What's in the latest court filings about Cohen, Manafort

William Brangham:

Well, we know this has been something on the minds of many reporters who are covering this.

Certainly, the president, we saw him wake up this morning and issue several tweets in anticipation of this. He again, as he has often done, criticized the Mueller investigation, said that all of the prosecutors are conflicted. He said that this was a witch-hunt and that the whole thing should be thrown out.

What he was worried about is what happened earlier on Tuesday and what happened, of course, today, which was these three major filings detailing crucial details about the cooperation that three major figures have been providing.

Let’s take a look.

The first filing was on Tuesday, and it concerned Michael Flynn, President Trump’s short-lived national security adviser.

Last December, Flynn admitted to lying to federal agents about talks he had during the transition with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. After pleading guilty, Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team, and he’s been doing so for a year.

This week, Mueller’s office issued this heavily redacted sentencing memo asking for no prison time for Flynn, citing his extensive cooperation, including sitting for 19 interviews.

Among other matters, Flynn talked about — quote — “interactions between individuals in the presidential transition team and Russia.” The filing described Flynn as — quote — “one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation.”

Because of the redactions, however, it’s not clear what else was discussed, but the document indicates there are at least three distinct investigations he’s helping with, including the Russia probe.

Like Flynn, former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen has also been cooperating with the special counsel. Cohen first pleaded guilty in August to eight counts unrelated to his work for Trump, but then, last week, he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about negotiations he did on a failed Trump real estate deal in Moscow.

Those negotiations went on throughout the 2016 campaign, and Cohen says then-candidate Trump was updated on the discussions.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank fraud and related crimes this summer, and later pleaded guilty to other conspiracy and witness tampering charges. He too agreed to cooperate fully and truthfully with Mueller’s team, but that apparently didn’t happen, because Mueller last month accused Manafort of repeatedly lying to investigators.

So, Judy, as we just heard, Paul Manafort was accused by the prosecution of repeatedly lying, and Robert Mueller just issued a filing tonight detailing how he alleges that Manafort broke that cooperation agreement.

We will go through it and update our viewers on all of that.

But let’s turn to the Cohen filing today. This was from the Southern District of New York, 38-page filing that they put out today, and it was a very tough indictment that they put forward about Michael Cohen. They reiterated that his behavior throughout the process, they refer to it as repugnant.

They said that there is going to be some serious consequences for him. They recommended the maximum sentence for him. They detailed the four specific crimes that they are alleging he has committed.

And those crimes are willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution — these were personal loans that he took out from banks — illegal campaign contributions — these were the arranging of hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and the other women, if you remember — and then making false statements to Congress.

This was about that Moscow-Trump real estate deal that he had lied to Congress about, and now they are pointing that out.

And for this, they are recommending, prosecutors, what they say is a substantial term of imprisonment. Could be up to four years. They went on to describe Cohen’s motivations in all of this, again, pretty tough language.

Listen to this — quote — “He was motivated to do so by personal greed and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends. Now he seeks extraordinary leniency, a sentence of no jail time, based principally on his rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes.”

They went on to absolutely reject his request for leniency. They noted also — and this is important — that some of these crimes occurred right in the middle of a campaign. Remember, specifically about the Stormy Daniels hush payments, those were meant to keep someone who might have potentially very embarrassing information from going public.

He arranged what we now believe are illegal payments to her that violated campaign finance laws.

This was another quote from that regarding this payment — quote — “Cohen’s crimes are particularly serious because they were committed on the eve of a presidential election and they were intended to affect that election.”

So, tough talk from them.