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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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A recent flurry of alarming headlines about looming Republican power grabs have focused on two states: Wisconsin and Michigan.

The GOP-controlled legislatures in those states have an inglorious history of using the majorities they locked in through gerrymandering after the 2010 election cycle to steamroll their policy priorities through.

But there is a more specific reason why those specific states are running full speed ahead with this activity during the current lame-duck session. Wisconsin and Michigan are two of only four states that lost trifecta control of state government — meaning the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the legislature — as a result of the November elections.

Legislatures in the other two — Kansas and New Hampshire — elected to not convene until next year, the Associated Press reported.

Thanks in part to the aforementioned gerrymandering, Republicans in both Wisconsin and Michigan managed to win fewer votes than Democrats but maintain control of both the House and Senate in their states. But Democrats swept the top offices in both states, winning the governorship, secretary of state, and attorney general contests and securing the power to veto or block overreaching Republican legislation.

So the GOP in both states is trying to shove these changes through in the weeks before the new administrations are sworn in. Both states have seen bills to curb the authority of these incoming statewide officials and also lock in GOP legislation passed under the prior administration.

In Wisconsin, a grab-bag of proposals aims to limit early voting, allow the GOP to hire their own private lawyers in lieu of relying on the attorney general’s office, and pack state boards with their own appointees (among many other measures).

Michigan Republicans are targeting the slate of progressive proposals that voters overwhelmingly approved on the November ballot, from overhauling the redistricting process to same-day voter registration to a significant minimum wage raise and sick leave policy.

The other state legislature that is making notably sneaky moves is, unsurprisingly, in North Carolina. The GOP legislature there created the playbook for lame duck efforts at undermining incoming Democratic leaders back in 2016 when Governor Roy Cooper was elected to replace Republican Pat McCrory. The Republican-controlled legislature attempted to limit Cooper’s power to make appointments to the state elections board and other key panels.

Its latest scheme involves trying, again, to ensure that Republicans will have the chair of county election boards during election years.

A similar effort failed in 2016 after Cooper filed a lawsuit and a panel of state judges ruled in his favor. Democrats now have a majority on the state supreme court, making this latest bid unlikely to succeed.

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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.

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It’s all coming back to Michael Cohen. In a surprise Thursday news break, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign as part of a new deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. The development put the Trump family squarely back in the spotlight of the Russia investigation.

Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his months-long effort, carried out with mob-linked Trump associate Felix Sater, to develop a Trump Tower Moscow. Contrary to Cohen’s testimony, that project was under consideration until June 2016 — after Trump had become the presumptive GOP nominee. Despite Trump’s insistence he had “zero” business interests in Russia, Cohen also admitted he was briefing Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump about the deal, and even asked Trump to go to Moscow in person during the campaign.

Cohen also lied about his repeated contacts with President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman about the project. Per Buzzfeed, he and Sater even discussed giving Putin the penthouse apartment to encourage other deep-pocketed Russians to invest in the building.

Cohen has reportedly sat for 70 hours of interviews with Mueller’s team.

Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and defenders of the president say all the new deal shows is that Cohen is a liar.

The effects of the news were immediate. After telling reporters he still planned to meet with Putin at the G-20 summit in Argentina, Trump reversed course an hour later, citing Russia’s seizure of a Ukrainian ship last week. Russia wasn’t buying it, saying Trump’s decision was caused by a “domestic political situation” and the two leaders still planned to meet. Nuh-uh, said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, insisting that “the reason for our canceled meeting is Ukraine.”

In other major Mueller news, Paul Manafort’s plea deal is off. The special counsel said in a court filing this week that the former Trump campaign chairman breached the agreement by repeatedly lying to investigators during their conversations. While Manafort’s lawyers insist their client “believes” he was being truthful, former federal prosecutors told TPM that Mueller wouldn’t have taken this dramatic step without ironclad proof that Manfort had lied about something major.

