President Donald Trump says ex-lawyer Michael Cohen is a ‘weak person’ who is ‘lying’ to get a reduced sentence.’ Trump made the comments shortly after Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Trump real estate deal in Russia. (Nov. 29)
NEW YORK — The sentencing memo filed on behalf of Michael Cohen, the ex-personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, appears to implicate the powerful man he served in some of Cohen’s self-confessed crimes.
Filed by defense lawyers after Cohen entered two guilty pleas, the memo refers to Trump as the “client” or “Client-1” as it sketches Cohen allegations of Trump’s role in campaign finance violations and false statements that misled Congress.
Contradicting his powerful client, Cohen’s memo also depicts Trump as far more aware of and involved in potential plans for building a Trump Tower in Moscow than has previously been asserted publicly.
The memo urges U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley to spare Cohen from prison at a scheduled Dec. 12 sentencing. Cohen’s conduct in both sets of crimes “was intended to benefit Client-1, in accordance with Client-1’s directives,” the memo emphasized.
Trump has dismissed Cohen’s version of events as false allegations of a “weak person” angling for a lighter sentence.
Here’s a look at Cohen’s key claims:
Plans for a Moscow Trump Tower
Cohen testified to congressional committees that discussions and planning to build a Trump Tower in Russia’s capital ended in January 2016, just as the most important stages of that year’s presidential campaign began.
That was a “false summary,” the memo said.
Instead, “Michael had a lengthy substantive conversation with the personal assistant to a Kremlin official following his outreach in January 2016, engaged in additional communications concerning the project as late as June 2016, and kept Client-1 apprised of these communications,” the memo said.
“He and Client-1 also discussed possible travel to Russia in the summer of 2016, and Michael took steps to clear dates for such travel,” the filing added, referring to Trump.
If accurate, the timing outlined in the memo could mean Trump was involved in the Moscow construction plans even as he tried to minimize any connections with Russia during his winning presidential campaign.
Hush money for a Playboy model
The memo says Cohen did not personally make payments to buy the silence of “Woman-1,” an apparent reference to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had a sexual affair with Trump. He has denied that claim.
However, the memo states that Cohen “participated in payment planning discussions with Client-1 “and the Chairman and CEO of Corporation-1,” believed to be David Pecker, a Trump friend who is the chief executive of American Media, publisher of The National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids.
The National Enquirer reportedly paid McDougal for her story but did not publish it, protecting Trump from damaging publicity during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Payments for a porn star
The memo also cites similar efforts to prevent stripper and porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, from publicizing what she says was a sexual fling with Trump. He has denied her account.
According to the memo, Cohen paid Daniels “in coordination with and at the direction of Client-1, and others within the Company,” a reference to Trump and The Trump Organization.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kevin McCoy on Twitter: @kmccoynyc