Things aren’t going particularly well on the legal front for former Trump attorney and personal “fixer” Michael Cohen.
Cohen’s trials and tribulations began in earnest back in April when he was the subject of an FBI raid conducted on orders from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein (a.k.a, “Mr. Peepers“) after Robert Mueller referred evidence to federal authorities in New York.
That raid represented a potentially grievous blow to the President and raised all manner of questions about whether Cohen would be inclined to flip on Trump in the course of negotiating for a reduced sentence in the event he (Cohen) was charged for something and subsequently found guilty.
Initially, Trump attempted to dispel that notion. “The New York Times and a third rate reporter named Maggie Haberman, known as a Crooked H flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip'”, the President tweeted, on April 21. “Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”, Trump added.
Shortly thereafter, Cohen found himself fighting tooth and nail to fend off a deluge of truly horrible press and damning revelations about payments made to a consulting firm he ran — payments which included money linked to a Russian oligarch with whom Cohen met at Trump Tower just 11 days before the inauguration.
In June, ABC reported that Cohen was likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
Late last month, The New York Times revealed that Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump that revolved around payments to Karen McDougal. Trump was incredulous. “Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office early in the morning’ [and] even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client – totally unheard of & perhaps illegal”, he tweeted, the morning after the Times story hit.
Three days later, CNN released the tape. “He’s gonna flip”, Alan Dershowitz warned that night, on air.
Two days later, longtime Trump money man and CFO of the Trump Organization Allen Weisselberg was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury as part of the Cohen criminal probe. Hours after that, CNN reported that Cohen is prepared to tell Robert Mueller that Trump knew in advance about the infamous June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, attended by Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton by a publicist who arranged the pow wow with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
The next day – so, July 27, if you’re keeping track – Trump jumped on Twitter and suggested that Cohen was trying to wiggle his way out of trouble related to Yasya Shtayner, whose family owns Chicago Medallion Management Corp., which manages nearly 400 taxicabs. Cohen’s father-in-law loaned Shtayner millions of dollars over the past year and along with her husband Semyon, Yasya was identified in the warrant the FBI used in the April raid on Cohen’s offices and home.
Fast forward to Sunday and Cohen and taxi cabs are back in the news. According to the New York Times, investigators may file charges against Cohen by the end of this month. At issue is possible tax fraud related to some $20 million in loans to a taxi business he and his family own and, of course, suspicion that Cohen violated campaign finance laws in the course of covering up Trump’s porn star hookups. Here’s the Times:
The bank loans under scrutiny, the total of which has not been previously reported, came from two financial institutions in the New York region that have catered to the taxi industry, Sterling National Bank and the Melrose Credit Union, according to business records and people with knowledge of the matter, including a banker who reviewed the transactions.
Federal investigators in New York are seeking to determine whether Mr. Cohen misrepresented the value of his assets to obtain the loans, which exceed $20 million.
They are also examining how he handled the income from his taxi medallions and whether he failed to report it to the Internal Revenue Service.
Apparently, Sterling has been subpoenaed.
What’s weird here is that Cohen didn’t miss any payments and the banks in question never suffered any losses. Is it normal for prosecutors to charge someone with bank fraud when no losses have been incurred? Well, that depends on whether the person in question has committed other crimes (wink, wink).
Will Cohen be indicted? Well, that depends too. And guess what it depends on? Here’s the Times to explain:
A cooperation agreement would likely include a provision that Mr. Cohen also provide information to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating possible involvement by the Trump campaign in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
It is unclear whether the prosecutors and Mr. Cohen’s lawyers have had detailed discussions about a potential cooperation deal, but it is unlikely that the government would bring charges without having done so.
There are now two possibilities. If Cohen doesn’t cooperate and a plea deal isn’t reached, he’ll likely be charged before the midterms, the Times says. If discussions are ongoing, then prosecutors could wait until after November in order to “conform with the Justice Department’s informal policy of avoiding bringing politically sensitive cases that could influence voters close to an election.”
You can read the full Times article for the amusing details on the tax fraud case involving the taxi medallions, but in terms of what this presages for the President, it’s obviously not good news. If charges are brought, this would be yet another instance of a Trump associate facing serious allegations of wrongdoing, further undermining the “witch hunt” narrative and adding to the list of confidants implicated in criminal activity.
Of course the real issue for the President is what Cohen would offer as a part of a plea deal. But hey, it should be fine, right? After all, “the good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”