A federal judge on Wednesday will sentence President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen for multiple crimes, including lying to Congress about a possible Trump business deal in Moscow.
The 11 a.m. hearing before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III will give Cohen a chance to address the wrongdoing to which he has pleaded guilty and perhaps offer new details on how his offenses connect to the president.
In a court filing asking for no jail time, Cohen’s lawyers wrote that their client’s misdeeds were a product of his “fierce loyalty” to Trump and put the wrongdoing squarely at the feet of the president and his close advisers.
Cohen’s lawyers said in the filing that he was in “close and regular contact with White House-based staff and legal counsel” when he prepared his false testimony to Congress about a possible Trump Tower project in Moscow and that he acted at Trump’s direction in paying off opponents. It is possible he could reveal Wednesday who at the White House he was in touch with, or what specifically Trump told him about the payments.
Trump and his legal team have sought to downplay Cohen’s allegations, and the president has said Cohen deserves a “full and complete” sentence. Trump has denied having the affairs. On Monday, he accused his political opponents of focusing on the campaign finance matter because, he claimed, they had failed to prove his campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the election.
“Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “WITCH HUNT!”
Cohen has pleaded guilty in two separate cases – one brought by special counsel Robert Mueller over Cohen’s lies to Congress, the other brought by federal prosecutors in New York over tax and bank fraud allegations and campaign finance violations.
Federal sentencing guidelines in the New York case call for Cohen to face as many as five years and three months in prison – though it is likely he will get less than that.
Prosecutors in the case, while advocating for a “substantial term of imprisonment,” have said Cohen deserved less than what the guidelines call for because he has been at least somewhat cooperative, but they noted Cohen never agreed to fully cooperate and tell all that he knew. The U.S. probation office recommended a sentence of 3½ years.
The special counsel’s office, for its part, seems to view Cohen as a valuable cooperator. Mueller’s prosecutors did not recommend any particular punishment in their case, but said he should not serve any additional prison time beyond his sentence in the New York case.
They credited Cohen with providing “useful information” about the ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as “relevant information” about his contacts with people connected to the White House between 2017 and 2018.
Prosecutors will likely make a pitch to the judge Wednesday about the sentence they believe is appropriate, and it is possible – albeit unlikely – they might reveal new details about how Cohen’s cooperation has helped advance their ongoing probes. After that, Cohen’s team and Cohen himself will advocate for leniency, and the judge will impose the sentence.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett