Washington • Federal prosecutors said in a new court filing that President Donald 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.
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.
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.
"He seeks extraordinary leniency - a sentence of no jail time - based principally on his rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes; his claims to a sympathetic personal history; and his provision of certain information to law enforcement," prosecutors wrote in their filing. "But the crimes committed by Cohen were more serious than his submission allows and were marked by a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life."
The filing also suggests Cohen's cooperation with law enforcement was not so significant to the investigations swirling around the president.
“To be clear: Cohen does not have a cooperation agreement and is not receiving a Section 5K1.1 letter either from this Office or [special counsel Robert Mueller III], and therefore is not properly described as a ‘cooperating witness,’ as that term is commonly used in this district.”
Cohen was prosecuted by two separate parts of the Justice Department, Mueller's office and federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Those offices are filing separate memos Friday in preparation for Wednesday's scheduled sentencing before U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley III.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to tax evasion, making a false statement to a bank and campaign finance violations, admitting that he helped buy the silence of two women who alleged they had affairs with Trump to aid the president's campaign. Last month, he added a guilty plea to one count of making a false statement to Congress, admitting that he lied to lawmakers about a possible Trump business project in Russia.
Cohen had asked for a sentence of no prison time, stressing his extensive cooperation with Mueller, as well as investigators from other agencies. His lawyers linked his wrongdoing directly to Trump, writing that Cohen was motivated to pay the women to keep quiet and lie to Congress out of his "fierce loyalty" to Trump. Trump had publicly denied the affairs, and he had said he "stayed away" from business in Russia.
"He could have fought the government and continued to hold to the party line, positioning himself perhaps for a pardon or clemency, but, instead - for himself, his family, and his country - he took personal responsibility for his own wrongdoing and contributed, and is prepared to continue to contribute, to an investigation that he views as thoroughly legitimate and vital," Cohen's lawyers wrote in court papers submitted last week.
For his part, Trump ridiculed Cohen's request on Twitter and seemed to contrast him with Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser who has suggested publicly he would be unwilling to cooperate against the president.
Of Cohen, Trump said, “He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.” Of Stone, he said, "Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’ "