Stephanie Keith | Reuters
Michael Cohen, attorney for The Trump Organization, arrives at Trump Tower in New York City, U.S. January 17, 2017.
Federal prosecutors laid out how President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen worked to illegally help the Trump campaign in 2016.
Chunks of the Southern District of New York’s sentencing memo for the attorney detail what the government calls efforts to influence his boss’s 2016 campaign for president. Another document from special counsel Robert Mueller explains Cohen’s efforts to give the impression that a proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow fizzled out earlier than it actually did.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, “The government’s filings in Mr. Cohen’s case tell us nothing of value that wasn’t already known. Mr. Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr. Cohen is no hero.”
Trump himself tweeted after memos about Cohen and former campaign chief Paul Manafort was released, claiming he had been cleared. It was not immediately evident which of the filings Trump was referring to. The SDNY’s filing on Cohen said the lawyer committed crimes “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump.
Cohen’s attempts to affect the campaign came primarily through payments to model Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford, a former adult film actress known by her stage name Stormy Daniels, to suppress stories about alleged affairs with Trump, prosecutors say. The document concludes what Cohen has previously said — that he acted “in coordination and at the direction” of the president in making the payments.
The SDNY asked Friday for a “substantial term of imprisonment” for Cohen, who has pleaded guilty in both cases and has been cooperating with the special counsel.
Here are the parts of the memo that mention Cohen’s efforts to shape the election (Individual-1 is Trump, while Woman-1 and Woman-2 appear to refer to McDougal and Clifford, respectively):
- “During the campaign, Cohen played a central role in two similar schemes to purchase the rights to stories – each from women who claimed to have had an affair with Individual-1 – so as to suppress the stories and thereby prevent them from influencing the election. With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1. As a result of Cohen’s actions, neither woman spoke to the press prior to the election.”
- The memo says the “principal purpose” of an agreement with “Woman-1” was to “prevent [her] story from influencing the election.”
- “After the election, Cohen sought reimbursement for election-related expenses, including the $130,000 payment he had made to Woman-2.”
- The government argues Cohen’s “offenses strike at several pillars of our society,” including “transparent and fair elections.”
- “First, Cohen’s commission of two campaign finance crimes on the eve of the 2016 election for President of the United States struck a blow to one of the core goals of the federal campaign finance laws: transparency. 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. 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 the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.”
- “After the election, he arranged for his own reimbursement via fraudulent invoices for non-existent legal services ostensibly performed pursuant to a non-existent ‘retainer’ agreement. And even when public reports of the payments began to surface, Cohen told shifting and misleading stories about the nature of the payment, his coordination with the candidate, and the fact that he was reimbursed.“
- “Cohen’s criminal violations of the federal election laws were also stirred, like his other crimes, by his own ambition and greed.”
- The government writes that, though campaign finance crimes are “difficult to identify and prosecute,” they “erode faith in elections and perpetuate political corruption.”
- “Cohen’s crimes are particularly serious because they were committed on the eve of a Presidential election, and they were intended to affect that election.“
- “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.”