In the part of the case with greater political repercussions, he also admitted breaking campaign finance laws in arranging payments in the waning days of the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom said they had sexual encounters with Trump.
Trump faces growing political and legal risks from a months' long investigation into the payments by United States prosecutors, which stemmed from the larger continuing federal probe into alleged Russian interference in the election and possible collusion by Trump's campaign.
His lawyer later put out a statement saying Mr. Cohen meant that "Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women".
"The fact that he was in the room will increase his culpability and will make his lawyers very nervous", said Jessica Levinson, a professor of election law and governance issues at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
He has pleaded guilty to crimes including campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress.
Cohen is the closest figure to Trump sentenced to prison in the wide-ranging investigations of Trump's 2016 campaign, its possible links to Russian Federation and whether, as president, Trump obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probes being conducted by federal prosecutors in NY and special counsel Robert Mueller in Washington.
Trump has variously claimed that he didn't know about the payments, that they were not illegal, and that even if they were illegal they should have been treated as a civil matter.
Prosecutors have implicated Trump in a crime but have not directly accused him of one.
Cohen did not offer more detail on the aforementioned deeds, and agreed with Trump's assertion that he was "weak" - but only in his blind loyalty to the president.
- If there's enough here already to indict Cohen, there's enough to indict Trump. Trump denies having the affairs. "I don't think we've made a payment to that tabloid".
Taken together, some of the people who know Trump and his business and campaign best are now cooperating with the government, although former campaign chair Paul Manafort's deal blew up over his alleged "lies" to investigators. It is for these reasons I chose to participate in the illicit act of the president rather than to listen to my own inner voice which should have warned me that the campaign finance violations that I later pled guilty to were insidious.
Trump also claimed that because he acted on "advice of counsel", he is off the hook for any crime.
"It's not clear to me that he's made any false statements in legal documents that could open him to liability for perjury", Hasen said.
As part of the sentence, the judge ordered Cohen to forfeit $500,000 and pay restitution of almost $1.4 million for the campaign finance law violations.
It's multiple witnesses-and the opinion of the court-against Trump on this one. Prosecutors in NY confirmed last week in a court filing that they believed the president ordered the payments to protect his campaign. However, the sentence still stressed the seriousness of violating campaign finance laws and seeking to influence the outcome of an election.
Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman compares the Trump organization to the mafia but says "even mafia bosses are way smarter than the way Donald Trump runs his business".