At an unscheduled Thursday appearance in a Manhattan courtroom, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress as part of a new plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Cohen repeatedly lied to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about his efforts to develop a Trump-branded property in Moscow while the 2016 presidential campaign was underway, according to the new criminal information filed against Cohen. According to the special counsel, Cohen falsely told Congress that efforts to develop the property ended in January 2016 and were not discussed with others in the company.
In fact, Cohen repeatedly “discussed the status and progress of the Moscow Project with Individual 1,” who is identifiable in court documents as President Trump.
Cohen also “briefed family members of Individual 1 within the Company about the project” and “took steps in contemplation of Individual 1’s possible travel to Russia,” per the information.
CNN reported that Cohen said in court that he made the false statements “to be consistent with Individual-1’s political messaging and to be loyal to Individual-1,” Cohen said in court.
Trump has repeatedly denied having any financial or business ties to Russia. On Thursday, both the President and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, downplayed Cohen’s new plea deal, calling him a “weak person” and a “proven liar,” respectively.
Departing court on Thursday morning, Cohen’s attorney, Guy Petrillo, told a crush of reporters: “Mr. Cohen has cooperated, Mr. Cohen will continue to cooperate.”
Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty in August to federal tax and campaign finance violations in a separate case brought by Manhattan federal prosecutors. Cohen has publicly offered his enthusiastic cooperation to state and federal law enforcement agencies, saying he had to “put family and country” ahead of his loyalty to his former boss.
These are the first charges Mueller has brought against Cohen.
Per the information, Cohen allegedly worked closely with former Trump Organization associate Felix Sater—identified as “Individual 2” in court documents—through June 2016 to develop the Moscow project. The pair “discussed on multiple occasions traveling to Russia to pursue” the building, and Cohen claimed that he asked Trump himself about making the trip, according to the filing.
Cohen has also lied to Congress about his repeated contact with President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, throughout the first six months of 2016, including a 20-minute January phone call with his assistant about the Moscow project. That May, Sater allegedly informed Cohen that Peskov wanted Cohen to attend a forum in St. Petersburg in June where he could be introduced “to either [the President of Russia] or [the Prime Minister of Russia],” the filing read.
ABC News reported that Cohen has spent over 70 hours in interviews with Mueller’s investigators, fielding questions about contacts between Trump associates and Russia, Trump’s business ties to Russia, obstruction of justice, and possible pardons Trump has offered to others caught up in the probe.
Sources told ABC that Cohen’s cooperation has been “crucial” to Mueller’s investigation.
The former Trump ally’s deal with Mueller comes two weeks before Cohen was set to be sentenced in the separate federal probe into his financial dealings. Cohen faces a possible sentence of 46 to 63 months in prison and a fine of up to $1 million in that case—consequences that could be reduced if he provides substantial information to Mueller’s investigation.
As part of the New York case, Cohen told the court that President Trump directed him to make hush money payments to women during the 2016 campaign “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”
Read the new criminal information against Cohen and plea deal below.
This post has been updated.