SDNY prosecutors close the circle around unindicted co-conspirator ‘Individual 1,’ Donald Trump (Updated)


Unindicted co-conspirator “Individual 1,” Donald Trump, saw his convicted co-conspirator, consigliere and “fixer” Michael Cohen sentenced to prison today. Michael Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years After Implicating Trump in Hush-Money Scandal:

Michael D. Cohen, a former lawyer for President Trump, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday after denouncing Mr. Trump and explaining that “I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”

Mr. Cohen gave an emotional apology to the court for his involvement in a hush-money scandal to buy the silence of two women who said they had had affairs with Mr. Trump, payments that Mr. Cohen has said were meant to influence the 2016 election. He said his blind loyalty to Mr. Trump led him to ignore “my own inner voice and my moral compass.”

“I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” he said, “and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” — a reference to Mr. Trump — “that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”

Mr. Cohen then apologized to the public: “You deserve to know the truth and lying to you was unjust.”

Judge William H. Pauley III said Mr. Cohen called Mr. Cohen’s crimes a “veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct” and added, “Each of the crimes involved deception and each appears to have been motivated by personal greed and ambition.”

He added that Mr. Cohen’s particular crimes — breaking campaign finance laws, tax evasion and lying to Congress — “implicate a far more insidious harm to our democratic institutions.”

“As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better,” the judge said.

Prosecutors closed the circle around unindicted co-conspirator “Individual 1,” Donald Trump, by announcing a deal with the other co-conspirator in this crime, Trump propaganda tabloid trash The National Enquirer. Prosecutors Announce Deal With Tabloid Company in Trump Hush-Money Inquiry:

Federal prosecutors took a major step on Wednesday in their investigation of hush-money payments made to two women who said they had affairs with Donald J. Trump, announcing that The National Enquirer’s parent company was cooperating.

 The company, American Media Inc., the country’s biggest tabloid publisher, admitted to playing an important role in a scheme to keep the women silent before the 2016 election so Mr. Trump’s chances would not be damaged. Payments to the women amounted to campaign finance violations, federal prosecutors said.

Under the agreement with A.M.I., dated in September but previously kept private, federal prosecutors in Manhattan agreed not to charge the company in return for its cooperation. The company also agreed to train employees on election law standards and appoint a qualified lawyer to vet future deals that may involve paying for stories about political candidates.

The agreement came after David J. Pecker, A.M.I.’s chief executive, provided key testimony to prosecutors as they investigated the president’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen. Mr. Cohen received a three-year prison sentence on Wednesday in part for his involvement in the payments.

According to prosecutors, A.M.I. said its $150,000 payment in August 2016 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she’d had a 10-month affair with Mr. Trump, had been made in coordination with the Trump campaign and was intended to suppress allegations about the candidate.

From the onset of A.M.I.’s deal with Ms. McDougal, Mr. Cohen had promised to reimburse the company for the payment.

In late summer 2016, Mr. Cohen contacted Mr. Pecker about fulfilling that promise, prosecutors said in their filing on Wednesday.

Mr. Pecker agreed to sell the rights to Ms. McDougal’s story to Mr. Cohen for $125,000. To carry out the deal, Mr. Cohen incorporated a shell company called Resolution Consultants L.L.C.

Mr. Pecker also directed a consultant to complete the transaction through “a company unaffiliated” with A.M.I., prosecutors said, a technique that presumably helped mask the transaction.

In another sign that A.M.I. may have sought to hide the deal, the consultant provided Mr. Cohen with an invoice that “falsely stated” the purpose of the transaction, according to prosecutors.

The invoice attributed the $125,000 payment to an “agreed upon flat fee for advisory services,” when in fact it was to ensure Ms. McDougal’s silence at a pivotal moment in the campaign.

It was previously known that Mr. Trump was aware of Mr. Cohen’s discussions about paying A.M.I. During a recorded conversation late in the campaign, Mr. Cohen told Mr. Trump that “I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David,” a reference to Mr. Pecker.

Mr. Trump asked, “So what do we got to pay for this?”

Although Mr. Pecker signed off on the deal, he later contacted Mr. Cohen and called it off. He also instructed Mr. Cohen to tear up the paperwork, prosecutors said.

A.M.I. was also involved in the early stages of Mr. Cohen’s dealing with a second woman, the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels, who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The company did not pay Ms. Daniels but notified Mr. Cohen that she was trying to sell her story.

UPDATE: NBC News reports, Trump was in the room during hush money discussions with tabloid publisher:

Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed.

