EX-TRUMP LAWYER PLEADS GUILTY

Star-Telegram - - Front Page - BY BEN­JAMIN WEISER, BEN PROTESS, MAG­GIE HABERMAN AND MICHAEL S. SCH­MIDT

Michael Co­hen ad­mits ne­go­ti­at­ing to build a tower in Rus­sia for Don­ald Trump well into the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Michael Co­hen, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer lawyer and fixer, ad­mit­ted in court Thurs­day that he had en­gaged in ne­go­ti­a­tions to build a tower in Moscow for Trump well into the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, far later than pre­vi­ously known.

Co­hen said he dis­cussed the sta­tus of the project with Trump on more than three oc­ca­sions and briefed Trump’s fam­ily mem­bers about it. He also ad­mit­ted he agreed to travel to Rus­sia for meet­ings on the project.

The rev­e­la­tions, which came as Co­hen pleaded guilty to ly­ing to Congress, were a star­tling turn in the spe­cial coun­sel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Trump and his in­ner cir­cle.

Co­hen’s guilty plea comes at a par­tic­u­larly per­ilous time for Trump, whose pres­i­dency has been threat­ened by Co­hen’s state­ments to in­ves­ti­ga­tors. In re­cent days, the pres­i­dent and his lawyers have in­creased their at­tacks on the Jus­tice De­part­ment and the spe­cial coun­sel’s of­fice.

After Co­hen ap­peared in court Thurs­day, Trump abruptly can­celed a planned meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of Rus­sia while both lead­ers are in Ar­gentina for a world eco­nomic sum­mit meet­ing. The pres­i­dent said he called off the meet­ing be­cause of Rus­sia’s re­cent hos­til­i­ties with Ukraine.

Shortly after Co­hen’s plea, Trump said his for­mer fixer was once again ly­ing in or­der to get a re­duced sen­tence for the crimes he pleaded guilty to ear­lier this year. Un­der the ear­lier plea agree­ment, Co­hen faced four or five years in prison.

“He was con­victed of var­i­ous things un­re­lated to us,” Trump said, adding, “He’s a weak per­son and what he’s try­ing to do is get a re­duced sen­tence.”

Trump made his com­ments to re­porters as he left Wash­ing­ton for the Group of 20 meet­ing in Buenos Aires.

At a sur­prise fed­eral court hear­ing in Man­hat­tan, Co­hen ad­mit­ted that he had min­i­mized Trump’s role in ef­forts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and gave the false im­pres­sion to Congress that the ne­go­ti­a­tions had ended in Jan­uary 2016, just be­fore the Iowa cau­cuses.

In fact, Co­hen ad­mit­ted, the ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tin­ued for at least an­other five months, un­til June, which was just after Trump had clinched the Re­pub­li­can nom­i­na­tion. Co­hen also ad­mit­ted he agreed in early May to travel to Rus­sia for meet­ings on the project and that he spoke to Trump about it de­spite telling con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he had not done so. The trips never hap­pened.

Co­hen con­cluded his state­ment in court, say­ing: “I made these mis­state­ments to be con­sis­tent with In­di­vid­ual 1’s po­lit­i­cal mes­sag­ing and out of loy­alty to In­di­vid­ual 1.”

“In­di­vid­ual 1” is Trump, of­fi­cials said.

Trump said Thurs­day that dis­cus­sions about the Moscow project took place in early 2016 but that he did not know the ex­act tim­ing of when he de­cided to stop pur­su­ing it.

“We de­cided — I de­cided ul­ti­mately — not to do it,” he said, adding, “There would have been noth­ing wrong if I did do it.”

The pres­i­dent sug­gested the Moscow busi­ness con­sid­er­a­tion was a byprod­uct of run­ning a com­pany while cam­paign­ing for pres­i­dent.

Co­hen’s new guilty plea in U.S. Dis­trict Court marks the first time the of­fice of the spe­cial coun­sel, Robert Mueller, has charged Co­hen. In ex­change for plead­ing guilty and con­tin­u­ing to co­op­er­ate with Mueller, he may hope to re­ceive a lighter sen­tence than he oth­er­wise would.

Co­hen, 52, had al­ready pleaded guilty to eight charges, in­clud­ing cam­paign fi­nance, bank and tax crimes, brought by fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Man­hat­tan. He is sched­uled to be sen­tenced for those crimes in two weeks.

