NEW YORK (RNN/AP) - Michael Cohen, the former attorney and “fixer” for President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty Thursday to misleading members of Congress about details in the investigation of Russian interference in the election.
In a surprise appearance before a federal judge, Cohen said his guilty plea was related to false statements on work he did to develop a Trump real estate project in Russia. Court documents Thursday said he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2017 that proceedings on a Trump project in Russia ended in January 2016, but he now admits talks on the deal lasted until June 2016, when Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee.
Cohen also said he kept Trump, identified as “Individual 1” in the documents, apprised of the Russia deal talks, as well as Trump’s family members involved in the company. He said he lied about the timing of negotiations and other details to be consistent with Trump’s “political message.”
On his way to the G20 summit Thursday, Trump responded by calling Cohen a weak person and a liar. Trump framed the Russia deal as something he didn’t do, but there would be nothing wrong had he done it.
“He’s trying to get a reduced sentence for things that have nothing to do with me," Trump said.
Trump also defended his dealings with Russia while campaigning for president.
“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?” he said.
One of the prosecutors working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller was present in the courtroom, and Cohen’s lawyer told the judge the plea deal involved cooperation with Mueller’s investigation. Cohen remained silent in response to questions outside the courtroom as he got into his car, but his lawyer said his client “will continue to cooperate.”
The courtroom happenings took place one day after Trump turned over written answers to Mueller’s questions, ending months of negotiating between the president’s and the special counsel’s teams for an interview.
Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer for more than a decade, a key power player in the Trump Organization and a fixture in his political life during the campaign, but the two had a falling out in 2018.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges and said Trump directed him to arrange payments before the 2016 election to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model who allege they had affairs with Trump. Cohen then said in September, via his own attorney, that he was providing critical information to Mueller’s probe without a cooperation agreement.