FBI agents similarly raided Cohen’s home and office, although Mueller handed off this part of the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. Cohen has pleaded guilty to three felony counts, two of them campaign finance violations. A federal judge gave him three years in federal prison. The court filings said Cohen was acting at the direction of “Individual-1,” who everybody knew to be Trump, meaning that the president is now the unindicted co-conspirator of a convicted felon.
Why didn’t Cohen fight this indictment based on a dubious legal theory? Apparently, like Paul Manafort, he’d been cheating on his taxes, an easier charge to prove, and one carrying lengthier prison terms.
Now a new precedent has been set, with troubling ramifications. For starters, prosecutors and judges are now expanding the criminal law on their own volition. Justice Department prosecutors tried this gambit once before and a jury laughed it out of court. It happened in the 2012 trial of John Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate. Edwards had orchestrated payments from wealthy donors of $1 million to his girlfriend who’d had a baby — while Edwards wife was dying of cancer. Not content to let Edwards’ derailed career be his punishment, federal prosecutors charged him with six felony counts. A jury acquitted him of one count and deadlocked on the others, with most jurors favoring acquittal.