Long-time Trump lawyer set to plead guilty, endangering president

Catherine TRIOMPHE, with Andrew Beatty in Washington
Michael Cohen, former personal attorney for US President Donald Trump, has reportedly agreed to plead guilty to charges stemming from his business dealings and possible campaign finance violations

Donald Trump's longtime attack-dog lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen was set to plead guilty to a ream of charges Tuesday, including fraud linked to the president's election campaign.

Cohen was to appear in a Manhattan courthouse at 4 pm (2000 GMT), where US media reported he would admit breaking a slew of campaign, banking, fraud and tax laws.

The charges stem from a federal investigation into his business dealings -- including a $130,000 pre-election hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump.

Trump has denied an affair with the now 39-year-old actress, but admitted a hush payment -- not disclosed in campaign declarations -- was made to prevent "false and extortionist accusations" getting into the public domain.

Cohen now faces potential jail time and could yet decide to throw open the window on decades of dealings with his former mentor Trump in return for a lenient sentence.

The US president spent much of Tuesday cooped up at the White House, as rainstorms raged outside and two high profile legal cases with profound implications for his presidency reached their coda.

At a courthouse close to Washington, jurors deliberated on whether the president's former campaign chair Paul Manafort -- a man who was instrumental in him winning the Republican nomination -- was guilty of a separate slew of charges.

Manafort is accused of tax evasion, bank fraud and money laundering in the course of his dealings with Russian-backed oligarchs.

The charges against Manafort were brought by special counsel and respected former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia's role in tipping the 2016 presidential election in Trump's favor.

Trump has repeatedly played down Russian interference, and denounces Mueller's investigation as a politically motivated "witch hunt".

He recently called Mueller "disgraced and discredited" after it emerged that White House lawyer Don McGahn had spent over 30 hours in testimony.

"Where's the Collusion? They made up a phony crime called Collusion, and when there was no Collusion they say there was Obstruction (of a phony crime that never existed)," Trump said in a Monday tweetstorm.

"If you FIGHT BACK or say anything bad about the Rigged Witch Hunt, they scream Obstruction!"

- Plea deal -

A Cohen guilty plea would avoid a high profile trial, but also could require him to cooperate with investigators.

Neither prosecutors in Manhattan nor Cohen's attorney would comment on the matter.

Guilty pleas are common in the United States when it appears prosecutors have sufficient evidence for a conviction if the case goes to trial.

The FBI raided Cohen's home and office on a referral from Mueller.

Cohen once declared he was so loyal he would "take a bullet for the president".

Talk of a plea deal comes days after The New York Times reported that Cohen is also under investigation for potential tax and bank fraud, possibly exceeding $20 million via loans obtained by the taxi medallion business he owns with his family.

Trump is scheduled to leave the White House later Tuesday and make remarks at a rally in West Virginia.