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Michael Cohen: “Individual 1 is Donald J. Trump”

Confirming to Congress what everyone already knew.

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, is sworn in to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 27, 2019.
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

When Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in November 2018 to lying to Congress, the documents filed with his plea deal didn’t explicitly name the person on whose behalf he had lied. It called him “Individual 1.”

There was never any doubt that “Individual 1” was President Donald Trump. But now, in his testimony before the House Oversight Committee Wednesday, Cohen has confirmed it.

“I pled guilty in federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in coordination with ‘Individual 1,’” Cohen said, reading from his prepared statement. “And for the record: ‘Individual 1’ is Donald J. Trump.”

Trump was called “Individual 1” in Cohen’s case because it’s traditional for prosecutors not to name people who haven’t been indicted. The logic is that if they haven’t been indicted yet, they haven’t necessarily done anything wrong, so it’s unfair to damage their reputations by naming them in a criminal case.

But there’s nothing that stops Cohen from clarifying who Individual 1 was — especially because there was never really any mystery about this.

Cohen’s plea deal identified “Individual 1” as the owner of the “New York City-based real estate company” (called “Company 1”) that Cohen worked for. It quotes Cohen suggesting that “Individual 1” make a trip “once he becomes the nominee after the convention” — in other words, the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. And it says Cohen “briefed family members of [Individual 1] within the Company” about the Trump Tower Moscow project.

Cohen’s own testimony to Congress Wednesday is colored by the fact that he was already convicted in criminal court for lying to Congress in 2017. By naming Trump as “Individual 1” Wednesday, Cohen is trying to emphasize that he should be trusted now because he’s no longer trying to protect the president. In court in November, Cohen testified (under oath) that he made the false statements to Congress “to be consistent with Individual-1’s political messaging and to be loyal to Individual-1”; on Wednesday, he said, he was only there to tell the truth.

When considering how sincere Cohen is, though, it’s worth noting that special counsel Robert Mueller finds Cohen’s newfound turn toward honesty to be credible — especially when it comes to “individual 1.”

“Individual 1” — Trump — plays a very large role in Mueller’s Michael Cohen sentencing memo, which urged the court in December to be somewhat lenient with Cohen because he had provided genuine cooperation to the Mueller investigation. In particular, Mueller wrote:

The fact that Cohen continued to work on (Trump Tower Moscow) and discuss it with Individual 1 well into the campaign was material to the ongoing congressional and (Mueller) investigations, particularly because it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.

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