Federal prosecutors have drawn greater ties between Russia and those linked to President Trump on Friday, in a trio of deposits in the Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort cases.
On Friday afternoon, we saw the sentencing recommendations against Cohen both by the Southern District of New York and by the inquiry of the special advocate Robert S. Mueller III on Russia, as well as by a Mueller's team documenting the alleged lies of Paul Manafort.
In all three cases, the plot is slightly thickened for Trump. You will find below the main takeaways.
1. SDNY: Cohen exaggerated his cooperation with Mueller
This is perhaps the biggest advantage with regard to the SDNY document – and its relevance to Trump. We knew that Cohen had never technically entered into a cooperation agreement with SDNY or Mueller, but he made a big public demonstration of what he seemed to be trying to repair his wrongs by telling prosecutors everything. that they had asked.
It turned out to be too much for the SDNY team.
"The description of these efforts by Cohen is overestimated in some respects and incomplete to others," prosecutors said. "Let's be clear: Cohen does not have a cooperation agreement and does not receive a letter under Section 5K1.1 or from this office or from the [special counsel, or SCO]and is therefore not properly qualified as a "cooperating witness" as this term is commonly used in this district.
They add later: "If the information provided by Cohen to SCO is to be commended, his description of his actions as a result of a personal will – rather than the hanging of criminal charges and the desire for clemency – ignores that Cohen He first went to the SCO meeting at a time when he knew that he was under imminent threat of an indictment in that district . As such, any suggestion by Cohen that his interviews with the forces of order reflect a selfless and impromptu reversal is overestimated. "
Prosecutors ultimately demanded a "modest" reduction in Mr. Cohen's sentence, for which the guidelines recommend a period of 51 to 63 months. (This is distinct from the plea agreement reached between Cohen and Mueller last week – as a lie – for which Mueller had recommended that his sentence be executed in parallel to that of SDNY.)
2. The government involved Trump in the crimes of Cohen
We knew through his plea agreement in which he had admitted eight crimes, that Cohen had implicated Trump in election campaign violations involving the payment to Stormy Daniels. But, as The Post's Philip Bump points out, SDNY prosecutors also say that Trump's role in payment management is a clear fact.
"In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with regard to both payments, he acted in coordination with and under the direction of Individual-1", they said (referring to new to Trump as "Individual-1", last week did).
As Bump writes:
Link Trump to the knowledge of payment and payment to the campaign is important. One of Trump's defenses is that he regularly charged his lawyer to keep women silent about their stories. The government file indicates that AMI and Cohen discussed the help provided by the company to such gains as early as 2014. But references to the justification of payments made in 2016 and the inclusion of the sentence The candidate's "leadership" reinforces the evidence that the payments made by McDougal and Daniels were not trivial.
Given that Cohen indicated that the payments were supposed to have an influence on the election and that they came under the direction of Trump, Lawrence Noble, former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, told The Post : "There is no problem in that Cohen, the campaign and the candidates are responsible for violations of the campaign's funding. "
3. Cohen was contacted by a Russian national in 2015
One potential clue for the collusion inquiry concerns a contact received by Cohen in 2015 by a "Russian national" looking for a "synergy" between the campaign and the Russian government.
Extract from Mueller's document:
The defendant also provided information on attempts by other Russian nationals to participate in the campaign. For example, around November 2015, Cohen received contact information from a Russian citizen who claimed to be a "trusted person" in the Russian Federation and who could offer the campaign a "political synergy" and a " synergy on governmental. The defendant recalled that this person had repeatedly proposed a meeting between the individual 1 and the President of Russia. The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a "phenomenal" impact "not only politically but also commercially", referring to the Moscow project because "the guarantee in a project does not Is not greater than the consent of [the President of Russia]. "However, Cohen did not respond to this invitation.
4. Mueller seems interested in Russia's relations with Trump's business
The writing was on the wall for that when Mueller reached an advocacy agreement with Cohen for lying on such issues last week; it was the best explanation for Cohen's pursuit of the public record of Trump Tower Moscow.
But the Mueller document makes it clear that Cohen has provided him with information about these issues, information that interests him and is called "useful."
"Secondly, Cohen provided the SCO with useful information on some of the distinct Russian-related issues that were essential to his investigation, which he had obtained through his regular contacts with the USSR. [The Trump Organization] leaders during the campaign, "says Mueller's team.
Elsewhere in the document, they elaborate:
The defendant's false statements obscured the fact that the Moscow project was a lucrative business opportunity that required and probably required the assistance of the Russian government. If the project was completed, the company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in license fees and other revenues. The fact that Cohen continued to work on the project and to discuss it with Individual 1 throughout the campaign was instrumental in the ongoing investigations in Congress and SCO, not least because the Russian government had made sustained efforts. to interfere in US presidential affairs. election. Similarly, during the election campaign, it was evident that Cohen had had a phone call about the project with an assistant press officer of the President of Russia.
It's Mueller who explains why it would be fair to look at Trump's attempt to do business in Russia and the importance of this issue in the collusion investigation.
5. The alleged lies of Manafort were also centered on Russia – and dealt with a large
As soon as we learned last week that Manafort would have lied to Mueller's team, in violation of his cooperation agreement, the question was what. What was it worth to lie for a man whose cooperation was required for the clemency that he was apparently looking for?
Friday's record in this case does not shed much light on what Mueller knows, but it is worth noting how much Manafort's lie would be tied to his colleague in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik, who, according to the US government, links with Russian intelligence.
Mueller's team said that Manafort lied about a meeting with Kilimnik and Kilimnik's role in "a criminal conspiracy" to have two witnesses against Manafort alter their testimony.
Much of the document is written, but the volume of Kilimnik in it raises an obvious question: why was Manafort trying to protect it? And could this link somehow play into the wider collusion probe? Did Manafort really fear that a stranger was in trouble or was he worried that Mueller would connect points that he did not want to connect?
Many more questions. Not many more answers. But we have a little idea of what interests Mueller and what could be hidden.