Why Michael Cohen, Trump’s Fixer, Confessed to It All

Mr. Cohen’s lawyers said that their client began meeting with Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors as early as Aug. 7, even before his first guilty plea in New York. He ultimately met with the special counsel’s office seven times through November.

Mr. Cohen has also met twice with the Southern District prosecutors in Manhattan, as well as New York’s attorney general and state tax agency officials.

Last Thursday, Mr. Cohen entered his second guilty plea in Manhattan, this time to a charge of making false statements, which was filed by Mr. Mueller’s office. In court, he admitted he had misled congressional committees about negotiations he carried out on Mr. Trump’s behalf during the 2016 election campaign on a proposed tower in Moscow. Those negotiations, he said, lasted until five months before the election, far longer than previously known, and Mr. Trump was kept in the loop.

For lying to Congress, Mr. Cohen faces a potential sentence of up to six months under the federal guidelines. And although there was no traditional cooperation deal, Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors agreed to bring Mr. Cohen’s assistance to the attention of the sentencing judge.

Mr. Mueller agreed to file the false-statements charges in New York, where Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty before a randomly assigned judge, Andrew L. Carter Jr. But Mr. Petrillo then asked that the case be transferred to Judge Pauley “for purposes of sentencing,” and the government had no objection.

Now, as Judge Pauley considers how severe a sentence to impose on Mr. Cohen in both cases, he will be able to weigh Mr. Cohen’s cooperation with the Russia investigation. The Southern District is expected to join with Mr. Mueller in making that presentation, the plea agreement states.

Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School, called Mr. Cohen’s maneuver “an unusual and creative way to get what he wants out of a situation that’s unorthodox.”

Another legal expert, William J. Harrington, a former Southern District corruption prosecutor who is now in private practice, said, “Tying it up in a bow gives Cohen the best chance at getting significant credit for his cooperation — and a good sentence.”