On Thursday, Michael Cohen (seen below in great spirits) confessed in court to negotiating on behalf of his then-boss to build a Trump-branded tower in Moscow as late as June of 2016.
Long story short, that means he lied to Congress in an effort to keep everybody on the same page about when those negotiations purportedly broke off. The implication is that Trump was still openly dealing with Russia when they (Russia) were engaged in an effort to influence the U.S. election.
Cohen also said he briefed Trump and “family members” about the project’s status and confessed that he agreed to take a trip to Moscow in the interest of advancing the deal.
Cohen’s admission came during an ad hoc hearing in Manhattan during which he pleaded guilty to lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee in the course of perpetuating the narrative that negotiations for the real estate project had broken off in January of 2016. As it turns out, those negotiations went on through June, after Trump clinched his party’s nomination for the White House.
“I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1”, Cohen said on Thursday. “Individual 1” is obviously Trump.
Speaking of “Individual 1”, he’s not amused. In remarks to the press, the President called his former personal attorney and fixer “a weak person” in the course of trying to explain exactly what went on with the “project” in question.
He continued (as he’s wont to do):
Asked why he would hire “a bum” and a “weak person” in the first place and then keep him employed for a dozen years (remember: Trump “hires the best people”), the President attributes that decision to Cohen “doing him a favor a long time ago”.
Suffice to say Cohen isn’t doing him any “favors” now.
Shortly after Cohen’s deal was made public, ABC’s John Santucci reported that Trump “was asked about the Trump Tower Moscow project among a list of written questions by special counsel Robert Mueller.” That’s according to sources familiar with the President’s responses. Obviously, that suggests Trump might have already been caught in a lie depending on how he responded to the questions.
As NBC reminds you, then-candidate Trump said the following in July of 2016 when asked specifically whether he had financial interests in Russia:
I will tell you right now, zero.
I have nothing to do with Russia, yes?
As ever, there are innumerable tweets that make this situation all the more amusing. Here’s one from that same month, for instance:
For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2016
Another potential problem is that this would appear to implicate Don Jr. in lying to Congress, something he’s already suspected of in relation to the Trump Tower meeting (that would be the other Trump Tower).
As noted above, Cohen says in the plea that he “briefed family members in the Company about the project”, but Jr. appeared to deny any involvement and/or intimate knowledge in his own statements to lawmakers.
This all comes amid the ongoing Paul Manafort drama which this week found Robert Mueller accusing Trump’s former campaign chairman of lying about a number of “small-ish” things like, for instance, his personal business dealings and his contacts with people in Ukraine.
During the same exchange with the media documented in the clips above, Trump lamented how “poorly” convicted felons are being treated these days by U.S. prosecutors. After reminding a female reporter that she’ll have to scream at him because he inexplicably only talks to reporters when Marine One’s rotors are spinning, the President made it clear that Manafort (and his ostrich jackets) might still get a pardon.
The optics around that would be “tremendous” – “believe me”.
We could go on, but is there really any point? You can read the Cohen plea in full below.cohen_plea_agreement