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Trump's ex-lawyer Cohen pleads guilty to 8 criminal charges

WASHINGTON, Aug.  (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump's former longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen on Tuesday pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges including campaign-finance violations, tax evasion and bank fraud at a federal court in Manhattan, multiple media reports said.

In court, Cohen reportedly said that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office", he kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public.

Cohen didn't mention Trump's name but it's widely thought his claim has a clear reference to the president.

"On or about summer 2016, in coordination and with and at the behest of the candidate, I and the CEO of a media company worked together to keep an individual with information that would be harmful to the candidate from publicly disclosing this information... under which she received compensation of 150,000 dollars," Cohen was quoted as saying in court.

Cohen surrendered to the FBI earlier Tuesday. It remains unclear if the former Trump lawyer has committed to cooperate with the ongoing Special Counsel Robert Mueller probe over the alleged Russia meddling into the 2016 U.S. general elections.

As part of the plea deal under discussion, Cohen was not expected to cooperate with the government, one source told CNN, saying that by pleading guilty both Cohen and prosecutors would avoid the spectacle and uncertainty of a trial.

Federal investigators raided Cohen's office, home and hotel room in New York earlier this year and seized various electronic devices and documents which reportedly include information that Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels so as to keep her silent about accusations of an affair with Trump. Trump has denied the affair.

Judge William Pauley set a sentencing date for Cohen for Dec. 12.