SPECIAL REPORT: Trump attorney pleads guilty to campaign finance violations

Michael Cohen told the judge that the illegal payment was "for the principal purpose of influencing the election."
19:27 | 08/21/18

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Transcript for SPECIAL REPORT: Trump attorney pleads guilty to campaign finance violations
This is an ABC news. George Stephanopoulos. Good afternoon we are coming on the air again because Michael Collins president trumps former attorney has just left the courthouse in the southern district of New York in lower Manhattan. After pleading guilty. Two charges of tax evasion bank fraud and most significantly. Campaign finance violations he's facing years in prison. He is relieved will be released on 500000 dollars upon the will also have to. Contribute about 500000 dollars forfeit 500000 dollars to the government facing very serious charges. Unclear going for this is not a cooperation agreement but I think they're going for what kind of cooperation he may give to the special counsel Robert Mueller others investigating. The president we're about to hear shortly from the deputy US attorney trying this case who prosecute this case Robert Khatami but I want to bring in Tom llamas. First because Tom this is very significant these two campaign finance. Violations that Cohen is pleading guilty to. Connected to the payments to care MacDougall alleged to have an affair with present from back in the 2016 campaign also stormy Daniels the porn star. Alleged to have an affair with president from. He is saying Michael Cohen he said it in open court. That he made these payments these illegal payments in coordination and that the direction of the candidate for -- United States. George that's the bombshell right there that's the headline out of this proceeding that he. Did this quote at the direction of the candidate who spoke with here and looked doable and ask you mention stormy Daniels that well. With an at the direction of the same gated were talking there about president trump. A wild scene outside a port just now Michael Cohen just left as people were screaming at him at the top of their lungs lock him up. Lock him up cursing at him. As he got it was vehicle a little bit of color from inside court Michael Korda walked in came into a side entrance he was protected if you will by the police and get guys came and got inside was wearing a dark suit yellow tie he winked at one reporter he was asked at what points to. Me guilty if he was under any medication it if by chance that he was intoxicated. He said only that he had a drink last night a twelve your Glen Levitt and that's usually not what he does but it gives you a sense of what was going through his head. He's four days from its 52 Berkeley so definitely a rough week for him. And the Mexican based right now we're capable we learn if I could be 65 years. That's a maximum prison time we know at this point sentencing is December 12 but he did walk out on a 500000 dollar bond. And again really is no mention of cooperation of a cooperation agreement inside that courthouse but that doesn't preclude. His cooperation or perhaps with the investigators going forward. That's incredibly important point George to right there is no cooperation isn't have to cooperate with federal forties. But the legal doesn't prevent him from doing that in the future so that very well could happen. K again he's been pleading guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations tax evasion. And bank fraud want to bring in our chief legal analyst Dan Abrams for more on this a facing some counts having to do this personal business they are again the real. News hear those campaign finance. Please illegal corporate contribution excessive campaign contributions at the direction of the candidate for president. Whatever you have to separated out because the ones with regard tax fraud bank fraud that's related to him personally. That's been very different issued a yankees game I was directed to do something but of course it's clearly president Donald Trump so in any other environment. We be saying well the next person to be charged here. Like we could be Donald Trump. But because as we talked about many times before it is unlikely that special counsel. Already will speak to indict a sitting president. He could become a a sort of unindicted co conspirator but but regardless. Michael Cohen whose mission is very. Clear that he was directed to do this by the president which actually make the president's. Culpability here it is true. More significant than Michael Colin would simply say I executed. Wanted to order. And ordering Chris Christie as well another former prosecutor gave Chris the question there would be what kind of documents or other evidence. Would the prosecutors be able to show to back up that contention for Michael Collins. Apparently we don't have Chris Chris you're no longer necessary Vega at the White House. To see this and did these claims for Michael Cohen as he's pleading guilty to campaign finance. Violations run right in the face. Persistent denials we saw from the White House. From president from saints have any knowledge of anything having to do with the payments to stormy Daniels RK McDougal at least initially. Exactly and they explanations or worse and have been head spinning from the campaign to the White House to the trump legal team. And really this is what put this administration. Facing smack in the middle of a crisis of credibility George initially. Michael Cohen had said that this money came from his personal funds and we all remember that scene on Air Force One where the president denied knowing anything. About the payments to stormy Daniels and manager sort of spiraled out of control from there where. Rudy Giuliani the president's lawyer admitted that the president in fact did use this money from his personal account to pay Michael Cohen. But he said it was to stop what he called false and extortionist accusations essentially to save his marriage not because he was it'd make any wrongdoing in these claims that whispered the stormy Daniels case the president ultimately did on Twitter acknowledge knowing about the payment that the money came from his own account. To Michael Cohen and he says that this was something it was very common for rich people and celebrities to do. On the Karen McDougal case there have been blanket denials from the very beginning of this campaign where hope picks back then has longtime