Cohen in touch with Russians as far back as 2015
Trump ‘directed’ fixer in payoff of porn star, model
WASHINGTON • President 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, the federal special counsel said Friday in a court filing.
Filings by prosecutors from both New York and the Trump-Russia special counsel’s office laid out for the first time details of the co-operation of Cohen, a vital witness who once said he’d “take a bullet” for the president but who in recent months has become a prime antagonist and pledged to come clean with the government.
Federal prosecutors said Friday that Cohen deserves a substantial prison sentence despite his co-operation with investigators. He is to be sentenced next week, and may face several years in prison.
In hours of meetings with prosecutors, Cohen detailed his intimate involvement in an array of episodes, including some that directly touch the president, that are at the centre of investigations into campaign finance violations and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
In one of the filings, special counsel Robert Mueller details how 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.”
Cohen told investigators the person, who was not identified, said that such a meeting could have a “phenomenal” impact, “not only in political but in a business dimension as well,” the special counsel’s office wrote.
The filing says the meeting never happened.
Cohen also discussed a Moscow real estate deal that could have netted Trump’s business hundreds of millions of dollars.
Cohen, dubbed Trump’s “legal fixer” in the past, also described his work in conjunction with Trump in orchestrating hush money payments to two women — a porn star and a Playboy model — who said they had sex with Trump a decade earlier. Prosecutors in New York, where Cohen pleaded guilty in August in connection with those payments, said the lawyer “acted in coordination and at the direction” of Trump.
Despite such specific allegations of Trump’s actions, the president quickly tweeted after news of the filings: “Totally clears the President. Thank you!”
In addition, the filings reveal that Cohen told prosecutors he and Trump discussed a potential meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in 2015, shortly after Trump announced his candidacy for president.
In a footnote, Mueller’s team writes that Cohen conferred with Trump “about contacting the Russia government before reaching out to gauge Russia’s interest in such a meeting,” though it never took place.
In an additional filing Friday evening, prosecutors said former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to them about his contacts with a Russian associate and Trump administration officials.
Manafort, who has pleaded guilty to several counts, violated his plea agreement by then telling “multiple discernible lies” to prosecutors, they said.
Manafort misled prosecutors in recent debriefings about his communications and a meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, the associate with ties to Russian intelligence, according to Mueller’s filing Friday.
He also lied to investigators when he told them that he never tried to communicate a message to anyone in the Trump administration this year, prosecutors wrote. In fact, Manafort authorized someone to speak to an administration official on his behalf on May 26, they wrote.
Trump said last month that he hadn’t ruled out the possibility of a pardon for Manafort.
Prosecutors in Cohen’s case said that even though he co-operated in their investigation into the hush money payments to women, he nonetheless deserved to spend time in prison. “Cohen did provide information to law enforcement, including information that assisted the Special Counsel’s Office,” they said. “But Cohen’s description of those efforts is overstated in some respects and incomplete in others.”
Perhaps most striking, prosecutors accused Cohen of holding back some of what he knew.
“This office understands that the information provided by Cohen to (Mueller) was ultimately credible and useful to its ongoing investigation,” prosecutors wrote, but said they would not give him a legal letter detailing his cooperation because “Cohen repeatedly declined to provide full information about the scope of any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged or had knowledge.”
In meetings with Mueller’s team, Cohen “provided information about his own contacts with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others in the course of making those contacts,” the court documents said.
Cohen provided prosecutors with a “detailed account” of his involvement, along with the involvement of others, in efforts during the 2016 presidential campaign to complete a deal to build a Trump Tower Moscow, the documents said.
Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment on New York’s Park Avenue Friday.