Prosecutors in New York hammered Michael Cohen on Friday, accusing President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer of exaggerating his cooperation with investigators and recommending he receive “signficant” jail time.
Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office for the region said Cohen overstated his cooperation with prosecutors and is seeking “extraordinary leniency … based principally on his rose-colored view of the seriousness of his crimes.”
But in a separate filing from special counsel Robert Mueller submitted around the same time, Cohen was described as a “credible” collaborator who provided “useful” information for the ongoing probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials orchestrating a plot to influence the 2016 election.
The two filings — while starkly different in tone — both added new details to Cohen’s two guilty pleas. In August, Trump’s former fixer pleaded guilty in New York to bank fraud charges and facilitating the hush payments that went to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. And last week, Cohen struck a plea deal with Mueller, admitting to lying to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower Moscow during the election.
Mueller’s Friday filing praised Cohen for assisting his probe of Russian attempts to contact the Trump campaign but noted he refused to fully cooperate on related matters. Mueller’s team said Cohen should be charged concurrently with whatever sentence he receives in New York.
Mueller’s prosecutors noted that Cohen met with them seven times and was careful not to overstate his awareness of events related to the Russia probe. But they said his assistance proved used in “four significant respects.”
Cohen, they said, was able to share information about his own contacts with Russians during the campaign and his “discussions with others in the course of making those contacts.”
Cohen also helped with matters connected to the Trump Organization and Russia based on his “regular contact with Company executives during the campaign.”
Cohen also helped proved information on his contacts with “persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period.” And Cohen described the factors that led him to prepare a false statements to Congress about Trump’s effort during the 2016 election to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Cohen initially told lawmakers that discussions about the project ended just before the 2016 primaries began, but later conceded that the dealings extended until at least June 2016, when Trump had nearly secured the GOP nomination. Trump was kept in the loop the entire time, Cohen added.
But his help to Mueller appears to be of little value to prosecutors in New York seeking a jail sentence of multiple years.
The filing in the Southern District of New York paints a chilling picture of Cohen’s acknowledged crimes on the eve of the 2016 presidential election, saying that his efforts to hide Trump’s affairs “struck a blow to one of the core goals of the federal campaign finance laws: transparency.”
“While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows,” the New York-based prosecutors wrote.
“He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with [Trump]. In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election,” they added.
The extent of Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller and New York investigators was not known until his legal team submitted a sentencing filing last week that detailed repeated meetings with Mueller’s team to share information. The document also revealed that Cohen was cooperating with New York prosecutors on an investigation of the Trump Foundation, as well as on at least one other criminal matter. Based on this assistance, Cohen’s lawyers said, their client should receive no jail time.
The details about Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller came just days before Mueller’s team also described receiving “substantial assistance” from former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI. According to court documents, Flynn met with prosecutors 19 times to discuss their various investigations.
Later on Friday, Mueller is also expected to reveal details of an aborted plea agreement with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The special counsel claimed Manafort repeatedly lied to investigators after striking the plea deal, in which the longtime GOP lobbyist agreed to cooperate with the ongoing Russia probe.
As the latest court documents dropped Friday, former FBI Director James Comey — a key figure in Mueller’s probe of whether Trump obstructed justice by pressuring the bureau scale back its investigation — was testifying on Capitol Hill. A transcript of the closed-door session is expected to be released on Saturday.
See the full filing here:
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
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