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Prosecutors say Trump directed illegal campaign payments to hide sex affairs

In this Nov. 29, 2018, photo, Michael Cohen walks out of federal court in New York. A pattern of deception by advisers to President Donald Trump, aimed at covering up Russia-related contacts during the 2016 campaign & transition, has unspooled bit by bit
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
Federal prosecutors demanded "substantial" jail time for Cohen for bank fraud and campaign finance violations

Federal prosecutors said Friday that US President Trump directed his lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal payments to avoid potential sex scandals that might threaten his 2016 presidential campaign.

In a released sentencing document, federal prosecutors demanded Cohen face "substantial" jail time for bank fraud and campaign finance violations to which he pled guilty to earlier this year.

They recommended between 51 to 63 months-- four to five years -- for his crimes in a sentence that has been lessened given his guilty plea and "meaningful" cooperation with the probe.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation turned up the heat on Trump with Friday’s filing by confirming prosecutor’s belief that the president was involved or at knowledge of the campaign finance violation, in addition to adding to the growing list of contacts between campaign aides and Russians in 2015 and 2016, legal experts said.

The 40-page document drew a direct link between Cohen’s illegal behavior and Trump, which Cohen admitted to in August.

"In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1," the document reads, referring to Trump.

Taking a guilty plea in New York, Cohen previously implicated the president in the hush payments made to two women-former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels, which are under investigation for violating campaign finance regulations.AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Yet, the new documents mark the first time federal prosecutors officially confirmed Cohen’s statements.

“In total, the prosecutors seem to be saying the president was more aware than he has claimed to be,” former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin told Reuters.

House Democrat John Garamendi, said Friday that these may be "the opening days of an impeachment," claiming the findings confirm the president "clearly has surrounded himself with criminals."

"During the campaign, laws were broken... And now we have the president implicated in that," Garamendi told CNN.

Trump, meanwhile, did not seem to fazed by the prosecutor's revelations. As US media dissected the court documents throughout the evening, the president tweeted "Totally clears the President. Thank you!" without offering an explanation or any other statement on the matter.

Trump's administration also repeated their previous dismissals of the allegations a "fake news" and a "witch-hunt."

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued Friday the filing "says absolutely nothing about the President."

"Mr Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr Cohen is no hero," she said.

"Once again the media is trying to create a story where there isn't one."

The president has vowed that his lawyers will produce a "major counter-report" to rebut the findings of Mueller's investigation once the special counsel releases his report.

AFP contributed to this report.

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