Imprisoned ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen asks for sentence reduction, blasts 'Barr-led' Justice Department

Imprisoned ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen asks for sentence reduction, blasts 'Barr-led' Justice Department
By: WNG CNBC Posted On: December 11, 2019 View: 45

Imprisoned ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen asks for sentence reduction, blasts 'Barr-led' Justice Department

President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen on Wednesday asked a judge to consider either reducing his three-year prison term to just one year, or to release him on a new sentence of just home confinement and community service.

Cohen's filing in federal court in Manhattan also asked Judge William Pauley to order a hearing "to explore, evaluate, and quantify" the cooperation that Cohen has given federal prosecutors and investigators since pleading guilty in 2018 to multiple crimes.

Cohen's lawyers suggested that the U.S. Justice Department, under the leadership of Attorney General William Barr, has not acted in "good faith" by failing to meet with Cohen since he was imprisoned, and accepting his offer of cooperation with investigations.

"In seeking a sentence reduction (not a modification) as a first offender, [Cohen] has been (a) disbarred, (b) financially crushed, and (c) personally embarassed and humiliated," the filing says.

Cohen has been incarcerated at the federal prison camp in Otisville, New York, since May 6.

If he is granted a new sentence a year and a day, as his lawyers have suggested as one option, Cohen would likely be released in mid-March at the latest, due to credit for good behavior that most federal inmates receive.

Cohen, 53, was prosecuted in separate cases by special counsel Robert Mueller and by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of York.

Mueller's office has lauded Cohen for his "substantial cooperation," in particular his giving "valuable information" about links between Trump's presidential campaign and Russians."

But federal prosecutors in New York have been less complimentary, saying Cohen "didn't come anywhere close to assisting this office in an investigation."

In the Mueller case, the Manhattan resident admitted to lying to Congress about an aborted plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

In the Southern District case, he pleaded guilty to various financial and tax crimes, a to violating campaign finance laws in connection with hush money payments to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claim to have had sexual affairs with Trump.

Cohen said he paid Daniels $130,000 and facilitated a $150,000 payment to McDougal from the publisher of The National Enquirer shortly before the 2016 presidential election to avoid them going public with their claims and damaging Trump's electoral chances.

The president has denied having sex with either women. 

A lawyer for Cohen, Lanny Davis, noted that Cohen has given "substantial assistance" to Congressional committees, Mueller's investigation, and, while in prison, to the Manhattan District Attorney's office. DA Cyrus Vance Jr.'s office is  conducting an ongoing probe of Trump's business. 

Cohen also has cooperated with a probe by New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

Davis said that Cohen has been a "model inmate" since he began serving his sentence.

"We question whether Attorney General [William] Barr, who thinks his role is to act as President Trump's personal attorney rather than the attorney for the American people, has interfered and influenced the decision not to credit Mr. Cohen for all his cooperation in bringing the facts out publicly about Mr. Trump's wrongdoing," Davis told CNBC.

"We also respectfully ask the court to consider the fairness of what appears to be unjust targeting and selective prosecution of only Mr. Cohen, who took responsibility while all others in the Trump Organization, including Mr. Trump himself, seem to have escaped accountability."

Davis and Cohen's other lawyers claim that the Barr-led Justice Department did not act in "good faith" in failing to meet with Cohen after he surrendered to serve his sentence, or support his motion.

The lawyers are seeking a hearing to explore the "motivations" of the Justice Department, Davis said.

"Cohen essentially contends the Government's position represents a consistent pattern of blind Barr loyalty to President Trump, even now as Articles of Impeachment are being drawn in the House of Representatives," Davis said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

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