Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime attorney and personal fixer, pleaded guilty to a new charge brought forth by special counsel Robert Mueller. In doing so he also implicated President Trump in discussions about a potential business deal in Russia that took place well into the presidential campaign of 2016. President Trump has long maintained that he had no business interests in Russia.
Cohen, who had been under investigation by Mueller’s team, pleaded guilty to eight charges in federal court in August. Those charges included tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution and making illegal campaign contributions. The charge Cohen pleaded guilty to today is a new charge and, unlike the charges pleaded guilty to in August, came directly from Mueller’s office.
Today’s charge, which accuses Cohen of lying to Congress, stems from statements Cohen made last year in which he told congressional investigators talks about a building a Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January 2016. Cohen also told Congress that he never agreed to travel to Russia in pursuit of the project, that he didn’t consider asking then-candidate Trump to travel for the project and that he didn’t recall speaking to individuals within the Russian government about the project.
According to authorities, all of those statements were false.
“In truth and in fact, and as Cohen well knew, Cohen’s representations about the Moscow Project he made to (House and Senate Intelligence committees) were false and misleading,” Mueller’s office said.
“Cohen made the false statements to (1) minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1 and (2) give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before ‘the Iowa caucus and . . . the very first primary,’ in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations,” court filings say.
“I made these statements to be consistent with Individual-1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual-1,” Cohen said during a courtroom appearance this morning.
Individual-1 is identified as President Trump in court filings. Cohen identified him as such as well.
According to Cohen discussions about building a potential tower in Moscow were taking place as late as June 2016, around the time then-candidate Trump became the Republican nomination for U.S. President.
Cohen also says he discussed the project with Trump on more than three occasions which he previously mentioned and that he briefed members of the Trump family working within the Trump Organization about those efforts. Cohen also agreed to travel to Russia in pursuit of the project and asked Mr. Trump about the possibility of traveling to Russia himself. He says he discussed potentially travelling to Russia on business with a senior campaign official.
Cohen has worked for Donald Trump since the early 2000s. He once said that he would “take a bullet” to protect Donald Trump.
The President called Cohen “weak” today and accused him of lying in order to get reduced punishment for his crimes.
“He’s a weak person,” the President said before departing for a G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina this weekend. “He was convicted with a fairly long-term sentence with things unrelated to the Trump Organization. What he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence.”
President Trump announced the cancellation of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that had been set to take place this weekend shortly after leaving for South America. The President cited recent Russian aggression against the country of Ukraine as reason for the cancellation.
According to CNN, the Justice Department notified President Trump’s attorneys of Cohen’s plea deal Wednesday night.
The charge Cohen pleaded guilty to today carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and supervised release of no more than three years. He is scheduled to be sentenced in both of his cases on December 12.
Photo by IowaPolitics.com via Flickr