Michael Cohen Sentenced to 36 Months in Prison

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Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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48 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    The issue is whether Cohen was a lawyer who became a criminal or whether he was a criminal who became a lawyer to become a better criminal. On LGM, some are calling him a dumber version of Tom Hagen. This is a brutal insult.

    I think the ultimate lesson (which many people never seem to learn) is that attaching yourself to Trump always end up as shit. Cohen probably made more money than he would otherwise. He had a fancy Manhattan apartment, he wore expensive clothing* but he became a guy who took the bullet and it costed him in the end.

    I honestly don’t get. Trump is so morally loathsome and repulsive but to certain people he seems to inspire die on a hill loyalty. My cynical and pessimistic view is that the Mueller investigation will reveal that it is highly likely Trump committed major felonies in colluding with Russia, he will probably escape punishment for it (he seems able to do this well), but there will be lots of fall guys directly or tangentially who do get punished like Cohen and Mannafort, etc.

    *As OT’s resident fashionista, Cohen seems to have a penchant for suiting from an Italian company called Isaia. Their jackets and suits run 3000-5000 dollars retail. Often made of silk, cashmere, and more expensive wools. Good wool is expensive. When people complain about wool being itchy, it is often because they are buying cheap suits.Report

    • My friend, you really must work up a post going over the fashion choices of notable figures in the news. IDK that and found it interesting.Report

    • Just looked at the federal prison point scale and at least to me looks like Cohen will go to a minimum security facility. Uniforms that look like nurses’ scrubs, apparently.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I too have noticed Cohen’s fashion sense. Not with the same degree of admiration — his frequent use of bold, colorful plaids is not very lawyerly in sensibility to me, so I’m going to go with your first option, he’s a criminal who became a lawyer because he doesn’t dress like a lawyer does.

      You get: 1) Navy. 2) Black. 3) Olive. 4) Gray. 5) Other Gray. 6) Dark Glen Plaid. Pretty much no other choices. For shirts, you get A) White, B) Off White or C) Wedgewood Blue. If you’re young and skinny like @saul-degraw, you can go with a double breast. Otherwise, just remember to snip the little bits of string holding the vents on the jacket together, big guy, and they aren’t paying you to look like David Bowie.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I dissent from this view on lawyer dress.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        If you’re not driving a limo or going to a funeral or happen to be a Japanese salaryman, you shouldn’t be wearing a black suit.

        OK, maybe if you’re a jazz musician from the 50s or a member of the Russian mob or part of a secret alien-fighting task force, but otherwise just avoid black suits. There’s nothing you can’t do in a charcoal gray suit that you can do in a black suit and it is way more versatile.Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    So unlike most criminal stories, I was interested in what Cohen had to say for himself. After all, it’s a very rare thing for someone to sincerely view themselves as the bad guy, and Cohen would have to have come a long way to portray himself as such and from such a position, seek leniency. Besides, after twenty-five years I’m still idealistic enough about what it is to be a lawyer that I take Cohen’s conduct more than a little bit personally.

    So, I found read his whole sentencing statement at USA Today.* Among much else, Cohen said:

    Your Honor, this may seem hard to believe, but today is one of the most meaningful days of my life. The irony is today is the day I am getting my freedom back as you sit at the bench and you contemplate my fate.
    I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the fateful day that I accepted the offer to work for a famous real estate mogul whose business acumen I truly admired. In fact, I now know that there is little to be admired. I want to be clear. I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today, and it was my own weakness, and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light. It is for these reasons I chose to participate in the elicit act of the President rather than to listen to my own inner voice which should have warned me that the campaign finance violations that I later pled guilty to were insidious.
    Recently, the president tweeted a statement calling me weak, and he was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass.
    My weakness can be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump, and I was weak for not having the strength to question and to refuse his demands. I have already spent years living a personal and mental incarceration, which no matter what is decided today, owning this mistake will free me to be once more the person I really am.

    Don’t get me wrong — Cohen has indeed done some damn crooked shit and he deserves his prison time and his imminent disbarment. More than that, he was an integral part of an operation that is toxic to the civic and cultural life of our country, even if facets of doing that were not criminal in nature.

    With that understanding, I felt some sympathy reading these words. I could imagine being seduced by the public persona of hard-driven success and personal charisma of a man like Donald Trump. I could imagine the attraction of being near that, of being part of that. The money, the power, the sense of being one of the (to use Tom Wolfe’s phrase) Masters of the Universe. Being preached to about how loyalty is an inherent virtue and being part of a network of loyalty, not understanding that the loyalty only ever really flowed upwards and thinking the crumbs of money and luxury parceled out as pay were the reciprocity. Losing sight of the pricelessness of one’s own honor, giving in to the pressure from the patron to do… things. Believing that those things were commonplace and only technically illegal and not, as they really were, inherently immoral.

