In early 2019, Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was trying to offer more cooperation to the government, hoping to reduce his three-year jail sentence for various crimes.
But even as he did so, the Justice Department said Thursday, he was lying to investigators.
Specifically, according to court documents filed Thursday evening, Cohen falsely told investigators in early 2019 interviews that he had “no actual interest in being Attorney General or Trump’s Chief of Staff.” But that was false, the DOJ said. To back up that allegation, the DOJ included texts from Cohen to unidentified individuals expressing interest in and expressly lobbying for the White House chief of staff position, as late as January 2018.
“Lots of articles about a shakeup,” Cohen allegedly said in a May 2017 exchange, after he appeared to suggest that there was a “50-50” chance President Trump would ask him to be chief of staff.
“He needs to go back to thebbasics,” Cohen texted, according to the DOJ filing.
“There’s no loyalty to him by these swamp rats. I watch it on tv and seriously want to jump in and crack them across the jaw,” he later added, according to the filing, telling the unnamed recipient of the texts to “keep my name in range loop please.”
The allegations came in a DOJ filing opposing Cohen’s request to the court earlier this month that his sentenced be reduced or that he be moved to home confinement for the remainder of it. In those filings, Cohen’s lawyer said he believed that the “government has acted in bad faith to stymie fair consideration of … good faith post-sentence cooperation.”
On Thursday, the Justice Department called Cohen’s claims a “scattershot of ad hominem attacks and irrelevant political bromides.” The Department also went after him for publicly playing down the crimes he pleaded to — both in news interviews and in public testimony — which the prosecutors said showed had not accepted responsibility for his conduct.
While Cohen’s dubious claim in congressional testimony that he did not seek to work in the administration had already attracted some scrutiny, the allegation that he also made it in a post-sentencing proffer session (where a target of an investigation offers prosecutors information that could yield a cooperation agreement) is new.
The Department pointed to several exchanges it knew about that it said contradicted Cohen’s claim.
In one exchange, on the night of the 2016 election, Cohen told an identified individual “You’re coming with me to the White House….Asst to chief of staff.”
Days later, as reporting indicating that Reince Priebus was likely to be named chief of staff, Cohen told another person that there were “So many opportunities.” When asked if he was referring an opportunity in the government, he said “A hybrid.”
And, in January 2018, the month after John Kelly made his exit from the chief of staff role, someone else asked him, “When are u chief of staff?”
“Maybe 3 to 4 months,” Cohen said.
A response from Cohen to the government’s opposition to the sentencing reduction is due Jan. 10.
Read the DOJ filing below: