Special counsel Robert Mueller files new details on Trump aides

President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen deserves “a substantial term of imprisonment” for a number of financial crimes, federal prosecutors in New York said Friday.

In separate filings, prosecutors and special counsel Robert Mueller’s office laid out their recommendations for Cohen’s sentencing next week and for the first time detailed the degree of his cooperation with the Russia probe.

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes including tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws, including paying hush money on behalf of Trump to women with whom the president had affairs. Last week, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about an aborted Trump Organization real estate project in Russia.

Court papers filed by Mueller said Cohen went to “significant lengths” to assist the Mueller probe, although he initially lied in August.

Cohen “provided information about his own contacts with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others in the course of making those contacts,” the court documents said.

Mueller said the president’s former right-hand man had dealings with the Kremlin late into 2016 to facilitate the construction of a Trump skyscraper in Moscow. Cohen also provided information about Russian contacts with the Trump campaign.

Prosecutors said that although Cohen has cooperated with the Mueller probe he nonetheless deserves to spend time in prison.  

Separately, Mueller submitted a court filing in the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. According to the filing, Manafort lied to investigators on multiple occasions about ties to Russian-Ukranian political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik, who is accused of obstruction of justice. He also lied about a payment to a firm working for Manafort and contacts with Trump administration officials.  

The latest drips

The Manafort and Cohen filings will come on the heels of a similar sentencing filing for former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn last Friday. The Flynn filing suggested he should serve no prison time, for providing “substantial” cooperation.

The court filings are part of the endless drip of information coming to light as to the findings of Mueller and his team, who have been notoriously tight-lipped about the status of their investigation. The only clues to the course of the investigation have come from previous filings and convictions. It is expected that the special counsel is nearing the end of its 19-month investigation but nothing is certain at this point.

Trump on the rampage

One thing, however, seems glaringly obvious: President Donald Trump is increasingly agitated. On Friday, the president went on a raging Twitter rant, attacking Mueller and his team in a series of tweets. 

Beyond the president’s usual claims that Mueller’s investigation is a witch hunt and accusing him of having conflicts of interest without substantiating those claims, Trump announced that his lawyer Rudy Giuliani was preparing a response to the pending Mueller report: “We will be doing a major counter report to the Mueller report.”

Comey on the Hill

Separately, former FBI Director James Comey, who was also attacked in Trump’s early-morning Twitter flurry, appeared on Capitol Hill to deliver closed-door testimony before two panels at the US House of Representatives. It was Trump’s firing of Comey in May 2017 that triggered the Mueller investigation. The firing has subsequently been a focal point, raising the issue of whether Trump has actively obstructed justice.

Mueller’s new boss?

On Friday Trump also announced that he had selected William Barr as his nominee for the position of US attorney general, a position Barr held under former President George H.W. Bush. Barr would replace ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump hounded for failing to protect him from the Mueller probe.

Barr has voiced support for Trump’s firing of Comey and his constant calls to reopen investigations into political rival Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, Barr, who would be in charge of the Mueller probe should he be confirmed by the Senate, has questioned the political fairness of the team’s members, suggesting they were biased against Trump.

js/rt (AP, Reuters)

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