Michael Cohen is Not Sorry

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by Benjamin M. Adams on December 3, 2018                      @BenAdamsO_O

Here is my take on the Michael Cohen sentencing memo, which was prepared by Cohen and his legal team and  then submitted to U.S. District Judge William Pauley III, who is expected to hand down the sentence on December 12. The memo is well-written and argues persuasively when it sticks to the law and prior sentencing applications. Where it misses the mark, however, it misses badly. The brief spends time drawing the Court’s attention to Trump and his antics, reciting numerous press reports of Trump attacking his critics and acting poorly. Shifting the focus away from Michael and onto Trump is an unsound strategy primarily because it reflects a lack of remorse. The memo states:

“In the context of this raw, full-bore attack by the most powerful person in the United States, Michael, formerly a confidante and adviser to Mr. Trump, resolved to cooperate, and voluntarily took the first steps toward doing so even before he was charged,” the lawyers wrote. “He took these steps, moreover, despite regular public reports referring to the President’s consideration of pardons and pre-pardons in the SCO’s investigation.”

Several terrible things are happening in this paragraph. First, painting your client as a victim of his co-conspirator just strikes me as bad form. Second, it reminds us of reports that Cohen discussed pardons with Trump Associates.  Third, and perhaps most problematic, is the memo’s false suggestion that Michael Cohen became a cooperator before it was in his interest to do so. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. The reporting to date is that Cohen was trying to maintain the conspiracy in the hopes of a Presidential pardon up until the moment that Trump publicly distanced himself from Cohen. Take those reports with a grain of salt if you want, but they certainly do not portray a man who came forward before he was already heading to the underside of the proverbial bus. 

The judge knows all of this. He also knows that in the days and weeks following the raid on Mr. Cohen’s office, it became increasingly clear that Cohen could be exposed to a number of prosecutions and sanctions irrespective of any presidential pardon. None of this suggests a man who cooperated out of character. 

Nothing says “I’m not sorry” quite like a memo that paints the perpetrator as both a victim and a hero. Perhaps at its most cringe-worthy, the memo informs us that: “following the execution of search warrants in this case, nearly every professional and commercial relationship that he enjoyed…have vanished.” Really.

Let’s start with Cohen’s “law practice.” Cohen claimed to have 3 clients. Those three (3) turn out to be Trump, Broidy, and Hannity. In truth, Hannity was never a client, and he immediately and hilariously denied it on twitter. Broidy was a hush money payment that was likely connected to Trump himself in some way. Cohen didn’t lose his law practice because he did not have a practice to lose. He made his living in service of Donald Trump, including doing Trump’s wet-work. 

What other commercial relationships has Cohen lost? The ability to shake down corporations for millions by peddling influence? Brokering the purchase of a luxury handbag? Arranging hush-money payments to young women who had been used and discarded by powerful men? Speaking this way about Cohen’s loss of his “livelihood” is like lamenting a pimp’s loss of income after his trafficking ring is broken up.    

In essence, the memo argues that Cohen was a decent and charitable family-man whose sole flaw was being too loyal and that he momentarily lost his head in the heat of a political battle. They might as well place a checkbox next to the words “Lack of Remorse” and then check the box. Other sections of the memo remind us that Cohen is merely sorry that he got caught, and that Cohen stood by Trump’s side until the very end when Trump discarded him like one of the women Cohen used to negotiate against.

Along with portraying him as Trump’s victim while bemoaning his lost ability to monetize Trump, the memo fails because it leaves us with the distinct impression that Michael Cohen fundamentally lacks remorse for his conduct. Cohen deserves a substantial term in jail, but he should also forfeit the millions he made off Trump. The memo reminds us that Cohen paid six million dollars in taxes over the period in question, so we know that Cohen’s income must have been astronomical. In any just sentence, Cohen should not be allowed to keep a single cent of that money.

Today trump tweeted, in essence, “Where is Cohen’s money?” He suggested that Cohen may have transferred assets to his father-in-law, who is Ukrainian. Let’s hope the prosecution already knows the answer to that question and that Cohen’s punishment will include substantial monetary sanctions.

About Benjamin M. Adams
Recovering Attorney, Dad of Six, Concerned Citizen

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