Trump fixer Michael Cohen to be sentenced for fraud and paying StormyDecember 12, 2018
Michael Cohen to learn his fate as federal judge sentences him Wednesday for lies, fraud and silencing Stormy Daniels while he was Trump’s fixer
- Federal judge in New York will sentence Donald Trump’s former fixer Wednesday
- Crimes include tax evasion, illegal hush-money payments and lying to Congress about the president’s past business dealings in Russia
- Cohen pleaded to get a non-custodial sentence but federal prosecutors are demanding 52-year-old disgraced attorney get up to five years
- He could have his sentence revisited if he strikes a deal with prosecutors in which he provides additional cooperation within a year of his sentence
- Trump has distanced himself from one-time right-hand man even though prosecutors say campaign finance felony was at then candidate’s direction
The moment of reckoning has nearly arrived for Michael Cohen, who finds out Wednesday whether his decision to walk away from President Donald Trump after years of unwavering loyalty will spare him from a harsh prison sentence.
A federal judge in New York is set to decide whether Cohen gets leniency or years in prison for crimes including tax evasion, making illegal hush-money payments to protect Trump during the campaign and lying to Congress about the president’s past business dealings in Russia.
Few observers expect the hearing to go well for the 52-year-old attorney.
For weeks, his legal strategy appeared to revolve around persuading the court that he is a reformed man who abandoned longtime friendships and gave up his livelihood when he decided to break with the president and speak with federal investigators.
That narrative collapsed last week. New York prosecutors urged a judge to sentence Cohen to a substantial prison term, saying he’d failed to fully cooperate and overstated his helpfulness.
They’ve asked for only a slight reduction in the 4- to 5-year term he would face under federal sentencing guidelines.
A sentence of hard time would leave Cohen with little to show for his decision to plead guilty, though experts said Wednesday’s hearing might not be the last word on his punishment.
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen should spend between 51 and 63 months in federal prison, according to a prosecutor’s memo
Moment of truth: One of the offenses is a campaign finance violation
The Michael Cohen sentencing memorandum from a federal prosecutor in New York recomments 51 to 63 months in prison
Cohen could have his sentence revisited if he strikes a deal with prosecutors in which he provides additional cooperation within a year of his sentence, said Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit and Los Angeles.
‘Few things spark a defendant’s renewed interest in cooperating faster than trading in a pair of custom Italian trousers for an off-the-rack orange jump suit,’ he said.
Annemarie McAvoy, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said prosecutors appear to be angry at Cohen for limiting his cooperation.
‘It could be a tactic to try to break him like they’ve tried to do with (Paul) Manafort,’ McAvoy said, referring to Trump’s former campaign chairman. ‘It kind of shows they’re putting the screws to him. If they’re not mad at him, he didn’t give them what they wanted.’
Cohen’s transition from Trump’s fixer-in-chief to felon has been head-spinning.
During the campaign, he coordinated payments to buy the silence of two women – former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels – who were thinking of speaking with reporters about alleged sexual encounters with Trump. Cohen once told an interviewer he would ‘take a bullet’ for Trump.
Trump is pictured above in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on Tuesday
But months after investigators began gathering evidence that he’d dodged $1.4 million in taxes, Cohen pleaded guilty in August, pledged to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election and changed his party registration from Republican to Democrat.
Prosecutors said Cohen orchestrated payments to McDougal and Daniels at Trump’s direction.
Trump, who insists the affairs never happened, said Monday in a tweet mocked for its spelling errors that the campaign finance allegations are being made up by Democrats disappointed not to have found a ‘smocking gun’ proving collusion between his campaign and Russia.
‘So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution … which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama’s – but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me). Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!’ Trump wrote.
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Trump tweeted barely an hour after prosecutors filed their court statement about Cohen that it ‘totally clears’ him
Twitter: Trump distanced himself from Michael Cohen in these messages despite the ex-attorney saying he acted at the now-president’s direction to buy two women’s silence illegally
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal (left) and porn actress Stormy Daniels (right) both claimed to have slept with Donald Trump in the past, but the government says Cohen coordinated with Trump to make sure the women were paid for their silence – in effect a pair of massive campaign contributions designed to save the election for Trump
U.S. District Judge William Pauley III, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Bill Clinton, may allow Cohen to begin serving any prison term he receives at a later date. But legal experts said Cohen could also be taken into custody immediately.
‘If I were advising him, I’d encourage him to bring his toothbrush to court,’ said Stern.
Cohen’s lawyers have asked for no prison time, saying he has suffered enough already.
‘The greatest punishment Michael has endured in the criminal process has been the shame and anxiety he feels daily from having subjected his family to the fallout from his case,’ his attorneys wrote in a court filing last month.
‘The media glare and intrusions on all of them, including his children, the regular hate correspondence and written and oral threats, the fact that he will lose his law license, the termination of business relationships by banks and insurers and the loss of friendships, are but some of this fallout.’
Federal prosecutors said the request of a probation-only sentence is unbefitting of ‘a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.’
Mueller’s office took a far kinder view of Cohen’s cooperation in a separate court filing, crediting him for useful insights about attempts by Russian intermediaries to influence Trump, among other matters.
Cohen’s latest plea agreement, reached last month, requires he ‘provide truthful information regarding any and all matters’ Mueller deems relevant.
