Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen agrees to cooperate with Mueller probe

Michael Cohen, President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time MORE’s former personal attorney, has entered into a plea agreement with Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE and agreed to cooperate in the special counsel’s sprawling Russia probe.

Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to congressional panels investigating Russian interference in the election last year.

According to court documents unsealed on Thursday, Cohen admitted to lying about Trump’s Moscow property plans, including his plans to travel to Russia and contacts with Russian officials in connection with the project and how long the property plans were discussed within the Trump Organization.

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The criminal information alleges that Cohen “well knew” that his statements to Congress about the Moscow project were “false and misleading,” stating that he told the lies in order to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1,” an apparent reference to Trump.

It also says that Cohen aimed to “give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before ‘the Iowa caucus and … the very first primary,’ in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Cohen appeared in federal court in New York in order to enter his guilty plea to one count of making false statements. He has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, according to his plea deal, which was released by the special counsel on Thursday.  

Cohen is seen by analysts as a significant cooperator in Mueller’s probe, which is examining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow as well as whether the president obstructed justice.

Cohen worked for Trump for more than a decade, at one point serving as executive vice president of the Trump Organization and as Trump’s personal lawyer. The relationship between Trump and his once fiercely loyal personal “fixer” has broken down dramatically over the last several months.

Trump accused Cohen of “lying” to prosecutors in order to get a lesser sentence shortly after his former lawyer appeared at the courthouse in New York City.

“He's a weak person and what he's trying to do is get a reduced sentence,” Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for a summit in Argentina. ”So, he's lying about a project that everybody knew about.”

Cohen pleaded guilty to a slew of federal crimes in a separate case in the Southern District of New York in August, implicating Trump in a nondisclosure-payment scheme in dramatic court testimony.

Since he pleaded guilty in New York, there have been numerous reports that Cohen has been voluntarily cooperating with Mueller and interviewing with investigators on numerous occasions.  

According to the new court filings, Cohen lied in written and verbal testimony before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees last year. He falsely told them that the Trump-branded property in Moscow was under consideration between September 2015 and January 2016, when in reality prosecutors say that discussions about it within the Trump Organization extended as late as June 2016.

The documents also suggest that Cohen discussed the plans with Trump on more than three occasions and that he also briefed Trump’s family members on it.

The documents also say that Cohen agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the project, which he denied before Congress, but that he ultimately called off plans for the trip.

Cohen has also admitted to lying when he told Congress he did not “recall” any contact or response from the Russian government related to the project. In reality, prosecutors say Cohen remembers exchanging emails with a press secretary working in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office about the proposed property plans “in or around January 2016.”

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Cohen’s plea deal follows other significant events in Mueller’s investigation. Earlier this week, the deal between the special counsel and former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortManafort might not fight claims he lied to Mueller The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump, Dem leaders spar before cameras at meeting over border wall | Senate to vote on criminal justice bill | Google chief gets grilling Incoming CBC chairwoman says Dems could have no choice but to impeach Trump MORE broke down dramatically, as Mueller accused Manafort of repeatedly lying to his team and FBI investigators in breach of his cooperation agreement. Manafort maintains he told the truth.

And last week, Trump submitted written answers to Mueller in response to questions about collusion between his campaign and Moscow. Mueller has also sought an in-person interview with Trump, but the president’s lawyers have signaled that a deal on such an interview is unlikely. 

It is possible that Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller will impact his sentence in the separate case in New York. His plea agreement states that Mueller’s prosecutors will bring “the nature and extent” of his cooperation to the court’s attention at his sentencing in that case on the condition he continues to respond and provide truthful information to the special counsel. Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced for his other crimes on Dec. 12.