|Michael Cohen named Trump as 'Individual-1'. Here's why prosecutors haven't identified him in court.|
The use of “Individual-1” seems like a bulky and unnecessary contrivance. But what's actually going on here?
By Chuck Rosenberg, former United States attorney and MSNBC legal analyst
In recent court filings and in open court, President Donald Trump has been identified as “Individual-1” in a federal criminal probe. Based on court documents, it also seems reasonably clear that the president — by whatever name you call him — is deeply (and perhaps criminally) implicated in federal election law crimes committed by his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. As a recent filing by Manhattan federal prosecutors notes, “Individual-1” (the president) directed Cohen to make payments to two women to conceal his sexual relationship with them. Cohen admitted that this conduct was a crime — indeed, Cohen pled guilty to it in a Manhattan federal courtroom and was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison.
Why didn’t prosecutors simply name the president as the man who directed Cohen to make those payments? The use of “Individual-1” seems like a bulky and unnecessary contrivance. The U.S. Attorneys' Manual (a guidebook for federal prosecutors) supplies an answer:
"Ordinarily, there is no need to name a person as an unindicted co-conspirator in an indictment [or other court document] in order to fulfill any legitimate prosecutorial interest or duty…. In any indictment where an allegation that the defendant conspired with 'another person or persons known' is insufficient, some other generic reference should be used, such as 'Employee 1' or 'Company 2.'”..