Federal prosecutors in New York argue for “substantial” prison time for Michael Cohen, Trump’s ex-lawyer.
Federal prosecutors filed new court papers Friday directly implicating President Trump in plans to buy women’s silence as far back as 2014 and offering new evidence of Russian efforts to forge a political alliance with Trump before he became president — disclosures that show the deepening political and legal morass enveloping the administration.
The separate filings came from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and federal prosecutors in New York ahead of Wednesday’s sentencing of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Taken together, the documents suggest that the president’s legal woes are far from over and reveal a previously unreported contact from a Russian to Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. But the documents do not answer the central question at the heart of Mueller’s work — whether the president or those around him conspired with the Kremlin.
The documents offer a scathing portrait of his former lawyer as a criminal who deserves little sympathy or mercy because he held back from telling the FBI everything he knew. For that reason, prosecutors said, he should be sentenced to “substantial” prison time, suggesting possibly 3½ years.
Trump immediately declared that he was vindicated. “Totally clears the president. Thank you!” he tweeted. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the Cohen filings “tell us nothing of value that wasn’t already known.”
The special counsel’s office said Cohen had provided “useful information” about its ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as “relevant information” about his contacts with people connected to the White House between 2017 and 2018.
Mueller revealed that Cohen told prosecutors about what seemed to be a previously unknown November 2015 contact with a Russian national, who claimed to be a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation offering the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.”
Cohen told investigators that the person, who was not identified, repeatedly proposed a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that such a meeting could have a “phenomenal” impact, “not only in political but in a business dimension as well,” the special counsel’s office wrote.
Cohen, though, did not follow up on the invitation, because he was already working on a Trump project in Moscow through a different person he believed to have Russian government connections, the special counsel’s office wrote.
Prosecutors also singled out Trump as being directly involved in efforts to buy the silence of women who might level public allegations against him.
The memo from New York prosecutors identifies three people at an August 2014 meeting: Cohen, “Individual 1” and “Chairman 1.” The document elsewhere identifies Individual 1 as Trump, and people familiar with the case said Chairman 1 is David Pecker of the National Enquirer.
“In August 2014, Chairman-1 had met with Cohen and Individual-1, and had offered to help deal with negative stories about Individual-1’s relationships with women by identifying such stories so that they could be purchased and ‘killed,’ ” the prosecutors’ memorandum says.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to violating campaign finance law when he arranged payments to an adult-film star during the 2016 election. At the same time, he pleaded guilty to a handful of other crimes, including making a false statement to a bank. In recent weeks, he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about efforts during the presidential campaign to get a Trump-branded tower built in Moscow.
Cohen had asked for a sentence of no prison time, citing his cooperation with investigators. Mueller’s office gave him some credit for his assistance, saying that while his crime was “serious,” he had “taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct.”
“He chose to accept responsibility for his false statements and admit to his conduct in open court. He also has gone to significant lengths to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation,” the office wrote.
New York prosecutors, however, were far harsher in their assessment of Cohen’s character, saying he should get only a modest reduction in an expected prison sentence of about five years. In their 38-page filing, they suggest he should receive about 3½ years in prison.
“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,” prosecutors wrote in their filing. “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.”
The filing also suggests that Cohen’s cooperation with law enforcement was not so significant to the investigations swirling around the president.