WASHINGTON — Two teams of prosecutors filed memos in federal court on Friday describing their recommendations for how President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen should be sentenced after pleading guilty to several felonies. The documents described two previously unknown instances of Russians reaching out to Trump’s inner circle. One of the memos that was written by federal prosecutors in Manhattan also accused Cohen of not fully cooperating with the government and suggested he serve “a substantial term of imprisonment.”
Cohen spent over a decade as an executive at Trump’s real estate company. After Trump took office last year, Cohen served as his personal attorney. In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations stemming from payments he made to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. As part of his plea, Cohen admitted those payments were designed to suppress their stories during the election and said they were directed by Trump.
In their memo, the federal prosecutors state for the first time that they believe Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump when he made the payments.
Friday’s memos come on the heels of a sentencing recommendation filed last week by Cohen’s attorneys. In their memo, Cohen’s lawyers argued he should receive a sentence that does not include prison time beyond the hours he spent in jail during his trial. According to Cohen’s attorneys, he deserves leniency because he has voluntarily cooperated with an array of investigations, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation and a mysterious, separate “open inquiry,” and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.
According to Cohen’s attorneys, he “respectfully declined” to obtain a standard cooperation agreement, which would have been expansive in scope, from prosecutors because he feared it would cause his legal battle to drag on and he was eager to begin rebuilding his life.
However, the federal prosecutors in Manhattan painted a different picture in their memo and argued Cohen did not obtain a cooperation agreement because he was unwilling to “undergo full debriefings that encompass [Cohen’s] entire criminal history, as well as any and all information they possess about crimes committed by both themselves and others.” Many of the charges against Cohen stem from his personal finances, which includes real estate holdings and a taxi business that is linked to a partner with a criminal record.
According to the prosecutors, Cohen provided “significant” assistance to Mueller, but was less helpful regarding “matters relating to ongoing investigations” being carried out by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.
“Had Cohen actually cooperated, it could have been fruitful,” the prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors said Cohen’s work with Mueller “merits credit,” but they felt he did not fully cooperate with their office, and asked the judge to only grant a “modest” reduction from the recommended sentence for his crimes, which is 51 to 63 months.
Cohen’s lead attorney, Guy Petrillo, declined to comment on record about the prosecutors’ claim that Cohen did not fully cooperate.
Mueller also filed a memo on Friday that noted he charged Cohen with making false statements to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. In his memo, Mueller said Cohen had “gone to significant lengths” to assist the probe about whether Trump’s campaign cooperated with Russia in its effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.
For his part, Mueller said he “does not take a position with respect to a particular sentence to be imposed” other than calling for Cohen’s sentence for lying to Congress to be served concurrently with the penalties for other charges, which means he will not spend extra time in prison beyond his sentence in New York.
Trump’s legal team did not respond to a request for comment about Cohen’s case. The president has previously blasted Cohen as a “weak person” and accused his former ally of lying to obtain a reduced sentence. Trump has repeatedly dismissed Mueller’s probe as a partisan “witch hunt” and insisted there was “no collusion” between his campaign team and Russia. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement attacking Cohen and dismissing the prosecutors’ memos as insignificant.
“The government’s filings in Mr. Cohen’s case tell us nothing of value that wasn’t already known. Mr. Cohen has repeatedly lied, and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr. Cohen is no hero,” Sanders said.
Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.
Mueller’s memo also revealed multiple instances of previously undisclosed contact between Cohen and Russians who were interested in connecting Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to Mueller, Cohen claimed Trump was also interested in meeting with Putin.
Mueller wrote that Cohen said he “conferred” with Trump during the campaign about reaching out to the Kremlin to gauge interest in a meeting with Putin. Mueller also wrote that, “in or around November 2015,” Cohen communicated 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.’” According to Mueller, Cohen said this person also proposed a meeting between Trump and Putin.
“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,” Mueller wrote.
Trump and Putin ultimately did not meet until after Trump took office.
The memo from the federal prosecutors in Manhattan also contained interesting comments Cohen made in conversations he taped that were later obtained by investigators in raids on his home and office. According to the prosecutors, Cohen “publicly and privately took credit” for Trump’s “political success” including one discussion where he claimed that he “started the whole campaign.”
The prosecutors also included snippets from two private conversations Cohen recorded that were designed to show he was “threatening and abusive when he wanted to get his way.” This was meant to challenge Cohen’s attorneys’ characterization of him as a person of great “fortitude and fundamental character” in their memo calling for leniency.
In one of those recorded conversations, Cohen was talking with bankers as he sought to renegotiate a loan, and he vowed to teach the bank “a lesson they’ve never seen before in their life.”
“I’m gonna hit everybody up with a lawsuit that’s gonna spin everyone’s head. And I’m looking forward to that, by the way,” Cohen said. “And I’m not saying it as a threat. It’s a fact.”
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