In Friday’s sentencing document Michael Cohen admitted not just that his efforts to make contacts for Trump in Russia extended months into the campaign, but that he had coordinated with Donald Trump and Trump instructed him to reach out to the Russian government. This wasn’t just Russia attempting to reach out to Trump. This is Cohen saying that Trump reached out to the Russian government.
As part of a busy day in federal course, the special counsel’s office and the Southern District of New York both provided sentencing documents for former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. With hearings about both Cohen and Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort due on Friday, it wasn’t until after 4 PM before the first substantial documents appeared, and when they did arrive, they came with the thud of a 40+ page document hitting the table. And with substantial jail time.
Anyone expecting that Cohen’s cooperation with the special counsel or other jurisdictions was going to allow Trump’s attorney to stroll out the courthouse door is bound to be disappointed. While prosecutors recommended “a modest downward variance,” based on the cooperation that Cohen provided. However, the document from the Southern District of New York indicated that Cohen was “not fully cooperative.” In particular, he refused to answer questions about other criminal matters that were not part of the charges on the table today. The SDNY made it explicit that Cohen “does not have a cooperation agreement” and “is not properly described as a ‘cooperating witness’” at least when it comes to the charges leveled by the SDNY.
The SDNY notes that range of sentences related to the charges on which Cohen has been convicted range from “51 to 63 months.” Based on the recommendation of a “modest” decrease, it’s likely that he could serve four years or more on the charges that include tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions.
This alone would be a felony.
In short, it appears that investigators found Cohen helpful and honest on the charges where he would provide information, but he refused to fully cooperate by providing information on other matters. It also appears that much of Cohen’s cooperation can late in the day after it was clear the SDNY had collected much of the information on their own.
Shortly after the SDNY delivered their document, the special counsel document arrived. Robert Mueller was much kinder in his description of Cohen’s cooperation, saying that Cohen’s information to the Russia investigation was helpful, and was consistent with information from other witnesses.
On the specific issue of Cohen’s involvement in payments that represent a violation of campaign funding regulations, the Mueller document also seems to condemn the actions of “Individual One” saying that “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.”
Mueller noted that Cohens’ lies to Congress were “deliberate and premeditated.” It doesn’t make it clear if these lies were also coordinated with Trump.
When it comes to Russian involvement, the sentencing document notes that Cohen gave information related to Trump’s ongoing “Moscow project” to make a real estate deal, and also assisted the special counsel concerning other attempts from Russia to make contacts within the Trump campaign. This area was not detailed, but the special counsel’s office treats it as significant.
But even at first glance, the sentencing documents for Cohen note both that Trump was directly involved in payments that were in violation of campaign finance laws. More importantly, it shows that, far from being unaware, Trump was the one initiating contact, asking Cohen to “gauge Russia’s interest.”
There’s no way to read these documents that doesn’t move Trump into the category of “unindicted co-conspirator.”