Tuesday, July 3, 2018

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Apparently former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is getting tired of being ignored by his one-time boss who kicked him to the curb after his office was raided and is now making it very clear that he plans to talk to Robert Mueller and congressional investigators to save his own ass. WaPo's AAron Blake:

Michael Cohen once said he would “take a bullet” for President Trump. He reportedly said he would rather “jump out of a building than turn on Donald Trump.”

He now sounds ready to leap.

In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos running Monday morning, Trump's former lawyer and fixer sent his clearest signal to date that he is prepared to flip on Trump. And while there have certainly been other signs recently, this one came from the horse's mouth.

Once I understand what charges might be filed against me, if any at all, I will defer to my new counsel, Guy Petrillo, for guidance,” Cohen said.

Pressed on his past commentary about being willing to do anything for Trump, Cohen again hinted at flipping: “To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty

Cohen agreed to this interview knowing that this would be a prominent question. And it can't have been a coincidence that a trio of stories emerged a couple weeks back, all pointing toward possibly flipping on Trump. There was a Wall Street Journal story indicating that he was unhappy with Trump for not helping with his legal bills. CNN quoted an anonymous source close to him saying, “If they want information on Trump, he's willing to give it.” Then Cohen resigned as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee by citing not just the investigation he faces, but his disagreement with the Trump administration's policy of separating families at the border. That latter justification seemed conspicuous, given Cohen has pledged complete loyalty to Trump and rarely spoken publicly about policy.

And Cohen's interview came with another big signal: the reported end of a joint agreement between Cohen and Trump's legal team to share information. Such things often presage a more antagonistic relationship or even cutting a deal to inform on someone else. Michael Flynn's lawyers stopped sharing info with Trump's lawyers, for example, shortly before he flipped.

Cohen clearly wants Trump to come to his rescue, and everyone knows he has the goods on Donald.  The bigger story is that if Cohen didn't have anything worth giving to Mueller and investigators that was worthwhile at this late date, he would have been charged and would be awaiting his inevitable demise like Paul Manafort is now.  Instead, as Blake has indicated, Cohen appears headed down the Michael Flynn path, where he pleads to a small charge like "lying to the FBI" in exchange for information.  Flynn took the deal, as did Manafort's partner, Michael Gates.  Cohen is clearly next.

On the other hand, the feds already have truckloads of evidence recovered from that raid earlier this year, including shredded documents that the FBI has pieced together, and some of those have been leaked to BuzzFeed News:

When the Department of Justice announced this month that investigators had pieced together records found in a shredder belonging to the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, critics, legal experts, and journalists feverishly speculated about what they might contain.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels and Cohen's devoted nemesis, tweeted that the shredded documents could be a “huge problem.” MSNBC host Ari Melber devoted a large part of his program in May to the shredded documents and suggested that “something is going down.” Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent and CNN analyst, tweeted: “This is not going to end well for the defense.”

Now, BuzzFeed News has obtained documents reconstructed by the FBI. A close examination shows that the records are a combination of documents that prosecutors already had, handwritten notes about a taxi business, insurance papers, and correspondence from a woman described in court filings as a “vexatious litigant” who claims she is under government surveillance

Rebuilt from thin strips of paper, the shredded records are sometimes difficult to comprehend. One page doesn’t include full words and is a jumble of numbers, letters, and bar codes. One document appears to be part of an envelope. There are fragments of handwritten notes. There is an invitation to a reception in Miami to meet with business representatives from Qatar. Several of the records seem to be insurance forms for an apartment.

The clearest page documents a payment that has already been reported: a $62,500 wire transfer from March into a First Republic Bank account controlled by Cohen. This would fit with a series of payments reportedly from the Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy. He reportedly paid Cohen to negotiate a nondisclosure agreement with a former Playboy model with whom Broidy was romantically involved. A federal law enforcement source told BuzzFeed News that prosecutors already possessed some of the records dealing with Cohen’s financial transactions.

So where we go from here may not be up to Cohen at all, but Mueller and his team of prosecutors.  It's entirely possible that Mueller doesn't need Cohen himself at all.

We'll see.

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