Donald Trump: Cohen sues, Manafort sentenced

Donald Trump: Cohen sues, Manafort sentenced

US President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has filed a lawsuit claiming the Trump Organisation failed to pay nearly $US2 million ($A2.8 million) toward his legal defence.

The lawsuit filed on Thursday in New York State court claims the Trump Organisation stopped paying Cohen’s mounting legal fees after he began co-operating with federal prosecutors.

It alleges breach of contract and seeks damages on Cohen’s behalf.

The lawsuit says the company stopped paying for his legal defence about two months after the FBI raided Cohen’s home and office.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to tax crimes, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations.

It comes as Paul Manafort, Mr Trump’s former campaign chairman, is to be sentenced by a US judge in Virginia for bank and tax fraud uncovered during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

US District Judge TS Ellis could effectively deliver a life sentence to Manafort, 69, if he follows federal sentencing guidelines cited by prosecutors that call for 19-1/2 to 24 years in prison for the eight charges the veteran Republican political consultant was convicted of by a jury in Alexandria last August.

The sentencing hearing is scheduled for 3.30pm local time on Thursday (7.30am AEDT).

Manafort was convicted after prosecutors accused him of hiding from the US government millions of dollars he earned as a consultant for Ukraine’s former pro-Russia government.

After pro-Kremlin Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster, prosecutors said, Manafort lied to banks to secure loans and maintain an opulent lifestyle with luxurious homes, designer suits and even a $US15,000 ($A21,000) ostrich-skin jacket.

Manafort faces sentencing in a separate case in Washington on March 13 on two conspiracy charges to which he pleaded guilty last September. While he faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in the Washington case, US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson potentially could stack that on top of whatever prison time Ellis imposes in Virginia, rather than allowing the sentences to run concurrently.

Judge Jackson on February 13 ruled that Manafort had breached his agreement to co-operate with Mr Mueller’s office by lying to prosecutors about three matters pertinent to the Russia probe, including his interactions with a business partner they have said has ties to Russian intelligence.

Judge Jackson’s ruling could have an impact on the severity of his sentence in both cases.

Mr Mueller is preparing to submit to US Attorney-General William Barr a report on his investigation into whether Mr Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia and whether Mr Trump has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe.

Mr Trump has denied collusion and obstruction and Russia has denied election interference.

Manafort is the only one of the 34 people and three companies charged by Mr Mueller to have gone to trial.

Several others including former campaign aides Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen have pleaded guilty, while longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has pleaded not guilty.

Gates, a key witness against Manafort, has yet to be sentenced due to his ongoing co-operation with prosecutors.

Mr Mueller’s charges led to the stunning downfall of Manafort, a prominent figure in Republican Party circles for decades who also worked as a consultant to such international figures as former Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos and Yanukovych.

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