Bombshell 2018 Letter Delivers a Gut Punch to Manhattan DA's Case Against Trump

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

How much is Michael Cohen’s testimony worth at this point?

I wrote that his legal adviser Robert Costello told the Manhattan grand jury considering the case against Donald Trump that Cohen was a serial liar, “far from solid evidence,” and that Cohen had told him that he never told Trump about the payment to Stormy Daniels, the crux of the case against Trump.

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Now there’s newly-surfaced evidence that also throws a gut punch into District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case.

A February 2018 letter written by Michael Cohen’s then-lawyer to the Federal Election Commission claims that Cohen “used his own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford,” a/k/a Stormy Daniels, in 2016. That also matches what Cohen told Costello.

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payment directly or indirectly,” Cohen lawyer Stephen Ryan wrote.

Mr. Cohen has not been a government employee during any of the relevant time period. The payment in question does not constitute a campaign contribution or expenditure and, therefore, the FEC lacks jurisdiction over this matter. The complainants have not and cannot present any evidence to the contrary. Accordingly, the complaint should be dismissed.’

The letter contradicts what Cohen said later after he flipped on Trump to try to stay out of jail, and presumably contradicts what he said to the grand jury.

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It should be noted that a little more than six months after that letter was written, Cohen changed his tune and copped a plea to a laundry list of federal crimes that included making an excessive campaign contribution to Trump by paying Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged 2006 affair with him. As part of his guilty plea, Cohen admitted that he used a newly incorporated shell company to pay Daniels then sought reimbursement from the Trump Organization for the full amount, plus a $35 wire fee and another $50,000 for tech work related to Trump’s campaign.

Also, in May 2018 Trump acknowledged the payment to Clifford/Daniels via Cohen in a tweet. Trump stated that Cohen was under retainer to Trump personally, not the campaign, and the monies were part of “a private contract between two parties.”

This letter adds more weight to the issues causing the case to crumble around the Manhattan DA, who postponed the grand jury proceedings for Wednesday, with sources indicating that the grand jury might be questioning the case against Trump and that there was dissension in the ranks at Bragg’s office over the case.

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Trump responded to the letter, calling it “exculpatory.” It looks like Trump has a better sense of what might be exculpatory than does a Biden judicial nominee who doesn’t even seem to understand what the Brady case refers to — the requirement of the prosecution to turn over to the defense any exculpatory evidence that they may have.

Trump wrote:

“Wow, look what was just found – A letter from Cohen’s lawyer to the Federal Election Commission. This is totally exculpatory and must end the Manhattan District Attorney’s witch hunt immediately. Cohen admits that he did it himself. The D.A. should get on with prosecuting violent criminals, so people can walk down the sidewalks of New York without being murdered!”

Other legal experts also said this was likely to help Trump’s case.

Former Brooklyn prosecutor Julie Rendelman said the 2018 letter could help Trump’s defense if he’s prosecuted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg over the Daniels payment.

“I think it’s just going to open the door to additional questions of his credibility and give more opportunity for further cross-examination — as though they didn’t have enough,” Rendelman said.

Former Manhattan prosecutor Michael Bachner also said Cohen could prove problematic because he “may or may not be telling the absolute truth about what occurred.”

“Whenever you have as a significant or star witness in your case — an individual who has an enormous amount of baggage, including having made false statements in the past — that is a very serious problem,” Bachner said.

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Exactly. It shows one more instance of Cohen not telling the truth, and that undermines the case even more. No wonder Bragg is having trouble in the case. It makes one wonder if the grand jury has seen this letter.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was edited post-publication to include information about Michael Cohen’s 2018 guilty plea and Donald Trump’s May 2018 tweet.)

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