An anguished Michael Cohen pleaded with a federal judge to keeping out of jail on Thursday, and expressed regret for trying to cover up former employer Donald Trump’s ‘dirty deeds.’
The tearful longtime Donald Trump lawyer took on Trump – who he once said he would ‘take a bullet for’ – for having called him ‘weak’ in a Twitter attack.
‘Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying,’ Cohen told a federal judge in open court. ‘It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds,’ Cohen said.
Cohen headed to federal court in New York Wednesday to face sentencing after prosecutors in New York recommended he get ‘substantial’ jail time – as his attorney lauded his willingness to testify against the president.
In a courtroom plea for leniency, Cohen’s lawyer, Guy Petrillo, described Cohen as a brave witness who came forward with evidence ‘against the most powerful person in our country’ – and tried to draw a contrast with former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, who prosecutors say committed ‘lies’ despite agreeing to cooperate.
He did so without being able to ‘anticipate the full measure of attack that would be made against him.’
Petrillo called it a ‘profound contrast’ with others who decided to allegedly ‘double deal,’ CNN reported.
Michael Cohen and his family leave their Trump Park Avenue Apartment in New York City and head down to court as he faced sentencing Wednesday
‘He knew that the president might shut down the investigation,’ Petrillo said, Courthouse News reported.
His lawyers also pushed back at SDNY, which in its sentencing memo pointed out that Cohen never reached a cooperation agreement.
‘He is wary of a long-term cooperation agreement for personal reasons,’ saying Cohen was operating based on concerns for his family and wanting to avoid the ‘glare of the cameras.’
A person who reaches a cooperation agreement in New York is expected to answer all the government’s questions and reveal all about any criminal activity they know about.
Jeannie Rhee, representing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, said Cohen provided ‘credible’ information about ‘any links between a campaign and a foreign government’ and ‘sought to tell us the truth.’
But there was a split between prosecutors. Federal prosecutors based in New York inveighed against Cohen trying to engage in ‘selective cooperation.’
The charges he pleaded guilty to ‘portray a pattern of deception, of brazenness and of greed,’ argued Nicolas Roos, arguing for the Southern District of New York.
Cohen left his Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan, accompanied by his wife Laura, along with his two children, as he went to learn his fate after prosecutors in New York argued he should get a ‘substantial’ sentence.
Cohen pleaded guilty last week to a ninth charge – lying to Congress about his work on a Trump tower project in Moscow that continued through the summer of 2016, when his longtime boss was scoring primary wins in his bid to become president.
Cohen, who famously once said he would ‘take a bullet’ for President Trump, had earlier pleaded guilty to tax fraud, campaign finance violations, and falsifying bank statements while getting loans.
Cohen could get up to five years in jail, after prosecutors in the Southern District of New York wrote in a letter that the court should impose a ‘substantial term of imprisonment’ as well as a $500,000 crime.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, however, stressed in their own memo Cohen’s extensive cooperation with their Russia probe.
The judge in the case, William Pauley, is a Bill Clinton appointee with a reputation for sternness in sentencing.
His task was to take in Cohen’s plea for leniency as well as the diverging arguments by prosecutors. SDNY in their own memo argued that Cohen’s description of his helpfulness ‘is overstated in some respects and incomplete in others.’ SNDY noted that Cohen ‘does not have a cooperation agreement … and therefore is not properly described as a ‘cooperating witness.’
Cohen, a lawyer who made his career protecting President Donald Trump, is set to learn Wednesday whether his decision to cooperate with federal investigators will lessen his punishment for crimes including making illegal hush-money payments to two women during the 2016 campaign – a scandal that could damage Trump’s presidency.
A federal judge in New York is set to decide whether Cohen gets leniency or years in prison for campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress about the president’s past business dealings in Russia.
Cohen, 52, is due to appear at 11 a.m. at a courthouse in Manhattan for a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge William Pauley III.
DAY IN COURT: Michael Cohen heads to court along with his wife Laura, daughter Samantha, and son is Jake. Samantha recently had hip surgery
Michael Cohen and his family leave their Trump Park Avenue Apartment in New York City and head down to court.
Michael Cohen and his family leave their Trump Park Avenue Apartment in New York City and head down to court.
epa07226161 Michael Cohen (C), President Donald Trump’s then former personal lawyer going through security after arriving with members of his family (unseen) to his sentencing at United States Federal Court in New York, New York, USA, 12 December 2018
Cohen and his daughter Samantha head to federal court Wednesday
Under federal sentencing guidelines, he stands to get about four years in prison, but his lawyers have argued for leniency.
