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