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Prosecutors Seek Prison Time for Cohen, Detail Manafort's Alleged Lies in Russia Probe

Prosecutors Seek Prison Time for Cohen, Detail Manafort's Alleged Lies in Russia Probe
Michael Cohen (AP)

Saturday, 08 December 2018 02:38 PM

Federal prosecutors on Friday asked a judge to sentence Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, to a "substantial" prison term for paying an adult film star hush money on Trump's behalf and evading taxes, and detailed alleged lies to investigators by Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

Cohen, who has been cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible collusion between Russia and Trump's 2016 election campaign, pleaded guilty to financial crimes in August in New York, and to a separate charge of lying to Congress in a case disclosed by Mueller last week.

Prosecutors in both those cases were required to submit on Friday separate memos on Cohen's cooperation to U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan, who will decide Cohen's sentence on Dec. 12.

Read prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Michael Cohen

Pressing the judge to reject Cohen's request he be spared prison, the New York prosecutors described Cohen in their filing as being motivated by "personal greed" and said he "repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends."

They said Cohen should receive some credit for cooperating with Mueller but noted he had not entered into a cooperation agreement with their office. They said his sentence should reflect a "modest" reduction from the four to five years they said federal guidelines would suggest.

Mueller, on the other hand, said Cohen had voluntarily provided information about his own and others' conduct on "core topics under investigation" and described the information "credible and consistent with other evidence" they had obtained.

Mueller suggested the sentence for lying to Congress should run concurrently with the sentence in the New York case.

Also on Friday, Mueller disclosed details of alleged lies told by Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, during interviews with prosecutors.

Among other matters, they said Manafort lied about his interactions with a political consultant who had ties to Russian intelligence, and about interactions with Trump administration officials even after Manafort was indicted in late 2017.

"In his interviews with the Special Counsel's Office and the FBI, Manafort told multiple discernible lies -- these were not instances of mere memory lapses," Mueller said in the filing, which was requested by a federal judge in Washington after Mueller accused Manafort of breaching his plea deal last month.

Manafort misled prosecutors in recent debriefings about his communications and a meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, the associate with ties to Russian intelligence, according to Mueller’s filing.

He also lied to investigators when he told them that he never tried to communicate a message to anyone in the Trump administration this year, prosecutors wrote. In fact, Manafort authorized someone to speak to an administration official on his behalf on May 26, they wrote. Manafort, 69, was convicted at trial of bank and tax fraud in August. Trump said last month that he hadn’t ruled out the possibility of a pardon.

Prosecutors said they met 12 times with Manafort and that he testified twice to a grand jury, on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2. Mueller concluded that “Manafort had lied in multiple ways and on multiple occasions,” his prosecutors wrote in the 10-page filing, adding that “these were not instances of mere memory lapses.”

Manafort, an international political consultant, began helping Mueller’s investigation after pleading guilty in Washington on Sept. 14 to avoid a second trial. He admitted he conspired to launder money, commit tax fraud, violate a foreign lobbying law and lie to the Justice Department. He also admitted he conspired with Kilimnik to tamper with witnesses. Kilimnik had spent a decade working in Manafort’s political consulting business in Ukraine.

In hours of meetings with prosecutors, meanwhile, Cohen detailed his intimate involvement in an array of episodes, including some that directly touch the president, that are at the center of investigations into campaign finance violations and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

In one of the filings, Mueller details how Cohen spoke to a Russian who "claimed to be a 'trusted person' in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign 'political synergy' and 'synergy on a government level.'"

The filing says the meeting never happened.

Cohen also discussed a Moscow real estate deal that could have netted Trump's business hundreds of millions of dollars and conversations with a Russian intermediary who proposed a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as offering synergy with the campaign, prosecutors said.

Cohen, dubbed Trump's "legal fixer" in the past, also described his work in conjunction with Trump in orchestrating hush money payments to two women — a porn star and a Playboy model — who said they had sex with Trump a decade earlier. Prosecutors in New York, where Cohen pleaded guilty in August in connection with those payments, said the lawyer "acted in coordination and at the direction" of Trump.

Despite such specific allegations of Trump's actions, the president quickly tweeted after news of the filings: "Totally clears the President. Thank you!"

In addition, the filings reveal that Cohen told prosecutors he and Trump discussed a potential meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in 2015, shortly after Trump announced his candidacy for president.

In a footnote, special counsel Robert Mueller's team writes that Cohen conferred with Trump "about contacting the Russia government before reaching out to gauge Russia's interest in such a meeting," though it never took place.

In an additional filing Friday evening, prosecutors said former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to them about his contacts with a Russian associate and Trump administration officials.

Manafort, who has pleaded guilty to several counts, violated his plea agreement by then telling "multiple discernible lies" to prosecutors, they said.

Prosecutors in Cohen's case said that even though he cooperated in their investigation into the hush money payments to women he nonetheless deserved to spend time in prison.

"Cohen did provide information to law enforcement, including information that assisted the Special Counsel's Office," they said. "But Cohen's description of those efforts is overstated in some respects and incomplete in others."

In meetings with Mueller's team, Cohen "provided information about his own contacts with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others in the course of making those contacts," the court documents said.

Cohen provided prosecutors with a "detailed account" of his involvement, along with the involvement of others, in efforts during the 2016 presidential campaign to complete a deal to build a Trump Tower Moscow, the documents said. He also provided information about attempts by Russian nationals to reach Trump's campaign, they said.

However, in the crimes to which he pleaded guilty in August, he was motivated "by personal greed and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends."

Prosecutors said the court's Probation Department estimated that federal sentencing guidelines call for Cohen to serve at least four years in prison. They said that "reflects Cohen's extensive, deliberate and serious criminal conduct."

Prosecutors say Cohen "already enjoyed a privileged life," and that "his desire for even greater wealth and influence precipitated an extensive course of criminal conduct."

The Mueller probe has infuriated Trump, who has regularly issued tweets criticizing the special counsel and his team.

The president has denied any collusion between his campaign and Russia, and accuses Mueller's prosecutors of pressuring his former aides to lie about him, his election campaign and his business dealings. Russia has denied meddling.

Friday's disclosures suggest Mueller is making progress building evidence of contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign, legal experts said.

"Taken as a whole, the contentions ... punctuate the point that the government has a tremendous amount of information about what went on in the campaign and what went on afterward," said Mark Zauderer, a New York-based appellate lawyer.

In new tweets on Friday, Trump accused federal investigators and senior officials of having conflicts of interest, without offering any evidence. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Friday that Cohen has "repeatedly lied" and that Manafort's case had absolutely nothing to do with the president.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said the disclosures should underscore the importance of the Mueller investigation.

"These legal documents outline serious and criminal wrongdoing, including felony violations of campaign finance laws at the direction of President Trump," she said in a statement.

Material from Reuters and the Associated Press was used in this story.

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Federal prosecutors on Friday asked a judge to sentence Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, to a "substantial" prison term for paying an adult film star hush money on Trump's behalf and evading taxes, and detailed alleged lies to...
prosecutors, seeks, years, imprisonment, michael cohen, mueller
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2018-38-08
Saturday, 08 December 2018 02:38 PM
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