At a Friday hearing, Mueller’s team was given one week to file a report on Manafort’s breach and said they may file additional charges against him.

As it turns out, Manafort’s lawyer was in touch with Trump’s team even after Manafort agreed to cooperate with Mueller — highly unusual discussions that reportedly strained Manafort’s relations with the special counsel’s office.

The Guardian reported that Manafort met with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange three times, including once in 2016, but no other news outlet has been able to confirm that report.

Conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi is telling anyone who will listen that he just guessed the order of how WikiLeaks would release the Clinton campaign’s hacked emails, despite emails that indicate he was told they were coming.

Former FBI Director Jim Comey is fighting a subpoena from House Republicans in federal court, arguing that the lawmakers will only allow him to appear behind closed doors because they want to selectively leak his testimony for political gain.

And George Papadopolous is in a Wisconsin prison, carrying out his 14-day sentence for lying to the FBI.

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At an unscheduled Thursday appearance in a Manhattan courtroom, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress as part of a new plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Cohen repeatedly lied to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about his efforts to develop a Trump-branded property in Moscow while the 2016 presidential campaign was underway, according to the new criminal information filed against Cohen. According to the special counsel, Cohen falsely told Congress that efforts to develop the property ended in January 2016 and were not discussed with others in the company.

In fact, Cohen repeatedly “discussed the status and progress of the Moscow Project with Individual 1,” who is identifiable in court documents as President Trump.

Cohen also “briefed family members of Individual 1 within the Company about the project” and “took steps in contemplation of Individual 1’s possible travel to Russia,” per the information.

CNN reported that Cohen said in court that he made the false statements “to be consistent with Individual-1’s political messaging and to be loyal to Individual-1,” Cohen said in court.

Trump has repeatedly denied having any financial or business ties to Russia. On Thursday, both the President and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, downplayed Cohen’s new plea deal, calling him a “weak person” and a “proven liar,” respectively.

Departing court on Thursday morning, Cohen’s attorney, Guy Petrillo, told a crush of reporters: “Mr. Cohen has cooperated, Mr. Cohen will continue to cooperate.”

Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty in August to federal tax and campaign finance violations in a separate case brought by Manhattan federal prosecutors. Cohen has publicly offered his enthusiastic cooperation to state and federal law enforcement agencies, saying he had to “put family and country” ahead of his loyalty to his former boss.

These are the first charges Mueller has brought against Cohen.

Per the information, Cohen allegedly worked closely with former Trump Organization associate Felix Sater—identified as “Individual 2” in court documents—through June 2016 to develop the Moscow project. The pair “discussed on multiple occasions traveling to Russia to pursue” the building, and Cohen claimed that he asked Trump himself about making the trip, according to the filing.

Cohen has also lied to Congress about his repeated contact with President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, throughout the first six months of 2016, including a 20-minute January phone call with his assistant about the Moscow project. That May, Sater allegedly informed Cohen that Peskov wanted Cohen to attend a forum in St. Petersburg in June where he could be introduced “to either [the President of Russia] or [the Prime Minister of Russia],” the filing read.

ABC News reported that Cohen has spent over 70 hours in interviews with Mueller’s investigators, fielding questions about contacts between Trump associates and Russia, Trump’s business ties to Russia, obstruction of justice, and possible pardons Trump has offered to others caught up in the probe.

Sources told ABC that Cohen’s cooperation has been “crucial” to Mueller’s investigation.

The former Trump ally’s deal with Mueller comes two weeks before Cohen was set to be sentenced in the separate federal probe into his financial dealings. Cohen faces a possible sentence of 46 to 63 months in prison and a fine of up to $1 million in that case—consequences that could be reduced if he provides substantial information to Mueller’s investigation.

As part of the New York case, Cohen told the court that President Trump directed him to make hush money payments to women during the 2016 campaign “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”

Read the new criminal information against Cohen and plea deal below.

This post has been updated.

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