Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and is cooperating with the special counsel's Russia probe. Donald Trump claimed his former lawyer was lying, weak, and not very smart.
President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen on Thursday pleaded guilty to lying to Congress over a federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Cohen told a New York court that he had made false statements to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about an aborted Trump organization real estate project in Russia.
Trump's former lawyer said he lied "to be consistent with Individual One's political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual One." Cohen had been referring to Trump as Individual One throughout.
Trump told reporters at the White House that Cohen was "a weak person" who was trying to get a reduced sentence.
"This was a deal that didn't happen," Trump said of the purported real estate project. "That was no deal ... To my way of thinking, it was an option that I decided not to do."
Still talking with Primaries decided?
Last year, Cohen told Congress that talks about a Moscow Trump Tower project ended in January 2016. Now he says that they in fact continued until June of that year, by which point Trump had effectively won the Republican nomination for the presidency.
In January 2016, Cohen also reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson about the project. According to court documents, Cohen worked with Russian-born former American mobster Felix Sater to try to secure a meeting with Putin, which ultimately never materialized.
Cohen's guilty plea could add pressure on Trump as the Russia probe deepens.
In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple counts of campaign finance violations, tax evasion and bank fraud. He later said he was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling and ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
That investigation has since expanded into Trump's business dealings, about which Cohen would have critical information.
Trump tends to dedicate some time most days to denouncing the investigations into his possible ties to Russia, with Thursday being no exception. Prior to news of Cohen's concession, in one of two tweets on the issue, the president had rhetorically asked: "When will this illegal Joseph McCarthy style Witch Hunt, one that has shattered so many innocent lives, ever end — or will it just go on forever?"
cw/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)