- Michael Cohen walked back parts of his guilty plea in a phone call with the comedian Tom Arnold that he didn’t know was being recorded.
- According to the recording, released by The Wall Street Journal, Cohen said he hadn’t evaded taxes and that a criminal charge related to his home-equity line of credit was “a lie.”
- Cohen also told Arnold he decided to plead guilty because prosecutors were starting to target his wife, adding, “I never thought the judge was going to throw a three-year fricking sentence.”
- Legal experts say it’s not uncommon for individuals in Cohen’s position to disavow their guilty pleas after they’ve been sentenced and that Cohen’s comments likely won’t hurt him.
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Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer and fixer, disavowed parts of his guilty plea in a phone call with the comedian Tom Arnold, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations in the Southern District of New York’s investigation into his and Trump’s business dealings leading up to the election. Cohen also pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 race.
He will report to prison on May 6 for a three-year sentence.
Cohen, who did not know Arnold was recording the call, told him on March 25 that he hadn’t evaded taxes and that a criminal charge related to his home-equity line of credit was “a lie.”
The former Trump lawyer was also upset that he was “a man all alone,” despite the fact that he testified to federal and congressional investigators for more than 100 hours about his work for the president.
“You would think that you would have folks, you know, stepping up and saying, ‘You know what, this guy’s lost everything,'” Cohen told Arnold, according to The Journal. “My family’s happiness, and my law license. I lost my business … my insurance, my bank accounts, all for what? All for what? Because Trump, you know, had an affair with a porn star? That’s really what this is about.”
Cohen also told Arnold he decided to plead guilty because prosecutors were starting to target his wife.
“I love this woman,” Cohen said, according to the recording. “I am not going to let her get dragged into the mud of this crap. And I never thought the judge was going to throw a three-year fricking sentence.”
Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis told The Journal his client “meant no offense by his statements.”
“Michael has taken responsibility for his crimes and will soon report to prison to serve his sentence,” Davis added. “While he cannot change the past, he is making every effort to reclaim his life and do right by his family and country.”
Legal experts also say Cohen’s comments are not out of the ordinary.
“Disavowing a guilty plea after sentencing is not terribly unusual,” Ken White, a criminal-defense attorney and expert on constitutional law, wrote on Twitter. “People do it all the time and it has no particular effect. It’s walking it back BEFORE sentencing that gets you in real trouble with the judge.”
A former senior Justice Department official echoed that view, telling INSIDER Cohen’s comments “are a nothingburger.”
“Very common for people to say things like this, especially before they go to prison,” the former official said. “This doesn’t hurt him.”