By Paul Waldman Paul Waldman Opinion writer covering politics Email Bio Follow Opinion writer December 7 at 6:01 PM At the end of the day Friday, we learned what federal prosecutors in New York think of Michael Cohen :
Federal prosecutors said in a new court filing that President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen should spend significant time in prison — saying his assistance to investigators probing the president does not outweigh his past crimes.
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The filing was made Friday as Cohen prepares to be sentenced next week in two separate cases, one involving campaign finance violations and lying to a bank, and another in which he admitted to lying to Congress about efforts during the 2016 presidential campaign to get a Trump Tower built in Moscow.
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Cohen had asked for a sentence of no prison time, citing his cooperation with investigators, but prosecutors for the Southern District of New York filed a memo arguing that he should serve significant time, possibly years, in prison.
This is bad news for Cohen, but there’s something else interesting in the filing : Prosecutors explicitly state that Cohen coordinated with President Trump on hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal over his alleged affairs with them: “as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.” That’s Donald Trump.
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We knew this already — and we knew that Trump lied about it, claiming not to know about the payments — but this says that prosecutors believe that Trump ordered Cohen to commit a crime
That brings us to the second document that dropped at the same time, from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office. In contrast to the New York prosecutors, Mueller states that Cohen’s cooperation in his investigation was substantial and helpful. But much of what Mueller has to say is vague. For instance:
Cohen provided the [special counsel’s office] with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with [Trump Organization] executives during the campaign
What does that refer to? We don’t know. That means that there is more to this story that Mueller has yet to reveal
And he will reveal it. One of the remarkable things about the discussion we’ve been having lately is that the president still seems to think that he can be saved from whatever this investigation uncovers. He just announced that William Barr will be his next attorney general, and the New York Times reported that in private, “Mr. Trump has also repeatedly asked whether the next pick would recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Russia in its interference in the 2016 election.” It’s as though he thinks this investigation is in its early stages and can be quashed by a properly loyal underling
But at this point it doesn’t matter. It’s far too late. Trump‘s former aides have cooperated, they’ve conducted their interviews with the special counsel, they’re being sentenced, the documents have been reviewed, the connections have been traced, and the full picture is soon to be revealed
This scandal can’t be hidden away. Republicans in Congress can’t save Trump, his attorney general can’t save him, and no amount of desperate tweets can save him. Accountability is on its way, and it’s arriving very soon