Michael Cohen made a surprise appearance in a Manhattan courtroom this morning and pleaded guilty to a new criminal charge. Cohen admitted to making false statements to Congress about his efforts to build a Trump Tower deal in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. That real estate deal has been a focus of the special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives.
Specifically, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying about:
- The timing of the Moscow project
- Discussions with people in the Trump Organizations and Russia about the Moscow project
- Contemplating travel to Russia in connection with the Moscow project
Devastating words from Michael Cohen for the President – who is individual 1.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) November 29, 2018
“I made these statements to be consistent with Individual-1’s political messaging and to be loyal to Individual-1,” Cohen said in court.
Michael Cohen’s new plea deal includes a cooperation agreement with Mueller, indicating that Mueller believes he has additional knowledge that may help the investigation.
The specifics? Here is what Cohen told Congress about the Trump Moscow Tower deal:
But the truth is that the Moscow deal didn’t die in January 2016. The Moscow deal lasted until into Summer 2016 when Trump was the presumptive nominee.
Furthermore, Cohen discussed deal more than three times with candidate Trump (“Individual 1”).
Cohen briefed Trump family members about it during that time.
And Cohen took steps in contemplation of Trump’s travel to Russia including talking directly with Kremlin officials (not just email). In fact,
he was negotiating a Trump Tower in Moscow at the same time Russia was stealing e-mails to disrupt the US presidential election.
Here is Cohen contemplating a Moscow trip just AFTER the Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr and all.
Trump has repeatedly told the press and the public that he doesn’t have any deals with Russia, etc. It is likely the Mueller asked Trump about his dealing with Russia, and if he maintained that there were no deals during that time, he committed perjury.
Trump tweets on financial interests and Russia in 2016/2017: pic.twitter.com/sg7u3ttQFX— Carrie Dann (@CarrieNBCNews) November 29, 2018
One thing is clear: while Trump was negotiating business deals with Russia, he was praising Putin on the campaign trail.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with arguing for better relations with Russia and/or Putin. But the point is that this was repeatedly presented to voters as a good-faith declaration of what Trump intended to do as president, in keeping with his vision of what would be good for the U.S. Yet voters were not told that Trump’s business organization was trying to negotiate a major real estate deal there at the same time.
- In January of 2016, Trump tried to absolve Putin of blame after a British inquiry found that Putin had probably ordered the 2006 poisoning of a Russian dissident. “I don’t think they’ve found him guilty,” Trump said, adding that “he hasn’t been convicted of anything,” and “he says he didn’t do it,” and “who knows who did it.”
- In February of 2016, Trump said it would be “good if we actually got along” with Russia, adding: “I think I’d have a good relationship with Putin.”
- In April of 2016, Trump said that Putin had been “very nice to me,” adding that if we can “get along with Russia, that would be a tremendous thing. I would love to try it.”
- Also in April of 2016, Trump said: “We’re going to have a great relationship with Putin and Russia.”
- In May of 2016, Trump said that Russia wants “to be friendly with the United States. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got with somebody?”
Trump also repeatedly praised Putin throughout 2015, during the earlier period of negotiations over the project (which we now know continued deep into 2016).
It is of course possible that Trump would have said all these things if there were no business dealings with Russia underway. But either way, voters deserved to know that those dealings were happening. And now, with the new revelations, that whole display from Trump looks potentially more conflict-ridden and corrupt than it did at the time.
Trump responds to press by backtracking: Running for president “doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to do business” Also says of Cohen: “He is a weak person… Michael Cohen is lying and he’s trying to get a reduced sentence for things that have nothing to do with me.”
Pres. Trump: I was running my business while campaigning. There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would get back into business. And why should I lose lots of opportunities? https://t.co/vEE5vZwqpw pic.twitter.com/WBOlMwOqbi— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 29, 2018
Trump on potential Moscow deal about which Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress: “I wasn’t trying to hide anything.” pic.twitter.com/wG8sHQnXnS— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) November 29, 2018
So Trump’s defense in the aftermath of Cohen’s plea deal:— Tarini Parti (@tparti) November 29, 2018
– Cohen is liar and weak
– He hired him because a “long time ago he did me a favor.”
– Everyone knew about the Moscow project.
– Even if Cohen is right, “it doesn’t matter. “There would have been nothing wrong.”
.@AshaRangappa_ made an important point just now on @CNNnewsroom: Yes, Mr. Trump was allowed to do business with Russia while a candidate. But he lied about it, which gave the Kremlin leverage over him, since Putin could have exposed Trump’s lie during the campaign.— Paul Begala (@PaulBegala) November 29, 2018
BTW, this is what the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES tweeted last night:
Relatedly, Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt got raided by authorities this morning. The raid had to do with money-laundering operations (the “Panama Papers” scandal). Deutsche Bank was :helping clients set up offshore companies in tax havens and the proceeds of crimes were transferred there” without the bank reporting it, claimed German authorities.
So the raid had nothing (supposedly) to do with Trump. But Deutsche Bank is the only bank who would lend money to Trump (because of all his bankruptcies and defaulting on loans to most US banks).
Oh, not for nothing, but here’s a picture of Michael Cohen in April 2016, just after his offices were raided. Sitting behind him is the former CFO of Deutsche Bank’s wealth management division. Huh.
Sorta kinda related, this just happened:
NEW: Trump cancels G-20 meeting with Putin https://t.co/tJLWdydwue— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) November 29, 2018
UPDATE — Trump cancels more meetings at G-20 summit. I think he has domestic concerns.
AP: ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — White House: Formal meetings with Turkey, S Korea canceled; Trump will instead speak informally with leaders at G-20.— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) November 29, 2018