Late Friday, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a document arguing that Michael Cohen, until last year President Trump’s personal attorney, should receive a substantial prison sentence for violations of federal law to which Cohen admitted guilt in August.
The document went further than simply articulating the punishment the government believes Cohen should receive. It also fleshed out two of those charges in particular, related to violations of campaign finance laws in 2016. For the first time, government prosecutors themselves directly implicated Trump in those violations — and added new alleged evidence to bolster Cohen’s culpability.
At issue are the payments to two women who alleged sexual relationships with Trump before his running for president. In August 2016, Playboy model Karen McDougal reached an agreement with American Media Inc., publishers of the National Enquirer, that ensured she wouldn’t share her story about a lengthy relationship she’d engaged in with Trump. In October of that year, adult film actress Stormy Daniels received $130,000 to similarly stay quiet about a liaison that had occurred a decade before.
Both of those agreements were facilitated by Cohen, as he admitted in court in August. Since Cohen was an agent of the Trump campaign — Cohen was a public surrogate on its behalf and, the Friday filing notes, had a campaign email address — neither payment could be considered an expenditure independent of the campaign but were, instead, campaign contributions in excess of federal limits. That one payment came from AMI meant that Cohen had solicited an illegal corporate contribution as well. Cohen pleaded guilty to two campaign-finance-related charges in August, saying in court that he’d undertaken the actions at Trump’s behest.
Cohen making that claim in court is one thing. The government making the same allegation in a court filing is another. And on Friday, the government made that allegation.
“With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election,” the filing reads. “Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.”
We know from the broader context of the document that “Individual-1″ is the person serving as president of the United States. [Continue reading…]