Ahead of his mid-December sentencing, Michael Cohen’s attorneys filed a memo Friday arguing that their client should avoid jail time in exchange for the “unique” extent of his cooperation with law enforcement.
The document lays out the details of Cohen’s cooperation with multiple state and federal investigations involving President Trump’s campaign, private foundation, and real estate company. It also provides fresh information about Trump’s own alleged role in orchestrating or being kept up to speed on some of Cohen’s criminal activities.
“The facts and circumstances surrounding this case are unique and unprecedented, involving, among other things, the former personal attorney to the sitting president, campaign finance violations centered on extramarital affairs of a presidential candidate, and congressional testimony in an exceptionally heated political environment,” Cohen’s attorneys wrote.
Here are some key takeaways from the filing.
Cohen wants to be sentenced now
Prosecutors and defendants typically agree to prolong sentencing until a defendant has exhausted his or her cooperation to ensure that the individual doesn’t stop cooperating once they’ve been sentenced. Not so in Cohen’s case.
Cohen’s attorneys say he fully expects to cooperate further with any law enforcement body that requests information from him, but that he wants to be sentenced on Dec. 12, as scheduled, so he can move on with his life.
“Nearly every professional and commercial relationship that he enjoyed, and a number of long-standing friendships, have vanished,” they wrote. “Thus, the necessity, at age 52, to begin his life virtually anew, including developing new means to support his family, convinced Michael to seek an early sentence date.”
As proof of his commitment to assist the government, Cohen’s attorneys note that he offered to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller on Aug 7., before he was even charged with financial crimes by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office. Cohen also did so knowing that Trump and his allies would continue to launch a “raw, full-bore attack” on the investigation and on himself personally, they said.
Cohen is assisting with a web of investigations
Cohen hasn’t just been meeting with Mueller. He’s also been offering cooperation to various New York state entities investigating misdeeds in Trumpworld and other unspecified cases.
Per Cohen’s attorneys, Cohen has “voluntarily met twice with representatives” of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office and “responded to questions concerning an ongoing investigation.” He plans to continue to do so “as and when needed.”
Following Cohen’s August guilty plea, various publications reported that the office was investigating whether Trump Organization executives violated campaign finance law by helping structure hush money payments to Trump’s alleged former lovers.
He’s also “met voluntarily” with the New York Attorney General’s office as part of their lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, the president, and his three eldest children for violating state charity laws. Cohen has “also provided the NYAG with documents concerning a separate open inquiry,” which is not described in further detail.
That line may refer to the attorney general’s investigation into Cohen’s state tax law violations. Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office sought a criminal referral from the state Department of Taxation and Finance to open that criminal probe.
Per Cohen’s attorney’s, their client “waived subpoena and met on an expedited basis” with the tax department and has “cooperated personally and through counsel and tax professionals with requests for information” from them.
The lawyers say that both the special counsel, with whom Cohen met seven times so far, and Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office will file letters to the court urging them to consider Cohen’s cooperation when recommending a sentence.
Trump is central to Cohen’s wrongdoing
Cohen’s team puts the blame for their client’s crimes squarely on Trump.
“In each case, the conduct was intended to benefit Client-1, in accordance with Client-1’s directive,” the attorneys wrote. “Michael regrets that his vigor in promoting
Client-1’s interests in the heat of political battle led him to abandon good judgment and cross legal lines.”
The memo confirms Cohen’s August claim in open court that he worked to coordinate and make payoffs to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels “at the direction” of Trump. Cohen “participated in planning discussions” with Trump and “the Chairman and CEO” of the Trump Organization to convince McDougal to sell her story to the National Enquirer, which then refused to run it. Cohen also paid Daniels’ attorney “in coordination with and at the direction of Client-1, and others within the Company”; the plans to reimburse Cohen for his services via “legal fees” were coordinated “with the approval of Client-1,” per the memo.
As Lawfare noted, the tone shifts when the memo describes Cohen’s work on a project to develop a Trump Tower Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen pleaded guilty last week to lying to Congress about his work on the project, which lasted until June of that year.
Cohen’s attorneys don’t claim that Trump ordered him to lie. Instead, they say, his false testimony to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees stemmed from his effort “to support and advance Client-1’s political messaging.”
Trump’s displeasure at being so central to the sentencing memo was evident on Monday morning, when he tweeted that Cohen’s crimes were “unrelated to Trump.”
“He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free,” the President wrote. “He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”
Cohen was in touch with Trump team last year
Cohen coordinated his responses to the various Russia investigations with the White House, the memo reveals.
It notes that Cohen was still serving as Trump’s personal attorney last fall when he was summoned to appear before the congressional intelligence committees, and that he was following “daily the political messages that both Client-1 and his staff and supporters repeatedly and forcefully broadcast.”
Notably, “in the weeks during which his then-counsel prepared his written response to the Congressional Committees, Michael remained in close and regular contact with White House-based staff and legal counsel to Client-1.”
Cohen’s attorneys say he crafted his responses in order to align with Trump’s disavowal of the Russia probe and of allegations he had any business interests in Russia.
More shoes will drop over next few weeks
The next few weeks will bring more key developments in the various Cohen investigations. Prosecutors will file their own sentencing memo presumably outlining Cohen’s cooperation, which may contain new revelations.
Cohen’s team has asked that he receive a sentence of time served and restitution to the IRS, saying the “gargantuan cost to Michael” renders imprisonment an unnecessary additional punishment or deterrent. They note he’s likely to lose his law license, has to pay restitution, “will be named in a parallel tax case brought by New York State,” lost all business at his consulting firm, had bank and insurance agreements canceled, and faced intense media scrutiny, hate mail, and threats.
Cohen is set to be scheduled at federal court in lower Manhattan on Wednesday Dec. 12 at 11 a.m. ET. TPM will be in attendance.