Mueller opens flood­gates

Fed­eral court fil­ings say Trump lawyer met Rus­sian in­ter­me­di­ary of­fer­ing “po­lit­i­cal syn­ergy”

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Chad Day, Eric Tucker and Jim Mus­tian

WASH­ING­TON» 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 spe­cial coun­sel said Fri­day.

Court fil­ings from pros­e­cu­tors in New York and spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s of­fice lay out pre­vi­ously undis­closed con­tacts be­tween Trump as­so­ciates and Rus­sian in­ter­me­di­aries and sug­gest the Krem­lin aimed early on to in­flu­ence Trump and his cam­paign by play­ing to his po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions and his per­sonal busi­ness in­ter­ests.

The fil­ings, in cases in­volv­ing Co­hen and for­mer cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort, cap a dra­matic week of rev­e­la­tions in Mueller’s on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into po­ten­tial co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and the Krem­lin.

They make clear how wit­nesses pre­vi­ously close to Trump — Co­hen once de­clared he would “take a bul­let” for the pres­i­dent — have since pro­vided dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about him in ef­forts to come clean to the gov­ern­ment and in some cases get lighter prison sen­tences. One wit­ness, for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn, pro­vided so much in­for­ma­tion to pros­e­cu­tors that Mueller this week said he shouldn’t serve any prison time.

The in­ter­views with pros­e­cu­tors have yielded in­ti­mate in­for­ma­tion about episodes un­der close ex­am­i­na­tion, in­clud­ing pos­si­ble Rus­sian col­lu­sion and hush­money pay­ments dur­ing the cam­paign to a porn star and Play­boy model who say they had sex with Trump a decade ear­lier.

In one of the fil­ings, Mueller de­tails how Co­hen spoke to 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 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.”

That 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 ad­mit­ted last week to 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 U.S. cam­paign.

Co­hen told pros­e­cu­tors he never fol­lowed up, al­though the of­fer bore echoes of a pro­posal pre­sented by Trump cam­paign aide Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, who raised the idea to other ad­vis­ers of lever­ag­ing his con­nec­tions to set up a Putin en­counter.

In an ad­di­tional fil­ing Fri­day evening, pros­e­cu­tors said Manafort lied to them about his con­tacts with a Rus­sian as­so­ciate and Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing in 2018.

The court pa­pers say that Manafort ini­tially told pros­e­cu­tors he didn’t have any con­tact with any­one while they were in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. But pros­e­cu­tors say they re­cov­ered “elec­tronic doc­u­ments” show­ing his con­tacts with mul­ti­ple ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials. The of­fi­cials are not iden­ti­fied in the court fil­ings.

Manafort, who has pleaded guilty to sev­eral counts, vi­o­lated his plea agree­ment by then telling “mul­ti­ple dis­cernible lies” to pros­e­cu­tors, they said.

Pros­e­cu­tors in Co­hen’s case said that even though he co­op­er­ated in their in- ves­ti­ga­tion into the hush­money pay­ments to women, he nonethe­less de­served to spend time in prison.

“Co­hen did pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to law en­force­ment, in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion that as­sisted the Spe­cial Coun­sel’s Of­fice,” they said. “But Co­hen’s de­scrip­tion of those ef­forts is over­stated in some re­spects and in­com­plete in oth­ers.”

Co­hen, dubbed Trump’s “le­gal fixer” in the past, also de­scribed his work in con­junc­tion with Trump in or­ches­trat­ing hush money pay­ments to two women — adult ac­tress Stormy Daniels and Play­boy model Karen McDougal — who said they had sex with Trump.

Pros­e­cu­tors in New York, where Co­hen pleaded guilty in Au­gust in con­nec­tion with those pay­ments, said the lawyer “acted in co­or­di­na­tion and at the di­rec­tion” of Trump, suggest­ing they had im­pli­cated him in Co­hen’s crime.

De­spite such spe­cific al­le­ga­tions of Trump’s ac­tions, the pres­i­dent quickly tweeted af­ter news of the fil­ings: “To­tally clears the Pres­i­dent. Thank you!”

In ad­di­tion, the fil­ings re­veal that Co­hen told pros­e­cu­tors he and Trump dis­cussed a po­ten­tial meet­ing with Putin on the side­lines of the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly in 2015, shortly af­ter Trump an­nounced his can­di­dacy for pres­i­dent.

Mueller’s team writes that Co­hen con­ferred with Trump “about con­tact­ing the Rus­sia gov­ern­ment be­fore reach­ing out to gauge Rus­sia’s in­ter­est in such a meet­ing.”

In meet­ings with Mueller’s team, Co­hen “pro­vided in­for­ma­tion about his own con­tacts with Rus­sian in­ter­ests dur­ing the cam­paign and dis­cus­sions with oth­ers in the course of mak­ing those con­tacts,” the court doc­u­ments said.

Co­hen pro­vided pros­e­cu­tors with a “de­tailed ac­count” of his in­volve­ment, along with the in­volve­ment of oth­ers, in ef­forts dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to com­plete a deal to build a Trump Tower Moscow, the doc­u­ments said. He also pro­vided in­for­ma­tion about at­tempts by Rus­sian na­tion­als to reach Trump’s cam­paign, they said.

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