    Cohen went down that path willingly enough. He admits that much. I can see, though, that it might not be so difficult to be in political orbit of someone like Trump, and then to look up and find oneself so far down that path without having realized it had been traveled, that there would be no clear way back. Maybe doing what Cohen did today was the only way he could reconstruct his own self-image as a worthwhile person — if not a good man, at least a man attempting to redeem himself.

    In all events, the great civic cancer that we as a nation suffer from was catalyzed in no small part by Cohen personally, and for his role in making that happen, I am content enough to see him pay a steep personal price. For his willingness to cooperate with the authorities and mitigate that damage, a measure — neither absolute nor insubstantial — of compassion can be afforded him.

    * USA Today is a terrible, awful, slow, execrable, bad, cripplingly-advertisement-heavy, video-and-audio bloated, popup-ad-bloated, not good website that will like as not crash your web browser because there is so much extraneous shit you do not want to see, hear, read, or appear between you and the content that you literally have to print the article in PDF form and close the browser page as fast as you can or you are going to slow your computer down for about twenty years until it can turn off. It is also the only place I could find Cohen’s complete statement.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      A debate for a different place and time, but there are no legal or other obligations to download and render every component of a page. I don’t download and render everything, and my experience is that USA Today’s pages come up as quickly and cleanly as any other big newspaper. There’s also no obligation to conform to the (too often ugly) choices of the page’s authors with respect to font families and sizes — so my experience of the page is, IMO, more visually attractive than the original. What’s USA Today’s expected revenue from a page? $0.01? $0.001? I will cheerfully pay them by the page at those rates.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Perhaps I’m a troglodyte this way but I simply don’t know how to stop a page like that from downloading and rendering all of that other shit.Report

        • Avatar Mr.JoeM says:

          uBlock origin will cut a tremendous amount of “junk” out if you are using Chrome or Firefox. Plenty of stuff to tweak if you care, but the defaults already do a great job of improving your web browsing experience.

          Firefox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/ublock-origin/
          Chrome: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ublock-origin/cjpalhdlnbpafiamejdnhcphjbkeiagmReport

          • Second uBlock Origin. It’s available for almost all desktop and laptop browsers. The default options work quite well. Allows white-listing of sites where you want the ads, for whatever reasons. Note that it’s open source and there was a fork, called simply uBlock these days. Be careful to get the Origin version. The same level of protection on iOS and Android are harder because of the limited resources and Apple/Google constraints. Chrome on Android has a limited built-in ad blocker, you can enable it from the settings menus.

            Beyond that you’re getting into the technology war and things get more complicated. Many news sites are embedding pieces of JavaScript directly or indirectly (ad block killers) that check to see if you’re running an ad blocker and then either nag you or limit your access. There’s now at least one anti-ad block killer piece of code that looks for ad block killers and keeps them from running. There are some unexpected side effects. The New York Times, for example, puts its ad block killer and article count limiter in the same script; blocking the killer also disables the article count limit.Report

  3. Avatar j r says:

    Don’t get me wrong — Cohen has indeed done some damn crooked shit and he deserves his prison time and his imminent disbarment. More than that, he was an integral part of an operation that is toxic to the civic and cultural life of our country, even if facets of doing that were not criminal in nature…

    In all events, the great civic cancer that we as a nation suffer from was catalyzed in no small part by Cohen personally, and for his role in making that happen, I am content enough to see him pay a steep personal price.

    By all means, punish Cohen and anyone else who broke the law, but “the great civic cancer” stuff is a bit much. Donald Trump’s major political innovation wasn’t introducing unethical conduct into politics it was taking all the negative stuff that other politicians try to avoid saying publicly and owning it outright. The unethical conduct has always been there in the shadows and it most likely always will be.

    Make no mistake. I dislike Donald Trump immensely and I wish that he were not the President of the United States. I hope that this whole investigation ends in an impeachment. But what Cohen did isn’t a Trump problem. It’s a politics problem. You don’t think that the Clinton’s have fixers? Or the Bush’s? Or the Kennedy’s? Or every powerful local politician in every state in the union? The Trump campaign wasn’t the first or the last to try to pay off a woman who was trying to dish dirt on a politician or the first to try to kill negative stories. Just this morning I read a story about an Illinois political machine submitting suspicious affidavits to try and disqualify the candidacy of some college kid who dared to try to register as a candidate for alderman in a district where the party boss hand-picks the candidate.

