Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, admitted in court on Thursday that he had engaged in negotiations to build a tower in Moscow for Mr. Trump well into the 2016 presidential campaign, far later than previously known. Mr. Cohen said he discussed the status of the project with Mr. Trump on more than three occasions and briefed Mr. Trump’s family members about it. He also admitted he agreed to travel to Russia for meetings on the project. The revelations, which came as Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, were a startling turn in the special counsel’s investigation of Mr. Trump and his inner circle. [New York Times]
This news came amid a tweet storm from the accidental occupant of the White House. He was upset about developments going on under the radar. If you saw Ari Melber’s jaw-dropping interview with conspiracy nut Jerome Corsi you have a sense of why.
As this was happening, POTUS turned in his written answers to the Mueller team, some of which were immediately leaked.
This morning, Michael Cohen turned the screw. As part of his ongoing cooperation with Robert Mueller, Cohen came clean about the Trump Russia project.
According to NBC’s Pete Williams, Cohen admitted lying about three main issues:
- Cohen said the work on Trump Tower Moscow ended in 2016, well before the Iowa caucuses, when it was going on until mid-June;
- Cohen said he never worked on travel to Russia to help get the project going when he did. He also said Trump might travel to Russia after he became the nominee;
- Cohen said he couldn’t recall any contact with Russian officials about the project when he spoke with them about financing, and the land.
Mueller now has “documented a business connection between the Trump Organization and Russian top officials, including potential meetings Vladimir Putin,” according to NBC’s Pete Williams.
Before leaving for the G20, Trump made a defensive statement outside the White House calling Cohen “a liar” and “weak.”
From the plane, Trump canceled his meeting with Putin at the G20. His reason was a report about Russia’s seizure of three small Ukrainian naval vessels and 23 sailors in the Kerch Strait.
If anything, Putin‘s piracy would be a reason to confront him, not cancel a meeting.
But like ignoring Mohammed bin Salman‘s blood-soaked hands, Trump can’t confront his autocratic friends.
Trump canceled the meet with Putin on Twitter in an oddly formal tweet, which to me sounded like a reaction to the Cohen bombshell this morning instead.
Manafort’s got trouble beyond Mueller and prison. It seems implausible to me that the machinations of Manafort, and his lawyers, are about a pardon. Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian, is believed to have ties to Russian intelligence and was Manafort’s Russia whisperer during the campaign.
We still don’t know how deep Paul Manafort’s Russia ties go.
POTUS was panicked (for good reasons) before Michael Cohen’s bombshell today.
UPDATE (11.30.18): BuzzFeed dropped a bombshell late yesterday. Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier were prescient on this subject.
President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.