Tag Archives: DOJ

Michael Cohen’s Upcoming Federal Sentencing & James McCord’s Role in Watergate

(Also on Twitter, slightly edited–)

1/ On Michael Cohen’s upcoming federal sentencing & James McCord’s role in #Watergate—

2/ #MichaelCohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, pleaded guilty in August to eight federal crimes, two related to Trump’s campaign finances & six related to Cohen’s personal finances.

3/ In pleading guilty to the campaign finance crimes, Cohen implicated President Trump in hush money payments to two women in 2016.  Cohen & Trump worked together during his presidential campaign, Cohen told the Court, to conceal affairs that the women had with Trump.

4/ Cohen also pleaded guilty last week to an additional federal crime: making false statements to the U.S. Senate about Trump’s secret efforts during his presidential campaign to make a real estate deal with the Russian government.

5/ Cohen’s Aug. 2018 guilty plea was negotiated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.  His Nov. 2018 guilty plea was negotiated with the Office of Special Counsel Robert #Mueller.

6/ Cohen reportedly concluded earlier this year “that his life has been utterly destroyed by his relationship with Mr. Trump and his own actions, and [that] to begin anew he needed to speed up the legal process by quickly confessing his crimes and serving any sentence he receives…”  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/03/nyregion/michael-cohen-trump-strategy.html

7/ Cohen thus decided to plead guilty without having a deal with prosecutors requiring him to cooperate in continuing investigations & possible future trials & then to seek credit in sentencing for that cooperation.

8/ Cohen has, however, cooperated actively with federal law enforcement & with state law enforcement, & he has pledged to continue to do so.

9/ Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on this Friday, Dec. 7, in the SDNY by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley, III.  Cohen’s attorneys have detailed to the Court his cooperation & asked that he be sentenced to probation.

10/ President Trump has tweeted that Cohen “should … serve a full and complete sentence.”  https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1069614615510859776

11/ Mueller’s office agreed with Cohen to inform the Court of his cooperation.  It is expected to do so soon.

12/ The #Watergate comparison:  Cohen’s role in the investigations of possible crimes involving President Trump & others close to him in business, in his presidential campaign, & in his administration, resembles the role that James W. #McCord, Jr., played in Watergate.

13/ McCord, formerly an FBI agent & then a CIA officer, worked in 1972 as a bodyguard & a security coordinator at the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP) [#Nixon].

14/ On June 17, 1972, McCord was one of five burglars arrested in Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate hotel & office complex in Washington, D.C.

15/ The U.S. Department of Justice—the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C.—investigated.  It persuaded a federal grand jury to indict McCord, his fellow Watergate arrestees, & two others to whom they were connected.

16/ Judge John J. #Sirica, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, tried the case.

17/ Early in the trial, five of the defendants—a former White House employee named E. Howard Hunt & the four other burglars who had been arrested at the Watergate with McCord—pleaded guilty.

18/ The trial of McCord & his remaining defendant, CREEP general counsel G. Gordon Liddy, went forward.  The jury convicted each man on every charge.

19/ Chief Judge Sirica, skeptical that all the facts had been brought out at the trial, then prepared to sentence the seven men.

20/ On Tuesday, March 20, 1973, three days before the scheduled sentencing, Judge Sirica was shocked to find McCord in the reception area of the judge’s chambers, talking to one of his law clerks.

21/ McCord was there to deliver a letter.  It turned out to be one of the most consequential letters in U.S. history.

22/ After taking appropriate precautions, Judge Sirica, before witnesses, opened McCord’s letter.  As he read it, he began to think, according to his memoir, “This is it, this is it, this is the break I’ve been hoping for.”  http://watergate.info/1973/03/19/mccord-letter-to-judge-sirica.html

23/ Judge Sirica kept the letter secret from the public until McCord’s sentencing at the end of that week.  But, on that Tuesday evening, he shared & discussed it with his other law clerk.  “I’ve always told you I felt someone would talk.  This is going to break this case wide open.”

24/ On March 23, Judge Sirica read McCord’s letter in open court.  He then sentenced the convicted defendants.  He gave lengthy sentences to six & put off sentencing McCord.

25/ McCord’s letter indeed began the unraveling of Watergate.  It led to further investigations, confessions, guilty pleas, indictments, & convictions, & to a President’s resignation.

26/ McCord committed serious crimes.  Then he came forward & told truthfully to prosecutors, juries, & Congressional committees, what he had done & what he knew.

27/ This cooperation earned him judicial credit.  Chief Judge Sirica sentenced James McCord in November 1973 to one to five years in prison.  He ended up serving four months.

Jackson List: Public Life & the Pursuit of Good Information (Thanksgiving 1937)

On the evening of Wednesday, November 24, 1937, United States Assistant Attorney General Robert H. Jackson, then heading the Antitrust Division in the U.S. Department of Justice, spoke in Washington at a private gathering of young, liberal Members of Congress.  The group included Senator Sherman Minton (D.-IN), Representative Knute Hill (D.-WA), and others.

