Cohen asks for no prison time
Ex-Trump lawyer cites cooperation with Mueller
“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.