Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, made a surprise appearance before a federal judge in NY on Thursday to plead guilty to lying to Congress about work he did on an aborted project to build a Trump Tower in Russian Federation.
But Trump has continually surfaced in Mueller's investigation, with references to him in Cohen's plea on Thursday and in a draft plea offer extended to conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi and made public this week. Cohen also contradicted claims by Trump that none of his family members were involved in the talks. And all along, Trump was denying that he had any business dealings with Russian Federation.
Michael Cohen has asked a USA judge for no prison time, citing, as he reveals in a new court filing, more details about his conversations with then-candidate Donald Trump about plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow.
"It is respectfully submitted that a sentence of time-served would be well warranted in this case", argue Petrillo and Lester, noting Cohen spent time in federal custody in the hours and minutes prior to his court appearances to enter guilty pleas.
That meeting, where Trump failed to give unqualified backing to United States intelligence claims of Russian hacking of Democratic Party emails, triggered furious condemnations from the Democrats and media outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN, and charges by former top intelligence officials that Trump was guilty of treason.
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The main thrust has been whether Russian agents sought to undermine the campaign of Hillary Clinton and whether the Trump team played any part. I have no businesses there. The president added "there would've been nothing wrong if I did" negotiate with Russian Federation, however.
INSKEEP: A Manhattan-based real estate company. And without access to Trump's tax returns, verifying his claims proves hard. Cohen admitted as part of his plea he knew discussions continued into that summer, though he told Congress otherwise.
But Cohen was also on Trump's payroll for years, so in protecting his interests, Cohen was also trying to protect his own. It was a big deal when it came out in 2017 that there were negotiations, even up into early 2016, about a Trump Tower in Moscow.
"I think you can draw a conclusion that these false statements generally relate to an effort to protect the president of the United States in connection with his dealings with Russian Federation", said Washington lawyer Daniel Petalas, a former Justice Department prosecutor.
"There would be nothing wrong if I did do it", Trump said of pursuing the project. "There was a good chance that I wouldn't have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?" And nothing said in court on Thursday, or in associated court filings, addressed whether Trump or his aides had directed Cohen to mislead Congress.
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It is not illegal for a candidate to continue to run a business while running for office. Trump this week accused Cohen of lying to spare himself time in prison - an allegation that is sure to be fueled by Cohen's request for a punishment that includes no time behind bars. The president added that "even if he was right, it doesn't matter, because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign". He turned over day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization to others, including his two adult sons. As you said, this individual is referenced as Individual One, but that, of course, appears to be Donald Trump.
Peskov - who said he never talked to Cohen personally - was also asked to respond to those that struggle to believe a contact with Cohen - then a lawyer for a US presidential candidate - would come to nothing, as he suggested.
And one of the things that the court papers say that were filed by the special counsel's office - they say that Cohen discussed the status and project of the Moscow project with Trump on more than three occasions.
But for Trump, it could damage his credibility. Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russian Federation. And he has already delivered shifting accounts of his relationship with Stormy Daniels, the porn star to whom Cohen paid hush money to keep her from talking about her affair with Trump.
Cohen, 52, is scheduled to be sentenced December 12 in Manhattan federal court after pleading guilty to lying to Congress and to campaign finance law violations involving alleged hush money payments to two women.
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Donald Trump's lawyers say that his written testimony to the Mueller investigation regarding his real estate dealings in Moscow essentially matches up with what Cohen is now telling the special prosecutor's office.