U.S.: Trump lawyer met Rus­sian who of­fered cam­paign ‘po­lit­i­cal syn­ergy’


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 fed­eral spe­cial coun­sel said Fri­day.

Court fil­ings from pros­e­cu­tors in New York and spe­cial coun­sel Robert

Mueller’s of­fice laid out pre­vi­ously undis­closed con­tacts be­tween Trump as­so­ci­ates and

Rus­sian in­ter­me­di­aries and sug­gested the

Krem­lin aimed early on to in­flu­ence Trump and his cam­paign by play­ing to both his po­lit­i­cal aspirations and his per­sonal busi­ness in­ter­ests.

The fil­ings, in cases in­volv­ing Co­hen and for­mer cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort, capped a dra-

Court fil­ings lay out pre­vi­ously un­known con­tacts of Trump as­so­ci­ates, Rus­sians

matic week of rev­e­la­tions in Mueller’s probe into pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and the Krem­lin. They bring the le­gal peril from mul­ti­ple in­ves­ti­ga­tions closer than ever to Trump, ty­ing him to an il­le­gal hush money pay­ment scheme and con­tra­dict­ing his claims that he had noth­ing to do with Rus­sia.

They make clear how wit­nesses pre­vi­ously close to Trump — Co­hen once de­clared he’d “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 de­fen­dant, for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn, pro­vided so much in­for­ma­tion to pros­e­cu­tors that Mueller this week said he shouldn’t serve any prison time.

In hours of in­ter­views with pros­e­cu­tors, wit­nesses have of­fered up in­for­ma­tion about piv­otal episodes un­der ex­am­i­na­tion, in­clud­ing pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with Rus­sia and pay­ments dur­ing the cam­paign to si­lence a porn star and Play­boy model who said 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 on the Putin in­vi­ta­tion, though the of­fer bore echoes of a March 2016 pro­posal pre­sented by Trump cam­paign aide Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, who broached to other ad­vis­ers the idea of a Putin en­counter.

Pros­e­cu­tors said pro­ba­tion of­fi­cials rec­om­mended a sen­tence for Co­hen of 3¢ years in prison. His lawyers want the 52-year-old at­tor­ney to avoid prison time al­to­gether.

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

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

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

Manafort re­signed from his job on the Trump cam­paign as ques­tions swirled about his lob­by­ing work for a pro-Rus­sia po­lit­i­cal party in Ukraine.

Pros­e­cu­tors in Co­hen’s case said that even though he co­op­er­ated in their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into po­ten­tial cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions, he none­the­less de­served prison time. Though he has por­trayed him­self as co­op­er­a­tive, “his de­scrip­tion of those ef­forts is over­stated in some re­spects and in­com­plete in oth­ers,” pros­e­cu­tors said.

“Af­ter cheat­ing the IRS for years, ly­ing to banks and to Congress, and seek­ing to crim­i­nally in­flu­ence the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Co­hen’s de­ci­sion to plead guilty — rather than seek a par­don for his man­i­fold crimes — does not make him a hero,” they wrote.

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 to cam­paign fi­nance crimes in con­nec­tion with those pay­ments, said the lawyer “acted in co­or­di­na­tion and at the di­rec­tion” of Trump. Though Co­hen had pre­vi­ously im­pli­cated Trump in the pay­ments, the pros­e­cu­tors now are link­ing Trump to the scheme and back­ing up Co­hen’s al­le­ga­tions.

Fed­eral law re­quires that any pay­ments made “for the pur­poses of in­flu­enc­ing” an elec­tion must be re­ported in cam­paign fi­nance dis­clo­sures. The court fil­ing Fri­day makes clear that the pay­ments were made to ben­e­fit Trump po­lit­i­cally.

Trump tried to brush off Fri­day’s rev­e­la­tions, claim­ing wrongly on Twit­ter that the news “To­tally clears the Pres­i­dent. Thank you!”

A court fil­ing also re­veals 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. In a foot­note 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.” It never took place.

Michael Co­hen

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