If the latest legal statements filed by Michael Cohen’s attorneys on Friday are true, Donald Trump—and possibly his own lawyers—are in a deep hole they’re going to have trouble crawling out of.
A sentencing memo in which Cohen’s attorneys ask for a lenient sentence for their client of “time served” contains new admissions that the president’s former consigliere kept Trump personally abreast of developments in a potential Trump Tower Moscow deal, and coordinated with Trump’s legal team about the lies Cohen would later tell lawmakers about the exchanges.
On Thursday, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about negotiations with Russian officials on behalf of Trump over the real estate project that never materialized. Trump, who has repeatedly lied about all of this since the campaign trail, has been left stunned by the developments as he tries to plow his way through an awkward G20 meeting in Argentina noted for the U.S. president’s isolation from other world leaders.
In the memo, Cohen’s attorneys say that the goal of the Trump campaign was to lie to the American people by saying negotiations with Russian officials over the real estate project had ended before the Iowa caucuses in February 2016, according to Politico. In fact, those negotiations were ongoing, according to Cohen.
And boy did they lie:
“Seeking to stay in line with this message, Michael told Congress that his communications and efforts to finalize a building project in Moscow on behalf of the Trump Organization, which he began pursuing in 2015, had come to an end in January 2016, when a general inquiry he made to the Kremlin went unanswered,” Cohen’s lawyers Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester write.
But “Michael had a lengthy substantive conversation with the personal assistant to a Kremlin official following his outreach in January 2016, engaged in additional communications concerning the project as late as June 2016, and kept [Trump] apprised of these communications,” they wrote. “He and [Trump] also discussed possible travel to Russia in the summer of 2016, and Michael took steps to clear dates for such travel.”
The filing also notes: “Furthermore, in the weeks during which his then-counsel prepared his written response to the Congressional Committees, Michael remained in close and regular contact with White House-based staff and legal counsel to Client-1.” Client-1 is Donald Trump.
In arguing for leniency, Cohen’s attorneys claim that his cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller “falls outside the ordinary framework” of cooperation in criminal cases.
They added, “At the time, Michael justified his false summary of the matter on the ground that the Moscow project ultimately did not go forward. He recognizes that his judgment was fundamentally wrong, and wishes both to apologize and set the record straight,” his lawyers wrote.