Prosecutors think Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and self-described “fixer,” should serve serious time in prison for his various crimes, regardless of his recent cooperation.
In court documents filed late Friday afternoon, attorneys with the Southern District of New York said “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 (and was evidently hidden from the friends and family members who wrote on his behalf).”
Last week, Cohen’s attorneys asked that U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley not sentence him to prison and noted in a pre-sentencing memo that Cohen has moved to “cooperate and take full responsibility for his own conduct.”
But New York State prosecutors offered a decidedly less sympathetic view of the situation: that Cohen’s years of illegal activity warranted a stiff sentence.
“After cheating the IRS for years, lying to banks and to Congress, and seeking to criminally influence the Presidential election, Cohen’s decision to plead guilty — rather than seek a pardon for his manifold crimes — does not make him a hero,” prosecutors wrote in the court documents.
Prosecutors noted that Cohen only began to cooperate with prosecutors when he started to face imminent indictment, which suggests he wasn’t altruistically offering up information that would assist both the Southern District of New York and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office in their investigations.
“Cohen first reached out to meet with the [special counsel’s office] at a time when he knew he was under imminent threat of indictment in this District. As such, any suggestion by Cohen that his meetings with law enforcement reflect a selfless and unprompted about-face are overstated,” the prosecutors wrote.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts in the New York-based investigation regarding allegations of tax fraud, campaign finance violations, and payments to keep adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had an affair with Trump before he became president, quiet. Federal investigators in New York have also been looking into Cohen’s “hush” payments to Daniels and Karen McDougal, both of whom also said they had sexual relationships with Trump prior to his election. Prosecutors called those payments plainly illegal in Friday’s filings.
“While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows,” the New York prosecutors wrote. “He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1.”
In a subsequent filing Friday evening, Mueller called Cohen's crime "serious" but didn’t take a direct position on Cohen’s impending sentence. The special counsel noted that Cohen “has taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct,” and offered “relevant” and consistent information to investigators.
Last week, Cohen made a surprise appearance in Manhattan federal court, where he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Cohen had lied to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that plans to develop a Trump Tower Moscow ended before the primaries in early 2016, when discussions carried on well into June of that year. He also recently confessed that “Individual 1” — an apparent a reference to Trump — was well-informed of those plans.
Trump responded angrily to Cohen’s guilty plea and accused his former lawyer of “lying, very simply, to get a reduced sentence.”
Cover image: Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building on New York's Park Avenue, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. In the latest filings Friday, prosecutors will weigh in on whether Cohen deserves prison time and, if so, how much. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)