World

Michael Cohen, ex-Trump lawyer, asks U.S. judge for leniency

NEW YORK — Michael D. Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former
personal lawyer who has twice pleaded guilty to crimes that
have implicated Trump in illegal or questionable conduct, asked
a federal judge late Friday that he be allowed to avoid prison
when he is sentenced in less than two weeks.

In a deeply personal memorandum that expressed Cohen’s
contrition and shame and portrayed him as a man whose personal
and professional lives had been shattered, his lawyers cited
his cooperation with the investigation by the special counsel,
Robert Mueller, whose legitimacy is regularly denounced by the
president.

“In the context of this raw, full-bore attack by the most
powerful person in the United States,” the lawyers wrote,
“Michael, formerly a confidant and adviser to Mr. Trump,
resolved to cooperate, and voluntarily took the first steps
toward doing so even before he was charged.”

Arguing that Cohen could have fought the government,
“positioning himself perhaps for a pardon or clemency,” the
lawyers said he instead took personal responsibility for his
wrongdoing “and is prepared to continue to contribute to an
investigation that he views as thoroughly legitimate and
vital.”

The lawyers, Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester, submitted their memo
one day after Cohen entered a surprise guilty plea in federal
court in Manhattan to a charge of lying to Congress in a case
filed by Mueller, investigating Russian interference in the
2016 election and potential ties to Trump’s campaign. In
August, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and
financial crimes in a case brought by the U.S. attorney in
Manhattan. In that plea, Cohen implicated Trump in hush-money
payments to two women during the 2016 campaign to conceal
affairs they said they had with Trump.

Cohen, 52, is to be sentenced by Judge William H. Pauley III on
Dec. 12 on the charges in both cases. The government is also
expected to file a sentencing memo.

The Cohen memo offered no new revelations about alleged
misconduct involving the president, but it shed new light on
Cohen’s role in the various investigations being conducted into
Trump and his inner circle.

He has met seven times with Mueller’s prosecutors — the first
time on Aug. 7, two weeks before Cohen entered his first guilty
plea — and he intends to keep making himself available when
needed for additional questioning, the memo said.

It revealed that he had also met twice with federal prosecutors
in Manhattan — and would continue to do so if needed —
responding to their questions concerning “an ongoing
investigation,” which the memo did not describe.

The memo noted that Mueller’s office is expected to provide the
judge with an assessment of Cohen’s cooperation, and that the
Manhattan prosecutors are to join in presenting Cohen’s
assistance as a factor for the judge to consider.

The memo disclosed that Cohen also had met voluntarily with
investigators from the New York attorney general’s office
regarding a lawsuit it has brought against Trump and his
foundation. Cohen also provided the attorney general’s office
with documents concerning “a separate open inquiry,” the memo
added, also offering no elaboration.

Threaded throughout the document were testimonials from people
closest to Cohen — drawn from some three dozen letters which
were also submitted — depicting an image of generosity that
undercuts the public perceptions of him since his guilty plea.
The most powerful letter was from his 83-year-old father,
Maurice Cohen, a Holocaust survivor, who wrote that his son is
“the oxygen in the air that I breathe.”

“I pray and beg, beg and pray that you won’t take my oxygen
away from me,” the elder Cohen wrote.

One writer after another told stories of Cohen’s generosity,
and his intervention to help friends and acquaintances with
problems like a sick child or business difficulties, with no
expectation of anything being done for him in return.

The document provides the first on-the-record glimpse of much
of what has been reported to have taken place between Cohen and
Trump in relation to arranging for payments made to two women
who claimed to have previously had affairs with the candidate.

The memo refers to “Woman-1,” who appears to be Karen McDougal,
a former Playboy model who was paid by The National Enquirer
for her story. The magazine, whose chief executive, David
Pecker, is friends with Trump, then buried the story. The memo
mentions that “Client-1,” as Trump is described throughout, did
not reimburse the corporation that made the payments to her, as
he had agreed to.

The memo notably depicts Cohen as an unsophisticated and flawed
man who was trying to please an exacting, demanding and
powerful boss — Trump.

His lawyers also said Cohen realized his guilt in lying to
Congress about the duration of his involvement with the Trump
Tower project he was exploring for Moscow. But they wrote that
Cohen did so because he knew Trump wanted to “dismiss and
minimize the merit” of the special counsel’s inquiry, and that
he and his aides “were seeking to portray contact with Russian
representatives in any form by Client-1, the campaign or the
Trump Organization as having effectively terminated before the
Iowa caucuses of Feb. 1, 2016.”

Cohen’s false statements to Congress and his assistance to
Trump with the hush-money payments arose out of his “fierce
loyalty” to Trump, the lawyers wrote.

“Michael regrets that his vigor in promoting Client-1’s
interests in the heat of political battle led him to abandon
good judgment and cross legal lines,” they added.

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