By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – The long-time former lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about work he did on a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
The real estate deal was never actualized, but was pursued in the months Trump was carrying out his White House bid.
Cohen's plea is the latest legal victory for Special Counsel Robert Mueller as he seeks to probe Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.
In a nine-page court filing, prosecutors laid out a series of lies Cohen told lawmakers to falsely minimize links between the development and Trump during the 2016 campaign, as well as its timeline.
Cohen sought to “give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before ” the first state primary in the 2016 election, according to the document.
Cohen told lawmakers discussions ended in January 2016 when, in fact, they proceeded until roughly June of that year.
Among the people Cohen briefed on the project was Trump, who was referred to throughout the document as “Individual 1. ” Cohen briefed him at least three times, as well as other members of the Trump family, according to the document.
Trump has repeatedly denied any business dealings in Russia, claiming in July 2016 on Twitter: “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia. ”
Addressing reporters at the White House before departing for a G20 summit in Argentina, Trump said Cohen is a “weak person ” who is trying to get “a reduced sentence. ”
“He's got himself a big prison sentence, and he's trying to get a much less prison sentence by making up a story, ” he said. “Here's the thing: even if he was right it doesn't matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign. I was running my business, a lot of different things, during the campaign. ”