Cohen Cites Cooperation With Mueller in Plea to Avoid Prison

Larry Hoffman
December 3, 2018

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, has asked if a federal judge can opt against sentencing him to prison, citing his cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Those talks actually continued through, at least, June of 2016.

Cohen gave a statement to congressional committees previous year saying the president's company pursued a project in Moscow during the Republican primary but that the plan was abandoned "for a variety of business reasons".

The incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman said that his panel will try to bring in Cohen and investigate whether there was any money laundering by the Russians through the Trump Organization.

Cohen's lawyers argued both the campaign finance violations and the lies to Congress were a product of his "fierce loyalty" to Trump, whom they at times referred to as "Client-1", adding that, "In each case, the conduct was meant to benefit Client-1, in accordance with Client-1's directives".

Trump said Thursday that he had decided not to pursue that project but that "there would have been nothing wrong if I did". Cohen, Trump's longtime fixer, said in federal court this past week that he had misled Congress about the details of a Trump hotel project in Moscow because he did not want to contradict the president's own false characterizations of his business dealings in Moscow. And what court papers say is that Cohen was making these false statements to Congress about the Moscow project, and he was doing it for two reasons - one, it says, to minimize links between the Moscow deal and Trump, and, two, to give the false impression that the project for a Trump Tower in Moscow ended before the Iowa caucus.

Cohen's lawyer, Guy Petrillo, said he would give the court a letter outlining how his client has cooperated with Mueller's investigation.

News of Cohen's guilty plea came shortly before the President Trump announced the cancelation of a planned sit-down with Putin at this weekend's G20 leaders' summit in Argentina.

Friday, Trump suggested his consideration of a Moscow tower was all part of being a businessman who was also running for president.

Cohen's lawyers said that instead of keeping quiet and risking prison in the hope he'd get a presidential pardon, their client made a decision to work with prosecutors.

The verdict on August 21 was part of a stunning one-two punch of bad news that day for the White House, coming as the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was pleading guilty in NY to campaign-finance charges arising from hush money payments made to two women who say they had sexual relationships with Trump. "There was a good chance that I wouldn't have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?"

But Trump has continually surfaced in Mueller's investigation, with references to him in Cohen's plea on Thursday and in a draft plea offer extended to conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi and made public this week. During the Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya claimed to have derogatory material about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The president added "there would've been nothing wrong if I did" negotiate with Russian Federation, however. Several referred to what Robyn and Richard Ebers, a married couple who are friends of Cohen, called the "destructiveness caused by Michael's relationship with Mr. Trump". The company's email traffic about the project ends in January 2016, said the person, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity. They are accusing Cohen of being a liar.

Hanging Trump out to dry, Cohen testified under oath in court that the president had directed him to break campaign finance law, while pleading guilty to bank and tax fraud.

They said Cohen is also cooperating with prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office "concerning an ongoing investigation", the NY state attorney general's office's civil lawsuit against the Trump Foundation and state tax authorities. They must be "loyal to what he is saying right now", she said, or he sees them as "a traitor". All the same, Cohen's plea on Thursday underscored the special counsel's capacity to keep secrets and unleash surprises.

Cohen's sentencing is scheduled for December 12. Guidelines call for little to no prison on the new charge.

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