SUN­DAY STAR★TIMES World Mueller dishes more dirt

Sunday Star-Times - - World -

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.

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