"I’m not the one that slept with the porn star"

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The Southern District prosecutors declined to comment, but one can speculate about why they gave passes to Pecker, Weisselberg, Don, Jr., and the President. The prosecutors were clearly trying to pressure Cohen into coöperating, and they needed a witness who could tie him to a scheme to make illegal campaign contributions. Pecker fit that bill, so the prosecutors were willing to give him immunity. Weisselberg had much to offer prosecutors about the full range of the President’s financial life, so they may have wanted to avoid charging him, too. Don, Jr.,’s role may have been too minor to merit prosecution.

When we met, Cohen remained outraged that he was prosecuted and Trump was not. “You are going to find me guilty of campaign finance, with McDougal or Stormy, and give me three years—really?” Cohen said. “And how come I’m the only one? I didn’t work for the campaign. I worked for him. And how come I’m the one that’s going to prison? I’m not the one that slept with the porn star.”

The Southern District prosecutors did acknowledge that Trump orchestrated the hush-money operation. As they wrote in advance of Cohen’s sentencing, “In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1”—that is, Donald Trump. Under Justice Department policy, a sitting President cannot be indicted, though it is possible that Trump could be charged in the hush-money case after he leaves office.