On Friday, Dec 7, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) and Special Counsel Robert Mueller released sentencing memos related to Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time lawyer and “fixer, and, Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager and all-around sleaze bag. In these two memos we learn:
- Cohen and Manfort, and their attorneys, were in regular contact with Trump and his attorneys as well as in regular contact with other witnesses. The purpose of this contact was to coordinate their lies.
- Russian intelligence agents contacted Trump and his campaign through Michael Cohen to provide “political synergy” — that is, to coordinate Russian activities on behalf to Trump with the Trump campaign.
One small section of Mueller’s memo reveals what will bring down Trump
On Friday, two sentencing memos were filed against President Donald Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen — one by prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, recommending a sentence of around 51 to 63 months for tax evasion, bank fraud, illegal campaign finance, and lying to Congress, and one from special counsel Robert Mueller, who discussed his assistance in the Russia investigation.
Both of these documents are incredibly damning for Trump, with SDNY prosecutors strongly implicating Trump’s knowledge and consent to Cohen’s crimes. But perhaps one of the sections that should unnerve Trump most came from Mueller’s filing:
Matthew MillerVerified account @matthewamiller 21h21 hours ago
This is an interesting line from Mueller: “The defendant amplified his false statements by releasing and repeating his lies to the public, including to other potential witnesses.”
“By publicly presenting this false narrative, the defendant deliberately shifted the timeline of what had occurred in hopes of limiting the investigations into possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” — Mueller cares if you lie to the public.
This is significant because it suggests that not only is Mueller interested in lies told to Congress or to federal investigators, but lies to the public as well. And if Mueller is going after false statements told to the public, this should greatly worry Trump, who has lied in speeches, tweets, and interviews over 6,400 times since taking office.
On one hand, there is no federal statute directly making it a crime to lie to the public, the way there is for lying to Congress or to the FBI. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that Mueller could establish a pattern of false public statements to bolster a case for obstruction of justice — which he has reportedly considered.
Friday’s memos are the start of bringing down the Trump criminal enterprise
MSNBC’s “Up with David Gura” on Saturday analyzed President Donald Trump’s “horrible very bad no good day” after federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York publicly accused him of committing felonies as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case of Michael Cohen, his longtime “fixer” and lawyer.
“What changed yesterday?” Gura asked Mimi Rocah, the former chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Unit in the Southern District of New York. “How pivotal was it?”
“I think it was very pivotal,” Rocah replied.
“And while it’s not spelled out, I think what’s coming to light more and more is that those business deals that Cohen lied about — and I’ll talk about maybe others who might have lied about it in a second — are so intertwined with this campaign, collusion, election interference that we’ve all been focused on,” she explained.
Rocah reminded that special counsel Robert Mueller knows far more than has been publicly reported or revealed in legal filings.
“What’s starting to take shape, I think, is a narrative, if you will, that Mueller has long known, but I think we’re just starting to see it,” she argued. “But it’s this idea of the business and the political intertwining and that is ultimately I think what is going to bring down Trump, frankly.”
“Because it is the greediness, it is the inability to let go, to seek these business opportunities in Moscow,” she explained. “It’s this long standing relationship that we now know went back to 2015 when Russians were seeking out talking to Trump about, we think, business opportunities and probably a campaign.”
“So I think this is in some ways bigger than any of us had imagined in items of the scheme that was orchestrated,” Rocah suggested.
She also highlighted the “coordination of the lies.”
“You have this idea of people sending signals or getting their stories straight both publicly and privately,” she noted. “And you know who else does that is Donald Trump.”
“So a lot of what was written about Cohen in both filings could have been written about Trump, I think, about trying to get messages out to other potential witnesses and make sure everybody had their stories straight,” she concluded.
The extent of the Trump-Russia conspiracy is becoming clear
Throw all the prosecutorial sentencing reports together that emerged yesterday about Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, stir gently, and what do we have? The commentary was so quick to get to the details, that it is useful to pull back and see the whole picture:
This story first appeared at DC Report.
- These are two bad guys who committed crimes small and large, and they will get real jail time. Cohen will get a bit of relief in his sentence for cooperating partially, but not a magic wand dismissal of prison time. Manafort is facing up to 15 years for crimes so far—after he blew his chances for leniency by lying to the special counsel’s office to whom he had promised cooperation.
