August 22, 2018 at 2:20 AM
When President Trump’s former attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen entered a guilty plea in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday that implicated the president in some of his acts, a central consideration became whether Cohen had information to back up his claims and how he would use it.
Cohen’s admission that he violated campaign finance laws by paying hush money to two women at Trump’s behest came in the form of a standard plea deal rather than a cooperation agreement requiring that he aid other investigations.
That raised the question of whether Cohen would cooperate, and, crucially, what his cooperation would be worth.
One possible answer came into view the very same day, as Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, suggested on television — and in an interview with The Washington Post late Tuesday — that Cohen had knowledge “of interest” to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and that his client was “more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows.”
Davis said Cohen’s knowledge reached beyond “the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude” and included information on whether Trump participated in a “criminal conspiracy” to hack into the emails of Democratic officials during the 2016 election.
On “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Davis, a veteran of the Clinton White House, said his client had “knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”
It was already clear, Davis said, that Trump “publicly cheered it on” — an apparent reference to then-candidate Trump’s appeal to Russia in July 2016 to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” The question that Trump’s former attorney might be able to answer, Davis said, is “did he also have private information?”
Davis said he chose his words carefully so as not to violate attorney-client privilege by revealing the specifics of what Cohen had told him.
“I know everyone’s interested in the same question: What does [Cohen] know, and is it going to be harmful to Trump?” Davis told The Post. “The script that I worked out very carefully so I’m not revealing what Mr. Cohen told me is that I believe that what he knows in some respects regarding the subject of the Mueller investigation would be of interest.”
Trump responded to Cohen’s guilty plea on Tuesday — as well as to the conviction of his onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight fraud charges — by saying these developments had “nothing to do with Russian collusion.”
“Where is the collusion?” he asked during a rally in Charleston, W.Va.
In a statement, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s lead attorney, said, “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen.”
But Davis noted, as have others, that what “Donald Trump and all of his henchmen miss when they say, ‘No collusion, no collusion, no collusion’ ” is the issue of criminal conspiracy, which he distinguished from collusion. (For the record, Davis said he thinks there was also collusion, meaning “active coordination between people in the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.”)
“A conspiracy to commit a crime becomes a crime if there’s one overt act — meaning you do anything to implement the crime,” Davis added. “So if there is a conversation and a plan for there to be dirt on Hillary Clinton, and then someone knows the way you’re willing to get the dirt is a Russian agent called WikiLeaks . . . and then WikiLeaks hacks into an email account, which is a crime, then you have committed a crime of conspiracy.”
A crime of conspiracy, he maintained, “could mean that somebody knows about a crime about to be committed and doesn’t call the FBI.”
Davis said Cohen’s possible knowledge of criminal conspiracy was not limited to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and Kremlin-aligned lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The heavily scrutinized encounter, Davis said, “requires an overt act to be criminal.” This month, Trump acknowledged that the purpose of the meeting was to “get information on an opponent” but said the method was “totally legal and done all the time in politics.”
Davis told The Post that there were other instances, involving overt acts, about which Cohen had knowledge “of interest to Mr. Mueller.” He added, though, again emphasizing attorney-client privilege, that he was “only saying it’s a possibility.”
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