Tax Fraud: Ex-'Fixer' Michael Cohen to speak to investigators for the eighth time
Donald Trump's former lawyer will meet with New York prosecutors for the eighth time on Friday, according to reports, as the investigation into potential tax fraud by the former president gathers steam. Michael Cohen, 54, began working for the Trump Organization in 2006, and in 2018 was sentenced to three years for his role assisting tax evasion and campaign finance fraud. Cohen was released in April 2020 and has been speaking to the team led by Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, which is criminally investigating Trump's finances. Letitia James, the New York attorney general, is conducting a civil inquiry into the allegations.
In a recent interview with Cohen, investigators asked questions about Trump's Seven Springs estate as part of an inquiry into whether the value of the 213-acre Westchester County property was improperly inflated to reduce his taxes.
The Associated Press reported that investigators asked Cohen about individuals involved in the appraisal of the estate and benefits derived from its valuation, including a $21 million income tax deduction.
Cohen was released to home confinement last year amid coronavirus fears, and his recent meetings have been conducted via video conference.
Vance announced last week that he would leave office at the end of the year and not seek reelection, but in a memo to staff, he stressed that the investigation would not stop.
'The work continues,' Vance wrote, echoing his short statement after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that he could have Trump's tax records.
Vance recently hired former mafia prosecutor Mark Pomerantz - who, as a federal prosecutor, oversaw the prosecution of Gambino crime boss John Gotti - as a special assistant district attorney to assist in the wide-ranging probe of Trump's finances.
The inquiry, according to court filings, includes an examination of whether Trump or his businesses lied about the value of assets to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits.
The district attorney also is scrutinizing hush-money payments paid to women on Trump's behalf.
After a lengthy legal battle, his office is now in possession of eight years of Trump's tax records, including final and draft versions of tax returns, source documents containing raw financial data and other financial records held by his accounting firm.
The Supreme Court on February 22 ruled that Vance's team should have access to the documents.
Vance's focus on Seven Springs involves an environmental conservation arrangement Trump made in return for a tax deduction at the end of 2015, following failed attempts to turn the property into a golf course and luxury homes.
Trump granted an easement to a conservation land trust to preserve 158 acres and received a $21 million income tax deduction, equal to the value of the conserved land, according to records.
The amount was based on a professional appraisal that valued the full Seven Springs property at $56.5 million as of December 1, 2015.
That was a much higher amount than the evaluation by local government assessors, who said the entire estate was worth $20 million.
Trump bought the property, including a palatial Georgian-style mansion that once belonged to the family of newspaper publisher Katharine Graham, for $7.5 million in 1995.
All the president's men indicted and convicted of crimes
Arrested and indicted: Steve Bannon
Arrested and indicted on August 20, 2020, Steve Bannon and three others are accused of ripping off donors who wanted to self-fund President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.
Bannon and his accomplices 'orchestrated a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors,' federal prosecutors alleged.
Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, joined Trump's 2016 campaign in August of that year alongside longtime Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway.
He became the campaign's CEO and pushed Trump to pursue scorched earth tactics like bringing Bill Cilnton's #MeToo accusers to the second presidential debate to help the campaign weather the fallout from the infamous 'Access Hollywood' tape.
The political aide was named chief strategist and senior counselor when Trump moved into the White House. Bannon only lasted in that position until August 2017.
Guilty: Roger Stone
Convicted in November 2019 on seven counts including obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and lying to Congress about his communications with WikiLeaks.
Stone's sentencing was controversial because the Department of Justice pushed for a lighter sentence than what the D.C. U.S. Attorney's office put forward. Trump was publicly complaining about the case.
In February, Stone was sentenced to 40 months, though never served any jail time, as Trump commuted his sentence in July. Stone had publicly fretted about going to jail during the coronavirus crisis. Stone had been a person of interest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe long before his January 2019 indictment, thanks in part due to his public pronouncements as well as internal emails about his contacts with WikiLeaks.
In campaign texts and emails, Stone communicated with associates about WikiLeaks following reports the organization had obtained a cache of Clinton-related emails. According to the federal indictment, Stone gave 'false and misleading' testimony about his requests for information from WikiLeaks. He then pressured a witness, comedian Randy Credico, to take the Fifth Amendment rather than testify, and pressured him in a series of emails.
Following a prolonged dispute over testimony, he called him a 'rat' and threatened to 'take that dog away from you', in reference to Credico's therapy dog, Bianca. Stone warned him: 'Let's get it on. Prepare to die.'
Guilty: Michael Flynn
In December 2017, Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. The admission was part of a plea bargain etched out with Mueller investigators.
Flynn's sentencing was then delayed several times.
The Justice Department, under Attorney General Bill Barr, filed a motion to dismiss the Flynn case in May, but a U.S. district judge ordered a hold. The matter is still currently held up in court.
