Co­hen asks for no prison time

Ex-Trump lawyer cites co­op­er­a­tion with Mueller

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Kevin McCoy Con­tribut­ing: John Fritze

“He’s try­ing to get a much lesser prison sen­tence by mak­ing up this story.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump

On for­mer at­tor­ney Michael Co­hen

NEW YORK – Michael Co­hen, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer per­sonal lawyer, has asked a fed­eral judge to spare him from serv­ing prison time for his guilty pleas in crimes that im­pli­cated his for­mer boss in ques­tion­able ac­tions or po­ten­tial il­le­gal­ity.

Ex­press­ing re­pen­tance, con­tri­tion and shame in a sen­tenc­ing mem­o­ran­dum filed late Fri­day, Co­hen cited his con­tin­u­ing co­op­er­a­tion with spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, whose in­ves­ti­ga­tion has an­grily been branded a “witch hunt” by Trump in nu­mer­ous state­ments and tweets.

At­tor­neys for Co­hen said he had also met twice with fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in New York City and an­swered ques­tions re­gard­ing “an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion” that was not de­scribed fur­ther in the memo.

Sim­i­larly, the lawyers de­scribed his co­op­er­a­tion with New York State of­fi­cials who are in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial non­profit and tax is­sues in­volv­ing the Don­ald J. Trump Foun­da­tion, Trump’s pri­vate char­ity, as well as the pres­i­dent him­self.

“In the con­text of this raw, full-bore at­tack by the most pow­er­ful per­son in the United States, Michael, for­merly a con­fi­dante and ad­viser to Mr. Trump, re­solved to co­op­er­ate, and vol­un­tar­ily took the first steps to­ward do­ing so even be­fore he was charged,” Co­hen at­tor­neys Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester wrote in the sen­tenc­ing mem­o­ran­dum.

They filed the memo with U.S. District Judge Wil­liam Pauley, who is sched­uled to sen­tence Co­hen on Dec. 12.

They ar­gued that in­stead of angling for a pres­i­den­tial par­don or clemency as reg­u­larly men­tioned in news ac­counts, the for­mer Trump lawyer took re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ac­tions. Co­hen vol­un­tar­ily “con­trib­uted, and is pre­pared to con­tinue to con­trib­ute, to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that he views as thor­oughly le­git­i­mate and vi­tal,” the at­tor­neys wrote.

“Michael’s de­ci­sion to co­op­er­ate and take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for his own con­duct well re­flects his per­sonal re­solve, not­with­stand­ing past er­rors, to re-point his in­ter­nal com­pass true north to­ward a pro­duc­tive, eth­i­cal and thor­oughly law-abid­ing life,” the memo added.

The memo also ar­gued that many of Co­hen’s ac­tions un­der­ly­ing the crim­i­nal charges against him were the work of an em­ployee and ad­viser with “fierce loy­alty” to Trump who car­ried out his boss’s in­struc­tions.

The sen­tenc­ing rec­om­men­da­tion was filed lit­tle more than 24 hours af­ter Co­hen pleaded guilty to ly­ing to Congress about po­ten­tial plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, a ven­ture that was in­ves­ti­gated by Mueller.

In his plea, Co­hen said pre­lim­i­nary plan­ning for the pro­ject con­tin­ued for months longer dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign than Trump, pres­i­den­tial cam­paign of­fi­cials, and oth­ers had ac­knowl­edged at the time.

In Au­gust, Co­hen sim­i­larly pleaded guilty to cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions and fraud crimes in a case filed by the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice for the South­ern District of New York.

In that case, Co­hen’s plea im­pli­cated Trump in se­cret hush money pay­offs dur­ing the cam­paign to stop two women from pub­li­ciz­ing sex­ual af­fairs they said they had with the for­mer New York City de­vel­oper and re­al­ity TV star. Trump has de­nied their ac­counts.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors are ex­pected to file their own sen­tenc­ing memo with Pauley in the near fu­ture. That memo also is ex­pected to dis­cuss Co­hen’s co­op­er­a­tion with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

The White House did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment on the fil­ing by Co­hen’s lawyers.

How­ever, af­ter Co­hen’s lat­est guilty plea on Thurs­day, Trump called Co­hen a “weak per­son” and ac­cused him of pro­vid­ing false tes­ti­mony to Mueller’s le­gal team in a bid to win lesser pun­ish­ment.

“He’s got him­self a big prison sen­tence. And he’s try­ing to get a much lesser prison sen­tence by mak­ing up this story,” Trump said as he left Wash­ing­ton for this week­end’s Group of 20 eco­nomic sum­mit in Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina. “He’s ly­ing about a pro­ject that ev­ery­body knew about. I mean, we were very open about it.”

Co­hen’s de­fense team sup­ple­mented the sen­tenc­ing rec­om­men­da­tion with 37 let­ters sub­mit­ted to the judge from Co­hen’s 83-year-old fa­ther and friends who have known the for­mer Trump at­tor­ney over the years.

Mau­rice Co­hen de­scribed his son as “the oxy­gen in the air that I breathe,” and begged that “you won’t take my oxy­gen away.”

The friends char­ac­ter­ized Co­hen as some­one who reg­u­larly helped those in need, con­trib­uted to char­i­ta­ble causes and reached out to friends from an Amer­i­can Is­lamic fam­ily fol­low­ing what were widely viewed as in­flam­ma­tory Trump state­ments about Mus­lims dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

“Michael asked us out to din­ner to apol­o­gize for his (Trump’s) hurt­ful com­ments, dis­tanc­ing him­self from the pub­lic po­si­tion, and even ex­press­ing his shame and his chil­dren’s em­bar­rass­ment at his as­so­ci­a­tion with such a view,” wrote Ranya Idliby in her Sept. 18 let­ter.

Co­hen, 52, long held a po­si­tion as a pug­na­cious and loyal at­tor­ney and in­for­mal fixer for Trump. But the re­la­tion­ship rup­tured as Trump in­ves­ti­ga­tions by Mueller and fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors en­meshed Co­hen.

The sen­tenc­ing memo pro­vided first­hand de­scrip­tions fo­cused on Trump and the two women who said they had sex­ual af­fairs with him: Karen McDou­gal, a for­mer Play­boy model, and Stormy Daniels, a strip­per and porn star.

The memo said Co­hen did not per­son­ally pay “Woman-1,” an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to McDou­gal. In­stead, Co­hen “par­tic­i­pated in pay­ment plan­ning dis­cus­sions with Client-1,” a ref­er­ence to Trump, “and the Chair­man and CEO of Cor­po­ra­tion-1,” be­lieved to be David Pecker, a Trump friend who is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of The Na­tional En­quirer.

The pub­li­ca­tion re­port­edly paid McDou­gal for her story but did not pub­lish it, thereby pro­tect­ing Trump from dam­ag­ing pub­lic­ity dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign. The sen­tenc­ing memo said Client-1 failed to “re­im­burse” the com­pany for bury­ing McDou­gal’s ac­count.

The sen­tenc­ing memo also men­tions Woman-2, an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to Daniels, whose le­gal name is Stephanie Clif­ford. Co­hen paid Daniels “in co­or­di­na­tion with and at the di­rec­tion of Client-1, and oth­ers within the Com­pany,” the memo stated, re­fer­ring to Trump and The Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion.


Michael Co­hen walks out of fed­eral court Thurs­day in New York af­ter plead­ing guilty to ly­ing to Congress.

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