Monday 16 September 2019

Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen does not deserve prison, judge told

Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to US congress.

Michael Cohen (AP)
Michael Cohen (AP)

By Larry Neumeister

Lawyers for US president Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, say he should be spared prison for crimes he committed in an abundance of enthusiasm for his ex-boss.

They portrayed him to a judge as a hero for co-operating in a probe Mr Trump has “regularly questioned, publicly and stridently”.

The lawyers said in court papers filed in New York that Cohen, 52, has co-operated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian collusion and New York state investigators who brought a civil lawsuit against the Trump Organisation and individuals, including Mr Trump.

They cited the fact he met with Mr Mueller’s team in “seven voluntary interview meetings” that began even before he pleaded guilty on August 21 to campaign finance and bank fraud, among other charges, and continued through late November.

Cohen’s lawyers portrayed his actions as courageous (AP)

He pleaded guilty on Thursday to lying to US congress, a charge that his lawyers said resulted in part from information he voluntarily provided Mr Mueller’s team in meetings governed by a limited-use immunity agreement.

His lawyers wrote: “Michael’s decision to co-operate and take full responsibility for his own conduct well reflects his personal resolve, notwithstanding past errors, to re-point his internal compass true north toward a productive, ethical and thoroughly law-abiding life.”

They said he will continue to co-operate, though he wants to be sentenced as scheduled on December 12 so he can return to providing for his family.

Besides his cooperation with Mr Mueller’s probe into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 election, Mr Cohen has also provided the New York state attorney general’s office with documents “concerning a separate open inquiry”, the lawyers wrote. They said he also has provided information to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Cohen’s lawyers sought to address speculation over why their client has not entered into a formal co-operation agreement with prosecutors, saying Cohen was concerned that such a deal would delay his sentencing.

Special counsel Robert Mueller (AP)

“This personal decision does not signal any intention on Michael’s part to withhold information or his availability to respond to additional inquiry. To the contrary, he expects to co-operate further,” the lawyers wrote.

“But, following the execution of search warrants in this case, nearly every professional and commercial relationship that he enjoyed, and a number of long-standing friendships, have vanished.”

The lawyers portrayed Cohen as courageous for co-operating in Mr Mueller’s probe while the “investigation – and the rationale for its very existence – is regularly questioned, publicly and stridently, by the president of the United States”.

They said Cohen viewed Mr Mueller’s investigation to be “thoroughly legitimate and vital” and added that he “could have fought the government and continued to hold to the party line, positioning himself perhaps for a pardon or clemency”.

They said he co-operated for “himself, his family and his country.”

Cohen has been married for 24 years. He has two children, aged 23 and 19.

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