Let’s begin this piece with a reaction tweet from our president, then work our way back, from there.
Totally clears the President. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018
Wow. He seems confident.
Or maybe among his many deficiencies we can add “basic reading comprehension skills.”
So we’re talking about special counsel Robert Mueller’s court filings today, in regards to the cases against former Trump personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. We knew they were coming, and we waited for them, with bated breath.
Just as the filings for former national security adviser, Michael Flynn were, earlier this week, these papers were also heavily redacted, but what was gleaned from those portions made public were enough to suggest that the Trump clan could be looking at real legal heat.
To begin with, Mueller did not recommend the lightest possible sentence for Cohen, up to and including no jail time, as he did with Michael Flynn.
He did, however, say Cohen had gone to what he called “significant lengths” to cooperate in the ongoing Russia probe. He also added that he’d found Cohen’s information to be “credible and consistent” with other information the investigation has turned up.
With that in mind, Mueller requested of the court that any jail time that Cohen might be sentenced to for lying to Congress, in light of his cooperation with the Russia probe, be set to run concurrent with whatever sentence is handed down, as a result of the separate investigation that was conducted by federal authorities in the Southern District of New York.
Cohen pleaded guilty to wire fraud, bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance law violations, related to Trump’s payoff of several mistresses, just before the 2016 election.
Apparently, the New York authorities aren’t moved by his efforts to redeem himself with the Russia probe, and are requesting “substantial” jail time.
Mueller, on the other hand, is feeling generous.
He also revealed that Cohen has provided the special counsel “with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with Company executives during the campaign” — an assumed reference to Cohen’s work with the Trump Organization.
Company executives. Just put that one on the back burner to simmer, for a bit.
The memo states that Cohen has shared information about his own contacts with Russians during the campaign, including outreach he received from a Russian national in November 2015 claiming to be a “trusted person” within the Kremlin offering “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.”
The individual proposed a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and “Individual 1” – an apparent reference to then-candidate Donald Trump. Prosecutors said Cohen did not follow up on the invitation.
It also says that Cohen has discussed with investigators his contacts with individuals connected to the Trump White House in 2017 and 2018 and that he “described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries.”
Right up to this year, eh?Much of Cohen’s connections to Russia involve his work as a go-between, as Donald Trump attempted to build a Trump-branded property in Moscow.
The deal ultimately fell through, but as others have pointed out, that desire to make a deal would certainly explain Trump’s courtship of Putin over the last few years.
One of the things we knew ahead of time was that Mueller was going to charge Manafort with lying to investigators, after he’d already signed a cooperation agreement.
The heavily redacted report filed in the criminal case against Manafort in Washington, D.C., comes over a week after prosecutors accused the one-time Trump campaign chief of “committing federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the special counsel’s office on a variety of subject matters” in breach of his plea agreement.
According to what special counsel is alleging, he lied about his contacts with the White House (and the Trump administration), as well as with an associate who was suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence.
“Separately, according to another Manafort colleague, Manafort said in February 2018 that Manafort had been in communication with a senior administration official up through February 2018,” the special counsel wrote in the 10-page report.
The filing details four topics on which Manafort is alleged to have misled prosecutors. These also include his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian who ran the offshoot of Manafort’s firm in Ukraine and who was charged alongside Manafort with witness tampering earlier this year. An earlier filing from Mueller suggested the FBI believes Konstantin had ties to Russian intelligence in 2016. Kilimnik has remained out of reach of U.S. prosecutors.
Mueller is claiming there is electronic evidence and travel records that back up what he’s charging Manafort with.
Manafort, according to Mueller, lied about his contacts with Kilimmik, and his role in a conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.
There is also the matter of $125,000 Manafort paid to a firm working for him in 2017. His statements to investigators about that payment have been deemed, “inconsistent.”
Finally, prosecutors allege that Manafort misled Justice Department officials working on a separate investigation, that is not described, by providing different versions of events about a subject relevant to the probe before and after his plea agreement.
Mueller said Manafort told “multiple discernible lies” in interviews with the special counsel’s office and the FBI that “were not instances of mere memory lapses.”
“If the defendant contends the government has not acted in good faith, the government is available to prove the false statements at a hearing,” he wrote.
He went on to say that in several meetings with Manafort’s attorneys, the lies and inconsistencies were brought up, but no one with his defense team pushed back or disputed that their client had lied.
Back in September, Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to launder money.
He was looking at eight more federal charges for tax and bank fraud, but those were dropped when he agreed to work with Mueller’s team.
He has since violated the terms, big time, and Robert Mueller is ready to bring the hammer down.
But please, nobody tell President Trump just how bad this all looks for his company, his campaign team, and him.
He’s apparently happier pretending otherwise.