US President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to a Congressional committee about a Trump property deal in Moscow in 2016.
Cohen pleaded guilty to this charge saying he lied about a project under negotiations in Moscow with Donald Trump while the real estate mogul was on the election campaign trail. He had earlier said that he and Trump stopped talking about the 'Trump Tower Russia' project in January 2016, before the Iowa caucus. The charge against him is that Cohen knew that negotiations went on well until June 2016 and that Donald Trump was apprised of the developments continuously.
"I made these statements to be consistent with Individual-1's political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual-1," Cohen said. Individual-1 was identified in court as being Donald Trump, and Cohen confirmed this in the New York courtroom during the Thursday hearing.
Cohen was Donald Trump's personal lawyer for almost ten years. He also famously declared in an interview that he was willing to take a bullet for his then boss.
In court, Cohen pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to Congress. He said at the hearing that he had submitted a false written statement about a Trump Organization plan to build a skyscraper in the Russian capital, the extent of contact he had in Moscow in relation to that project and the information that he passed on to Donald Trump about the ongoing negotiations. Cohen through his statements had tried to give lawmakers the impression that he had had limited contact with Donald Trump about the project, when in fact it had been "more extensive".
This development is significant because a special counsel is investigating Russia's role in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign had help and colluded with someone in Moscow.
The US President responded to Cohen's admission at the White House on Thursday, calling his former lawyer "very weak." "He's a weak person," Trump said before departing for Buenos Aires, Argentina.
"He was convicted with a fairly long-term sentence with things unrelated to the Trump Organization," Trump said. "What he's trying to do is get a reduced sentence."
However, Cohen has not been given any sentence on the eight charges that he has pleaded guilty to. This includes two charges of election campaign violations that had him set up payments to two of Donald Trump’s alleged mistresses to keep them quiet about their affairs before the 2016 Presidential elections.