The same document bars Cohen from appealing his sentence unless his prison term exceeds federal guidelines, or he claims to have received ineffective assistance of counsel in his proceedings.
David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Miami, said Cohen’s lawyers miscalculated by seeking an ‘unreasonably lenient’ sentence.
‘They got a little greedy,’ Weinstein said. ‘Judges take a dim view of lawyers who have played the system. Cohen knew where the line was, and he chose to step over the line.’
ROBERT MUELLER’S PROBE SO FAR: EIGHT CONVICTIONS – INCLUDING THREE TOP TRUMP AIDES, A JAILED ATTORNEY AND 25 RUSSIANS ACCUSED
GUILTY: MICHAEL FLYNN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in December 2017. Awaiting sentence
Flynn was President Trump’s former National Security Advisor and Robert Mueller’s most senior scalp to date. He previously served when he was a three star general as President Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency but was fired.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his conversations with a Russian ambassador in December 2016. He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY: MICHAEL COHEN
Pleaded guilty to eight counts including fraud and two campaign finance violations in August 2018. Pleaded guilty to further count of lying to Congress in November 2018. Awaiting sentence
Cohen was Trump’s longtime personal attorney, starting working for him and the Trump Organization in 2007. He is the longest-serving member of Trump’s inner circle to be implicated by Mueller. Cohen professed unswerving devotion to Trump – and organized payments to silence two women who alleged they had sex with the-then candidate: porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.He admitted that payments to both women were felony campaign finance violations – and admitted that he acted at the ‘direction’ of ‘Candidate-1’: Donald Trump.
He also admitted tax fraud by lying about his income from loans he made, money from taxi medallions he owned, and other sources of income, at a cost to the Treasury of $1.3 million.
GUILTY: PAUL MANAFORT
Found guilty of eight charges of bank and tax fraud in August 2018. Pleaded guilty to two further charges. Awaiting sentence
Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign from March 2016 and chaired it from June to August 2016, overseeing Trump being adopted as Republican candidate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He is the most senior campaign official to be implicated by Mueller. Manafort was one of Washington D.C.’s longest-term and most influential lobbyists but in 2015, his money dried up and the next year he turned to Trump for help, offering to be his campaign chairman for free – in the hope of making more money afterwards. But Mueller unwound his previous finances and discovered years of tax and bank fraud as he coined in cash from pro-Russia political parties and oligarchs in Ukraine.
Manafort pleaded not guilty to 18 charges of tax and bank fraud but was convicted of eight counts. The jury was deadlocked on the other 10 charges. A second trial on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent is due in September.
GUILTY: RICK GATES
Pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements in February 2018. Awaiting sentence
Gates was Manafort’s former deputy at political consulting firm DMP International. He admitted to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government on financial activity, and to lying to investigators about a meeting Manafort had with a member of congress in 2013. As a result of his guilty plea and promise of cooperation, prosecutors vacated charges against Gates on bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy, failure to disclose foreign bank accounts, filing false tax returns, helping prepare false tax filings, and falsely amending tax returns.
GUILTY AND WILL BE JAILED: GEORGE PAPADOPOLOUS
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in October 2017. Sentenced to 14 days in September 2018, to be served at a later date
Papadopoulos was a member of Donald Trump’s campaign foreign policy advisory committee. He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his contacts with London professor Josef Mifsud and Ivan Timofeev, the director of a Russian government-funded think tank.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: RICHARD PINEDO
Pleaded guilty to identity fraud in February 2018. Sentenced to a year in prison
Pinedo is a 28-year-old computer specialist from Santa Paula, California. He admitted to selling bank account numbers to Russian nationals over the internet that he had obtained using stolen identities.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: ALEX VAN DER ZWAAN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in February 2018. He served a 30-day prison sentence earlier this year and was deported to the Netherlands upon his release.
Van der Zwaan is a Dutch attorney for Skadden Arps who worked on a Ukrainian political analysis report for Paul Manafort in 2012.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about when he last spoke with Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik.
GUILTY: W. SAMUEL PATTEN
Pleaded guilty in August 2018 to failing to register as a lobbyist while doing work for a Ukrainian political party. Awaiting sentence.
Patten, a long-time D.C. lobbyist was a business partner of Paul Manafort. He pleaded guilty to admitting to arranging an illegal $50,000 donation to Trump’s inauguration.
He arranged for an American ‘straw donor’ to pay $50,000 to the inaugural committee, knowing that it was actually for a Ukrainian businessman.
Neither the American or the Ukrainian have been named.
CHARGED: KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK
Indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Kilimnik is a former employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm and helped him with lobbying work in Ukraine. He is accused of witness tampering, after he allegedly contacted individuals who had worked with Manafort to remind them that Manafort only performed lobbying work for them outside of the U.S.
He has been linked to Russian intelligence and is currently thought to be in Russia – effectively beyond the reach of extradition by Mueller’s team.
INDICTED: THE RUSSIANS
Twenty-five Russian nationals and three Russian entities have been indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Two of these Russian nationals were also indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 11 were indicted for conspiracy to launder money. Fifteen of them were also indicted for identity fraud.
Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the charges. Russia effectively bars extradition of its nationals. The only prospect Mueller has of bringing any in front of a U.S. jury is if Interpol has their names on an international stop list – which is not made public – and they set foot in a territory which extradites to the U.S.
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