U.S. President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about work he did on a potential Trump Organization real estate project in Russia that occurred during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
Appearing before a federal judge in a New York, Cohen said he made false statements to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the project in Moscow and lied about the timing of the negotiations.
“I made these statements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and to be loyal to Individual 1,” Cohen said in court, with Individual 1 referring to Donald Trump.
According to court documents from special counsel Robert Mueller, Cohen said he told Congress that all discussions of the Moscow Trump Tower project ended by January 2016, when they had actually continued “as late as approximately June 2016.”
That date is significant as it’s the same month as the Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials — Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort — and several other people, including Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who promised them dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t have financial interests in Russia. On Thursday he spoke to the media, calling Cohen a “liar” and “weak person” who is only trying to reduce his prison sentence.
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The special counsel says Cohen lied to the Senate and House intelligence committees in a two-page statement he submitted to them on Aug. 28, 2017, and in subsequent testimony.
Cohen pleaded guilty to the charge of making false statements on Thursday.
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The court documents say Cohen made the false statements to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1,” and to give the false impression that the Trump Organization had given up on the Moscow Project before the first Republican primary.
Here’s what Cohen lied about.
Lie 1 – Cohen and the Trump Organization dropped the Russia real estate deal in January 2016
According to the court documents, Cohen told both committees he recommended dropping plans for a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow in January 2016, just before Trump won the first Republican primary in Iowa.
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However, the court document say Cohen continued to work on the so-called “Moscow Project” until June 2016. He worked in concert with an American “third-party intermediary,” identified as Individual 2, and planned to visit Russia himself before arranging a visit for Trump. Individual 2’s identity is unknown.
“The Moscow Project was discussed multiple times within the company and did not end in January 2016,” Mueller wrote in the court documents.
Cohen also discussed the status of the project with Trump on more than the three occasions he mentioned to the Senate Intelligence Committee and briefed Trump and his family members at the company about the project, the court documents say.
Lie 2 – Cohen claimed he had no contact with Russian officials
Cohen told members of Congress that he had never conversed with any member of the Russian government, according to the court documents.
However, Cohen had conversations with multiple individuals connected to the Russian government, including President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, whom he contacted multiple times by email in January 2016, the documents say. Cohen also called the press secretary’s assistant sometime around Jan. 20, 2016, and spoke to her for approximately 20 minutes about the Moscow Project.
Dmitry Peskov has served as Putin’s press secretary for the past six years.
Lie 3 – Cohen claimed he never tried to arrange a Trump visit to Russia
Cohen previously told the intelligence committees that he never tried to set up a trip to Russia for then-candidate Trump, according to the court documents.
However, Cohen and Individual 2 discussed a Trump trip on multiple occasions, and that Cohen broached the topic with Trump himself.
WATCH: President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted Thursday he lied to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal
Cohen agreed to visit Russia in June 2016 but ultimately cancelled the trip on June 14, shortly before it was expected to happen, the court documents say.
Individual 2 describes Cohen’s visit as a “pre-meeting trip” ahead of a possible meeting between “the 2 big guys.”
Trump announced shortly after Cohen’s plea that he was cancelling a meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina. He cited Russia’s capture of several Ukrainian sailors earlier this week as the reason behind the decision.
“I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!” he tweeted.
Trump submitted answers to the special counsel’s questions about Russia and the election campaign earlier this month.
Trump’s lawyers said on Thursday that his answers line up with what Cohen pleaded guilty to in court earlier in the day.
“The president said there was a proposal, it was discussed with Cohen, there was a non-binding letter of intent and it didn’t go beyond that,” Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told The New York Times.