NEW YORK — With his teary-eyed and grim-faced family arrayed behind him, Michael Cohen laid claim to his freedom in a federal courtroom here on Wednesday morning. Not from incarceration, of course—Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer, fixer, and foot soldier knew he was soon headed to prison after he pleaded guilty to what a federal judge called “a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct.”
No, the 52-year-old Cohen was declaring his formal, surely irrevocable liberty from the clutches of the president of the United States.
“Today,” he told Judge William H. Pauley III in a deep, steady voice, “is the day I am getting my freedom back.”
“I have been living,” Cohen continued, “in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real-estate mogul whose business acumen I admired.”
In beseeching the court for a measure of mercy, Cohen sought to unburden himself from what he called a “blind loyalty” that led him down “a path of darkness.” “I felt it was my duty to cover up for his dirty deeds,” he told the court.
He apologized to just about everyone. First to his family: “I know I have let them all down,” he said, choking up for the only time as he read his typed statement from a sheet of paper. And then, to the “people of the United States” for his cooperation in crimes that were intended, he said, to sway the 2016 presidential election for Trump: “You deserve to know the truth,” he told the public, “and lying to you was unjust.”