Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort have both been charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
While Cohen has cooperated extensively with investigators, Manafort is playing into Trump’s fixation with loyalty and angling for a presidential pardon.
Legal experts say that given the magnitude of Cohen’s cooperation and the risks of a presidential pardon, Cohen’s strategy is likely to net him the least amount of jail time — but nothing is set in Stone.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election has unfolded like an organized crime investigation — flipping lower-level witnesses up the chain to get to those at the top.
Two of the top people ensnared in Mueller’s crosshairs, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, have adopted markedly different legal strategies, with Cohen choosing to cooperate with law enforcement and Manafort seemingly holding out for a pardon.
Cohen — President Donald Trump’s long-time personal lawyer and fixer of over a decade — has opted to cooperate with federal law enforcement at every turn. Last week, he pleaded guilty on one count of lying to Congress, a crime that usually merits a sentence of around six months in jail, as part of a plea deal to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.
“The Cohen strategy appears to look beyond the odds of winning or losing,” Alexander Stern, a practicing attorney in California who publishes legal scholarship on the Trump administration, told INSIDER on Thursday.
“Cohen knows that prosecutors are happy to agree with light sentencing recommendations for defendants who are also government witnesses…in exchange for major assistance prosecuting someone higher up on the totem pole.”
Read more: How Michael Cohen went from saying he would ‘take a bullet’ for Trump to incriminating him in a federal crime
In August, Cohen also pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York to eight federal crimes, including tax fraud, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations that he said he carried out at Trump’s behest. Cohen could have faced up to 65 years of prison, if he had gone to trial and had been convicted. Under the plea agreement, Cohen will likely serve three to five years.
While his August guilty plea did not include an explicit cooperation agreement, Cohen has given 70 hours of testimony to the special counsel’s office alone, has met with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and state investigators in New York, and has also cooperated with a separate unknown “open inquiry” conducted by the New York Attorney General’s office.
“Federal prosecutors at this level do not waste 70 hours of their time if the witness is not very useful,” Stern said. “Every day that they spent interviewing Cohen they reassessed whether he continued to be more helpful, and they found at least 70 hours of value in him.”
Read more: Michael Cohen’s lawyers dropped a slew of intriguing …read more
Source:: Business Insider