Rus­sian of­fered Trump elec­tion cam­paign 'po­lit­i­cal' co­op­er­a­tion in 2015

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - INTERNATIONAL - By Jen­nie Matthew and Paul Han­d­ley

NEW YORK, Dec 08, (AFP) - US pros­e­cu­tors have re­vealed that a Rus­sian of­fered co­op­er­a­tion to Don­ald Trump's cam­paign as early as 2015, declar­ing that the pres­i­dent's ex-lawyer Michael Co­hen had pro­vided “rel­e­vant” and “sub­stan­tial” help to the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In a sep­a­rate case, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors Fri­day de­manded “sub­stan­tial” jail time of be­tween 51 to 63 months -- four to five years -- for Co­hen for bank fraud and cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions to which he plead guilty in Au­gust.

US At­tor­ney Robert Khuzami ac­cused the 52-year-old, who once vowed to take a bul­let for the pres­i­dent, of be­ing mo­ti­vated by “per­sonal greed” and of “re­peat­edly” us­ing his power and in­flu­ence for “de­cep­tive ends.” “To­tally clears the Pres­i­dent. Thank you!” tweeted the US pres­i­dent cryp­ti­cally as tele­vi­sion net­works were con­sumed by the Co­hen doc­u­ments -- which the White House dis­missed as re­veal­ing “noth­ing of value.” The cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions to which Co­hen plead guilty -- un­re­lated to the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion -- con­cerned hush pay­ments he made on Trump's be­half to al­leged for­mer lovers of the pres­i­dent, in­clud­ing porn star Stormy Daniels.

In the 40-page doc­u­ment Khuzami drew a di­rect link be­tween Co­hen's il­le­gal be­hav­ior and Trump.

“In par­tic­u­lar, and as Co­hen him­self has now ad­mit­ted, with re­spect to both pay­ments, he acted in co­or­di­na­tion with and at the di­rec­tion of In­di­vid­ual-1,” the doc­u­ment reads, re­fer­ring to Trump.

Robert Mueller, the spe­cial coun­sel head­ing up the probe into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 vote, fol­lowed up with a sep­a­rate fil­ing say­ing Co­hen had made “sub­stan­tial and sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts to re­me­di­ate his mis­con­duct, ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ac­tions, and as­sist” the spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion, a thorn in Trump's side.

Co­hen con­tin­ued to pro­vide “rel­e­vant and truth­ful in­for­ma­tion” to as­sist the probe, hold­ing seven ses­sions with in­ves­ti­ga­tors, “many of them lengthy, and con­tin­ues to make him­self avail­able to in­ves­ti­ga­tors,” it said.

He had pro­vided in­for­ma­tion about con­tacts with Rus­sian in­ter­ests dur­ing the cam­paign, at­tempts by Rus­sians to reach the cam­paign and about con­tacts with “per­sons con­nected to the White House” in 20172018, the fil­ing added.

Around Novem­ber 2015, some five months af­ter Trump launched his bid for the pres­i­dency and well be­fore pre­vi­ously re­ported con­tacts, Co­hen spoke to a pur­ported “trusted per­son” in the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion who of­fered the cam­paign “po­lit­i­cal syn­ergy” and “syn­ergy on a gov­ern­ment level.” Co­hen said the uniden­ti­fied per­son “re­peat­edly pro­posed” a meet­ing be­tween Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, claim­ing it could have a “phe­nom­e­nal” im­pact “not only in po­lit­i­cal but in a busi­ness di­men­sion as well.” “Co­hen, how­ever, did not fol­low up on this in­vi­ta­tion,” the fil­ing added.

- Trump claims 'cleared'

The for­mer fixer last week pleaded guilty to ly­ing to Congress in con­nec­tion with a Moscow real es­tate deal, which was be­ing pur­sued as late as one month be­fore Trump of­fi­cially be­came the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent.

Due to his help, Mueller de­clined to rec­om­mend ad­di­tional jail time for Co­hen for ly­ing to Congress.

Re­cent fil­ings in the Mueller probe have sug­gested the White House knew that Co­hen planned to lie to law­mak­ers about his con­tacts with Rus­sians.

They also sug­gest Trump and his fam­ily were in the loop on dis­cus­sions with Rus­sians on a Moscow project, even af­ter the real es­tate ty­coon se­cured the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion in mid-2016.

Trump's spokes­woman Sarah San­ders dis­missed the lat­est fil­ings in Co­hen's case, say­ing they “tell us noth­ing of value that wasn't al­ready known.” “Mr Co­hen has re­peat­edly lied and as the pros­e­cu­tion has pointed out to the court, Mr Co­hen is no hero,” she said.

But Mueller has been inch­ing ever closer to the White House, and early on Fri­day Trump fired off a fever­ish vol­ley of tweets against a probe he dubs a “witch hunt,” ac­cus­ing Mueller of “big time con­flicts of in­ter­est” and al­leg­ing the pros­e­cu­tor co­erced false tes­ti­mony from wit­nesses.

The com­man­der-in-chief vowed his lawyers would pro­duce a “ma­jor Counter Re­port” to re­but Mueller's find­ings, as and when he de­liv­ers them.

FILE PHOTO : For­mer FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller, spe­cial coun­sel on the Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tion, leaves fol­low­ing a meet­ing with mem­bers of the US Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee at the US Capi­tol in Wash­ing­ton, DC / AFP

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