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Cohen’s knowledge of Trump-Russia conspiracy could be ‘game-changer’

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michael cohen court
Michael Cohen exits
federal court in New York City on August 21,
2018.


Drew
Angerer/Getty Images



  • Michael Cohen’s lawyer suggested that Cohen has
    information about President Donald Trump’s knowledge of
    Russia’s election interference and failure to report that to
    the FBI.
  • If Cohen does have such information and it can be
    corroborated, “I think that’s HUGE,” said one legal
    scholar.
  • Cohen’s plea deal currently does not include a
    cooperation agreement, and his lawyer likely dangled
    information about his client’s willingness to work with Mueller
    in order to secure a cooperation deal.

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Lanny Davis, the defense attorney representing Michael Cohen,
dropped another bombshell about his client’s potential knowledge
of President Donald Trump’s actions on Wednesday.

He suggested that Cohen has
information
about Trump’s knowledge of Russia’s election
interference and failure to report that to the FBI.

Cohen is Trump’s former longtime personal lawyer, and he pleaded guilty on Tuesday
to eight counts related to tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign
finance violations. He said he broke campaign finance law at
Trump’s direction.

Davis told MSNBC on Wednesday that Cohen “knows information that
would be of interest to the special counsel regarding both
knowledge about a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy by the
Russians, and the failure to report that knowledge to the FBI.”

He had previously teased that Cohen had “knowledge on certain
subjects that should be of interest to the special counsel,” but
he came right out and suggested a smoking gun
on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

‘That’s HUGE’


Michael Cohen and Donald Trump
Michael Cohen and Donald
Trump.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Sean
Gallup/Getty Images; Jenny Cheng/Business
Insider


“I think that’s HUGE,” Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell
Law School, told Business Insider in response to Davis’ comments.

“If Cohen will testify that Trump was aware of, and approved of,
contacts between his campaign and Russia, then that’s a real
game-changer for the Mueller investigation.”

Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Chicago,
echoed that view.

Davis’ claim that Cohen has evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy
is “extremely important if true and can be corroborated,” Cramer
said. But he added that it was unclear why Davis announced it on
national television.

“If he does have verifiable information, then give a call to the
prosecutors,” he said. “I’m sure they’d listen.”

Cohen’s guilty plea did not come as part of the Russia probe, but
as part of a Manhattan US attorney’s office investigation into
whether he committed bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance
violations while working for Trump.

His plea deal does not currently include a cooperation agreement,
and legal scholars suggested that could be because prosecutors
did not feel he had enough information to warrant a further
reduction in his sentence, which will likely be three to five
years.

But if Mueller feels Cohen has information of value related to
the Russia investigation, he could argue for a more lenient
sentence for Trump’s former lawyer.

Cohen says Trump knew about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting

Mueller is tasked with investigating Russia’s interference in the
2016 election, whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow,
and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice during the course of
the investigation.

While the president is the central subject of Mueller’s
obstruction inquiry, his role in the collusion thread remains
murkier.

In recent months, Trump attracted increased scrutiny after
several of his associates suggested he knew more than he was
letting on about a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump
campaign officials and two Russian lobbyists offering dirt on
then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.


Trump Jr. Russia meetingSkye Gould/Business Insider

Last month, it emerged that Cohen said Trump knew in advance
about the meeting. CNN reported that Cohen claims he
was one of several people who were present when Donald Trump Jr.
informed Trump of the offer. Cohen reportedly said Trump greenlit
the meeting after hearing about it from his son.

The president maintains he did not know about it until after it
was reported in the media. He also recently acknowledged on
Twitter that Trump Jr. took the meeting to get dirt on Clinton
and not, as he said in previous statements, to discuss Russian
adoptions.

Davis may have been ‘dangling information’ to get Cohen a better
deal


Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller.
Alex
Wong/Getty Images


Cohen is currently a subject of interest in several threads of
the Russia investigation, including:

  • the Trump Organization’s push to build a Trump Tower in
    Moscow,
  • the creation of a Russia-friendly “peace plan” during the
    early days of Trump’s presidency,
  • and his potential involvement in an unconfirmed trip to
    Prague during the summer of 2016 to meet with Kremlin-linked
    officials.

“Given Cohen’s level of intimacy with Trump and his circle, it is
at least highly likely that Cohen has information touching on
those people in regards to Russian interference,” said Patrick
Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who has worked with members
of Mueller’s team in the past.

He added that while it’s unusual for a defendant to plead guilty
before securing a cooperation agreement, it’s not unheard of for
the parties to want to enter the plea first and work out the
details of cooperation later.

Cotter said he expected that was the case here. If they work out
a deal later, Cohen could get a lighter sentence if he’s a
cooperating witness for Mueller’s investigation.

Speculation mounted that Cohen was moving toward a plea deal as
early as June, when he hired Guy Petrillo as his new defense
lawyer. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told Business Insider at the
time that Petrillo was “the kind of lawyer you would hire if you
wanted to keep open the option of cooperation.”

That speculation doubled in July when Cohen brought Davis, a
Washington powerhouse famously associated with the Clinton
family, onto his team.

“As soon as he hired Davis, it was clear Cohen wanted to
cooperate,” Cramer said. “He’s not the guy you hire if you want
to go to trial.”

Davis told Business Insider’s
Allan Smith
on Wednesday that Cohen “feels liberated that he
can finally speak his mind about his concerns about Donald
Trump.”

By dropping hints about Cohen’s potential knowledge pertaining to
the Russia probe, Davis may have been “dangling information” to
secure a cooperation deal for his client, Ohlin said.

“Or maybe he’s just giving everyone a preview of what Cohen might
say.”

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