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Longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen reaches plea deal with feds

<p>President Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is in negotiations with federal prosecutors to possibly plead guilty to criminal charges Tuesday afternoon in Manhattan federal court April 16, 2018, in New York.</p>

President Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen is in negotiations with federal prosecutors to possibly plead guilty to criminal charges Tuesday afternoon in Manhattan federal court April 16, 2018, in New York.

By Denis Slattery, Stephen Rex Brown and Chris Sommerfeldt
New York Daily News

NEW YORK  — The fixer is in.

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, pleaded guilty to a laundry list of charges in federal court on Tuesday — including working at Trump's "direction" to pay off two women who say they had sex with him more than a decade ago.

Cohen, wearing a dark suit and a gold tie, winked at reporters and signed papers before informing a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan of his guilty plea on eight counts related to campaign finance violations, bank fraud and tax evasion.

Cohen shook his head as Judge William Pauley informed him he could face a maximum penalty of 65 years behind bars.

The self-described "fixer," long considered Trump's personal pit bull, boasted last year he'd take a bullet for the president.

But the Long Island native's loyalty has been tested since April 9, when FBI agents raided Cohen's office and residences, seizing more than 4 million files in connection with an investigation into bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.

Sources told CNN Cohen's plea deal does not include a cooperation component — a revelation experts say indicates Cohen either has nothing of interest to offer or remains loyal to Trump.

The investigation was referred to prosecutors in New York by special counsel Robert Mueller.

"For the president, it might be a sigh of relief that Cohen is not cooperating," Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in Illinois specializing in white collar crimes, told the New York Daily News.

The raid sent shockwaves through the White House. Gradually, Cohen, 51, and Trump distanced themselves from each other through statements in the media.

Cohen later said his loyalty was to his family and country, leading to speculation that he may cooperate with investigators.

Trump, meanwhile, said Cohen had only done "a tiny, tiny little fraction" of his legal work.

The Cohen investigation included several separate inquiries. Authorities were eyeing more than $20 million in loans Cohen obtained through his ownership of taxi medallions.

Agents also seized records relating to a $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 presidential election.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, claims she had sex with Trump in 2006 and Cohen's payoff could violate campaign finance laws. Trump denies the affair, but has admitted he reimbursed Cohen for the payment.

Cohen also faced scrutiny for reportedly promoting himself as an informal White House lobbyist to companies seeking "insight" into Trump.

One company, pharmaceutical giant Novartis, acknowledged it paid Cohen, who has zero background in health care, $1.2 million over a year's time, despite only meeting with him once.

Corporations, including telecom behemoth AT&T and others with major regulatory matters before the administration, acknowledged payments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. The payments could represent a violation of disclosure laws surrounding lobbyists.

Cohen's corporate ties were first revealed in a detailed report released by Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti.

Avenatti has long predicted that Cohen would "eventually flip."

Prosecutors said during a hearing after the April 9 raid that they had been investigating Cohen for months. Cohen initially argued that much of the material was protected by attorney-client privilege and not fair game for prosecutors. But a protracted review process overseen by a retired judge found that only 7,146 items seized in the raid were privileged.

Cohen played it cool in the days following the raid, chomping on cigars in public and frequenting high-end restaurants with friends.

The former fixer began making public statements at odds with Trump's views on a variety of topics and scrubbed mentions of the president from his social media accounts.

Tensions came to a head after it was revealed Cohen had secretly recorded Trump talking about Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who also says she had sex with Trump in 2006.

"Inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal," Trump tweeted on July 21. "The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!"

The probe is separate from Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin, prosecutors have said.

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