President Trump spoke more extensively during the presidential election with his-then attorney and fixer Michael Cohen about the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow than Cohen admitted to Congress last year.
Cohen pleaded guilty today in the first case brought against him by special counsel Robert Mueller.
While Trump was not directly accused of any wrongdoing, the charge brings the president closer to an effort to obstruct probes into alleged contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight other felony counts brought by federal prosecutors in New York, including charges that he violated campaign finance laws by agreeing with Trump during the campaign to make hush money payments to women claiming to have had sexual encounters with Trump.
In the new criminal charge unveiled Thursday, Cohen admitted that while he told the House and Senate Intelligence Committees last year that consideration of the proposed Moscow “Trump Tower” project ceased by January 2016 — around the time of the Iowa caucuses in the presidential race — the business proposal remained under discussion through “as late as approximately June 2016.”
If the Moscow project in fact remained live through June 2016, it could have been a significant factor in the decision by various Trump aides and family members to attend a June 7, 2016 “Trump Tower” meeting with individuals with close ties to the Russian government.
That session has been a key focus of Mueller’s prosecutors and congressional investigators probing potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Cohen gave the misleading statements, made to two congressional committees last year, in order to minimize the links between the Moscow project and Trump and give the “false impression” that the project had ended before the first Republican primary vote in 2016, according to court documents.
Taken together, the revelations show that the Trump team was pursuing a building project in Russia for months longer during the 2016 election campaign than had previously been admitted.
That raises questions of whether there was a financial incentive to get close to the Kremlin, which could play a role in the approval of such a major building project in the country’s capital.
Trump dismissed the developments, saying that Cohen, who once said he would take a bullet for Trump, was lying in an attempt to reduce a previous criminal sentence.
“Cohen is a weak person and not a very smart person,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “He’s got himself a big prison sentence. And he’s trying to get a much lesser prison sentence by making up this story.”