aide. Deny the president a doing anything wrong knowing anything about. These payments and denying blanket denials about an affair Giuliani just last month tonight trick isn't knowing anything about this turns out. To see a whole lot of seconds we are now seeing Robert designing the deputy attorney here in New York whose afternoon blaze element name's Robert designing. And the deputy United States attorney for the southern district of New York. The attorney for the United States in this matter. With me is bill Sweeney assistant director in charge of the New York field office of the FBI. And James Robinette. Who is the supervisory agent in charge of the DR office of the IRS. Also with the are the prosecutors from the United States attorney's office in the southern district of New York. Who prosecuted the Cohen matter I'm gonna have a brief statement and will not be taking any questions. Today as you heard Michael gaul and pled guilty to eight felony charges. Five of those dealt with tax evasion for the years 2012. Through 2016. In which he failed to report. Approximately. Four point one million dollars in reported income. Approximately 2.5 of that money. Was strong interest payments from a personal loan and he failed a report approximately one point three million dollars of that money. Was from the operation of his taxi medallion business. Approximately 100000 dollars of that money was from brokerage commissions and over 200000 dollars was from consulting fees. That's over four point three million dollars over five year period. Which translates into a loss to United States treasury. Of approximately. One point three million dollars. In addition in pounds six. Mr. Cullen pled guilty to making false statements to a financial institution in connection. An application. For a home equity line of credit. In adaptation. He failed to disclose more than fourteen million dollars in debt that he had. And as a result of that concealment. He attained that 500000 dollar. Line of credit which she would not have been entitled to and he been candid and honest. In addition. Mr. Cohen found guilty to two campaign finance charges one for causing. An unlawful corporate contribution. And a second one for personally making an excessive personal contribution. Both for the purpose of influencing the 2060. Election. In addition. What he did was he worked to pay money to silence to women who had information. That he believed to be detrimental to the 2016. Campaign into the candidate in the campaign. In addition mr. Colin. Sought reimbursement. Four that body by submitting import invoices. Two of the candidates company. Which were untrue and false. They indicated that the reimbursement. Was for services rendered for the year 2017. When in fact those invoices were a sham. He provided no legal services for the year 2017. And it was simply a means to obtain reimbursement. For the unlawful campaign contribution. A couple of points I'd like to make first. These are very serious charges that reflect the pattern of lies and dishonesty over an extended period of time. They are significant in their own rights they are particularly significant. When done by a lawyer. Lawyer who through training and tradition. Understands there. What it means to be a lawyer to engage in honest and fair dealing and adherence to the law. Mr. Cohen disregarded that training disregarded that tradition. And decided that he was above the law and for that he's going to pay a very very serious price. With respect to the campaign finance violations. The campaign finance laws are designed to prevent use of illegal money in elections and they maintain the integrity of those elections. Mr. Cohen. Me guilty pleas. For those campaign violations and those are core violations. And what he did was. He he hit these please remind us that is illegal for corporations. To make contributions. Two candidates. And it is illegal to make contributions in excess of the about that congress set for individuals. That is a strong message today and we will not be. We will not fear. A prosecuting. Additional pork corporation finding campaign finance cases. Lastly and perhaps most importantly. This case. Is unique in many ways this witness. The gathering of all of you here today. And in other ways it's unique as well but it really important ways this case is not unlike many cases. My office the United States attorney's office spring is that the entire Department of Justice brings. And that the law enforcement agencies do as well including the FBI and the IRS. This case has more in common we all those cases because they all share the same message. And that message is that. The rule of law applies. And that four. A law enforcement all of whom are gathered here. It is it is our commitment. That we will pursue it vindicate. Those who. Who choose to break the law in vindicate the majority of people. Who live law abiding lives. Pomp and follow honest and fair deal lean. And live lives of a lawful behavior. The messages that we are here. Prosecutors are here law enforcement is here the Department of Justice is here law enforcement agencies here we are nation of laws. And the essence of this case about his justice and that is an equal playing field for all. Persons in the eyes of the law and that is a lesson that mr. Cohen learn today it is very harsh one for him. Thank you very much. Bringing a statement there from maverick resounding. The deadliest turning lets your time that I'd also like to introduce sorry my out my fault I really want to thank. Mr. Sweeney. And James dropped out of the FBI the IRS. Any agents who work for them. We do many many cases with them and their determination. And their fair dealing. And their vigor with which they pursue their cases really inspirational. To the prosecutors in my office. I cannot express the gratitude for the hard work. That they did in this case and that is assisting United States attorney's Andrei agrees walled. And nick Roos and Rachel Damon and Tom UK as well as Ed just can't the deputy chief of the public corruption unit. And Russell proposed the chief of the public corruption unit for all of these people I could go on and on about their many virtues and talents. But the one important thing is they all are satisfied with simply being known as public service prosecutors and law enforcement agents who are doing their job. Thank you very much and. Robert is army deputy US attorney. With the ringing statement there about the rule of law want to bring in a man who