Advice for ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen ahead of sentencing: ‘Bring toothbrush to court’

If a federal judge sentences Michael Cohen to prison Wednesday, he may ask that Cohen report at a future date – or he may demand that the former personal lawyer for President Trump be placed behind bars immediately.

Which scenario is more likely?

“If I were advising [Cohen],” Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit and Los Angeles, told The Associated Press, “I’d encourage him to bring his toothbrush to court.”

“If I were advising [Cohen], I’d encourage him to bring his toothbrush to court.”

— Michael J. Stern, former federal prosecutor

Trump has accused Cohen of turning against him and cooperating with investigators in the Trump-Russia probe primarily to secure a lighter prison sentence for himself.

On Wednesday morning, Cohen, 52, will learn his fate when he appears before U.S. District Judge William Pauley III in a federal court in New York City.

Prosecutors last week urged that Cohen receive a “substantial” prison sentence after pleading guilty to avoiding taxes, lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws.

Under federal guidelines, that means a sentence of up to four years.


Cohen’s lawyers, on the other hand, say Cohen deserves leniency for his cooperation and for the humiliation he and his family have suffered since he surrendered to the FBI in August.

Cohen pleaded guilty to misleading Congress about work on a proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow – and concealing the fact that he continued to speak with Russians about the plan well into the 2016 presidential campaign.

He also pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws by helping arrange payments to silence two women — former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels — who said they had sexual encounters with Trump while he was married.

For weeks, Cohen’s legal team portrayed him as a reformed man who decided to cut ties with the president and cooperate with federal investigators. His lawyers have said he could have stayed on the president's side and angled himself for a presidential pardon.

New York prosecutors have urged a judge to sentence Cohen to a substantial prison term, saying he'd failed to fully cooperate and overstated his helpfulness. They've asked for only a slight reduction to his sentence based on his work with the office of special counsel Robert Mueller and prosecutors looking into the campaign finance violations in New York.

A probation-only sentence, they said, is unbefitting of "a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy."


Prosecutors said Cohen orchestrated payments to McDougal and Daniels at Trump's direction.

Trump, who insists the affairs never happened, tweeted Monday that the payments to the women were "a simple private transaction," not a campaign contribution. And if it was campaign contribution, the president said, Cohen is the one who should be held responsible.

"Lawyer's liability if he made a mistake, not me," Trump wrote, adding, "Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!"

A sentence of hard time would leave Cohen with little to show for his decision to plead guilty, though experts said Wednesday's hearing might not be the last word on his punishment.

Cohen could have his sentence revisited if he strikes a deal with prosecutors to provide additional cooperation within a year of his sentence, Stern said.

Cohen's transition from Trump's “fixer” to a felon has been head-spinning.

He once told an interviewer he would "take a bullet" for Trump. But facing prosecution for evading $1.4 million in taxes, Cohen pleaded guilty in August, pledged to cooperate with Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election and changed his party registration from Republican to Democrat.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.