Michael Cohen’s lawyers ask for no prison time
Michael Cohen has asked a US judge for no prison time, citing, as he reveals in a new court filing, more details about his conversations with then-candidate Donald Trump about plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Cohen’s attorneys argued that his cooperation with multiple investigations, including the special counsel’s Russia probe, and the impact and suffering on Cohen and his family merits avoiding jail. But the filing late Friday night goes even further in tying the President to Cohen’s actions.
The new filing suggests in the clearest language yet the extent to which Cohen kept Trump informed of his efforts to move the project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow forward well into June 2016, including consideration of a trip to Moscow that summer, while Trump was moving closer to becoming the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party.
“In fact, Michael had a lengthy substantive conversation with the personal assistant to a Kremlin official following his outreach in January 2016, engaged in additional communications concerning the project as late as June 2016, and kept Client-1 apprised of these communications,” the lawyers wrote. Trump is referred to as “Client-1” throughout the filing.
On Friday morning, Trump defended his business dealings in a tweet, saying his dealings during the campaign were “very legal and very cool.”
Cohen pleaded guilty on Thursday to lying to Congress about plans to develop Trump Tower in Moscow when he told lawmakers they had ended in January 2016 and the extent of his conversations with the president, but he did not provide a lot of detail about those discussions in court.
The details were part of a sentencing memo filed with the federal court in Manhattan, where Cohen will be sentenced on December 12 in two separate criminal cases. In addition to admitting he lied to Congress, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges brought on by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in August, including tax fraud, making false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations relating to hush-money payments made to women alleging affairs with Trump. As part of his plea deal with the US attorney’s office, Cohen faces 46 to 62 months in prison.
Cohen’s lawyers Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester asked for the cases to be consolidated so Cohen could be sentenced for all of his crimes at once. They’re also seeking leniency for Cohen, saying that he has cooperated extensively, amid intense public pressure from Trump, who has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and will agree to cooperate in the future.
In the filing, his attorneys write that Cohen has had seven voluntary interviews with the special counsel and continues to make himself available as needed. Cohen’s attorneys said he declined a traditional cooperation agreement because he wanted to be sentenced as scheduled so he can “begin his life virtually anew.”
They said Cohen is also cooperating with prosecutors from the US attorney’s office “concerning an ongoing investigation,” the New York state attorney general’s office’s civil lawsuit against the Trump Foundation and state tax authorities. CNN has previously reported that Cohen met with representatives of these offices.
His lawyers note that Cohen’s legal problems aren’t over and he “will be named in a parallel tax case brought by New York State.” The filing does not provide further details.
Cohen, his lawyers say, committed the campaign finance violations and lied to Congress out of his loyalty to Trump and to stay on message even while he was preparing for his 2017 testimony to Congress.
“In the weeks during which his then-counsel prepared his written response to the Congressional Committees, Michael remained in close and regular contact with White House-based staff and legal counsel to Client-1,” the filing says. At the time, Cohen’s then attorney had a joint defense agreement with Trump’s legal team.
The filing doesn’t go so far as to say there was coordination between Trump’s legal team and Cohen on what Cohen would tell Congress, but it says the campaign finance and false statement allegations are addressed together “because both arose from Michael’s fierce loyalty to Client-1. In each case, the conduct was intended to benefit Client-1, in accordance with Client-1’s directives.”
In Cohen’s cooperation agreement with the special counsel’s office, it notes that Cohen will not be prosecuted for “obstructing” or conspiring to obstruct or commit perjury “before congressional or grand jury investigations.”
Cohen’s sentencing submission also describes how Cohen’s life changed following the April FBI raid on his home, office and hotel room.
“Nearly every professional and commercial relationship that he enjoyed, and a number of long standing friendships have vanished,” it reads.
Cohen, the filing says, could have “continued to hold the party line, positioning himself perhaps for a pardon or clemency,” but instead, “he took 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.”
Cohen, the lawyers argue, should be commended for his cooperation “in the context of this raw, full-bore attack by the most powerful person in the United States.”
The government will file their response to the submission next week.