Trump lashes out at Mueller as special counsel prepares to recommend sentences for two former Trump lieutenants
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is expected to disclose new details from the broad-ranging Russia investigation when he recommends sentences on Friday for convicted felons Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, two of President Trump’s former top aides.
Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer and self-described fixer in New York, as well as a top officer at the Trump Organization, the private holding company for Trump’s businesses. Manafort, a longtime lobbyist and Republican operative, served as Trump’s campaign chairman in mid-2016, including at the Republican National Convention.
Trump, who is occasionally briefed about major developments ahead of time, appeared agitated on Friday morning, slashing at the special counsel’s office in a series of tweets.
He accused Mueller of having “big time conflicts of interest” and said one of his top prosecutors, Andrew Weissmann, had a “horrible and vicious” past in which “he wrongly destroyed people’s lives.”
Trump also took a shot at Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, who supervised the investigation after then-Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions recused himself.
Trump tweeted that Rosenstein wrote a memo recommending the president fire “Lyin’ James Comey” as FBI director, one of the key episodes under scrutiny by Mueller, and Trump asked, “isn’t Rod therefore totally conflicted?”
Mueller’s recommendations for Cohen and Manafort, which factor in the severity of the crime and the extent of any cooperation with prosecutors, will likely diverge for the two men.
Cohen has avidly cooperated with federal and state prosecutors in New York and the special counsel’s office in Washington in hopes of reducing a possible sentence. He first pleaded guilty in August to multiple crimes, including campaign finance violations, implicating Trump in a felony by saying he directed election-year hush-money payments to women who claimed to have slept with him years ago.
Cohen subsequently admitted to lying to Congress about pursuing a Moscow real estate project for Trump during the campaign, abandoning the project only after Trump had clinched the Republican nomination.
His lawyers have described Cohen’s cooperation as part of an effort to “repoint his internal compass true north toward a productive, ethical and thoroughly law-abiding life,” and they asked a judge to spare him prison time.
Manafort was convicted in August of financial fraud and tax evasion stemming from his work for Ukraine’s former pro-Russia government, crimes that were unconnected to his work on Trump’s campaign, although they continued into 2016.
He later pleaded guilty to separate conspiracy charges to avoid a second trial, but his plea deal fell apart when Mueller’s office accused him of lying again to prosecutors.
Manafort’s attorneys have denied that he tried to mislead the special counsel’s office.
It’s unclear how many specifics will be revealed to the public in Friday’s court filing.
On Tuesday, Mueller’s office blacked out large parts of a sentencing memo for Michael Flynn, a retired Army three-star general who briefly served as Trump’s national security advisor in the White House in early 2017.
Flynn pleaded guilty last year to lying to federal agents about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition, falsely denying that they discussed sanctions imposed by President Obama as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the election.
Prosecutors urged the judge to consider letting Flynn off without a prison sentence, saying he had submitted to 19 interviews and provided “substantial assistance” with multiple investigations.
“The investigations in which he has provided assistance are ongoing,” they wrote.
Mueller has obtained charges or guilty pleas from 33 individuals so far, and five of Trump’s former aides have pleaded guilty to various charges.
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