SUNDAY STAR★TIMES World Mueller dishes more dirt
US 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 and proposed a meeting between the candidate and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the federal special counsel says.
Court filings from prosecutors in New York and special counsel Robert Mueller’s office yesterday have laid out previously undisclosed contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediaries, and suggest that the Kremlin aimed early on to influence Trump and his campaign by playing to both his political aspirations and his personal business interests.
The filings, in cases involving Cohen and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, capped a dramatic week of revelations in Mueller’s probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
They bring the legal peril from multiple investigations closer than ever to Trump, tying him to an illegal hush money payment scheme and contradicting his claims that he had nothing to do with Russia.
In hours of interviews with prosecutors, witnesses have offered information about pivotal episodes under examination, including possible collusion with Russia.
In one of the filings, Mueller details how Cohen spoke with 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’.’’
The person repeatedly dangled the prospect of a meeting between Trump and Putin, saying such a meeting could have a ‘‘phenomenal’’ impact ‘‘not only in political but in a business dimension as well’’. This was a reference to a proposed Moscow real estate deal that prosecutors say could have netted Trump’s business hundreds of millions of dollars.
Cohen last week admitted 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 campaign.
Cohen told prosecutors he never followed up on the Putin invitation, though the offer bore echoes of a March 2016 proposal presented by Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos.
Cohen, dubbed Trump’s ‘‘legal fixer’’ in the past, also described his work in conjunction with Trump in orchestrating hush money payments to adult actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they had had sex with Trump.
Prosecutors in Cohen’s case said that even though he had cooperated with their investigation, he nonetheless deserved prison time, recommending a sentence of 31⁄2 years.
In an additional filing, prosecutors said Manafort lied about his contacts with a Russian associate and Trump administration officials, including in 2018.