It turns out that being a rat may not pay off after all.
Just a few days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller recommended as little as no prison time for Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI and had agreed to cooperate with the FBI, moments ago US prosecutors issued a statement in which they announced that Michael Cohen, who infamously flipped on the president (for whom Cohen once said he “would take a bullet”) deserves “substantial prison time”, despite his cooperation.
While Flynn pled guilty to just one count, whereas Cohen had pled guilty to 8 federal crimes, what is remarkable is that despite his allegedly extensive cooperation with the Special Counsel culminating in over 70 hours of testimony, prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York recognized Cohen’s cooperation with law enforcement in “ongoing matters” but argued the seriousness of his crimes warrant a “substantial term of imprisonment.”
As a result, they do “not ask for special leniency for Cohen”, calling his lies to Congress and the people “serious”, requesting a “modest downward variance” from the applicable sentencing range which is in the range of 51-63 months, and thus recommending “a sentence of 42 months’ imprisonment.”
Here are the key sections from the Preliminary Statement:
Cohen, an attorney and businessman, committed four distinct federal crimes over a period of several years. He was motivated to do so by personal greed, and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends. 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. 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).
While prosecutors concede that Cohen did provide information to law enforcement, “including information that assisted the Special Counsel’s Office in ongoing matters” -which they agree is a factor to be considered by the Court, they add that “Cohen’s description of those efforts is overstated in some respects and incomplete in others.”
In other words prosecutors are downplaying the extent of Cohen’s cooperation, instead saying he “repeatedly declined to provide full information about the scope of any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged or had knowledge.”
To be clear, neither the SCO nor this Office is making a motion under U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1. No such motion is being made because, as detailed herein, Cohen repeatedly declined to provide full information about the scope of any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged or had knowledge.
And while the document notes that Cohen “should receive credit for his assistance in the SCO investigation,” what is even more surprising is that “the credit given to Cohen should not approximate the credit a traditional cooperating witness would receive, “given Cohen’s affirmative decision not to become one.”
“For these reasons, the Office respectfully requests that this Court impose a substantial term of imprisonment, one that reflects a modest downward variance from the applicable Guidelines range” which was defined as a range of 51 to 63 months’ imprisonment.
Still, prosecutors did say Cohen has taken “significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct”, although whether Cohen will be happy with the consequences – namely one very pissed off president – remains to be seen.
What is also notable from the late day filing, is that Federal Prosecutors for the first time also said that Cohen committed campaign finance crimes “in coordination with and at the direction of [Donald Trump, aka Individual-1]”, to wit:
During the campaign, Cohen played a central role in two similar schemes to purchase the rights to stories – each from women who claimed to have had an affair with Individual-1 – so as to suppress the stories and thereby prevent them from influencing the election. With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1. As a result of Cohen’s actions, neither woman spoke to the press prior to the election
Meanwhile, in a separate sentencing filing released Friday, Mueller and his team refused to take a position on what amount of prison time Cohen should serve, but stated that “any sentence of incarceration” the court in New York recommends would be “appropriate.”
In the Mueller filing, we read that Cohen had “gone to significant lengths to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation” and met with the special counsel’s office on 7 occasions. Among other things, highlighted by Axios:
- Cohen provided information about his contacts with “Russian interests,” including his and others’ involvement in the Moscow Project and Russians’ outreach to the campaign.
- “Synergy on a government level”: One Russian national claiming to be a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation reached out and claimed they could offer the campaign “synergy on a government level.”
- “By virtue of his regular contact with Company executives during the campaign,” Cohen provided the Special Counsel’s office “useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation.”
- The White House link: Cohen provided “relevant and useful information” about his contacts with “persons connected to the White House” from 2017 to 2018.
Some more details:
In the Mueller filing, his office says that in Nov. 2015, Cohen “received the contact information for, and spoke with, a Russian who claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level’ and 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.”
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.” The defendant recalled that this person repeatedly proposed a meeting between Individual 1 and the President of Russia. 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].”
And yet, as the filing notes, “Cohen, however, did not follow up on this invitation” because as the filing elaborates, he was working on the Moscow Project with a different individual who Cohen understood to have his own connections to the Russian government.
Separately, in a footnote in the Mueller filing, he states that Trump conferred with Cohen in 2015 about reaching out to the Russian government to arrange a meeting with Putin when he was in New York:
in a radio interview in September 2015, the defendant suggested that Individual 1 meet with the President of Russia in New York City during his visit for the United Nations General Assembly. When asked previously about these events, the defendant claimed his public comments had been spontaneous and had not been discussed within the campaign or the Company. During his proffer sessions, the defendant admitted that this account was false and that he had in fact conferred with Individual 1 about contacting the Russian government before reaching out to gauge Russia’s interest in such a meeting. The meeting ultimately did not take place.
What else did Cohen give Mueller?
According to the inspector general, Cohen also provided the special counsel information about “certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation” that he obtained by being in contact with Trump Organization executives, and Cohen also provided information “concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period.”
Cohen also provided information about the circumstances in which of “preparing and circulating” his responses to congressional inquiries, some of which he has acknowledged were false. So, circulated to whom?
Mueller’s bottom line: Cohen’s crime was “serious, both in terms of the underlying conduct and its effect on multiple government investigations. 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”
Meanwhile, the filing by Manhattan federal prosecutors says Cohen declined to provide them information “about other areas of investigative interest,” suggesting that DOJ has its eye on potential criminal conduct around Cohen beyond the campaign finance violations.
Finally, the story may not end here, as Cohen has “committed to continuing to assist the [office’s] investigations.”
Cohen will be sentenced in New York on Dec. 12.
The filings come roughly a week after Cohen agreed to cooperate in Mueller’s sprawling probe, turning a one-time Trump loyalist and confidant into a witness in an investigation exploring links between the Trump campaign and Russia and whether the president obstructed justice.
As The Hill notes, Cohen will be sentenced for a slew of federal charges, including eight he pleaded guilty to in a deal with prosecutors in New York in August and the separate charge of lying to Congress. In a surprise development last week, Cohen admitted to making false statements to congressional panels investigating Russian interference and agreed to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation.
Cohen has already reportedly sat for interviews with the special counsel’s office totaling 70 hours. Last week, his defense attorneys argued in a court filing that he should face no prison time, citing his cooperation with Mueller and other officials pursuing investigations in New York.
But federal prosecutors in New York firmly pushed back on that request Friday.
On Monday, Trump said Cohen should serve a full prison term, accusing him of being a liar who peddled false stories to obtain a more lenient sentence
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Read the full pdf filing here.
Cornelius Rupert T.
Cornelius Rupert T.