- President Trump committed felonies for hush-money payoffs to women for sex in violation of campaign finance laws, according to the U.S. government. That would sink anyone who isn’t the President of the United States, but Trump will hold himself above the law, by saying the president cannot be indicted.
- What happens next is anyone’s guess or more the business of politics than of law. From Trump himself, there was a tweet, of course, saying these filings cleared him of any wrongdoing—despite the words in the document. We need to start hearing from Republican leaders, but with Democrats taking over the House, these documents will prompt endless hearings and necessary discussions about Trump’s involvement, up to the impeachment discussions that many Democrats are trying to avoid. And with a new attorney general nominee, we will go through more questions about letting the special counsel finish his work.
We now know that prosecutors are proving Russian efforts at leverage in the Trump campaign and in the U.S. elections.
The talking heads are going nuts, of course. There were three highly anticipated sentencing filings that pundits hoped might offer more information about where the investigation by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III is headed. We did not get that, exactly, but in two separate filings on Cohen and one on Manafort, we learned several new things.
About Manafort, the one-time head of the Trump campaign, a heavily redacted sentencing guidance from Mueller’s team said he should go to jail for a long time. The redactions kept a lot of reasons secret, but Mueller’s team said Manafort lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian associate who Mueller has said has ties to the Russian military intelligence unit accused of hacking Democrats, and how they may have worked together to tamper with witnesses following Manafort’s arrest last year. Manafort also lied about a particular wire transfer, about an unrelated case, and about maintaining a continuing relationship with the president’s legal team. Most of the details were filed under seal with the court.
About Cohen, there were separate sentencing recommendations from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York on financial crimes and the cases involving the hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress whose name is Stephanie Clifford, and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model to conceal affairs they said they had with Trump. The document cited evidence to show that Trump had directed the payments in violation of campaign finance laws. But the prosecutors rejected Cohen’s request to avoid a prison term and saying that he had “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends” and had not cooperated all that much with them.
The second sentencing document was from Mueller’s team, in which the special counsel said that Cohen did cooperate and should get no additional prison time beyond whatever penalty, probably four years imprisonment, arise from the New York charges. This document gave more information about Cohen leading prosecutors through months’ worth of contacts with Russians over a lucrative proposed Trump Tower Moscow project, several other attempts (plural) with other Russian nationals to reach out to the Trump campaign during 2015 to offer “political synergy,” and lots of testimony about the “preparation and circulation” of Cohen’s testimony to Congress. Former prosecutors went on TV to say this last point represents apparent evidence of obstruction of justice by the Trump White House.
About Trump. None of the documents were about the president directly, of course, but Individual 1, the president, was omnipresent in the sleazy businesses at hand. Only Trump, Rudy Giuliani or his most ardent supporters could read these documents and not come away with a certain solemnness about the degree of criminal scheming involving Trump, his business and his campaign.
At the minimum, we now know that Cohen has offered information that is leading prosecutors to prove Russian efforts at leverage in the Trump campaign and in the U.S. elections, the heart of all the talk of “collusion.” At worst, these documents were prompting political talking heads to talk about Trump by using references as a possible Russian-version “Manchurian candidate.”
My job in this column is not to sanctify the evidence or to assign blame. But it is to note that we have entered into the very serious business part of the special counsel investigation and about what we are learning to be factual.
What is clear is that we need to stop talking about witch hunts and start talking about the word evidence.
Meanwhile, Jared Kushner is selling the Presidency to the Saudis
The son-in-law of President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, has been in contact with Saudi Prince Mohammed for over two years as the royal family attempted to influence and manipulate him, reports the New York Times.
As the fallout continues over the murder of the October 2 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the messages acquired by the Times show a long-term project to “woo” Kushner — including sending a delegation to the U.S. to meet him two years ago.
According to the report, “The ties between Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed did not happen on their own. Prince Mohammed and his advisers, eager to enlist American support for his hawkish policies in the region and for his own consolidation of power, cultivated the relationship with Mr. Kushner for more than two years, according to documents, emails and text messages.”
The report continues by saying that Kushner was considered a prime target right after Trump was elected.
“A delegation of Saudis close to the prince visited the United States as early as the month Mr. Trump was elected, the documents show, and brought back a report identifying Mr. Kushner as a crucial focal point in the courtship of the new administration,” the reports states.
You can read more here.