WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said that Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, should get a “substantial term” in prison, even as he has been assisting with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The sentencing recommendations were outlined in a sentencing memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in New York on Friday.
Legal experts and media pundits quickly zeroed in on one part of the memo, which implicates the president in Cohen’s effort in 2016 to pay off Stormy Daniels and Karen Mcdougal, who claim to have had affairs with Trump. Cohen told a court in August that he was directed by his client to make the payments. Now prosecutors confirm that Cohen acted in “coordination and direction” of an unnamed “individual 1,” who clearly is Trump.
The filings also shed some light on the nature of the information that Cohen has provided to Mueller’s team.
In a separate filing, Mueller said that Cohen’s information has been “credible and consistent” with other evidence his team has obtained in the investigation.
“Cohen provided the [special counsel] with useful information concerning discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with company executives during the campaign,” Mueller said in his filing, without elaboration.
Cohen also provided information about other attempts by Russian nationals to contact the Trump campaign Mueller said. That included an instance in October, 2015, in which a person who claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation offered the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level.’
“The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a phenomenal impact ‘not only in political but in a business dimension as well,'” a reference to the attempts to build the Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen, however, did not follow up on the offer, having already made contact with a different individual with connections to the Russian government, according to Mueller.
On December 12, Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on two separate sets of charges, the first brought by New York federal prosecutors and the other by Mueller’s team.
In August, he plead guilty to tax and fraud claims, as well as campaign finance violations stemming from the hush money payments to Daniels and Mcdougal.
On Nov. 29, Cohen plead guilty to making false statements to Congress about his attempts to secure a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. He told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the efforts to secure a deal for Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January of 2016, but he actually discussed the project after that time frame, well into the presidential race. He also said that he discussed the project with Trump, identified as “individual 1,” on a number of occasions, along with Trump’s family members.
Cohen’s lawyers have asked the court to impose no prison time, given his assistance to Mueller.
Mueller said that Cohen has met with his team seven times, and that he continues to make himself available.
“The fact that Cohen continued to work on the [Trump Tower] project and discuss it with Individual 1 well into the campaign was material to the ongoing congressional and SCO investigations, particularly because it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election,” Mueller said.
New York prosecutors have been investigating a series of other Cohen business dealings outside of the Russia investigation. They noted that Cohen, in making the hush money to Daniels and Mcdougal,” “admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual 1.”
But in their memo, the New York prosecutors were less sanguine about the nature of Cohen’s cooperation and portrayed the nature of his charges in harsher terms. Although Cohen has assisted Mueller, the prosecutors noted that Cohen has no formal cooperation agreement.
The New York prosecutors said that Cohen still “repeatedly declined to provide full information about the scope of any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged or had knowledge.” They are seeking a sentence that is a “modest variance” on the sentencing guidelines. The range is between 41 to 63 months, or 3 1/2 to just over five years.
They also noted that Cohen first reached out to meet with Mueller’s team only after he knew that he was “under imminent threat of indictment in this District. As such, any suggestion by Cohen that his meetings with law enforcement reflect a selfless and unprompted about-face are overstated.”
The office did say that Cohen was assessed to be “forthright and credible, and the information he provided was largely consistent with other evidence gathered.”
“Had Cohen actually cooperated, it could have been fruitful: He did provide what could have been useful information about matters relating to ongoing investigations being carried out by this Office,” the prosecutors said. “But as Cohen partially acknowledges, it was his decision not to pursue full cooperation, and his professed willingness to continue to provide information at some later unspecified time is of limited value to this Office, both because he is under no obligation to do so, and because the Office’s inability to fully vet his criminal history and reliability impact his utility as a witness.”