Michael Cohen’s guilty plea does not require him to cooperate with federal prosecutors or special counsel Robert Mueller. But a veteran criminal defense attorney told Quartz that it’s clear Cohen is already snitching:
“Everyone made a big deal at first that he wasn’t cooperating, but I actually think he didn’t have to. He told the judge that he made payments ‘with the direction and coordination of the candidate.’ That means he was a co-conspirator with Donald Trump. That’s fucking cooperating!”
What’s more, by pleading guilty Cohen has waived his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, so he could always be subpoenaed by prosecutors if Trump is ever charged.
“It’s sort of a cute maneuver, and I’m guessing the government came up with it. Or maybe he did to make it look like he’s not a snitch,” said the lawyer, who requested anonymity to offer a more candid assessment of the situation. “Call it what you want, but he snitched.”
Cohen is due to be sentenced in December, leaving plenty of time for him to work with prosecutors from Mueller’s team and the Southern District of New York, racking up credits that would reduce the time he serves in prison. Under his current deal, he faces a sentence of up to 57 months.
It’s also highly likely that prosecutors have held a “proffer” session with Cohen, in which he offers up everything he knows. “Every DOJ deal requires that you come in to debrief with them, so they know what they’re giving up,” the attorney said.
Even without Cohen’s cooperation, the reams of evidence seized from his offices could be enough to prove Trump’s involvement in criminal campaign-finance violations, according to federal prosecutors. In a court filing, Andrea Griswold of the SDNY listed evidence including “hard copy evidence, seized electronic devices, and audio recordings made by Mr. Cohen” that would prove the charges against him, along with “text messages, messages sent over encrypted applications, phone records, and emails.”
These materials could be used as “proof on these counts at trial,” she added. One recording leaked by Cohen’s attorney has Trump acknowledging a covert payout to Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model who claimed an affair with Trump.
It’s also clear that Cohen is not counting on the benevolent intercession of Trump’s presidential pardoning powers.
“Not only is he not hoping for it, he would not accept a pardon,” Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis said on NBCs Today show. “He considers a pardon from someone who has acted so corruptly as president to be something he would never accept.”
“Cohen is either the most ridiculous person on the planet, or Lanny Davis is sure that Cohen is going to do enough to cooperate that the government is going to give him a pass,” the veteran lawyer told Quartz.