September 16, 2019

Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty to Five Counts of Tax Evasion; Jury Finds Paul Manafort Guilty of Tax Fraud

We here at Going Concern have always (well, except from May 17, 2018 to July 24, 2018) given you an outlet to comment on the big news of the day. Well, two pretty big news stories broke at the same time earlier this afternoon that do not bode well for our commander-in-chief.

First, in a federal court in New York City, President Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts, including five counts of tax evasion, one count of falsifying submissions to a bank, and two counts related to unlawful campaign violations. He could get about four to five years in prison at sentencing Dec. 12, according to the Associated Press.

The two counts related to campaign-finance violations are what’s making headlines, as Cohen told the judge that he made hush payments, at then-candidate Trump’s direction, to cover up alleged flings Trump had with a porn star and a Playboy model for the “principal purpose of influencing the election.”

The AP reports:

In entering the plea, Cohen did not name the two women or even Trump, recounting instead that he worked with an “unnamed candidate.” But the amounts and the dates all lined up with the payments made to [porn star Stormy] Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal in the weeks and months leading up to the 2016 White House election.

Cohen, his voice shaky as he answered questions from a federal judge, said one payment was “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” and the other was made “under direction of the same candidate.”

Cohen pleaded guilty to evasion of personal income tax from 2012 to 2016, including failing to report $4 million in taxes.

On Aug. 8, we mentioned that, according to the Wall Street Journal, the feds were examining whether Cohen underreported income from his taxi-medallion business on federal tax returns.

Cohen was released on $500,000 bail.

Then, right around the same time as Cohen’s plea deal was announced, a jury in a federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., handed special counsel Robert Mueller his first conviction in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was found guilty of eight financial crimes, according to the AP. A judge declared a mistrial on 10 other counts the jury could not agree on.

AP reported:

The jury found Manafort guilty of five counts of filing false tax returns on tens of millions of dollars in Ukrainian political consulting income. He was also convicted of failing to report foreign bank accounts in 2012 and of two bank fraud charges that accused him of lying to obtain millions of dollars in loans after his consulting income dried up.

The jury couldn’t reach a verdict on three other foreign bank account charges, and the remaining bank fraud and conspiracy counts.

Trump, who hasn’t yet commented on the Cohen plea deal, told reporters in West Virginia that the Manafort verdict “doesn’t involve me but I still feel, you know, it’s a very sad thing that happened,” according to the Washington Post:

[Trump] pointed out that the charges in Manafort’s case did not involve Mueller’s core mission of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Americans conspired with those efforts.

“This is a witch hunt that ends in disgrace,” Trump said.

So, big news, huh? Discuss.

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