A leftover from yesterday to prepare you for the not-quite-inevitable-but-probably-pretty-close follow-up story that Cohen is now cooperating with the DOJ. Quote: “He has hinted publicly and has stated explicitly in private that he is eager to tell prosecutors what he knows in exchange for leniency.”
In fact, that story and a story that Paul Manafort is also cooperating with federal prosecutors after being convicted might appear on the same day. Which makes this, in the words of lefty Paul Waldman, “The most intense and dangerous period of the Trump presidency.”
Pardons for everyone?
Federal authorities investigating whether President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, committed bank and tax fraud have zeroed in on well over $20 million in loans obtained by taxi businesses that he and his family own, according to people familiar with the matter.
Investigators are also examining whether Mr. Cohen violated campaign finance or other laws by helping to arrange financial deals to secure the silence of women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. The inquiry has entered the final stage and prosecutors are considering filing charges by the end of August, two of the people said…
If the matter is not finalized by the end of August, prosecutors probably will wait until after the election, one of the people familiar with the inquiry said in recent weeks. That schedule would conform with the Justice Department’s informal policy of avoiding bringing politically sensitive cases that could influence voters close to an election.
It’s his taxi licenses, not his hush-money payoffs to Trump mistresses or any Russia-related activities, that seem to have attracted the most interest from the feds. Presumably that’s because the guy who used to manage those licenses for Cohen is himself under investigation by the feds and already cooperating; TrumpWorld, it seems, is just a long domino series of people rolling over on one another. The alleged crime in Cohen’s case has to do with $20 million in loans he obtained in December 2014, for which he used the 32 taxi licenses (or “medallions”) as collateral. (As of 2013, a year before he received the loans, a single medallion might be worth over a million bucks. In the age of Uber and Lyft, it’s worth … less than that.) Prosecutors are reportedly interested in what Cohen was doing with the monthly income from the medallions and whether he properly reported that income to his lenders and to, gulp, the IRS. There may be fraud in the mix here.
Although I’m more interested in knowing what the hell he needed $20 million for in December 2014. Did he have some amazing real estate opportunity he wanted to invest in? Was the need for a big raft of cash somehow related to Trump’s looming presidential campaign?
The good news for POTUS is that the taxi stuff doesn’t implicate him. The bad news is that it’s a point of leverage the DOJ can use to extract information from Cohen that does incriminate Trump, assuming any exists. That’s where the bit in the excerpt about campaign-finance violations comes in: The Times notes at one point that it’s unusual for someone to be charged with bank fraud, as Cohen might be vis-a-vis the taxi loans, when there’s no evidence that those loans resulted in losses for the bank. That is, it may be that fraud is being looked at here not as the main charge against Cohen but as a supplementary charge that can be used to pressure him to cooperate on what the government’s really interested in. And here’s where I point you back to this post from Friday, noting that news is swirling lately that Cohen declined a hush-money invitation from Stormy Daniels in September 2016 only to suddenly change his mind and start negotiating with her the day after the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged a month later. That’s practically smoking-gun proof that the payment was made to influence the outcome of the election, which would make it a campaign contribution — an unreported, and therefore illegal, one. Was it the feds who leaked to the WSJ last week about the timeline of the Stormy payoff, hinting that they’re about to indict Cohen for it?
Paint me a picture in which Cohen is charged for how he handled the Daniels payoff and *doesn’t* implicate Trump. Even if it’s a pure matter of his word against POTUS’s, it’s always seemed absurd that Cohen might have issued a six-figure check for which he expected reimbursement from his client and was in fact later reimbursed without ever breathing a word of it to Trump before the deal was done. The only reason I can think of for why Cohen might fall on a grenade and refuse to point a finger at POTUS is because he’s hoping for a pardon. If you were Michael Cohen, how confident would you be that Donald Trump, who’s never seemed to think very highly of you, would bail you out of dire legal jeopardy and incur all sorts of political headaches for doing so in the process? Who’s more likely to deal with you squarely, the feds or POTUS?