World News

Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen says his assistance justifies early prison exit

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer who is now seeking early release from prison, on Friday rejected the claim that his lies undermined his ability to help investigators on matters related to the U.S. president.

Cohen was responding to a Dec. 19 letter opposing an early release, where Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan said he was not a “credible witness,” citing statements in which she said Cohen and his surrogates minimized his acceptance of responsibility for conduct to which he had pleaded guilty.

“While testimonial inconsistencies are not uncommon … for the local U.S. Attorney, like collegiate sports, it is ‘one and done,'” Cohen wrote in a filing in Manhattan federal court, using a term associated with college basketball.

A spokesman for Strauss declined to comment.

Cohen, 53, wants U.S. District Judge William Pauley to shorten his three-year prison term to a year and a day, or move him to home confinement, reflecting his “extensive” cooperation with investigators concerning his former boss.

The investigators included Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who examined contacts between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance and other crimes, including by directing hush money before the election to two women who claimed to have sexual encounters with Trump.

The president has denied those claims.

Cohen has been housed in a minimum-security camp in Otisville, New York.

He has said he regretted thinking that being Trump’s lawyer “made him a ‘big man,'” and came to realize he had “sold his soul” and “frittered away his integrity.”

Cohen began serving his sentence last May.

In a separate filing, Cohen’s lawyer Roger Adler made passing references to Simon & Garfunkel and Inspector Clouseau from “The Pink Panther” while maintaining that Cohen had been unfairly singled out.

“We perceive Defendant Michael Cohen as the ‘collateral damage’ of current Justice Department policies, which appear to place personal loyalty to the President over the impartial administration of justice,” Adler wrote.

Some of Friday’s filings were blacked out, reflecting information about third parties, including on pending cases.

The case is U.S. v. Cohen, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-cr-00602.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)