Cohen says Trump knew hush money payment was wrong

Donald Trump’s convicted ex-lawyer insists he was directed by his boss to make hush money payments.

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Media captionCohen walked free from court – but will have to report to jail in March

US President Donald Trump’s former lawyer insists Mr Trump knew making hush money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign was wrong.

Speaking after he was sentenced to prison for campaign finance and fraud crimes, Michael Cohen told ABC News: “He directed me to make the payments.”

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

The president has denied ever asking Cohen to make illegal payments.

“He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law,” Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday, suggesting Cohen had pleaded guilty “to embarrass the president”.

Cohen, 52, was sentenced to three years on Wednesday and must report to prison by 6 March.

He admitted to lying to Congress, campaign finance violations and tax evasion. In addition to the jail term, he was also ordered to forfeit nearly $2m (£1.6m).

He is the first of Mr Trump’s inner circle to be jailed following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

What else did Cohen say?

He was asked in the ABC News interview about money paid to two women to keep quiet about alleged affairs with the then-presidential candidate.

Mr Trump “was very concerned about how this would affect the election”, Cohen said.

The purpose of the payments had been to “help [Trump] and his campaign”, he added.

“People of the United States of America, people of the world, don’t believe what he is saying,” Cohen continued.

“The man doesn’t tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.”

What are Cohen’s crimes?

The sentencing was related to two separate cases brought by the Southern District of New York and the Mueller investigation.

Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for his role in making hush money payments regarding the two women, porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

He confessed to making a $130,000 payment to Ms Daniels and arranging for a $150,000 payment to Ms McDougal.

Prosecutors argued successfully that these payments amounted to illegal campaign contributions. Under US law, an individual donation cannot exceed $2,700.

The payment to Ms McDougal was made by American Media Inc (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer tabloid, to suppress her allegations of an affair with Mr Trump.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced it had reached a deal with AMI to avoid prosecution if the company admitted it made the $150,000 payment “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign” and to “ensure that the woman did not publicise damaging allegations” ahead of the 2016 election.

AMI has agreed to continue co-operating with investigators.

Mr Trump has acknowledged both payments were made despite denying having actual affairs, and has called them a private transaction unrelated to his election campaign.

Cohen’s other convictions, for tax evasion and bank fraud, are unrelated to the president.

Cohen also admitted to making false statements to Congress about a property deal Mr Trump was looking into in Moscow in the run-up to the 2016 election.

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