the holidays. We know you'll keep NI and it jump Parkinson thank you so much for your reporting there of course you follow the latest. On the shutdown showdown story and abcnews.com. Download the ABC news apple have much more analysis and coverage of the Michael Cohen sentencing as well. And of course this ongoing story with Saudi Arabia voting on those resolutions continuing today and tomorrow. Here in the US congress more on that as well thanks you for joining us here in the briefing room will be back tomorrow 3:30 eastern time. I'm Devin Dwyer Washington we'll see you next time.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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