stood in the issues as well Chris Christie a former US attorney in New Jersey well of course also former governor. Of New Jersey he said Chris that this case is unique in some ways. But not unlike so many other cases that BS attorneys face every single day and is sending MS is the rule of law. Must stand and is he said very harsh smashes today for Michael Collins. Well really harsh must assure you he's right that the yield yesterday adopted the corporate retreat like this every bank bought. He also noted that he president of the media there. Because this involves Nell Michael coordinates are publicly that he was directed to do these things by a better candidate Donald Trump got presidential. And so is there are gonna come down to a credibility argument George. On the learn what you think they have to prove that the president didn't track to work. Well I don't know that's what I wanted to ask you about because he we know they've we know that the special master and others have gone through thousands and hundreds of thousands documents here more than a million. Documents we know that there is no this is this is not a cooperation. Agreement yet we've also seen this bombshell charge from Michael Cohen ad and an admission at the court saying he did this in the direction. The president what does that mean for president trump right now. Well it could of warned we know this our normal circumstance because they're the most people. Legal experts who greeted the president consult championed the idea that any kind of charges not look or perhaps you can look like congress. But what I also suit that you know now we understand but perhaps Smart Michael Collins and his folks were putting up eight. Bulky and and are bent charity chumps talking about. The setting up of some part the mechanism to pay. Armed stormy Daniels and did you know what's significant about it maybe a Michael Collins Smart I'm sure we'll hear a different story from the Clinton in the White House. But I think that's faith Baptist columns and will learn the other tapes becomes kind of significant. In this is a critic credibility Casey AA at this point is in the president's case hurt by the fact that. Prior to this he denied any knowledge. Of those payments and then was forced to admit that he knew about them. Certainly towards her retirement he's found not probably not haven't told. The complete truth the unvarnished truth out something for something that any group of folks. For me in the position of deciding factor the case are you know are gonna look at and say I'm not a doctor to be considered. In the end though is that description of Michael Collins are cooperating here and there are cooperative we agree with you accused Clinton's here potentially. And you know he's looking at some significant crowds much more European cars until the monetary not George. Imus up there with his own personal conduct and what we're talking about in terms of the campaign finance violations than those are what they're really huge rockets are. Wright say that and that's what would try to send his final question Dan Abrams our chief legal analyst. And as well one I guess that one and they open questions I suppose. If both you Chris Christie good is unlikely if not in a that are presently be indicted would not be in then the question is now well this information go back. To Robert Mueller the information had to do with president trop. Oh there's no question that it will and the question you have to ask yourself this state Colin is he telling the truth. Why would he make this stock. Why wouldn't implicate himself in a crime that can add years to resent. It just doesn't make any sense if there's no cooperation agreement that he sort of getting this enormous benefit by coming clean about. What he's got it from that and I think that that add to the credibility. Of Coleman's plea here in a that the truth to what happened. Because there it doesn't he immediately a logical argument on the other side apart from what I'm sure president trump and Rudy Giuliani will say he's just telling the truth. He did this so. He's trying to blame president trump or this is something that he's obviously there's a problem we've got it at that public statements that have now been made by Giuliani and trough. We. And you're in a typical position here with regard to credibility. And don't bring back our senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas as well Peter this was given over as I said from Robert Mueller to the southern district of New York notoriously independent. District but they did report this back to the Justice Department before bring Michael Cohen into court. Today and this in this is something that rod rose decide who is now leaving entire investigation. Was it was informed us. Absolutely Jordan Boller was aware of all this is going on for one very important point here. This case is not potentially over because the targets mentioned that Colin coordinated with other campaign officials. Those people are likely going to get a call from the FBI a visit from the FBI will there will want to know what they know about this they will seek additional cooperation so this is but this week that. Aren't from here again is a critical point not only acted at the direction of the president but also that he coordinated with other members of the campaign unnamed. Members of the campaign finally wanna go to Cecilia Vega at the White House we do not hear from the president before he headed to Charleston, West Virginia. We as he was leaving the White House. No doubt we'll speak out on this tonight. Certainly no doubt about that George this is not been a good day for this president for this white house on the same day that his personal attorney. Pleaded guilty his campaign manager was found guilty and perhaps the conservative web site. The headline on Drudge right now says it all George trumps hell our that's how this is being described. Charges a band against his former campaign Jerry gets his former personal attorney voted upon metaphor convicted today. And eight charges of tax evasion and bank fraud Michael Cohen pleading guilty today. I'm shares of bank fraud and tax of Asian and campaign finance violations. Connected to the 2016. Presidential campaign we have a full wrap up tonight we'll listen I would David Muir and I'll see you tomorrow. On GMA. This has been a special report from ABC.

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

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