‘Totally clears the President. Thank you!,’ Donald Trump tweeted, following the Southern District of New York’s sentencing filings for Michael Cohen, which recommended prison time for the lawyer. And Donald Trump isn’t mentioned by name in the 40-page document – but things aren’t shaping up too well for whoever ‘Individual-1’ is.
Per the filing:
‘During the campaign, Cohen played a central role in two similar schemes to purchase the rights to stories – each from women who claimed to have had an affair with Individual-1 – so as to suppress the stories and thereby prevent them from influencing the election…Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.’
Earlier in the document, the Southern District of New York refers to a point in January 2017, when ‘Individual-1…had become the President of the United States.’ If only that narrowed down who it could be.
As the Washington Post puts it, ‘it’s now on-record that they — not just Cohen — regard Trump as having directed Cohen in the commission of what has been found to be a felony.’
So what lies ahead for Michael Cohen? The Southern District of New York doesn’t think his guilty plea should result in a lenient sentence:
‘…where, as here, the evidence of their guilt is overwhelming, defendants often make the choice to plead guilty. 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.’
Intriguingly, Robert Mueller’s filing on Cohen, also made public today, appears to be kinder to the man who thought of himself as Trump’s Ray Donovan. It details that though Cohen attempted to deliberately mislead the probe in the first of seven meetings, he subsequently admitted it and cooperated more fully. This seems to be consistent with what Cockburn first reported last month, that Cohen had given around 80 hours of testimony to the probe. The Special Counsel recommended that any sentence meted out for this should be served concurrently with whatever time Cohen was given by the Southern District of New York.
Down in Washington, D.C., Mueller submitted a 10-page document detailing how Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had lied to federal investigators since his guilty plea, a redacted version of which is public.
According to the document, Manafort’s lies relate to ‘Manafort’s interactions with Konstantin Kliminik…a wire transfer to a firm that was working for Manafort…and Manafort’s contact with Administration officials.’
Kliminik is one of Manafort’s former associates, and is widely believed to be a Russian intelligence agent. This section of the filing, unsurprisingly, is widely redacted. But the part about Manafort’s contact with the administration is available…and damning:
‘In a text exchange from May 26, 2018, Manafort authorized a person to speak with an Administration official on Manafort’s behalf. Separately, according to another Manafort colleague, Manafort said in February 2018 that Manafort had been in communication with a senior Administration official up through February 2018. A review of documents recovered from a search of Manafort’s electronic documents demonstrates additional contacts with Administration officials.’
So has seeking a Presidential pardon cost Paul Manafort his freedom? Will the Kliminik paragraphs ever see the light of day? Does an ostrich jacket clash with an orange jumpsuit? Much remains to be seen.