The “statement of admitted facts” says that AMI admitted making a $150,000 payment “in concert with the campaign,” and says that Pecker, Cohen and “at least one other member of the campaign” were in the meeting. According to a person familiar with the matter, the “other member” was Trump.

Trump was first identified as attending the meeting by The Wall Street Journal.

Daniel Goldman, an NBC News analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney said the agreement doesn’t detail what Trump said and did in the meeting. “But if Trump is now in the room, as early as August of 2015 and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regarding to David Pecker, you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud.”

Even FAUX News aka Trump TV was forced to confront this stark reality: Fox News’ Judge Napolitano: We Now Know Trump ‘Committed a Felony’:

Fox News host Shepard Smith invited the reliably frank Judge Andrew Napolitano on his afternoon news hour to explain just how bad the day’s news was for Trump.

“We’ve learned that federal prosecutors here in New York City, not Bob Mueller and his team in Washington, D.C., career prosecutors here in New York City, have evidence that the president of the United States committed a felony by ordering and paying Michael Cohen to break the law,” the judicial analyst said. “How do we know that? They told that to a federal judge.”

“Under the rules, they can’t tell that to a federal judge unless they actually have that hardcord evidence,” he continued. “Under the rules, they can’t tell that to a federal judge unless they intend to do something with that evidence.”

Now those same federal prosecutors have entered into an agreement with AMI, the National Enquirer’s parent company, “which ties a bow on all of this,” Napolitano added, “which connects the dots between the payments to the two women who claim they had intimate relationships with the president, and the line running through all of that is the president himself.”

“Prosecutors have told us through these filings that they have evidence that the president committed a felony?” Smith asked his guest.

“The felony is paying Michael Cohen to commit a felony,” Napolitano concluded. “It’s pretty basic.”

Trump defrauded the American electorate by covering up his illicit affairs in the wake of the Access Hollywood video. These additional revelations may have been enough to sway the 77,744 Votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan that gave Trump his upset electoral college win:

[I]t’s fair to say that the 2016 presidential election was decided by about 77,000 votes out of than 136 million ballots cast. According to the final tallies, Trump won Pennsylvania by 0.7 percentage points (44,292 votes), Wisconsin by 0.7 points (22,748 votes), Michigan by 0.2 points (10,704 votes). If Clinton had won all three states, she would have won the Electoral College 278 to 260.

Trump’s crimes to get elected only further undermine his legitimacy as president.

The new Congress has no choice but to appoint a select committee to investigate the crimes of Donald Trump with an eye towards impeachment.

UPDATE: It was an accountant who took down mob boss Al Capone. We have not yet heard from Donald Trump’s accountant, who is a cooperating witness for the Special Counsel. A big question looming over Trump just got bigger: What is Allen Weisselberg spilling about?

We already knew that Weisselberg had reached an immunity deal with prosecutors after being subpoenaed. That was significant because he has worked with Trump for decades — much more extensively than Cohen ever did — and was intimately involved in Trump’s business and many other things.

But now we know that he has been implicated in what federal prosecutors have alleged was, in fact, a crime — and what two other parties involved in the transaction are spilling about and have admitted was geared toward the election.

[T]this would seem to give prosecutors significant leverage over Weisselberg if he was involved, and his version of events better have squared with what everyone else who has talked about these transactions was saying.

David Lurie writes at The Daily Beast, With Cohen Going to Prison, Trump’s Companies and Campaign Could Be Indicted Next (excerpt):

Based on the Cohen plea and the AMI agreement, it appears increasingly likely that federal prosecutors have sufficient basis to charge the Trump Campaign with criminal campaign finance violations; and, prosecutors could well expressly ground such corporate criminal charges on the knowledge and intentions of Trump, as well as Cohen.

Furthermore, this may be only the first of several instances in which one or more Trump-owned or controlled companies could face criminal liability based upon the actions or corrupt intentions of the president.

While some legal scholars have compellingly argued that the Constitution permits the indictment of Trump before he leaves office, that’s effectively foreclosed by a long-standing Department of Justice policy.

It is, however, well established that a company is generally treated as a “person” under federal law, and therefore may be charged with liability for many crimes. Furthermore, federal courts have long recognized that, as a general matter, a company can be held responsible for offenses committed by the company’s officers and employees, or agents; acting within the scope of their employment; and with the purpose of benefiting the company. These principles could well spell trouble for Trump.

* * *

Accordingly, it is possible that Trump’s business entities, as well as the Trump campaign, could find themselves facing criminal charges for conduct relating to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and that those charges could be based in substantial part on the knowledge or intent of the companies’ owner: the president.

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