One of the more livid denunciations

Ken White (aka Popehat) at the Atlantic walks us through yesterday’s prosecutorial briefs.

In the first one, the Special Counsel’s Office explains how Manafort blew his cooperation agreement by lying, and it does so with great confidence; it’s clear that they have the receipts.

In the second, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York responds to Cohen’s lawyers’ brief last week requesting no prison time.

The prosecutors’ rebuttal of Cohen’s sentencing brief is one of the more livid denunciations I’ve seen in more than two decades of federal criminal practice. The Southern District concedes that Cohen provided some information to it, to the Special Counsel, and to the New York Attorney General. But Cohen refused to cooperate fully; he declined to engage in a full debriefing about everything he knew or commit to ongoing meetings, and he only spilled about the things he’d already admitted in his plea. That’s not how cooperation works. In this game, you either cooperate fully or you shut up; there is no middle ground.  It’s not surprising that Cohen’s stance angered the notoriously proud Southern District prosecutors.

The New York prosecutors blast Cohen’s “rose-colored view of the seriousness of his crimes,” accusing him of a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” Prosecutors portray Cohen as stubbornly obstructing his own accountant to cheat at taxes, even refusing to pay for accounting work that raised inconvenient issues he wanted suppressed. When it comes to Cohen’s campaign finance violations, the prosecutors’ fury leaps off the page.  Cohen, they say, schemed to pay for two women’s stories (Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, we now know) in violation of campaign finance laws to influence the 2016 election, and did so “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1” – that is, the president of the United States.  As the brief puts it:

While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1. In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.

Legal writing can be a joy. Remember the Kitzmiller ruling? That is one hell of a good read. This one right here is another goody.

Maddow highlighted that same passage last night, with her very best intensity and clarity. It brings it all into focus, doesn’t it. Dirty Cohen used Dirty Trump’s money to silence two women whose stories could have sunk Trump’s campaign, and what happened? Trump did indeed win the election (though not the popular vote) and so now here we are stuck with this terrible, monstrous, destructive pig-man who is dragging the US into the sewer he lives in. Cohen’s intervention may have been decisive in the sense that without it Trump would have lost.

And it was a felony. And he did it at Trump’s direction. Trump committed a felony.

Back to Ken White:

If the Southern District’s fury at Cohen is notable, its explicit accusation that President Trump directed and coordinated campaign finance violations is simply stunning. The prosecutors’ openness suggests they are sure of their evidence and have mostly finished collecting it. It’s a sign of a fully-developed, late-game investigation of the president’s role, one that may soon make its way to Congress.

And last there’s Mueller’s sentencing brief in Cohen’s lying-to-Congress case.

Mueller discloses that Cohen has “taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct” by pleading guilty to lying to Congress and meeting with the Special Counsel seven times to discuss his own conduct and other “core topics under investigation.” That includes information about multiple contacts between other Trump campaign officials and the Russian government, and about Cohen’s contact with the White House in 2017 and 2018, suggesting an ongoing inquiry into obstruction of justice. Most significant, the Special Counsel indicates Cohen “described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements within it.”  That statement suggests that the Special Counsel believes that someone in the Trump administration knew of, and approved in advance, Cohen’s lies to Congress. That’s explosive, and potentially impeachable if Trump himself is implicated.

Maddow leaned on a key point in that one, which is that Cohen’s lies to Congress were public, and that that means that they functioned (and perhaps were intended) as instructions for others who might have to talk to Congress on the subject. It also means Russia knew about them, which means Cohen was compromised.

Neal Katyal’s take is also interesting.

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