Trump’s ex-lawyer ad­mits lies about Rus­sian real es­tate deal

Rome News-Tribune - - NEWS - By Eric Tucker, Larry Neumeis­ter and Chad Day

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer lawyer, Michael Co­hen, con­fessed in a sur­prise guilty plea Thurs­day that he lied to Congress about a Moscow real es­tate deal he pur­sued on Trump’s be­half dur­ing the heat of the 2016 Re­pub­li­can cam­paign. He said he lied to be con­sis­tent with Trump’s “po­lit­i­cal mes­sag­ing.”

Co­hen’s plea ar­range­ment made clear that pros­e­cu­tors be­lieve that while Trump in­sisted re­peat­edly through­out the cam­paign that he had no busi­ness deal­ings in Rus­sia, his lawyer was con­tin­u­ing to pur­sue the Trump Tower Moscow project weeks after his boss had clinched the Re­pub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent and well after the point he and his as­so­ciates have pub­licly ac­knowl­edged.

Co­hen said he dis­cussed the pro­posal with Trump on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions and with mem­bers of Trump’s fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers filed by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, who is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion with the Trump cam­paign. Co­hen ac­knowl­edged con­sid­er­ing trav­el­ing to Moscow to dis­cuss the project.

There is no clear link in the court fil­ings be­tween Co­hen’s lies and Mueller’s cen­tral ques­tion of whether the Trump cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia. And noth­ing said in court, or in as­so­ci­ated court fil­ings, ad­dressed whether Trump or his aides had di­rected Co­hen to mis­lead Congress.

Still, the case un­der­scores how Trump’s busi­ness en­tity, the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, was ne­go­ti­at­ing busi­ness in Moscow at the same time in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve that Rus­sians were med­dling on his be­half in the 2016 elec­tion, and that as­so­ciates of the pres­i­dent were min­ing Rus­sian con­nec­tions dur­ing the race.

The Co­hen rev­e­la­tion comes as Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion is show­ing fresh signs of ag­gres­sive ac­tiv­ity. Ear­lier this week, Mueller’s team ac­cused Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort, of ly­ing after his own guilty plea.

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