Federal prosecutors on Friday mounted a scathing attack on Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, rejecting his request to avoid a prison term and saying that he had “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends.”
The prosecutors said Mr. Cohen deserved a “substantial” prison term that would most likely amount to roughly four years.
Mr. Cohen, 52, is to be sentenced in Manhattan next week for two separate guilty pleas: one for campaign finance violations and financial crimes charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, and the other for lying to Congress in the Russia inquiry, filed by the Office of the Special Counsel in Washington.
Prosecutors in Manhattan said the crimes Mr. Cohen had committed marked “a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life,” and though he was seeking a sentence of no jail time for providing assistance to the government, he did not deserve much leniency.
In a lengthy memo to the judge, William H. Pauley III, prosecutors wrote that Mr. Cohen was motivated by “personal greed” and had a “rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes.”
[Read the federal prosecutor’s memo ahead of Michael Cohen’s sentencing in Manhattan.]
They once again emphasized that Mr. Cohen had implicated the president in his guilty plea, writing that Mr. Cohen “played a central role” in a scheme to purchase the silence of two women who claimed to have affairs with Mr. Trump, so they would not speak publicly during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” the prosecutors wrote. “Individual-1” is how Mr. Trump is referred to in the document.
Mr. Cohen’s actions “struck a blow to one of the core goals of the federal campaign finance laws: transparency,” the prosecutors wrote, adding that he “sought to influence the election from the shadows.”
At the same time, the special counsel’s office released its own sentencing recommendation to the judge for Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea for misleading Congress.
The special counsel seemed to offer a more positive view of Mr. Cohen’s cooperation with the Russia investigation, saying he “has gone to significant lengths to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
The special counsel’s memo revealed a new detail about Russian efforts to influence the Trump campaign. It said Mr. Cohen had told prosecutors about a meeting that appeared to be the earliest-known contact between a Russian and a campaign adviser in the months after Mr. Trump announced his bid for the presidency.
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about plans to build a tower for Mr. Trump in Russia. The admission is the latest twist in the onetime Trump loyalist’s deteriorating relationship with the president.Published OnNov. 29, 2018CreditCreditJefferson Siegel for The New York Times
In November 2015, as discussions about a possible Trump Tower Moscow project were gaining momentum, Mr. Cohen told prosecutors he was approached by a Russian claiming to be a “‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation,” who offered “synergy on a government level” with the Trump campaign.
The individual, who was not named, pushed for a meeting between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Such a meeting, he said, could have a “‘phenomenal’ impact ‘not only in political but in a business dimension as well.’”
Mr. Cohen told the special counsel’s team that he never followed up on the invitation.
Mr. Cohen has emerged as one of the biggest threats to Mr. Trump’s presidency, providing the special counsel’s office and prosecutors in Manhattan with material in dozens of hours of interviews. Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential ties to the Trump campaign.
On Tuesday, Mr. Mueller asked a judge in Washington to impose little or no prison time on Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, saying that he had provided substantial assistance to his office’s Russia investigation. Mr. Flynn faces up to six months in prison under federal guidelines after pleading guilty to one count of lying to the F.B.I.
In the Manhattan plea in August, Mr. Cohen implicated Mr. Trump in hush-money payments to two women — Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model — to conceal affairs they said they had with Mr. Trump.
On Nov. 29, Mr. Cohen entered his second plea, revealing in court that Mr. Trump had been more involved in discussions over a potential deal to build a tower in Moscow than was previously known. He also said those discussions had continued until June 2016, well after Mr. Trump had clinched the Republican nomination and only five months before the election.
Mr. Trump’s interest in building a Trump Tower Moscow led Mr. Cohen to make numerous inquiries with Russian officials and other Kremlin-linked figures about the feasibility of the project, raising the possibility that the negotiations might have given the Russians leverage over Mr. Trump when he was running for president.
In Mr. Cohen’s own sentencing memo, his lawyers disclosed that their client had consulted with White House staff members and Mr. Trump’s “legal counsel” — without identifying the lawyer — as he prepared for his false congressional testimony.
Mr. Cohen said in court that he lied “out of loyalty” to Mr. Trump and to be consistent with his “political messaging.”
Mr. Cohen’s cases have been consolidated before Judge Pauley in Manhattan.
Mr. Cohen’s lawyers, Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester, have asked Judge Pauley to allow Mr. Cohen to avoid a prison sentence, citing his cooperation with Mr. Mueller even though he never signed a formal cooperation agreement.
They also portrayed him as a remorseful man whose life had been shattered by his relationship with Mr. Trump. They said Mr. Cohen had lost friends and professional relationships and wanted to confess his crimes, serve any sentence imposed and begin his life anew.
Under federal guidelines, Mr. Cohen faces about four to five years in the Manhattan case and up to six months in Mr. Mueller’s case. But the guidelines are not binding, and Judge Pauley will decide the final sentence.