President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty Thursday to making false statements to Congress regarding plans to build a Trump Tower in Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. According to his plea agreement, Cohen also lied to cover up Trump’s involvement in that deal while simultaneously running for president.
In August 2017, Cohen sent a letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees informing them that Trump had terminated the Moscow project in January 2016. But a series of emails and phone calls recently revealed that Cohen had continued working on the project for Trump at least until June 2016.
“I assume we will discuss the rejected proposal to build a Trump property in Moscow that was terminated in January of 2016; which occurred before the Iowa caucus and months before the very first primary,” Cohen wrote in a statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee in September 2017. “This was solely a real estate deal and nothing more. I was doing my job. I would ask that the two-page statement about the Moscow proposal that I sent to the Committee in August be incorporated into and attached to this transcript.”
But according to the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, multiple emails and phone calls between Cohen, Trump, and Russian officials revealed that Cohen had blatantly lied to the intelligence committees as he continued working on the Moscow project until June 2016, not January 2016.
On Tuesday, Cohen pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the U.S. Congress by writing a statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) “containing material false statements about the Moscow Project, including false statements about the timing of the Moscow Project, discussions with people in the Company and in Russia about the Moscow Project.” Cohen also considered traveling to Moscow to discuss building a Trump Tower with Russian officials and ask for their help in securing land for the real estate project and financing the construction.
“I fully understand this Agreement and agree to it without reservation,” Cohen wrote as part of his plea deal. “I do this voluntarily and of my own free will, intending to be legally bound. No threats have been made to me nor am I under the influence of anything that could impede my ability to understand this Agreement fully. I am pleading guilty because I am in fact guilty of the offense identified in this Agreement.”
During a press conference on Thursday, Trump discussed his former lawyer and stated, “He’s a weak person and not a very smart person. And what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence. So he’s lying about a project that everybody knew about.”
Cohen faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.