Michael Cohen's decision to cooperate with federal investigators ended up slightly lessening his punishment. The lawyer who made his career protecting President Trump was on Wednesday sentenced to 36 months for crimes including making illegal hush-money payments to two women during the 2016 campaign. He is to report for prison on March 6. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Cohen, 52, stood to get about four years in prison, with US District Judge William Pauley III deciding whether the attorney would get leniency or years in prison for campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and lying to Congress about the president's past business dealings in Russia, reports the AP. What you need to know:
- In advance of his sentence being handed down, Cohen had this to say to the court, per the Guardian: "This may seem hard to believe, but today is one of the most meaningful days of my life. I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen that I deeply admired."
- That admiration appears gone. He then blamed Trump's "dirty deeds," saying: "Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds."
- The AP reports he "shook his head slightly and closed his eyes" as the sentence was read.
- His lawyers had argued for leniency. Some of Cohen's crimes, they said, were motivated by overenthusiasm for Trump, rather than any nefarious intent. Before the sentencing, his defense lawyer said Cohen "came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in our country."
- Experts said Wednesday's hearing might not be the last word on his punishment: Cohen could have his sentence revisited if he strikes a deal with prosecutors in which he provides additional cooperation within a year of his sentence, said Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit and Los Angeles. "Few things spark a defendant's renewed interest in cooperating faster than trading in a pair of custom Italian trousers for an off-the-rack orange jumpsuit," he said.
- Part of Chris Cillizza's take at CNN: "Cohen is the fourth person to be sentenced to jail as a result of the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller. (Mueller referred the Cohen case to the Southern District of New York.) The broad conclusion from those four cases is that the judicial system is not willing to accept the idea that everyone was a hapless victim here, or that no one really knew that they were doing anything but following orders."
- At the Washington Post, Adam Blake writes that Cohen's willingness to rip into Trump in court on Wednesday raises a question: "whether the speech was bluster or suggestive of something to come. Cohen suggested he covered up 'dirty deeds' almost routinely, which makes you wonder what else he might have told special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team about such deeds."
- Cohen's courtroom comments on Trump may be just the start. Cohen adviser Lanny Davis said Wednesday that Cohen "continues to tell the truth about Donald Trump's misconduct over the years" and will "state publicly all he knows" about the president after special counsel Robert Mueller completes his investigation.
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