Michael Cohen may well have done the impossible. With no one willing to give him a cooperating plea deal, he went ahead and pleaded guilty to eight felonies, and then tried to shop himself around as a cooperating witness. Robert Mueller ended up finding Cohen valuable enough to partner with him on exposing Donald Trump’s role in the Trump-Russia election scandal, and now Cohen is on the verge of pulling off a very lenient sentence.
Back when Michael Cohen made a court filing last week asking for no prison time, it was quite a bold move, considering that he’s pleaded guilty to eight serious felonies (technically nine, if you count the one he did to help Mueller). But Palmer Report pointed out at the time that, with Mueller and Cohen having clearly begun to work closely together, Cohen wouldn’t have bothered to ask for a free pass unless he had a sense that Mueller might be willing to give him something fairly close to that. Then Michael Flynn happened.
This week Robert Mueller announced that he’s recommending no prison time for Michael Flynn, based on Flynn’s extensive cooperation in taking down bigger Trump-Russia fish, ostensibly including Donald Trump himself. That sets the stage for the realistic possibility that when Mueller files his Michael Cohen sentencing memo tomorrow, he could also recommend that Cohen get a free pass.
There are a couple things potentially working against Cohen here. Robert Mueller was always planning to give Michael Flynn little or no prison time in exchange for his cooperation, as evidenced by the fact that he only forced him to plead guilty to one lesser charge. It may be a different story for Cohen, who was forced to plead guilty to numerous serious felonies. Mueller also cited the early nature of Flynn’s cooperation, whereas Cohen came to the table later.
But at this point we wouldn’t be shocked if Michael Cohen only ends up getting something like six months in prison. Robert Mueller has already shown that he’s willing to be lenient to criminals who play a big role in helping him take Donald Trump down, and Mueller has already shown that Cohen is one of his key pieces for taking Trump down. If Cohen manages to pull off getting a light sentence, after the way he backed into this, and the manner in which he’s always come off as the world’s dumbest criminal, he’ll have managed to pull off something that none of us thought possible. Maybe he’s a secret genius after all.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report