Some of Cohen’s crimes, they said, were motivated by overenthusiasm for Trump, rather than any nefarious intent.
He has pleaded guilty to misleading Congress about his work on a proposal to build a Trump skyscraper in Moscow, hiding the fact that he continued to speak with Russians about the proposal well into the presidential campaign.
FILE – In this Nov. 29, 2018, file photo, Michael Cohen walks out of federal court in New York. The moment of reckoning has nearly arrived for Cohen, who finds out Wednesday, Dec. 12, whether his decision to walk away from President Donald Trump after years of unwavering loyalty will spare him from a harsh prison sentence. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)
Cohen also pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws by helping orchestrate payments to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who said they had sexual encounters with Trump while he was married.
For weeks, Cohen’s legal strategy appeared to revolve around persuading the court that he is a reformed man who abandoned longtime friendships and gave up his livelihood when he decided to cut ties with the president and speak with federal investigators. Cohen’s lawyers have said in court filings that their client could have stayed on the president’s side and angled himself for a presidential pardon.
New York prosecutors have urged a judge to sentence Cohen to a substantial prison term, saying he’d failed to fully cooperate and overstated his helpfulness.
They’ve asked for only a slight reduction to his sentence based on his work with the office of special counsel Robert Mueller and prosecutors looking into the campaign finance violations in New York.
A probation-only sentence, they said, is unbefitting of ‘a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.’
‘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 Trump, prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors said Cohen orchestrated payments to McDougal and Daniels at Trump’s direction.
Trump, who insists the affairs never happened, said Monday in a tweet that the payments to the women were ‘a simple private transaction,’ not a campaign contribution. And if it was campaign contribution, the president said, Cohen is the one who should be held responsible.
‘Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me,’ Trump wrote, adding, ‘Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!’
A sentence of hard time would leave Cohen with little to show for his decision to plead guilty, though experts said Wednesday’s hearing might not be the last word on his punishment.
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal (left) and porn actress Stormy Daniels (right) both claimed to have slept with Donald Trump in the past, but the government says Cohen coordinated with Trump to make sure the women were paid for their silence – in effect a pair of massive campaign contributions designed to save the election for Trump
The Michael Cohen sentencing memorandum from a federal prosecutor in New York recomments 51 to 63 months in prison
Cohen could have his sentence revisited if he strikes a deal with prosecutors in which he provides additional cooperation within a year of his sentence, said Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit and Los Angeles.
‘Few things spark a defendant’s renewed interest in cooperating faster than trading in a pair of custom Italian trousers for an off-the-rack orange jump suit,’ he said.
Annemarie McAvoy, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said prosecutors appear to be angry at Cohen for limiting his cooperation.
‘It could be a tactic to try to break him like they’ve tried to do with (Paul) Manafort,’ McAvoy said, referring to Trump’s former campaign chairman. ‘It kind of shows they’re putting the screws to him. If they’re not mad at him, he didn’t give them what they wanted.’
President Donald Trump first distanced himself from Cohen and then went after him as he cooperated with authorities
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen should spend between 51 and 63 months in federal prison, according to a prosecutor’s memo
Cohen’s transition from Trump’s fixer-in-chief to felon has been head-spinning.
He once told an interviewer he would ‘take a bullet’ for Trump. But facing prosecution for evading $1.4 million in taxes, Cohen pleaded guilty in August, pledged to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election and changed his party registration from Republican to Democrat.
Judge Pauley, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Bill Clinton, may allow Cohen to begin serving any prison term he receives at a later date. But legal experts said Cohen could also be taken into custody immediately.
‘If I were advising him, I’d encourage him to bring his toothbrush to court,’ said Stern.
Cohen’s lawyers have asked for no prison time, saying he has suffered enough already.
‘The greatest punishment Michael has endured in the criminal process has been the shame and anxiety he feels daily from having subjected his family to the fallout from his case,’ his attorneys wrote in a court filing last month. ‘The media glare and intrusions on all of them, including his children, the regular hate correspondence and written and oral threats, the fact that he will lose his law license, the termination of business relationships by banks and insurers and the loss of friendships, are but some of this fallout.’