BY: TANNER KENNEY
On Wednesday, December 12th, 2018, Michael Cohen – the former personal attorney to and “fixer” for embattled President Donald Trump – was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to lying to Congress about apparent campaign finance violations related to the pre-election hush-money payments doled-out to women, who allegedly had affairs with then-candidate Trump. Cohen also admitted to tax evasion in the Southern District of New York, and as part of his agreement with federal prosecutors, he has and will continue to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation into interference in the 2016 elections.
Cohen appeared before Judge William Pauley III in a New York City courtroom, yesterday morning, and his attorneys asked for leniency given their client’s extensive cooperation coupled with his intentions of making “himself available as and when needed by the Office.” Ultimately, the judge disagreed with Cohen’s attorneys and issued a punishment more congruous with the sentencing memo filed by SDNY prosecutors last week, allowing Cohen to report to a federal penitentiary in Otisville, NY by March 6th, 2019. He must also pay a $50,000.00 fine, surrender $500,000.00 in assets, and pay $1,400,000.00 in restitution to his victims, but will not have to complete community service upon the completion of his sentence.
Most notable about this agreement is the positive language used by both the prosecution and defense in their sentencing memos to the court referencing Cohen’s substantial assistance since the raid of his office, home, and hotel room in April 2018. Prior to inking a deal with the Special Counsel, he refused to fully cooperate with Mueller’s investigators as both Cohen and his associates believed he would be pardoned by President Trump. In the interim, Cohen has parted ways with attorney Lanny Davis and hired Guy Petrillo, a former prosecutor with SDNY.
This comes at a very difficult time for President Trump, legally, politically, and diplomatically, as he wrestles with a former ally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, over criminal justice reform and fends-off critics decrying the fact that, in less than 2 years in-office, the debts carried by the U.S. government have grown by the size of the entire Brazilian economy. Given the President’s public comments towards any and all who cross him, it becomes apparent why coverage of his good deeds has gone largely unnoticed.
In addition to Cohen’s 36 month-long prison sentence, the Special Counsel has begun wrapping-up the adjudication processes for several individuals central to his investigation into election interference, including former National Security Adviser and cooperating witness, Gen. Michael Flynn. As recently as yesterday morning, at least 2 of his former associates have been indicating that previously-reported contactsbetween Flynn and Sergey Kislyak, the then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S., date back farther than publicly known during the Trump Campaign.
Meanwhile, facing hundreds of years in federal prison, former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s attorneys have indicated that he does not want to hold a hearing regarding the alleged lies he told to the Special Counsel’s investigators after he agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with their investigation. All of this is also to say nothing of the ‘radio silence’ reported by alleged Mueller targets Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, both of whom claimed to have inside information regarding the hacking of then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s private emails and Julian Assange’s plan to release them in batches prior to the 2016 Presidential Election via Wikileaks.
Moreover, in a D.C. courtroom yesterday morning, alleged Russian spy Maria Butina admitted to illegally acting as a foreign agentin the United States by “knowingly engaging” in a conspiracy counter to American interests alongside the Russian government and its proxies by infiltrating American political organizations such as the Grand Old Party through entities like the National Rifle Association. Prosecutors argued that“Butina sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics.” Ultimately, the agreement ends speculation over the extent of Butina’s role in cooperating with the Mueller Probe as a status hearing has been set for February 12th, 2019, with no sentencing date scheduled.
As President Trump continues to rail against Special Counsel Mueller’s team of investigators charged with protecting the very tools created to mold and protect democracy, the number of those indicted, convicted, and cooperating with the Office has grown to an alarming number, in tandem. This list is almost certain to expand with the revelation that American Media, Inc. and its Chairman & CEO, David J. Pecker, have been granted immunity from prosecution for their role in illegal “campaign contributions upon the acceptance of responsibility, cooperation with an investigation, and compliance improvements.” On January 3rd, 2019, a new Congress will be seated with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, to-be-led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has indicated one of the first orders of business will be to obtain President Trump’s tax returns. Ultimately, the coming months and the year is guaranteed to bring with it a lot of upheaval for President Trump.
Tanner Kenney is an energy and media professional with a background in journalism and received his M.S. in Global Affairs, Environment & Energy Policy from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. Recently, Tanner has focused on the advocacy of sustainable development through renewable energy technologies, transportation efficiency, and inclusive public policy.
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