    Unfortunately, this is how the game is played. I wish that it were not. But as long as people can be seduced by power and some fuzzy notion of the good, those people will continue to convince themselves that the ends justify the means as a way of justifying bad behavior. There is nothing special about Donald Trump in this regard.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      Of course, both sides are always and must always be the same.

      Otherwise, South Park would have been wrong.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        That’s not at all what I wrote, but if it makes you feel better to write that, it’s all you.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          Yeah you did. You equated Cohen, and what Cohen did, with at least three past Presidents and claimed it was just how it works.

          That both sides are the same.Report

          • Avatar j r says:

            That both sides are the same.

            No. It’s not. Not unless you really want it to be.

            I didn’t say anything about the left versus the right or about Democrats or Republicans. I specifically didn’t mention sides, because I don’t care about sides.

            I compared Trump, who has cultivated the image of someone willing to do whatever it takes to deliver the goods to his constituents, to politicians who stick to the more high-minded rhetoric of public service and the common good.

            If you read that as a “both sides” statement, then perhaps it’s because you want to view everything through the lens of sides.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      The “great civic cancer” of which I wrote is not the political fixing. It is the othering, the fearmongering, the bigotry, the cupidity, the ignorance, the anger, the debasement of our ideals, the appeal to the dark demons of the equivalent of the id to our collective national character.

      To the extent that this overlaps with crime, it is the notion that crime and corruption and dishonesty from the wealthy and powerful are to be expected and tolerated.

      To your point, @j-r, these things are not, inherently, crimes at all. Nor are the unique or original to the Trumpian-nationalist brand of politics.

      Trump refined these things and presented them as arguments in his favor, to his shame and the shame of those (like Cohen) who valued their own personal advancement higher than the implications of their activities, and most of all to the same of all of us as Americans for having a political system that produced this result which must be reversed and never repeated.

      “Aren’t you punishing Cohen for his politics, then?” Well, I’m not punishing him. I’m not the judicial officer applying the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in his case. I am condemning him morally as a fellow human, a fellow American, and a fellow attorney. To do that requires (IMO) a holistic assessment of Cohen’s actions, from the nonpolitical taxi medallion corruption all the way to the noncriminal political advocacy. Cohen made conscious choices to self-benefit with callous disregard for the effect of his decisions on the community around him; when his number one client sought political office, he continued doing so despite the magnification of that sociopathy to the nation as a whole.

      Please note that I continue to stand by my thoughts of compassion and sympathy, though, and these are also motivated by caution and a degree of fear. Let us not be quick to fall into the defensive trap of falsely assuming personal moral superiority — none of us, myself included, would be immune from the siren call of being seduced into toxic loyalty the way Cohen describes being seduced by Trump. It is for that reason I feel a twinge of sympathy for Cohen notwithstanding the fact that his deeds, laid bare for the public to see, are repellent and merit the punishment he has received.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I guess the question for me is what is more sociopathic: a guy like Trump who openly flouts norms and tries to portray that as his great strength or the run of the mill politician who says high minded things but still makes use of the same kind of dirty political tricks when the need is felt? I guess that I don’t really care which is worse. I just know that people find ways of justifying their bad behavior as service to a higher cause. And thatnwill continue to be a thing long after Donald Trump has gone.

        And I actiallly don’t feel any supympathy for Cohen. I feel some sympathy for the less well-off, less-educated Trump supporters who think that Trump is in their side in any meaningful sense. But Cohen is a smart enough guy who actively pursued his position within the Trump Organization, because he thought it would benefit him. He should have known better. At the very least, he should have seen Wall Street.Report

  4. Avatar J_A says:

    @jr

    ….but “the great civic cancer” stuff is a bit much. Donald Trump’s major political innovation wasn’t introducing unethical conduct into politics it was taking all the negative stuff that other politicians try to avoid saying publicly and owning it outright.

    You are absolutely right in your comment, @jr, but “owning it outright” is in itself a significant turn for the worse. Tolerance, politeness, hipocrisy, take your pick, is an important part of our social compact. The fact that, even if you might think [fill in the blank] are scum and the world would be better without them, you still have to nod politely when you see them, is an integral part of allowing the incredible complex mechanism of modern civilization to function.

    There was a time it was fine to spit at people you despised, and then they would challenge you to a duel, and next thing you know your kin and his kill each other for centuries. There are still parts of the world where you show people what you think about their religion by beheading them and posting it on YouTube. I can assure you, you can’t get modern financial systems, water and sanitation utilities, or life insurance, to name a few, to work in such places.