This week, Mueller ac­cused Trump’s one­time cam­paign man­ager, Paul Manafort, of re­peat­edly ly­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors in breach of a plea agree­ment. And Trump’s lawyers re­cently sub­mit­ted his writ­ten re­sponses to ques­tions from Mueller, whom the pres­i­dent ac­cused on a tweet Tues­day of op­er­at­ing a “Phony Witch Hunt.”

It was just three months ago that Co­hen, plead­ing guilty for the first time, stood up in a dif­fer­ent Man­hat­tan court­room and ac­cused Trump of di­rect­ing hush-money pay­ments dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign to con­ceal po­ten­tial sex scan­dals. Those pay­ments formed the ba­sis of the cam­paign fi­nance charges against Co­hen.

Although Co­hen’s first plea agree­ment did not in­clude a for­mal co­op­er­a­tion deal, he had sat for re­peated in­ter­views with Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

He also of­fered as­sis­tance to the of­fice prose­cut­ing him, the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York, ac­cord­ing to a per­son briefed on the mat­ter. (Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­ferred the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Co­hen to the South­ern Dis­trict ear­lier this year).

The South­ern Dis­trict said last month in a court fil­ing it was con­tin­u­ing to in­ves­ti­gate “Michael Co­hen and oth­ers.” While the fil­ing did not iden­tify other sus­pects, the pros­e­cu­tors are ex­pected to ex­am­ine whether peo­ple in Trump’s cir­cle were aware of Co­hen’s crim­i­nal con­duct.

In the South­ern Dis­trict case, Co­hen al­ready faced a po­ten­tial prison sen­tence of about four to five years un­der the non­bind­ing fed­eral sen­tenc­ing guide­lines, ac­cord­ing to his plea agree­ment. It is un­clear what ad­di­tional time he could face with the new guilty plea.

Dur­ing his plea hear­ing in Au­gust, Co­hen ad­mit­ted to mak­ing a $130,000 pay­ment to an adult film ac­tress, Stephanie Clif­ford, also known as Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet about an af­fair she said she had with Trump.

The pay­ment amounted to an il­le­gal con­tri­bu­tion to Trump’s cam­paign, pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued, since her si­lence bol­stered his elec­tion hopes and cam­paign fi­nance law pro­hibits in­di­vid­u­als from do­nat­ing more than $2,700 to a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Co­hen also pleaded guilty to ar­rang­ing what amounted to an il­le­gal cor­po­rate cam­paign do­na­tion when he helped to si­lence a for­mer Play­boy model, Karen McDou­gal. At Co­hen’s urg­ing, tabloid pub­lisher Amer­i­can Me­dia Inc. bought the rights to McDou­gal’s story of an af­fair with Trump but did not pub­lish a story.

“I par­tic­i­pated in this con­duct, which on my part took place in Man­hat­tan, for the prin­ci­pal pur­pose of in­flu­enc­ing the elec­tion,” Co­hen said in court in Au­gust when he en­tered his plea.

He said the pay­ments to the women were made “in co­or­di­na­tion with, and at the direc­tion of, a can­di­date for fed­eral of­fice” – a ref­er­ence to Trump.

The spe­cial coun­sel iden­ti­fied Co­hen’s false state­ments to Congress in tes­ti­mony Co­hen pro­vided to the House and Se­nate In­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees, which have been con­duct­ing their own, sep­a­rate in­quiries into pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Rus­sia and the Trump cam­paign.

Sen. Mark Warner of Vir­ginia, the top Demo­crat on the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said Thurs­day that the com­mit­tee had made ad­di­tional crim­i­nal re­fer­rals to Mueller, but he did not of­fer specifics.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the top Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said Co­hen’s plea only added ur­gency for con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors who plan to be­gin an in­quiry into Trump’s for­eign busi­ness deal­ings when Democrats take con­trol of the House in Jan­uary.

“If the pres­i­dent and his as­so­ciates were be­ing un­truth­ful in real time as they were pur­su­ing this deal, what does it mean now on how much we can rely on what the pres­i­dent is say­ing about any con­tin­u­ing Rus­sian fi­nan­cial in­ter­est?” Schiff told re­porters Thurs­day.

‘‘ I MADE THESE MIS­STATE­MENTS TO BE CON­SIS­TENT WITH IN­DI­VID­UAL 1’S PO­LIT­I­CAL MES­SAG­ING AND OUT OF LOY­ALTY TO IN­DI­VID­UAL 1. Michael Co­hen, in court, re­fer­ring to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump

JULIE JA­COB­SON AP

Michael Co­hen, left, walks out of fed­eral court with his at­tor­ney Guy Petrillo, on Thurs­day in New York after plead­ing guilty to ly­ing to Congress.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.