Waiting on news about whether miscreant Mark Meadows will get his GA case shifted to federal court (the breaking news on TV is that the judge has asked both sides to address a question) I have been thinking about what the hell’s been going on with the guy. Was he cooperating or not? Given he’s been indicted in GA on state charges it’s now clear any cooperation with Jack Smith’s federal team wasn’t enough to have Smith work out a “leave Meadows alone for now” arrangement. Meadows has panicked and I’ll get to that but let’s talk about something else first.
At times I’ve though Meadows might have secretly cut a deal with Smith’s team, and at others been not at all sure of that. His indictment in GA tells me at least the latter is true. Yes, Meadows initially cooperated with the January 6 Committee but then became difficult. Once Smith was appointed Meadows was in new territory and he couldn’t blow off talking anymore because Smith had something Congress did not – the power to actually enforce a subpoena. We still don’t know the level of Meadows’ cooperation once he was in front of the grand jury and under subpoena but as I’ve indicated it’s a fair assumption he didn’t tell all he knew.
Meadows seems to have chosen a path of “selective” cooperation. Once that realization hit me I couldn’t help but think of someone who tried the same thing.
Michael Cohen! (It didn’t work out so well for Cohen as I’m about to explain)
It was seemingly a lifetime ago (Trump years are like dog years time three or four) but during the days of the Mueller investigation Cohen did in fact wind up cooperating with both Mueller’s team and SDNY. Multiple sessions in fact and many of them voluntary. Cohen wanted a deal and was willing to sing – up to a point. And that is where he ran into trouble. The kind of trouble that comes with prison time.
Cohen wanted to cooperate but on his own terms and the SDNY folks weren’t having it. Was he helpful? Yes, but as this long ago article by CNN notes he refused to do what those cutting sweetheart deals are always required to do. Come clean on EVERYTHING, including stuff that might not have any bearing on the matter prosecutors are focused on. There’s a practical reason for this of course. If a “star witness” has done other stuff a defense lawyer can use to impeach their character & credibility prosecutors need to know ahead of time. So they can decide whether to even grant a deal, or prepare to soften any punches the defense might throw. As they noted in their sentencing memo: Although Cohen could have provided “fruitful” cooperation, had he fully come on board with prosecutors, he instead “specifically declined to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct.”
If someone wants a so-called sweetheart deal prosecutors, especially hard-nosed ones like at SDNY want complete and total cooperation which includes confessing ALL. Not just stuff relevant to specific charges their main target(s) might face but anything else. Anything else. Cohen didn’t want to do that. He gave them plenty and even SDNY agreed with Team Mueller that he’d been helpful. Enough so that both advocated a downward departure from the federal sentencing guidelines of 48-51 months for the crimes Cohen pled guilty too. However, Cohen’s selective cooperation would cost him to the tune of a three year prison sentence instead of the probation he’d hoped for!
Interestingly both Mueller and the harder nosed folks at SDNY assessed and stated in their sentencing recommendation memos that on the matters at hand Cohen provided useful information and was forthright and credible. Also that what he provided was consistent with other information they’d developed. So you might ask what was the bug up SDNY’s butt? Well, that’s a longer story and in part has nothing to do with Trump but rather his in-laws and their business associates in the murky world of NYC taxi business at a time when a taxi medallion was worth a fortune. But there was probably additional Trump/Trump Org stuff both Mueller and SDNY might have wanted to dig in to.
It came down to that “specifically declined to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct” thing. From the linked article:
This explains the SDNY’s resistance to Cohen’s request for no jail time. In the SDNY, cooperation is all or nothing. Cooperators do not get to choose what information to provide or whom to cooperate against. Cohen bucked the SDNY’s system, and the SDNY rightly argues against him receiving full credit for partial, selective cooperation. If other potential cooperators believed they could drastically reduce their sentence by cooperating selectively, then the cooperation process would be undermined because prosecutors could not obtain information that cooperators wished to withhold.
Michael Cohen tried to selectively cooperate and it didn’t end well for him. He actually went to prison. I could write an entire article about his conversion from Trump toadie to the person he is now, trying to atone for his crimes and having ever done anything for Trump. I happen to believe he’s genuinely come to regret ever having worked a single day for Trump, and being the kind of person who would have done so. You might disagree and I can certainly respect anyone who’s opinion differs from mine on this but that’s not the point.
The POINT is that it now is clear to me that Meadows has been attempting the same “straddle the fence” gambit Cohen did. Meadows could have saved himself and frankly us all by having gone all-in as a fully cooperating witness against Trump long ago. If not for the Jan. 6 committee then certainly as soon as Jack Smith was appointed. Meadows and his lawyers should have spent the holiday season last year putting together a detailed proffer for Smith and entered into the “Mother of all sweetheart deals” and Trump would probably already be on trial in DC by now. Instead, Meadows tried to get cute with a Special Counsel and team of prosecutors way smarter than he or his lawyers happens to be.
And, just as Cohen hoped he’d “skated” and would get off with probation (albeit being a convicted felon would still suck and wreck his life) Meadows had been deluding himself into thinking he too was going to skate. That since Smith hadn’t indicted him and if not working closely with Fani Willis at least in touch and doing some sharing that he might wind up getting a pass in Georgia. WRONG!
I’ll bet Meadows was stunned. I believe his own view of his level of cooperation with Smith and Smith’s view were very different things. Meadows has been in panic mode ever since. How panicked? Like Trump getting to have his FL trial in a place where he might find at least one juror to create a hung jury, Meadows is trying to get his case moved to federal court and a more friendly for him jury pool. That part of Georgia in case you didn’t know has sent MTG to Congress. Twice!
Meadows is so desperate he stunned legal experts by taking the stand to try and personally convince the judge who will make the decision. Of course, his time on the stand didn’t end with his lawyer leading him through the points HE wanted to make. Prosecutors got to cross examine him and it seems they did some damage. Worse, every single word Meadows said on the stand can be used against him in ANY future legal/court proceeding!
You might disagree and let’s face it – Fani Willis isn’t someone to defer to someone else’s plans. Not even Jack Smith. Still, I believe if he’d really wanted her to hold back, at least for the time being on Meadows she might have done so. But there’s another, and worse possibility for Meadows. That Smith let Willis know he wanted her to go ahead and charge Meadows “stateside.” Sort of shove a lighted Roman Candle up Meadows’ butt. As terrified as Trump is these days Meadows is even more so.
All because he tried to do what Cohen did and “selectively cooperate.” It didn’t end well for Cohen. I’m betting it will end much, much worse for Meadows.