ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former longtime personal lawyer, was sentenced Wednesday to three years behind bars by a federal judge in New York.
Cohen, 52, earlier pleaded guilty to several crimes including lying to Congress about a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow while working for the president's organization in 2016, and making hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money payments involving two women -- an adult film actress and a Playboy model -- who allege lurid affairs with Trump.
Cohen's sentence is the longest to be handed down in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing probe into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential race and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Mueller's team did not recommend a specific prison term for Cohen, instead saying the sentence should be served concurrently with his sentence in a separate case in which the lawyer pled guilty to tax and bank fraud charges.
Federal prosecutors in that case had sought up to 63 months in prison for Cohen.
He has been ordered to report to prison March 6.
Cohen maintains payments to the two women who allege affairs with Trump -- Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal -- were done at the president's direction.
Cohen said in court filings he acknowledged they were made "for the principal purpose of influencing the election" -- referring to the 2016 White House race -- in violation of campaign finance laws.
Prosecutors in the case that in arranging the payments Cohen "acted in coordination with and at the direction" of Trump, whom they referred to as Individual 1.
"As a result of Cohen’s actions, neither woman spoke to the press prior to the election," they wrote in court documents.
Trump has maintained the payments were a "simple private transaction," and not contributions to his presidential campaign.
"Even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE," Trump fumed on Monday on Twitter. "Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me."