Flynn was President Trump's former National Security Advisor . He previously served when he was a three star general as President Obama's director of the Defense Intelligence Agency but was fired.
Guilty: Michael Cohen
Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts including fraud and two campaign finance violations in August 2018.
Pleaded guilty to further count of lying to Congress in November 2018. He was sentenced to three years in prison and $2 million in fines and forfeitures in December 2018.
He was released from prison and into home confinement in July due to the coronavirus pandemic.Cohen was Trump's longtime personal attorney, starting working for him and the Trump Organization in 2007.
Cohen professed unswerving devotion to Trump - and organized payments to silence two women who alleged they had sex with the-then candidate: porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. He admitted that payments to both women were felony campaign finance violations - and admitted that he acted at the 'direction' of 'Candidate-1': Donald Trump.
He also admitted to tax fraud by lying about his income from loans he made, money from taxi medallions he owned, and other sources of income, at a cost to the Treasury of $1.3 million.And he admitted that he lied to Congress, in a rare use of that offense.
The judge in his case let him report for prison on March 6 and recommended he serve it in a medium-security facility close to New York City.
Campaign role: Paul Manafort chaired Trump's campaign for four months - which included the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016, where he appeared on stage beside Trump who was preparing to formally accept the Republican nomination
Guilty: Paul Manaford
Found guilty of eight charges of bank and tax fraud in August 2018. Sentenced to 47 months in March 2019. Pleaded guilty to two further charges - witness tampering and conspiracy against the United States.
Manafort was supposed to be jailed for seven and a half years, but, like Cohen, was released in May due to COVID-19 concerns.
Manafort worked for Trump's 2016 bid for the White House starting in March 2016 and served as campaign chairman from June to August 2016, helping the now-president amass the needed delegates to win the nomination at the the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Manafort was a well known D.C. lobbyist, but in 2015 he needed more funds and offered to work for Trump for free in order to bank new clients afterward.
The Mueller team unwound his previous finances and discovered years of tax and bank fraud as he coined in cash from pro-Russia political parties and oligarchs in Ukraine.
Manafort pleaded not guilty to 18 charges of tax and bank fraud but was convicted of eight counts in August 2018. The jury was deadlocked on the other 10 charges.
A second trial on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent due in September did not happen when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and witness tampering in a plea bargain.
Minutes after his second sentencing hearing in March 2019, he was indicted on 16 counts of fraud and conspiracy by the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., using evidence which included documents previously presented at his first federal trial. The president has no pardon power over charges by district and state attorneys.
Guilty: Rick Gates
Pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements in February 2018.
Gates, a Trump campaign official, was Manafort's former deputy at political consulting firm DMP International. He admitted to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government on financial activity, and to lying to investigators about a meeting Manafort had with a member of Congress in 2013. As a result of his guilty plea and promise of cooperation, prosecutors vacated charges against Gates on bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy, failure to disclose foreign bank accounts, filing false tax returns, helping prepare false tax filings, and falsely amending tax returns.
Gates was sentenced to three years of probation and 45 days in jail. In April, a judge ruled that he didn't have to report to jail during the coronavirus pandemic.
Guilty and jailed: George Papadopoulos
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in October 2017. Sentenced to 14 days in September 2018 and reported to prison in November. Papadopoulos served 12 days and was released on December 7, 2018.
Papadopoulos was a member of Trump's campaign foreign policy advisory committee. He admitted to lying to Mueller investigators about his contacts with London professor Josef Mifsud and Ivan Timofeev, the director of a Russian government-funded think tank.
He agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation but has criticized it since.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, continuing his ongoing feud with most of the “corporate media,” on Thursday signed into law a contentious election bill during an event where only Fox News was allowed to observe.
Rudy Giuliani, the former personal lawyer for ex-president Donald Trump, has reduced the size of his personal entourage. Giuliani laid off several staffers and independent contractors in the last few weeks, according to one of the people, who said the ousted employees had been told that the former New York mayor was seeking to cut costs.
Former Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite traversed the globe in his brief tenure under the Trump administration, spending about $2.4 million in air travel, according to figures and documents obtained by USA TODAY. Braithwaite spent $232,000 the week before President Joe Biden's inauguration to fly to Wake Island, a tiny Pacific atoll, where, according to Navy spokesman Capt. Jereal Dorsey, no sailors or Marines are stationed.
A small but powerful section of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is under renewed scrutiny after a federal judge tore into former Attorney General William Barr and ordered the DOJ to release a memo that let former President Trump claim he was exonerated by the Mueller probe. Critics of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), which provides legal advice to the White House and Cabinet agencies, have long argued it acts as a rubber stamp for the president and essentially drafts laws behind closed doors.