Michael Cohen pleads guilty to making false statements to Congress
Cohen entered his plea in a federal court in Manhattan on Thursday. Since pleading guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations in August, Cohen has been cooperating with Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation, and gave the Special Counsel more than 70 hours of recorded testimony.
Cohen told the court that statements he gave a Senate Select Committee in 2017 were false. At the time, Cohen told the committee Trump’s efforts to build a Trump Tower property in Moscow ended in January 2016 and were not discussed with other members of the Trump company. He also said that he never planned to travel to Moscow to pursue the project, and had received no word from the Russian government regarding approvals for it.
According to court documents, Cohen said on Thursday that the project actually lasted until June 2016, and was discussed multiple times within the Trump company. Cohen admitted that he discussed traveling to Moscow with Trump, and that he had been contacted by a press secretary to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Cohen asked for assistance in moving the construction project forward.
"I made these misstatements to be consistent with (Trump's) political messaging and out of loyalty to (Trump)," Cohen told the court.
Trump had insisted throughout his campaign that he had no ongoing business deals in Russia. Speaking to reporters at the White House on Thursday, Trump called Cohen a "weak person," and claimed that his former attorney was "lying" to get a reduced sentence.
Before flipping on his old employer, Cohen once said that he would “take a bullet” for the president. Cohen then said that he had information that may be of interest to Mueller in August, but the statement was downplayed by Trump.
“If somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get ten or twenty years in jail, but you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made – in all fairness to him, most people are going to do that,” Trump said at the time.Also on rt.com Trump retweets image of US deputy attorney general among others jailed 'for treason'
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said that Cohen now poses a “double-barrelled threat” to Trump. However, Cohen's testimony does not reveal any collusion Russia to ifluence the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly dismissed Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt,” and Mueller has thus far been unable to find evidence of collusion.
As such, the investigation’s focus has shifted this year from looking for collusion to finding obstruction. Mueller’s team have combed through Trump’s tweets and looked at his firing of former FBI Director James Comey with a view to finding this obstruction, so far unsuccessfully.
Cohen's plea comes two weeks before the lawyer is due to be sentenced for the earlier tax and campaign finance violations. He is facing a possible term of 46 to 63 months in prison and a potential fine of up to $1 million. His voluntary cooperation with Mueller, however, could see this punishment lessened significantly.
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