Federal prosecutors in New York said Michael Cohen should serve a “substantial” prison term for tax evasion and paying hush money to two women, but the highly anticipating filings did not include any evidence that President Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
But the government did disclose that in November 2015, a Russian national who claimed to have ties with the Kremlin contacted Cohen offering the Trump campaign political and business “synergy” with Moscow. The unidentified individual told Cohen he could secure Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval for the project.
The person offered to arrange a meeting with Mr. Putin, saying it could have a “phenomenal impact” on both the campaign and Mr. Trump’s business interests.
Cohen did not follow up with the individual, according to court filings. But the revelation is significant because it shows that Russia may have made overtures to the Trump campaign earlier than originally known.
The court filings also revealed that Cohen admitted to prosecutors the hush payments to two women who alleged affairs with Mr. Trump were done with the coordination and direction of “Individual-1,” a moniker that had been assigned to Mr. Trump in earlier court filings.
“As Cohen himself has now admitted with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” prosecutors said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders seized on lack of collusion allegations in the memo.
“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,” she said
Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer and personal attorney, pleaded guilty in August to eight federal crimes. Those crimes included making false statements, bank fraud and campaign-finance violations for arranging hush payments to two women who have alleged affairs with President Trump years before he took office.
Adult film star Stormy Daniels received $130,000 and Playboy model Karen McDougal received $150,000. Mr. Trump has denied allegations he had a sexual relationship with either woman.
Cohen took great steps to hide the payments, prosecutors alleged. He created shell companies, disguised the payments by creating fake invoices, sending the payments in smaller amounts so they would not generate much attention.
Special counsel Robert Mueller also weighed on in a separate filing Friday. Although he took no position on the length of Mr. Cohen’s sentence, he did say in a court filing that Cohen should face consequences for lying to Congress about a plan to construct a new Trump Tower Russia during the 2016 campaign.
“The sentence should reflect the fact that lying to federal investigators has real consequences, especially where the defendant lied to investigators about critical facts, in an investigation of national importance,” Mr. Mueller wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Cohen said in a letter to Congress, the project was abandoned by January 2016 and he had not spoken to Russian officials about it. However, the project was still moving forward in June 2016, and Mr. Trump even considered traveling to Russia after the Republican National Convention to keep it alive, according to court documents.
Those same court documents also revealed Cohen discussed the with Mr. Trump and members of his family.
Attorneys for Cohen had sought leniency, arguing that he had cooperated with Mr. Mueller’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Defense attorneys said in a memo that, by cooperating with the special counsel, Cohen had decided to “re-point his internal compass true north toward a productive, ethical and thoroughly law-abiding life.”
Cohen also expected to give a prominent role in the Trump administration, according to court filings. Although that never materialized, prosecutors said he tried to exploit his relationship with the president for monetary gain to corporations, earning $4 million in the process.
“Some of these corporations were then stuck making large up-front or periodic payments to Cohen, even though he provided little or no real services under these contractors,” prosecutors said.
Although Mr. Mueller did not recommend leniency, he did say that Cohen provided “credible” information that is consistent with other information his team uncovered.
“He has gone to significant lengths to assist the special counsel’s investigation,” Mr. Mueller wrote.
But prosecutors rejected calls to reward Cohen for his cooperation
“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,” prosecutors wrote.
The New York prosecutors said reports of Cohen providing substantial information to Mueller’s team was “overstated.”
To be clear: Cohen does not have a cooperation agreement…and therefore is not properly described as a ‘cooperating witness,’ as that term is commonly used in this District,” prosecutors said.
They also accused Cohen of being “motivated” by “personal greed” and “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends.”
The guilty pleas for lying to Congress and tax evasion have been combined for sentencing purposes. Cohen faces between 46 and 63 months in prison with a fine between $20,000 and $1 million. Although that may go be reduced because of his cooperation with Mueller’s team.
Mr. Trump earlier this week expressed outrage that Cohen could receive a break from Mueller in return for cooperation.
“He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence,” the president said on Twitter.