Michael Cohen, Donald Trump, and Paul Manafort
Federal prosecutors in southern New York have said in a court document that Donald Trump was involved in criminal activity with his long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.
The statement is in Cohen’s sentencing recommendation, after he pleaded guilty to eight counts of financial crimes and campaign finance violations — including payoffs during the 2016 campaign to two women who claimed sexual encounters with Trump — and one count of lying to Congress.
Cohen said, during his plea in late August over the tax and finance charges, that Trump had directed the $150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels. The prosecutors’ memorandum goes farther, saying the lawyer “acted in coordination and at the direction of” Trump.
McDougal says she had a 10-month affair with Trump in 2006-2007, beginning 18 months after his marriage to Melania Knauss and four months after the birth of their son Barron. Cohen arranged for Trump’s friend David Pecker — the CEO of American Media, the publisher of The National Enquirer — to purchase the rights to McDougal’s story and then bury it.
Daniels claims that she and Trump had sex when they met at a golf tournament in July 2006. With the possibility of publication of her story, Cohen paid her on October 27, twelve days before the Presidential election.
In a separate filing, prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller said an unnamed Russian offered Mr. Cohen “government level” cooperation between Russia and Mr. Trump’s campaign in November 2015. That date is months earlier than Russian approaches described in other indictments.
The contact came as Cohen was discussing a Trump Tower in Moscow with his boyhood friend and Trump business associate Felix Sater, who promised access to Russian officials and said that this could get “our boy” — Trump — elected.
Cohen told prosecutors that he was approached by a Russian claiming to be a “‘trusted person in the Russian Federation”. The unnamed individual, offered “synergy on a government level” with the Trump campaign and pushed for a meeting between Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia that could have a “phenomenal” effect politically and commercially.
Cohen also “provided information about attempts by other Russian nationals to reach the campaign,” prosecutors said.
Trump: “Totally Clears” Me
In his unique reading of the developments, Trump proclaimed his vindication by the legal documents:
Totally clears the President. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also played down the linkage of Trump to criminal activity: “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.”
The prosecutors recommended to the court, for the Southern District of New York, that Cohen serve a “substantial sentence” for his crimes. They said there should be some mitigation for information that he provided, but described the interaction as short of “cooperation”.
Mueller’s team have referred to cooperation with Cohen, including 19 interviews and provision of documents and computer files. Last week, the lawyer said, in his guilty plea to lying to Congress, that the Trump Organization pursued the Trump Tower in Moscow until June 2016 — as Trump was on the verge of the Republican nomination, as Russian military intelligence was hacking the computers linked to the Democratic National Commmittee and nominee Hillary Clinton, as Trump’s top advisors met Kremlin-linked envoys about provision of material damaging Clinton.
Cohen will be sentenced next week.
Prosecutors: Manafort Lied About Contacts with Russian Official
In a separate case on Friday, Special Counsel Mueller accused Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, of lying about contacts with a Russian operative linked to intelligence services, and about his interaction with Trump Administration officials after he was indicted on criminal charges.
Mueller said Friday that Manafort lied about five major issues after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, following his conviction on eight tax, finance, and fraud charges in August and his guilty plea to two more counts a month later.
The issues include Manafort’s relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian military intelligence official. The court document is heavily redacted, but Kilimnik has previously been accused of ties to the Russian unit that hacked Democrat targets. He and Manafort also allegedly tampered with witnesses after Manafort’s arrest last year.
The document claims Manafort was in contact with Administration officials up to February 2018. The former campaign manager had told Mueller’s team that he had “no direct or indirect communications with anyone in the administration while they were in the administration and that he never asked anyone to try to communicate a message to anyone in the administration on any subject matter”.
Prosecutors said they have evidence they have of Manafort’s contacts, including with a “senior administration official”. They cited text messages, including a May 2018 communication from Manafort to a contact to reach the Administration, and a description they have from “another Manafort colleague.”
White House Press Secretary Sanders dismissed any connection with Trump:
The government’s filing in Mr. Manafort’s case says absolutely nothing about the President. It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying-related issues. Once again the media is trying to create a story where there isn’t one.