Cohen turns to Congress in bid to shorten prison sentence
NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s imprisoned former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is again turning to Congress as part of a renewed bid to reduce his prison sentence.
Cohen’s lawyers sent a letter to the Democratic heads of three congressional committees last month urging them to ask U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III to cut the length of his three-year prison term, and allow Cohen to serve his time at his New York City apartment.
The letter said Cohen deserved leniency because of the “substantial assistance” he had provided to congressional committees scrutinizing Trump. It said sending him home from a prison 70 miles outside the city would make him more easily accessible to investigators.
“There is no discernible security risk whatsoever to Judge Pauley granting such a request for a first offender who was convicted of a non-violent crime,” said the Sept. 16 letter, addressed to U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler and Elijah Cummings.
Cummings died this week following longstanding health challenges.
Cohen last year pleaded guilty to several charges, including tax evasion, lying to Congress and breaking campaign finance laws by arranging payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with Trump. The president has denied any sexual relationship with either woman and said any payments were personal matters, not campaign expenses.
After he was sentenced, Cohen testified in several Congressional inquiries about what he said was dishonesty by Trump in his business affairs.
In their letter, Cohen’s lawyers acknowledged they were asking for something “unprecedented.”
Federal law allows prosecutors to file a so-called Rule 35 motion asking a judge to shorten the sentence of a defendant who provides “substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.”
The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, notes that prosecutors have so far shown no interest in intervening on Cohen’s behalf. But it asserts that a request to reduce a sentence is not restricted to “line prosecutors or the Department of Justice.”
Lanny Davis, one of Cohen’s attorneys, said Cohen is still willing to meet with prosecutors to discuss an array of subjects and potential criminal targets.
Cohen’s attorneys made an earlier request in March that the Southern District of New York rebuffed in the weeks before Cohen reported to the federal prison in Otisville, New York.
“It’s still my hope that the SDNY will invite Michael to come in,” Davis told The AP on Friday. “We would welcome an opportunity, on terms that would be agreeable to his lawyers, to share additional information.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan declined to comment. Requests to the congressional committees that got the letter weren’t immediately returned.
Cohen’s efforts to reduce his sentence come as he is cooperating with a Manhattan district attorney investigation into Trump’s finances. That inquiry also is examining the same hush-money payments that landed Cohen in federal prison.
Earlier this year, Cummings sent a letter to a deputy U.S. attorney in Manhattan saying the House Oversight and Reform Committee was investigating whether prosecutors’ decision to charge only Cohen in the hush-money case was influenced by politics.
The letter sought a wide range of documents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, saying the “Office of the President should not be used as a shield for criminal conduct.”
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed reporting from Washington.