    Saying the quiet bits loud, and encouraging his followers to do so, fractures and jeopardizes our society in more dangerous ways than Cohen’s campaign finance violations would ever do.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      I don’t disagree, but none of that is why Michael Cohen is going to jail. Cohen is going to jail for run of the mill political fixing.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        Cohen is going to jail for run of the mill political fixing

        I wonder if he’s going to jail for really sub-par political fixing… I mean, not only did John Edward’s fixers not go to jail, they got him acquitted.

        Quick, without googling, who is John Edwards’ lawyer?

        Now that’s right good political fixin’.Report

        • Avatar j r says:

          That’s part of he Trump story. Being a political novice surrounded by a team of sycophantic back benchers, it’s likey that Team Trump broke laws trying to do things that more seasoned political operations know how get done within the bounds of the law or it least with enough ambiguity to stay out of jail.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Ug. Trump hasn’t been a political novice since he was in short pants. Being a developer in NY is intensely political. Being a developer in foreign countries is intensely political. Being a (failed) casino owner in Atlantic City is intensely political. If he made “novice” mistakes it was due to his own native ignorance, ego, greed and being unfamiliar with actual roles of being a candidate/office holder. But make no mistake he has been courting, campaigning, influencing and politicking since he came on the stage in NY decades ago. Saying he is “novice” has always been an excuse.

            I guess the only other to add on is that for the past couple decades since he failed out of AC he has just been the salesman and glad hander. His staff or partners have done the actual work. All he had to do was slap him name on the front of building.Report

            • Avatar j r says:

              I’m not sure that I understand the objection. Trump was used to running a family real estate business in a big American city. He was not used to being at the head of a national political campaign. There are some pretty important differences between the two.

              And more importantly, if you take the kinds of things that you need to win development contracts in New York and start doing them in a presidential campaign, you’re going to cross some lines and make a lot of mistakes that more experienced political campaign staff would likely avoid.

              There is no attempt to excuse or defend Trump. Just an attempt to say something factual about the fecklessness of his political operatives. Roger Stone and Paul Manafort haven’t been started for the GOP since the HW Bush administration. There are reasons for that.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                My point (assuming i have one) is that he isn’t a political novice. Never really has been. There are differences between what he was used to and what he got himself into. Yeah he chose a lot of old Repub hacks and sleazy dudes along with his old bunch of hangers on. That isn’t due to naivete. It’s arrogance and ego. He was unwilling to learn what he needed about a new situation, chose people who mirrored him ( greedy, dim and sleazy) instead of smart and knowledgeable and thought he could use the same old tactics that made him a reality tv star.

                I realize you aren’t trying to excuse him but saying he is naive seems like it is. Certainly his fans have been trotting that out there. It’s his profound personalty failings that have caused his problems. Being naive isn’t one of those.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And more importantly, if you take the kinds of things that you need to win development contracts in New York and start doing them in a presidential campaign, you’re going to cross some lines and make a lot of mistakes that more experienced political campaign staff would likely avoid.

                So, the theory is that Trump’s real-estate-based lawlessness was imported into the campaign because Trump didn’t hire people who would rein him in?

                Isn’t that equivalent to saying Trump *didn’t want his lawlessness reined in*?

                It’s hard for me to square this circle, j r. If Trump was *aware* that the transactional nature of the NY real estate world was borderline if not outright illegal (on your view it is and he was), and if he had the intention of running a clean campaign (which he didn’t), then why didn’t he hire better advisers and listen to their advice? The obvious answer is that he didn’t care about running a legally clean campaign. The less obvious, tho still blindingly obvious, answer is that he realized running a dirty campaign gave him the best chance to win.Report

              • He’s a 70-year-old man who had run the same basic scheme for 50 years: put on a great show, make the deals complicated, leave someone else holding the bag, problems can be “fixed” with threats or a little money, always be ready to move on to the next opportunity. It worked to get him elected. Now he’s stuck, and he doesn’t know any other way.

                I still think the original plan was to lose at either the nomination or election stage and move on.Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                @greginak and @Stillwater

                I think that you are doing the same thing that @morat20 does above. You’re assuming that I am making an argument that I’m not making, because that’s the argument that you are used to having.

                If in another context someone said, “Bob and his crew were used to knocking over gas stations and liquor stores, so when they tried to rob a bank they made a bunch of mistakes that more experienced bank robbers might not have made,” no one would accuse that person of trying to make excuses for Bob.

                ps – I agree with everything @Michael_Cain says aboveReport

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Being a political novice surrounded by a team of sycophantic back benchers, it’s likey that Team Trump broke laws trying to do things that more seasoned political operations …

            Count this view as a victory for the Trump PR media blitz.Report

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