Top Dem: Cohen plea suggests Putin 'has leverage over the president'

Top Dem: Cohen plea suggests Putin 'has leverage over the president'
© Anna Moneymaker

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) suggested Sunday that Michael Cohen's acknowledgement that he lied to Congress about negotiations to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow that took place well into President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE's 2016 campaign raises fresh questions about whether the Kremlin holds leverage over the president.

"The fact that he was lying to the American people about doing business in Russia, and that the Kremlin knew he was lying, gave the Kremlin a hold over him. And one question we have now is does the Kremlin still have a hold over him because of other lies they know about," Nadler said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"One question has always been why was the president so obsequious to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin from the beginning of the campaign up to the present day," he added. "And it may be that it’s because the Kremlin has leverage over the president, which is a terrible thing if true."

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Cohen, who served as Trump's personal attorney for years, pleaded guilty last week to one count of making false statements to Congress related to his testimony about communications with Russia during the 2016 presidential race. He agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his plea.

The longtime Trump Organization employee said he was untruthful about his involvement in plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in order to remain loyal to the president and consistent with his “political message.”

Cohen previously told Congress that negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January 2016, but emails showed that he continued to talk with a Russian developer about the project into the summer of 2016 and kept Trump informed of the talks amid the presidential campaign.

Trump slammed Cohen as a "weak person" and downplayed the significance of the Trump Tower talks. He has insisted he did not collude with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Nadler, likely the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, questioned Trump's truthfulness.

"We have a president who lies incessantly to the American people about big matters and small matters," he said Sunday.

"And the key fact now is that the time when he can get away with lying to the American people all the time and evading accountability is coming to an end," he added.