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Cohen implicated Trump in campaign finance crimes — but did not name him directly. Here's why

Key Points
  • President Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made a startling admission in New York federal court on Tuesday.
  • At the direction of a "federal candidate," Cohen said, he facilitated payments on two occasions to two women in order to keep information from the public for the purposes of winning an election.
  • According to experts, Cohen may have been told that he was not allowed to use the president's name because Trump is not a defendant in the case.
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President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made startling admissions in New York federal court on Tuesday, implicating the president in an illegal scheme to silence two women from making public their claims of having sex with him.

Anyone who has followed the news knows that the payments Cohen described were made on behalf of Trump. Indeed, later in the day, the Justice Department press office confirmed that Trump was the unidentified political candidate. But neither the prosecutor nor Cohen ever uttered Trump's name.

At the direction of a "federal candidate," Cohen said, he facilitated payments on two occasions to two women in order to keep information from the public for the purposes of winning an election.

In a press release, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said Cohen had pleaded guilty for facilitating payments to prevent two women from discussing their "alleged affairs with a presidential candidate, thereby intending to influence the 2016 presidential election."

According to experts, Cohen may have been told that he was not allowed to use the president's name because Trump is not a defendant in the case.

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"There are Department of Justice guidelines that say you are not allowed to name someone who is not a defendant," Mimi Rocah, a former U.S. assistant attorney in the Southern District of New York, told MSNBC on Tuesday. "The U.S. Attorney isn't going to use his name in formal document or proceeding, and Michael Cohen was likely told that he's not allowed to."

Those regulations didn't prevent Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, from making the connection explicit shortly after Cohen pleaded guilty.

Davis, who served in President Bill Clinton's White House, said Cohen "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."

"If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn't they be a crime for Donald Trump?" Davis said in a statement.

Trump's attorneys have denied any wrongdoing in connection to the case against Cohen.

Read the full charges against Michael Cohen.

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