President Donald Trump continues to say that allegations of collusion with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election is a hoax.
Attorney Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty to Misleading Congress
On Thursday, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about prospective real estate work in Russia he did with President Trump during the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen admitted that he made false statements because he wanted to protect Trump as a special counsel investigated him for possible collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 campaign.
He also wanted to make sure his rhetoric matched Trump’s statements on the campaign trail two years ago.
Prosecutors stated that Cohen lied “to minimize links between the Moscow Project and (Trump) and 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 lawyer said he lied to Congress in 2017 about Trump’s plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that his dealings with the Russians went on much longer and his briefings to Trump were more frequent than he initially indicated.
Initially, Cohen said that the business overtures with Russia ended in January 2016.
However, he now says that those contacts with Russia lasted well into Trump’s presidential campaign.
The lawyer has also pleaded guilty to other federal charges involving his taxi companies, bank fraud and his work with Trump.
Yesterday, Trump immediately pushed back on Cohen’s plea and statements, saying that even if Cohen’s testimony proved factual it would not be illegal for him to pursue business while campaigning for the Oval Office.
“(Cohen’s) a weak person and not very smart,” Trump said. “Even if he was right, it doesn’t matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign. I was running my business.”
The Cohen plea encapsulated an eventful week in Mueller’s investigation of Trump.
On Monday, Mueller voided a plead deal with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, because he repeatedly lied to investigators.
Today, Manafort will have a hearing about a sentencing date for charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for representing a pro-Russian group in Ukraine.
Trump has not ruled out a presidential pardon for Manafort.
Furthermore, Trump continues to call for an end to the Russia investigation.
Yesterday the president tweeted, “Alan Dershowitz: ‘These are not crimes. He (Mueller) has no authority to be a roving Commissioner. I don’t see any evidence of crimes.’ This is an illegal Hoax that should be ended immediately. Mueller refuses to look at the real crimes on the other side. Where is the IG REPORT?”
Trump also retweeted a Twitter post urging arrests of his political opponents for treason.
Reports show that when the future president tried to build a Trump Tower in Moscow it came after decades of trying to open up a hotel in the city.
For a long time, he wanted to plant a “Trump” flag in Russia by building one of his trademark buildings in that country.
Trump has longed for a Trump Tower in Russia since the 1980s.
But a Russian Trump Tower remained elusive even after Trump secured trademarks and sent officials and his children to secure deals for future real estate projects.
Although Cohen misled Congress about the Moscow Project, Felix Sater, a convicted felon and longtime business associate of Trump who has an extensive history with Russia, led the effort.
In order to get the Moscow Project off the ground, Sater relied on his long list of Russian contacts (over 100 people) including Russian President Vladimir Putin and a former Russian military intelligence general, Evgeny Shmykov.
The convicted felon developed relationships with key Russian officials in the late 1990s when he began secretly working for United States intelligence agencies.
His secret work with U.S. intelligence agencies helped Sater lessen his penalty after he pleaded guilty to a $40 million securities fraud case.
In 2017, Sater told the House Intelligence Committee that his Russian relationships included, “ranking intelligence, military operatives and military research facilities.”
Sater reached out to Shmykov to arrange Russian visas for Trump and Cohen.
Shmykov worked with anti-Taliban forces in the late 1990s and early 2000s when he worked in Russian military intelligence.
The group of Americans worked with the Russians for months to land a deal.
Sater reached out to Shmykov at the end of 2015 to resurrect plans for the Moscow Project.
He began sending emails and exchanging phone calls with Cohen about the new plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
All of this occurred after the presidential election was in full effect.
Sater told Cohen he would “get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this.”
He wrote, “Buddy, our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it.”
The deal was to include a $50 million penthouse apartment in the future Trump Tower in Moscow for Putin.
However, Trump and the Russians abandoned the project by July 2016 after Trump won the Republican presidential nomination and allegations of Russian election meddling began to reach a boiling point.
Sater went on to claim that his emails just proved that he was overeager to get the Moscow Project going.
He said that he did not really have connections to the Kremlin.
Sater said that the only reason he thought the Moscow Project could get Trump elected was because it would generate a positive buzz for Trump.
Republican House Intelligence Committee members accepted Cohen and Sater’s claims that the Moscow Project was just a business move with no political overtones.
However, Cohen’s changed tune casts doubt on that assertion.
Cohen admits that he continuously tried to contact Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Pescov, who had one of his aides contact Cohen about the Moscow Project.
The next day, Sater mentioned Putin to Cohen and said that he heard from someone about the project.
In May 2016, Sater told Cohen that an official from Russia invited Cohen to an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Russia where a meeting with Putin was the goal.
At first, Cohen agreed but then told Sater he would not be going after all.