Five bombshells from the Michael Cohen memo, including information he’s given Mueller

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New court filings from special counsel Robert Mueller outline the levels of cooperation from Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Dozens of pages filed in federal court Friday give fresh insight into Michael Cohen’s world, both of a powerful attorney fixing the president’s problems and of his transition into someone in trouble who became somewhat of an open book for investigators. 

The two documents filed ahead of Cohen’s sentencing next week in New York reveal a number of bombshells from Cohen’s relationship with Moscow to his secret operation to silence women alleging affairs with Donald Trump before the 2016 election. 

The 47-pages chronicle both the misdeeds in which Cohen pleaded guilty to in August and last week in a separate case, along with a load of new information he gave to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the election and any possible coordination with the Trump campaign. 

Cohen is due to be sentenced on Wednesday on eight criminal charges, including violating campaign finance laws. The case has been investigated by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and isn’t directly related to the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. The two filings are from prosecutors in New York and with Mueller’s team, where Cohen’s has a cooperation agreement. 

Here are some of the biggest updates from the two filings: 

‘Substantial’ prison sentence recommended 

There was a pretty jarring difference between the filings from New York and the special counsel’s office.

Prosecutors in New York say Cohen hasn’t cooperated in their investigation and argued in the filing that he should receive a “substantial” prison sentence of roughly 42 months in prison for his confessed crimes.

The filing from Mueller’s office was more lenient and detailed all the ways Cohen has helped in their investigation, saying he’d met with investigators on seven occasions and this should be recognized when he’s sentenced. 

“In sum, the nature of Cohen’s conduct underscores the need for a substantial period of incarceration as a means both to promote respect for the law and to deter future abuses by other individuals seeking improperly to influence the electoral process, evade taxes, or lie to financial institutions.”
– Southern District of New York sentencing memo

Both agreed Cohen’s cooperation should be considered but prosecutors in New York alleged that Cohen’s characterization of himself that he’s turned over a new leaf after separating from the Trump administration was nothing more than a farce. 

“And for all of Cohen’s outward rectitude, he has lived a double life, which weighs heavily against a variance,” the filing in New York reads. “While Cohen has submitted letters describing his good nature, the evidence collected and witnesses interviewed in this investigation paint a decidedly different picture – a picture of someone who was threatening and abusive when he wanted to get his way.”

Moscow Trump Tower and collusion?

Cohen admitted last week to lying in front of Congress about plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow, telling lawmakers the deal ended before the campaign when it actually continued well into 2016. 

While Cohen’s guilty plea showed that Mueller’s team was examining Trump’s business interests in Russia, the special counsel filing on Friday showed the significance of the deal to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. 

“The defendant’s false statements obscured the fact that the Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government. If the project was completed, the Company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues. The fact that Cohen continued to work on the project and discuss it with Individual 1 well into the campaign was material to the ongoing congressional and SCO investigations, particularly because it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election. Similarly, it was material that Cohen, during the campaign, had a substantive telephone call about the project with an assistant to the press secretary for the President of Russia.”
– Special counsel Robert Mueller’s sentencing memo

Mueller’s office argues that the Moscow project was “lucrative” and likely required “the assistance of the Russian government.” 

The filing draws a connection between Cohen continuing to work on the project, and discussing its progress with Trump, and “efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election” because both were happening simultaneously. 

Russians and Trump in 2015

While telling Mueller’s team about his contacts with Russian during the campaign, he told investigators about a previously unknown incident that stemmed back to November 2015, only months after Trump announced he was running for president. 

Cohen told Mueller’s office that he’d spoken with a Russian national who claimed to be a “trusted person” in the Russia Federation and could offer Trump’s campaign “political synergy.” 

Cohen claimed the individual wanted to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Cohen said the meeting would have been a “phenomenal” opportunity, not only for its political impact but for Trump’s businesses because of the Moscow project, which never came to fruition.  

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Cohen said he didn’t end up following up on the meeting because “he was working on the Moscow Project with a different individual who Cohen understood to have his own connections to the Russian government.” 

That person appears to be Felix Sater, a longtime Donald Trump associate accused of having Russian mafia ties. Text messages have been publicized between the pair discussing plans relating to the deal and possible meetings with Russian officials. 

Last week BuzzFeed News also released a report detailing that Sater and Cohen planned to offer a $50 million penthouse suite to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid negotiations over a deal to build Trump Tower in Moscow.

Four topics Cohen informed Mueller about

Mueller’s office outlined four key areas where Cohen has been helpful, giving a glance into what the special counsel is examining and asking the former Trump attorney. 

The topics veered into those connected to the White House and Trump’s business, the Trump Organization, something that’s been considered a red line for the president. 

Here are the four topics that Mueller’s office said Cohen had been helpful with:

  1. Cohen offered Mueller’s investigators information on all his contacts with Russian interests during the 2016 campaign and detailed his discussions with others about those contacts. This included the Trump Tower project in Moscow and who was aware of discussions surrounding that project.  
  2. Mueller’s office says Cohen also provided certain Russian-related information that got to the “core” of the special counsel investigation. Mueller’s team was fairly vague about what this entailed but added the “discrete” information was obtained by Cohen through his constant contact with the Trump Organization. The president’s business has always been known as a red-line in the investigation, something that is sure to anger the president. 
  3. Cohen also gave “relevant and useful” information about his contacts with those “connected to the White House” from 2017 to 2018.
  4. Mueller’s investigators say Cohen offered details on how his testimony before Congress came to be, including that his responses to questions were circulated. This points to others possibly being connected, having knowledge or colluding with Cohen to mislead members of Congress in his testimony. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying during his 2017 testimony about a Trump Tower project in Moscow. 

Seven interviews with special counsel 

Since Cohen struck a cooperation agreement with Mueller’s office, he’s sat down thus far for seven interviews, “many of them lengthy,” prosecutors with the special counsel wrote in their filing. 

At the start, the special counsel’s office says, Cohen wasn’t forthcoming. He lied during his first interview in August but ever since, has been forthcoming with information and details, even correcting former statements in which he was untruthful. 

“In recent months, however, the defendant has taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct. He chose to accept responsibility for his false statements and admit to his conduct in open court. He also has gone to significant lengths to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation. He has met with the SCO on seven occasions, voluntarily provided the SCO with information about his own conduct and that of others on core topics under investigation by the SCO, and committed to continuing to assist the SCO’s investigation.”
– Special counsel Robert Mueller’s sentencing memo

Mueller’s office said Cohen’s lies in the first interview related to his testimony before Congress and the Trump Tower project in Moscow. Cohen later admitted, after pleading guilty, that he had only been untruthful in an effort “not to contradict his congressional testimony.”

Information Cohen provided has been “credible” and verified from other information the special counsel has cobbled throughout their investigation, prosecutors said. 

Mueller’s office said Cohen’s lies in the first interview related to his testimony before Congress and the Trump Tower project in Moscow. Cohen later admitted, after pleading guilty, that he had only been untruthful in an effort “not to contradict his congressional testimony.”

Information Cohen provided has been “credible” and verified from other information the special counsel has cobbled throughout their investigation, prosecutors said. 

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