Michael Cohen pleads guilty, says he lied about Trump’s knowledge of Moscow project

Posted at 7:24 AM, Nov 29, 2018

By Kara Scannell, Pamela Brown, Erica Orden and Stephen Collinson, CNN

President Donald Trump spoke with Michael Cohen more extensively about the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow than Cohen previously told Congress, Cohen admitted in federal court Thursday.

RELATED: Read Michael Cohen’s plea agreement

Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, pleaded guilty Thursday to making false statements to Congress about the Russia investigation in a charge brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Cohen had previously said talks about the Moscow project had ended in January 2016 just prior to the Iowa caucuses.

The Cohen revelations are potentially significant because they appear to show that Trump was engaged in business dealings with Russia in the midst of a campaign in which Moscow interfered to help elect him.

It could also intersect with other information that Mueller knows to create political and legal jeopardy for the President.

RELATED: Trump abruptly cancels planned Putin meeting

Cohen waived his right to an indictment when he appeared in a New York federal court.

“In truth and in fact, and as Cohen well knew, Cohen’s representations about the Moscow Project he made to (House and Senate intelligence committees) were false and misleading,” Mueller’s office said in a court filing.

“Cohen made the false statements to … give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before ‘the Iowa caucus and….the very first primary,’ in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations,” the filing adds.

Trump responded to Cohen’s admission at the White House Thursday, calling his former lawyer “very weak.”

“He’s a weak person,” Trump said before departing for Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“He was convicted with a fairly long-term sentence with things unrelated to the Trump Organization,” Trump said, citing Cohen’s legal issues with mortgages and the IRS.

“What he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence,” Trump said.

Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican representing the Utah’s 2nd District, reacted to the news as well.

“I was very disappointed to know that [Michael Cohen pleaded guilty], and frankly not terribly surprised,” Stewart told Fox 13. “Look, the oversight that Congress provides in this investigation is very important. And it’s important for the American people to find the truth. And it’s disappointing when we find out that witnesses have appeared before the committee and haven’t been honest, and haven’t been truthful with us. It’s unacceptable, and he needs to be held accountable for it.”

The charge to which Cohen pleaded carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 and supervised release of not more than three years. Sentencing has been set for December 12.

Cohen left the courthouse without making a statement.