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The Latest: Charges against Michael Cohen, and Manafort’s plea deal

THE LATEST

The latest accusations against Trump come from the Justice Department’s prosecution of a former international business partner of Michael Cohen.

The prosecutors sent sentencing letters to a Trump-contracted attorney, Michael D. Cohen, for giving evidence in a separate case of “unauthorized and deceptively produced disclosures” in an investigation of “multiple international telecommunications companies.” The actions “caused substantial damage to the United States.”

This case centered on a Ukrainian telecom firm, Hapsco, which prosecutors say provided a Trump Organization lease on Trump Tower Kiev that gave the Trump Organization confidential details about efforts of Ukrainian officials to interfere in the 2016 election.

The impact of those disclosures has been difficult to ascertain because Trump Organization has used “block capitalizations” to separate the company from the contract, which prosecutors say was a sham.

The obstruction of justice charge against Manafort was brought as part of a special counsel investigation that includes a broad probe of alleged Trump campaign violations of a law that bars foreigners from donating to U.S. political campaigns.

The statute has a three-year statute of limitations, but as part of his plea deal, Trump’s former campaign chairman has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department in hopes of getting a reduced sentence. But even if Manafort’s cooperation is favorable, the case is only the beginning of a long journey that will bring down Trump, according to Washington lawyers.

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THE INDICTMENT

Court papers filed Wednesday against Manafort had a curious message for Trump.

They asked a judge not to issue a gag order. They also asked the judge to deny a request by Manafort’s lawyers to seal records involving the investigation into Manafort’s spending, which included a lavish lifestyle financed by private offshore payments.

The filing addressed questions raised by news coverage about a $15,000 bracelet for Manafort’s wife that he had described to a beauty queen.

“Of particular concern is news media coverage of the $15,000 pearl-encrusted wedding band that Robert and Kathleen Manafort had purchased for their daughter’s wedding and which was included in the 2017 indictment,” according to the motion to seal records filed with the court.

Another reason to seal, according to the document, is the public’s interest in understanding the strategy used by prosecutors.

“Making available filings concerning these matters to the public would serve the interests of transparency and investigative accountability by fostering discussion and analysis of the evidence underlying the charges,” the motion said.

In addition, the prosecutors said, leaks of the charging document were “commonly characterized by the public as mere gossip that had no effect on the underlying case.”

The prosecutors also pressed for public release of a filing related to the Justice Department’s request that Manafort cooperate and testify against Russian contacts who have been charged in connection with Russian interference in the election.

“Knowing that certain media outlets have previously published allegations of false statements and other misconduct by the defendant, it is important that the court put the entire record into the public domain,” according to the motion to seal records.