AAG Jackson spoke to these Senators and Representatives at length and powerfully.  Jackson had, by then, become a national figure.  He was a leading voice of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Its policies had led the U.S. economy to optimism and recovery following the worst of the Great Depression.  President Roosevelt had been reelected overwhelmingly—he won 46 of 48 States—just one year earlier.  But now the Administration, including Jackson, was contending with mixed economic conditions.  There were signs of a renewed downturn and, as a result, some public discontent.

Robert Jackson, in this speech—which it seems that he made from notes and papers that, alas, he did not preserve—criticized some businesses for thwarting further economic recovery.  Jackson recited statistics on recent business behavior.  He discussed manufacturers’ recent price increases, which had produced high profits for companies but not led them to raise their workers’ wages.  He showed the Members a chart depicting rises in prices and industrial profits.

*          *          *

The next day, Thursday, November 25, 1937, was Thanksgiving Day.  It seems that Robert Jackson and his wife Irene spent the holiday, with their daughter Mary (a senior at National Cathedral School for Girls) and maybe also with their son Bill (a Yale College freshman), at their home in Washington.

On that Thanksgiving morning, elsewhere in Washington, one of the young Congressmen who had heard Jackson speak the previous evening dictated this letter (which then got typed up, signed, and delivered to Jackson’s DOJ office, probably the next day)—

My dear Bob:

This Thanksgiving morning, before I tie into the things which are ahead for the day, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed and profited by your speech last night.

It was certainly an inspiration to anyone feeling his way through the maze of things as they are today.  It was informative from first to last, and the best kind of a picture I have ever seen drawn of our problems and complexities in a brief space of time.

I feel that if closer relations existed between men like you and the elected representatives of the people, we should all be a lot better off.

 With all good wishes, I am,

                                                Sincerely yours

                                                /s/ Lyndon B. Johnson

*          *          *

During the next week, Representative Johnson (D.-TX), age 29, elected to Congress in a special election the previous April, continued to think about Assistant Attorney General Jackson’s November 24 speech.  Jackson apparently did not respond promptly to Johnson’s November 25 letter.  So on Wednesday, November 30, Johnson dictated and sent a second letter to Jackson:

My dear Mr. Jackson:

The more I think of your excellent address the other evening, the more I appreciate what a wealth of material and research was in it.

I wonder if you would be so kind as to steer me a little in my efforts to educate myself more fully in the lines which you followed out.  Could you, for instance, tell me where it would be possible for me to obtain the full information concerning the increase in prices of products in the major manufacturing fields during the past few years, in their relation to increases in wages and in profits?  I was most interested in that, and related phases, of your discourse.

With all good wishes, I am,

Sincerely yours

                                 /s/ Lyndon B. Johnson

Representative Johnson—LBJ, if I may, although the fact that 1937’s Johnson would become our “LBJ” would not have been apparent then—was not alone in being interested.  Two days later, Representative Hill also wrote to Jackson:

My dear Jackson:

I was very much impressed with your talk before the Liberal bloc last Wednesday night, and particularly by the chart you presented, which showed the contrast [sic?] between the rise in prices and the rise in profits in industries.

You may recall that I asked you if it would be possible to secure a copy of this chart, which you intended to have reprinted.  I sincerely hope that this will be possible, as I am anxious to study the correlation in more detail.

                                    Sincerely yours

                                    /s/ Knute Hill

*          *          *

At the Department of Justice, Jackson’s staff moved to get him to answer the Congressmen’s queries.  Someone put a printed pink slip, reading “SPECIAL,” on Johnson’s second letter.  Jackson’s secretary Grace Stewart added a typed note:  “Is the information available?  Senator Minton also inquired.”

In mid-December, Jackson responded by dictating letters that were typed and sent back to the Congressmen.  His letter to Representative Hill, age 61 and just reelected to his third term in the House, was direct:

My dear Mr. Hill:

I have not had a chance to get the figures which I used the other night completed with sufficient accuracy so they would be suitable for being publicly used.  I understand that [Roosevelt economic adviser] Leon Henderson has some studies which are dependable, and I would suggest that you rely on his for the present.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Robert H. Jackson

To Johnson, Jackson sent basically the same letter, calling his “figures … hastily assembled and pretty rough for public use.”

And it seems that Jackson responded to Senator Minton—who a dozen years hence would become his U.S. Supreme Court colleague—by telephone.

*          *          *

As Thanksgiving Day dawns tomorrow, I hope that you wake up thinking of important topics and great people, and that you can make contact with them and get good responses.

I hope that you will “tie into” many good things throughout the day and always.

I hope that your representatives in government pursue good information diligently.

And I thank you for your interest in the Jackson List.

—————–

This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.