Cohen hit with call of “substantial” sentence; Trump connected to a federal crime
MANHATTAN (CN) – Rejecting Michael Cohen’s “rose-color view” of his cooperation with the Russia probe, federal prosecutors recommended Friday that President Donald Trump’s former lawyer receive a “substantial” prison term – noting that probation officers asked for 42 months.
“After cheating the IRS for years, lying to banks and to Congress, and seeking to criminally influence the presidential election, Cohen’s decision to plead guilty – rather than seek a pardon for his manifold crimes – does not make him a hero,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos wrote in a blistering 40-page brief.
Cohen’s legal team requested a non-jail sentence for his guilty pleas to tax evasion, campaign finance offenses and perjury one week ago, a position that both Trump and federal prosecutors agree would be far too light.
“Now he seeks extraordinary leniency – a sentence of no jail time – based principally on his rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes; his claims to a sympathetic personal history; and his provision of certain information to law enforcement,” the brief continues. “But the crimes committed by Cohen were more serious than his submission allows and were marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life (and was evidently hidden from the friends and family members who wrote on his behalf).” (Parentheses in original.)
In a separate brief filed minutes later, Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote that Cohen had been cooperative – to an extent.
Mueller said that Cohen took the first step of requesting a meeting with his office, only to lie to him at the huddle.
“In that meeting, Cohen voluntarily provided information relevant to other aspects of the SCO’s ongoing investigation, but when asked questions about the Moscow Project, Cohen provided false answers in what he later explained was an effort not to contradict his congressional testimony,” Mueller wrote in a footnote, using an abbreviation for Special Counsel’s Office.
Both memos offer new details implicating Trump in Cohen’s crimes prosecuted both out of New York and Washington.
‘Synergy on a Government Level’
In his surprise guilty plea last week, Cohen admitted that he misled House and Senate investigators about negotiations between Trump and Putin’s inner circles about a Moscow real estate deal that extended deep into the 2016 presidential campaign.
Despite previously telling Congress that talks fizzled out in January, Cohen admitted to a federal judge last week that this was a lie that he told “out of loyalty” to Trump.
“By publicly presenting this false narrative, the defendant deliberately shifted the timeline of what had occurred in the hopes of limiting the investigations into possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — an issue of heightened national interest,” Mueller wrote.
“The defendant’s false statements obscured the fact that the Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government,” his brief continues. “If the project was completed, the Company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues.”
In fact, Cohen exchanged messages several months later with with Felix Sater, an intermediary linked to the Russian mafia who later told BuzzFeed News that Trump had promised Putin a $50 million penthouse in the tower, which was never built.
Mueller’s memo provides new and tantalizing details about that thwarted proposal, including Cohen’s efforts to secure a meeting between Trump and Putin at the 2015 U.N. General Assembly.
“For example, in or around November 2015, Cohen received the contact information for, and spoke with, a Russian national who claimed to be a ‘trusted person in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level,’” Mueller’s memo states.
Cohen’s contact proposed a meeting between Trump and Putin.
“The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a ‘phenomenal’ impact ‘not only in political but in a business dimension as well,’ referring to the Moscow Project, because there is ‘no bigger warranty in any project than consent of [the President of Russia],’” Mueller’s memo continues.
Though Cohen did not accept this invitation, Mueller added that was because Cohen had planned to work on the Moscow project with “a different individual who Cohen understood to have his own connections to the Russian government.”
Apparently undeterred by the new revelations, Trump tweeted: “Totally clears the President. Thank you!”
‘Decided Not to Fully Cooperate’
The New York prosecutors handled eight of the criminal charges for tax crimes and campaign-finance offenses against the president’s former fixer. In pleading guilty earlier this year, Cohen implicated Trump in making two illicit payments to women “for the purpose of influencing the election.”
Their sentencing memo recounts in detail his hush-money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.
“As a result of Cohen’s actions, neither woman spoke to the press prior to the election,” Roos wrote.
The federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence for up to roughly five years for Cohen’s admitted crimes, but prosecutors agreed that Trump’s erstwhile fixer earned some credit for his partial cooperation.
“Cohen subsequently decided not to fully cooperate,” Roos wrote.
In their defense memo late last week, Cohen’s legal team proclaimed that their client has been cooperating both with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and with New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.
“He could have fought the government and continued to hold to the party line, positioning himself perhaps for a pardon or clemency, but, instead – for himself, his family, and his country – he took personal responsibility for his own wrongdoing and contributed, and is prepared to continue to contribute, to an investigation that he views as thoroughly legitimate and vital,” defense attorney Guy Petrillo wrote in a 29-page memo for Cohen on Nov. 30.
But prosecutors said that Cohen told Underwood only what she already knew, and Cohen cooperated with New York tax authorities only about “payment of his own state taxes.”
“Cohen’s efforts thus fell well short of cooperation, as that term is properly used in this District,” Roos wrote. “For this reason, Cohen is not being offered a cooperation agreement or a 5K1.1 letter.”
Despite the seriousness of Cohen’s crimes, Mueller emphasized that Cohen’s provided considerable help to his separate probe in Washington.
“He has met with the SCO on seven occasions, voluntarily provided the SCO with information about his own conduct and that of others on core topics under investigation by the SCO, and committed to continuing to assist the SCO’s investigation,” Mueller wrote. “The information he has provided has been credible and consistent with other evidence obtained in the SCO’s ongoing investigation.”
Mueller emphasized that this help should only go so far.
“The sentence imposed should reflect the fact that lying to federal investigators has real consequences, especially where the defendant lied to investigators about critical facts, in an investigation of national importance,” he wrote.
Cohen will face sentencing in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday.