Cohen talked with Trump about meeting Putin during campaign
President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen says he “conferred” with Trump about setting up a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the early part of the 2016 presidential campaign, according to an explosive document filed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller in Manhattan.
Initially, Cohen said his September 2015 comments on Sean Hannity’s radio show predicting a “better than likely chance” that Trump would meet Putin that week at the UN General Assembly were “spontaneous and had not been discussed within the campaign.”
But he admitted to prosecutors “that his account was false and that he had in fact conferred with Individual 1,” which is how Trump is identified in court papers.
The meeting didn’t take place.
Trump also schemed with his longtime personal lawyer and fixer to make hush-money payments to a porn star and Playboy model, according to a separate 40-page document filed by Manhattan federal prosecutors Friday.
Trump claimed that the feds’ filings vindicated him.
“Totally clears the President. Thank you!” he tweeted shortly after the report’s release.
But prosecutors gave him no such clearance.
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In fact, Mueller said Cohen provided substantial assistance to his team in its probe into Russian interference in the presidential race as well as “useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period.”
Mueller said Cohen also shared information about his own contacts “with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others in the course of making those contacts.”
In what appeared to be a new disclosure, Mueller said that around November 2015, Cohen spoke with a Russian national who could offer the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.”
The Russian “repeatedly proposed a meeting between Individual 1 and the president of Russia,” Mueller said in the court papers.
“The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a ‘phenomenal’ impact ‘not only in political but in a business dimension as well.’ ”
But Cohen didn’t follow up.
Unlike Manhattan prosecutors in their filing, Mueller recommended leniency for Cohen when he is sentenced Wednesday by US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan on all of the charges to which he pleaded guilty.
Manhattan prosecutors said in their sentencing filing that Cohen committed campaign-finance crimes “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual 1.”
It was the first time the feds directly linked Trump to hush- money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal — a fact noted by former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
“Just to make it crystal clear, New York federal prosecutors concluded that the President of the United States committed a felony,” he tweeted.
Trump denied the claims and called both Mueller’s team and the federal prosecutors liars.
Manhattan prosecutors said Cohen should serve “a substantial term of imprisonment” despite his cooperation.
Cohen’s crimes “were more serious than his submission allows and were marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life,” they said.
Prosecutors urged Pauley to hit Cohen with a $500,000 fine and forfeit his assets in addition to the prison sentence.
The Manhattan feds noted Cohen’s cooperation but said it was limited.
“While the office agrees that Cohen should receive credit for his assistance in the [special counsel] investigation, that credit should not approximate the credit a traditional cooperating witness would receive, given, among other reasons, Cohen’s affirmative decision not to become one,” they wrote.
“For these reasons, the office respectfully requests that this court impose a substantial term of imprisonment,” they said, recommending that he be granted “a modest downward variance” from the 51 to 63 months in prison he is facing.
The documents offered a harsh explanation for Cohen’s crimes, saying he was motivated by greed.
“While Cohen — as his own submission makes clear — already enjoyed a privileged life, his desire for even greater wealth and influence precipitated an extensive course of criminal conduct,” they said.
The feds argued that Cohen’s cooperation after his extensive crimes should not make him a hero.
“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,” they wrote.
Cohen pleaded guilty to financial crimes in a federal court in New York in August and last week pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in a case brought by Mueller.
The court documents disclosed that Trump hired Cohen in 2007 for $500,000 a year after he ousted the board of a condo that was trying to remove Trump’s name from its building.
Trump had earlier said Cohen became his employee after he did him a “favor,” without specifying what it was.
Also Friday, Mueller filed a report that said former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors about his contacts with the White House and a pal with ties to Russian intelligence while under investigation.
The heavily redacted report came more than a week after prosecutors accused Manafort of “committing federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the special counsel’s office on a variety of subject matters,” violating his plea agreement.
The report was expected to provide more information on Mueller’s probe, but federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted the special counsel’s request to file the report under seal and ordered a redacted version to be released.
With Post Wires
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