Rus­sians of­fered ‘po­lit­i­cal syn­ergy’


DON­ALD Trump’s for­mer lawyer Michael Co­hen was in touch as far back as 2015 with a Rus­sian who of­fered “po­lit­i­cal syn­ergy” with the Trump elec­tion cam­paign and pro­posed a meet­ing be­tween the can­di­date and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, the fed­eral spe­cial coun­sel said yes­ter­day.

Court fil­ings from prose­cu­tors and spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s of­fice laid out pre­vi­ously undis­closed con­tacts be­tween Trump as­so­ciates and Rus­sian in­ter­me­di­aries and sug­gested the Krem­lin aimed to in­flu­ence Mr Trump‘s cam­paign by play­ing to his po­lit­i­cal aspi­ra­tions and his per­sonal busi­ness in­ter­ests.

The fil­ings, in cases in­volv­ing Mr Co­hen and for­mer cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort, capped a dra­matic week of rev­e­la­tions in Mr Mueller’s probe into co-or­di­na­tion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and the Krem­lin.

They bring the le­gal peril from mul­ti­ple in­ves­ti­ga­tions closer than ever to Mr Trump, pic­tured, ty­ing him to il­le­gal hush money and con­tra­dict­ing his claims he had noth­ing to do with Rus­sia. They make clear how wit­nesses pre­vi­ously close to Mr Trump have since pro­vided dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about him in ef­forts to come clean to the Gov­ern­ment and in some cases get lighter prison sen­tences.

In hours of in­ter­views with prose­cu­tors, wit­nesses have of­fered up in­for­ma­tion about piv­otal episodes un­der ex­am­i­na­tion, in­clud­ing pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with Rus­sia and pay­ments dur­ing the cam­paign to si­lence porn star Stormy Daniels and Play­boy model Karen McDou­gal who said they had sex with Mr Trump a decade ear­lier.

In one of the fil­ings, Mr Mueller de­tails how Mr Co­hen spoke to a Rus­sian who “claimed to be a ‘trusted per­son’ in the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion who could of­fer the cam­paign ‘po­lit­i­cal syn­ergy’ and ‘syn­ergy on a gov­ern­ment level’.” Mr Co­hen ad­mit­ted last week to ly­ing to Congress by say­ing dis­cus­sions about a Trump Tower in Moscow ended in Jan­uary 2016 when in fact they stretched into that June, well into the US elec­tion cam­paign.

Mr Co­hen is fac­ing 3½ years in prison. On an­other front, Mr Trump, never known for tak­ing crit­i­cism ly­ing down, re­sponded to un­kind words from his for­mer sec­re­tary of state Rex Tiller­son yes­ter­day by call­ing Mr Tiller­son “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell.” Mr Tiller­son on Fri­day called Mr Trump “undis­ci­plined” and said the US Pres­i­dent “doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read brief­ing re­ports, doesn’t like to get into the de­tails of a lot of things”.

Mr Tiller­son also said Mr Trump fre­quently asked him to do things that he had to ex­plain were il­le­gal or oth­er­wise ill-ad­vised.

It was an ex­tra­or­di­nary re­buke from a man Mr Trump once said would be “a star” at the State Depart­ment.

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