USA

Ex-Trump lawyer faces ‘substantial’ jail term over hush money

Donald Trump's former lawyer could face a "substantial" jail term despite co-operating in the Robert Mueller investigation, US prosecutors say.

Papers filed by New York prosecutors and Mr Mueller's office on Friday have detailed Cohen's activities during the 2016 presidential campaign, including information about illegal payments, tax evasion and "contacts with Russian interests".

Prosecutors said sentencing guidelines call for Cohen to serve at least four years in prison – a range they said reflects his "extensive, deliberate and serious criminal conduct".

The former lawyer had first pleaded guilty in August, confessing to evading taxes and paying an adult film performer hush money on Trump's behalf during his 2016 election campaign.

If Mr Trump did direct Cohen to make the payments he has been charged with making, this could constitute a crime.

In an at times blistering note, prosecutors described his conduct as motivated by "personal greed", saying he "sought to influence the election from the shadows" by "orchestrating secret and illegal payments" to two women.

The former lawyer has been cooperating with Mr Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian collusion during the 2016 campaign – giving information he reportedly hopes would lighten his sentence.

But prosecutors say he is seeking "extraordinary leniency" and have recommended that his sentence should reflect the seriousness of his "brazen violations".

The filings also reveal that Cohen admitted he and Mr Trump had discussed a potential meeting with Vladimir Putin in November 2015 shortly before Mr Trump announced his bid for presidential candidacy.

In a footnote, Mr Mueller's team write that Cohen spoke with Mr Trump about "about contacting the Russia government before reaching out to gauge Russia's interest in such a meeting" – although it never actually took place.

Mr Mueller filed another statement on Friday detailing contacts between Cohen and a Russian person, who offered "political synergy" on a government level during 2015.

The person, who claimed to be a "trusted person" in the Russian Federation, repeatedly asked for a meeting with Donald Trump, but the offer was not followed up by Cohen.

In a dramatic revelation earlier this year, Cohen described how he had been directed by Mr Trump to arrange payments to buy the silence of porn performer Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Both women alleged they had had affairs with Mr Trump.

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At the same time, Mr Mueller did not recommend any additional jail time beyond what is recommended by New York prosecutors.

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