Trump’s Bagman is Going to Prison

Judge William H. Pauley III has sentenced Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, to three years in jail. Keep in mind that he pleaded guilty to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York’s (SDNY) charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations – in addition to the special prosecutor’s charge of lying to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow.

The judge said Mr. Cohen’s assistance to the special counsel’s office, though useful, had not “wiped the slate clean,” and a “significant term” of prison was justified.

In the end, the judge gave Mr. Cohen three years for the crimes he committed in New York and two months for lying to Congress, to be served at the same time. He was also asked to pay nearly $2 million in fines, forfeitures and restitution.

While Cohen took personal responsibility for his actions, he clearly pointed the finger at the president during his remarks in court.

“I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” he said, “and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” – a reference to Mr. Trump – “that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”

Mr. Cohen said the president had been correct to call him “weak” recently, “but for a much different reason than he was implying.”

“It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass,” Mr. Cohen said.

Personally, you can count me as someone who is skeptical about how well Michael Cohen’s “moral compass” functions, but there can be no doubt that he committed criminal acts in collusion with his client.

Since the sentencing memos were released detailing those crimes, both Trump and his enablers have been making the case that payments made as hush money to silence women with whom the president had affairs do not amount to campaign finance violations, because prosecutors have no proof that they were made to influence the election. For example, here is Rudy Giuliana four days ago:

In the case of Karen McDougal, payment was made to the National Enquirer, who then “bought” her story for $150,000 and kept it quiet. Proving Giuliani wrong, federal prosecutors dropped this little bombshell about the National Enquirer’s parent company AMI in their press release today about Cohen’s sentencing.

The Office also announced today that it has previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, in connection with AMI’s role in making the above-described $150,000 payment before the 2016 presidential election.  As a part of the agreement, AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.  AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.

That, my friends, makes it a campaign finance violation facilitated by Michael Cohen under the direction of his boss, which is yet more bad news for “individual-1.”

There was one other interesting thing to note about the sentencing hearing, which is how the representative from Mueller’s team characterized Cohen.

Jeannie Rhee, part of Mueller’s prosecution team, told the judge that Cohen “has endeavored to account for his criminal conduct in numerous ways,” providing “credible and reliable information about core Russia-related issues under investigation.” Rhee said she could not go into detail about the ongoing Russia investigation but said Cohen was “helpful” to the probe…

The special counsel’s office, for its part, seems to view Cohen as a valuable cooperator. Mueller’s prosecutors did not recommend any particular punishment in their case but said he should not serve any additional prison time beyond his sentence in the New York case.

That approach put the special prosecutor in the role of “good cop” to SDNY’s “bad cop.” The fact that Cohen might continue to be a “valuable cooperator” probably has something to do with that, which means that Trump’s bagman could have more to say about a conspiracy between the president and Russia.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.