Michael Cohen says he paid off women at Trump's direction to influence election

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Michael Cohen left Manhattan federal court late Tuesday evening after pleading guilty to eight felony charges and admitting he and then-candidate Donald Trump worked to cover up his alleged affairs during the 2016 campaign. 

At times emotional, Cohen told the judge that — in violation of campaign finance laws — he paid two women hush money "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office ... for the principle purpose of influencing the election."

He also admitted to bank fraud and tax evasion.

Deputy U.S. attorney Robert Khuzami spoke soon after, saying "these are very serious charges and reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over an extended period of time. They are significant in their own right; they are particularly significant when done by a lawyer."

Cohen's attorney suggested that if Cohen is guilty of violating campaign finance law, so is the president.

"Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election," Cohen attorney Lanny Davis said in a statement. "If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn't they be a crime for Donald Trump?"

Cohen is at the center of the Stormy Daniels controversy. He admitted to paying the adult film star $130,000 right before the 2016 election to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Mr. Trump, who initially denied knowing about the payment.

But later, the president disclosed he reimbursed Cohen.

In June, Mr. Trump reacted to the possibility of pardoning Cohen if he ever faced charges, saying "it certainly is far too early to be thinking about that."

Mr. Trump also criticized the FBI for raiding Cohen's home and office in New York, seizing thousands of materials and documents.

"I think that was unfortunate that they broke into a lawyer's office. Not a good practice," Mr. Trump said in June.

Cohen had been known as Mr. Trump's attorney and fixer for a decade and was was known for his fierce loyalty to Mr. Trump.

"I will do anything to protect Mr. Trump," Cohen said in January 2017.
 
But their relationship took a dark turn in July, when Cohen released a secret recording of his conversation with the then-candidate about payments related to a Playboy model who claims she also had an affair with Mr. Trump. 

"What financing?" Mr. Trump said on the recording. 

"We'll have to pay him something," Cohen answered. 

Mr. Trump appears to say "cash." 

"No, no, no ... I got it. No, no," Cohen said. 

Mr. Trump then appears to say "check" and the tape cuts off. 

Afterward, the president tweeted, "What kind of lawyer would tape a client? So sad!"

Under the plea deal, Cohen faces up to 5 years and 3 months in prison, but if he chooses to cooperate in other cases it could help when it comes to sentencing, which is scheduled for December. As of Tuesday night, Cohen is a free man after posting $500,000 bail and giving up his passport. 

Mr. Trump is in West Virginia for a campaign rally.