WASHINGTON, U.S. - A Manhattan Federal Court judge sentenced the U.S. President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to nine federal charges of tax evasion, violating campaign finance laws, lying to banks and to Congress.
Cohen was sentenced on Wednesday for crimes that included arranging payments to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump during the 2016 election.
Speaking in the Manhattan courtroom, Trump's former fixer, accepted blame for his actions and said, "I take full responsibility for each act that I pled guilty to: The personal ones to me and those involving the President of the United States of America."
Emphasizing on his stint with Trump, Cohen explained his path from the day he accepted a job with a "famous real-estate mogul whose business acumen I truly admired" to a period of "personal and mental incarceration."
He said that he had received the prison sentence because of the "blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light."
Cohen told the court, "Recently, the President tweeted a statement calling me 'weak,' and he was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass."
Over his decade-long professional relationship with Trump, 52-year-old Cohen has been referred to at different times as Trump's fixer, pit bull and consigliere.
Cohen, who once said he was willing to take a bullet for Trump, faced with the possibility of landing serious charges in April this year when a federal criminal investigation was officially opened against him.
Cohen was being investigated on suspicions of bank fraud, wire fraud, election law violations and campaign finance violations - which led to his swift and abrupt eviction from Trump's inner circle.
Months after the probe was initiated, Cohen appeared in the U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan and struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
He pleaded guilty to eight counts, which included five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution, one count of causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution.
At the time, Cohen made his most extraordinary admission, by pleading guilty to violating campaign finance law - accepting that he had arranged payments to silence the two women - the porn star Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal - who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
Trump has denied having the affairs with the two women.
However, prosecutors have said that by executing the payments, Cohen "acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump.
On Wednesday, Cohen was handed a three year imprisonment sentence, which is the longest imposed to date on anyone connected to Trump or as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the election.
Cohen has become the object of Trump's ire as in cooperating with prosecutors and pleading guilty, the former top Trump attorney has implicated his former client in the campaign finance crimes.
The U.S. District Judge William Pauley III sentenced Cohen to 36 months in prison on Wednesday, for the case from New York federal prosecutors and two months for the special counsel's matter.
The sentences will reportedly be served concurrently.
Judge Pauley said, "Mr. Cohen pled guilty to a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct. Each of the crimes involved deception and each appears to have been motivated by personal greed and ambition."
Before Wednesday's sentencing, Cohen was charged last month, with one count of lying to Congress in a separate case from Mueller's office.
Cohen admitted lying to Congress about how long discussions involving a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow had extended into the 2016 campaign.
He also criticized Cohen for his crimes, his lies and his willingness to commit both in his capacity as an attorney.
The Judge said, "Our democratic institutions depend on the honesty of our citizenry in dealing with the government."
Further, Cohen was ordered to pay $1.39 million in restitution, $500,000 in forfeiture and $100,000 in fines.
Cohen has been ordered to report to prison on March 6.
'Shut it down'
Commenting on Cohen's sentencing, Trump's current top attorney, Rudy Giuliani said, "It's not true he was blindly loyal to President. He was aggressively disloyal."
He added, "Cohen is a completely dishonorable person. … I've never heard of a lawyer that tape-recorded their client without the client's permission, and I've known some pretty scummy lawyers. You don't exist very long in the legal profession if you go around taping your client."
Meanwhile, Trump responded to his ex-lawyer's sentencing on Thursday and said that Cohen's crimes are "unrelated to me."
Trump argued on Twitter that he never told Cohen to break the law and denied any ties to his crimes.
He said in a series of tweets that Cohen only pleaded guilty "in order to embarrass the president and get a much-reduced prison sentence, which he did."
Trump wrote, "I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called 'advice of counsel,' and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me."
Separately on Thursday, Giuliani said that the President's legal team is now focused on encouraging Mueller to end his investigation into possible collusion.
Stressing that Mueller lacks the authority to prosecute Trump, Giuliani said, "Our strategy is … to do everything we can to try to convince Mueller to wrap the damn thing up, and if he's got anything, show us. If he doesn't have anything, you know, write your report, tell us what you have, and we'll deal with it. He can't prosecute him [Trump]. All he can do is write a report about him, so write the goddamned thing and get it over with now."