Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty Thursday morning to lying to Congress about the timeline of a Russian real estate project pursued by Trump during the 2016 election.
The new charges were brought by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, with which Cohen is now cooperating.
According to court filings, Cohen provided written and oral testimony to the congressional investigations conducted by both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives into Russian interference in the presidential election won by Trump.
In his statements, Cohen said discussions inside Trump’s company to possibly build in Moscow ended in January 2016. Further, Cohen stated he never agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the project and never considered asking Trump—identified as “Individual 1” in court documents—to do the same. Lastly, Cohen stated that he did not recall any communications with Russian officials about the project.
These statements were knowingly false, according to court filings.
Cohen’s statements were meant to minimize Trump’s links to the Moscow project while giving the false impression that discussions about the project ended before the Iowa presidential caucus in 2016, the first in the nation, in the hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigation.
In fact, prosecutors stated in their filing, the Moscow project discussion did not end in January 2016 and was discussed multiple times within the Trump Organization thereafter. Cohen was discussing possibly obtaining Russian governmental approval for the project as late as June. Likewise, Cohen discussed the status and progress of the project with Trump on more than three occasions, according to prosecutors.
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Cohen also made plans to travel to Russia and asked Trump about the possibility of traveling there as well during the presidential campaign, according to court filings. In May, Cohen received communications indicating a Russian official wanted to meet with him the following month in St. Petersburg, where he could potentially meet directly with Russian President Vladmir Putin or another top Russian official. Cohen took steps to possibly make the trip before backing out in mid-June, according to court filings.
Additionally, Cohen’s statement about not communicating with Russian officials was knowingly false, as he was in touch with the office of Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov. Court documents state the Cohen reached out in January 2016 about the project and spoke with Peskov’s assistant about possibly getting help to move it forward.
Cohen’s appearance in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Thursday marks the second time he’s pleaded guilty to charges. In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to paying hush money to women who alleged they had sexual relations with the future president.
Cohen’s attorney, Guy Petrillo, did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for the special counsel’s office, Peter Carr, said the office would not be commenting further on the case.
According to The Associated Press, Trump responded to the news Thursday morning, telling reporters on the west lawn of the White House that Cohen is a “weak person” who was “lying” to get a reduced sentence.
Additional reporting was provided by Washington, D.C.-based reporter Ellis Kim.
Here is the new criminal information filed in the Southern District of New York:
And read Cohen’s plea agreement here: