Attorney Michael Cohen admitted to lying to lawmakers in federal court on Thursday about how much he discussed his proposed business project in Moscow with his former client, President Donald Trump.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has been leading the investigation, which is looking at whether the president or his associates colluded with Russian interests during the presidential election of 2016.
Cohen became a person of interest early on in the investigation given his close connection to the president and business contacts in Russia.
Cohen drew particular attention for his involvement in a project to build a Trump hotel in Moscow.
He had previously claimed the talks about the Moscow project had ended prior to the election season’s ramping up during the Iowa caucuses in January 2016.
Now he is walking back those claims — all as part of a plea deal with the special counsel’s team.
“In truth and in fact, and as Cohen well knew, Cohen’s representations about the Moscow Project he made to (House and Senate intelligence committees) were false and misleading,” the Mueller team said in a court filing, which was obtained by CNN.
“Cohen made the false statements to … give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended.”
The Mueller team added that the claim was to limit the ongoing Russia interference investigation. Trump responded to the plea deal shortly afterward by calling his former lawyer “weak.”
He pointed out that Cohen was already charged with crimes unrelated to his business and that he’s just trying to get a reduced sentence.
“He’s a weak person,” Trump told reported before departing for Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“He was convicted with a fairly long-term sentence with things unrelated to the Trump organization.”
Cohen surrendered to the special counsel team with legal pressure building up around him on August 21. He pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges that afternoon.
The criminal charges dealt with his business dealings and his paying off the porn actress Stormy Daniels because she had threatened to discuss her alleged affair with the president, which Trump has denied.
The criminal charges included five counts of tax evasion, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, one count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of making an excessive campaign contribution at the request of a candidate.
Cohen faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison based on the charges to which he pleaded guilty.
That also includes a maximum fine of $250,000 and supervised release of not more than three years.
Sentencing has been set for December 12.
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