Cohen Is Talking To Mueller. Trump May Not Like What He’s Saying.
The Lede: President Trump’s former personal lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen has gone from saying he would “take a bullet” for Trump to potentially becoming the silver bullet that could bring his presidency to a screeching halt. Michael Cohen is now cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He’s reportedly sat down with the Special Counsel’s office for hours, on multiple occasions over the last month since his guilty plea to the Southern District of New York. And he’s doing it without guaranteed leniency on his sentence. Cohen’s lawyer confirmed this is the case:
Good for @michaelcohen212 in providing critical information to the #muellerinvestigation without a cooperation agreement. No one should question his honesty, veracity or loyalty to his #family and #country over @potus @realdonaldtrump
— Lanny Davis (@LannyDavis) September 21, 2018
The interviews with Mueller reportedly cover the potential conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign to win the 2016 election, Trump’s business dealings, as well as whether Trump spoke to Cohen about a potential pardon (obstruction of justice evidence). On top of this, Cohen is also reportedly cooperating with the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into the Trump Organization and the New York Attorney General’s investigation into the Trump Foundation.
This comes after Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 felony counts that include bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance violations (2 campaign finance counts implicate President Trump).
Aside from his role as Trump’s counsel, Cohen was the vice-president of the Trump Organization for a decade, the co-president of Trump Entertainment, and was a board member of the Eric Trump Foundation.
Needless to say, if there are any additional crimes to discover, Michael Cohen would know about them.
The Context (What Cohen Knows): Cohen has already implicated Trump in his campaign finance violations. As we know, the National Enquirer paid former Playboy Model Karen McDougal $150,000 to purchase and suppress the story about her 2006 affair with Donald Trump. The payment was made in August 2016. David Pecker, the chairman and CEO of the National Enquirer’s parent company, is a friend of Donald Trump’s…but apparently, not anymore. After Cohen pleaded guilty to coordinating with the National Enquirer, it was revealed that Pecker received immunity from federal investigators.
Cohen recorded a tape in Septemeber 2016 where Donald Trump discussed purchasing the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s affair story from the National Enquirer. It was released by CNN. When Cohen pleaded guilty, he claimed that he was coordinating this criminal conduct at the request of Trump.
Cohen may have knowledge about whether or not then-candidate Trump approved the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting ahead of time. The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was held between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, then-Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, Natalia Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer and self-described informant), and Russian operatives. Donald Trump Jr.’s own emails and congressional testimony revealed that he was very eager about the prospect of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton, but his initial story about the meeting was very different.
It would make sense that Candidate Trump was aware, given the fact on June 7th, Candidate Trump said he was going to do a speech about Hillary Clinton’s wrongdoings (the speech never happened). Also, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani confirmed that there was a preparatory meeting that occurred between Trump’s campaign team on June 7th, the same day as the speech announcement.
Another subject Michael Cohen could provide insight on if he cooperates with Special Counsel Robert Mueller are the Trump Tower Moscow deals. Over the last several decades, President Trump has pursued multiple Trump Tower deals in Moscow. One of those pursuits has drawn the attention of Mueller.
According to questions drafted by Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow, Mueller is seeking to ask the following question:
“What communication did you have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater, and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign?”
While Donald Trump was running for president, the Trump Organization sought to develop a huge Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump signed a letter of intent in October 2015, a few months into his presidential campaign, to pursue this venture. Trump’s longtime mob-connected associate, and at times FBI informant, Felix Sater was working closely with Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen (at the time he played the role of Trump Organization Executive Vice President) towards this deal.
Cohen has publicly stated that the deal fell through in January 2016. Documents obtained by Buzzfeed News indicate that the deal was still actively being pursued well into June of the 2016 campaign. It didn’t stop there. Plans were reportedly being discussed for then-candidate Donald Trump to meet face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir after the Republican Convention:
This is, assuming it’s true, a holy shit story: While Trump was preparing for the Republican convention in spring 2016, Michael Cohen was still negotiating Trump Tower Moscow and was working on a Trump-Putin meeting to take place after the convention to finalize the deal. pic.twitter.com/MheCbmdUor
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) May 17, 2018
Let’s put the timing of this in perspective. This deal was still being pursued while Donald Trump’s family and campaign chairman sought dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russian operatives who were seeking sanctions relief in that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. This deal was still being pursued right as Wikileaks prepared to release DNC emails that were DNC emails obtained through a Russian intelligence operation (leaks that Trump and his family relentlessly helped disseminate through their promotion of the leaks).
Cohen also received over a million dollars from various companies for access to Donald Trump.
Cohen’s role in the Trump Organization would place him in a position that could provide some serious insight into the allegations of money laundering that Donald Trump has faced due to his business with Russian oligarchs. On top of this, through its multiple failures and successes and its alleged frauds and schemes, CFO Allen Weisselberg has seen it all. He has now been granted immunity by the Southern District of New York.
If you want to dive deeper into those business ties, read our five-chapter Trump-Russia saga.
The Analysis: Cohen is one of five Trump associates who pleaded guilty to federal charges. Paul Manafort has pleaded guilty to 1 count of conspiracy against the United States (money laundering, working as an unregistered foreign agent, and lying to investigators) and 1 count of obstruction of justice (witness tampering). Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, also pleaded guilty to felony charges. All of them secured cooperating agreements with federal investigators.
Manafort’s recent cooperation agreement made Mueller’s probe significantly more threatening to President Trump. But now, with Michael Cohen openly cooperating with several investigations, Trump’s business empire that brought about his rise, may end up bringing about his downfall.