Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen, off to prison, says still much to be told

Michael Cohen begins his three-year sentence on Monday for arranging hush payments and lying to Congress.

    Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, departs his Manhattan apartment for prison [Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP]
    Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, departs his Manhattan apartment for prison [Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP]

    Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, headed to a federal prison to begin a three-year sentence on Monday, taking a parting shot at his former boss in remarks to reporters as he left his Manhattan apartment building.

    "I hope that when I rejoin my family and friends that the country will be in a place without xenophobia, injustice and lies at the helm of our country," Cohen told reporters gathered on the pavement. "There still remains much to be told and I look forward to the day that I can share the truth."

    Cohen, who once vowed to "take a bullet" for Trump but now calls him a "con man," must report by 2pm local time (18:00 GMT) to the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York, about 110km northwest of New York City to serve his sentence for arranging hush payments to two women who said they had sexual encounters with Trump and lying to Congress.

    He is expected to stay at the prison's minimum security camp.

    Cohen's prison term completes a stunning fall for the 52-year-old native of New York's Long Island whose career was tethered to Trump as he evolved from wealthy real estate developer to reality TV personality to politician. For more than a decade, Cohen served as Trump's personal lawyer and self-described "fixer". 

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    The relationship began to sour after FBI agents raided Cohen's Rockefeller Center office and Park Avenue hotel room in April 2018 as part of an investigation that grew out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. The information gathered in the raids contributed to a series of criminal charges against Cohen that caused his dramatic split with Trump.

    Cohen publicly broke with Trump in July 2018, telling ABC News he intended to put family and loyalty to his country ahead of the president. Cohen and his wife, Laura Shusterman, 49, have two adult children, Samantha and Jake.

    'He is a racist. He is a con man'

    In congressional testimony in February in Washington, Cohen said, "I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat." 

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    During his sentencing in December in New York, Cohen said, "My weakness can be characterised as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump, and I was weak for not having the strength to question and to refuse his demands. I have already spent years living a personal and mental incarceration."
    Cohen said during his sentencing he would provide as much information as he could to prosecutors about his former boss.

    Trump, for this part, has blasted Cohen on Twitter, calling him a "weak person" as well as a "bad lawyer and fraudster".

    Cohen pleaded guilty in August 2018 to violating campaign finance law, bank fraud and tax evasion in a case handled by federal prosecutors in New York. Prosecutors said Trump himself directed illegal payments orchestrated by Cohen to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to avert a scandal shortly before the 2016 election. Cohen told the court Trump ordered a $130,000 payment to Daniels and a $150,000 payment to McDougal to keep them quiet.

    Trump has denied sexual relationships with the women and said he never directed Cohen to do anything illegal.

    Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump tower project in Russia that was being negotiated at the same time he was running for president.

    Prosecutors said Cohen provided false statements in closed-door testimony to politicians to create the impression the project had ended by the time the state-by-state Republican presidential nomination race began, when in fact talks had continued well beyond that point.

    US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan sentenced Cohen to three years in prison in both cases.

    Cohen's prison time could be reduced by about 15 percent for good behaviour.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency