President Donald Trump on Thursday called his former attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen a “weak person” who admitted to lying to Congress in order to receive a lighter prison sentence.
“He’s a weak person” unlike “other people that you watch,” the president said as he departed the White House for a G-20 summit in Argentina. “So he’s lying about a project that everyone knew about. … So he’s lying, very simply, to get a reduced sentence.”
The president’s contention the Moscow building project was well known appears to be false. On January 11, 2017, candidate Trump said he had “no deals with Russia.”
Trump said just because he was running for president “doesn’t mean that I couldn’t do business,” an attempt to discount any notion that a never-closed deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow was somehow related to Russia’s 2016 election meddling.
“This was an option,” Trump said of the Tower proposal. “I decided not to do it. The primary reason, it was very simple, I was focused on running for president. There would be nothing wrong if I did do it.
“Why should I lose opportunities?” the president said, noting there was a strong chance he could have lost in 2016 and “would have gone back into the business.”
Cohen pleaded guilty Monday to lying to Congress about his work on a Trump real estate deal in Moscow, according to court documents released by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Cohen, appearing in court in New York, admitted that in 2017 he made false statements to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the Moscow tower plan.
Among other false statements, the court documents show Cohen lied to congressional investigators and members about just when the Trump organization’s work on the Moscow tower project stopped. That stretched into the summer of 2016, just months before the presidential election — and it included contacts with individuals connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Cohen’s guilty plea on Thursday follows ones in August on federal charges involving his taxi businesses, bank fraud and his campaign work for Trump.
The president on Thursday again asserted that the initial charges Cohen pleaded guilty to were “totally unrelated to the Trump organization.”
House Democrats are preparing to use their powers next year when they become the majority party to probe all aspects of the Trump campaign and presidency. Cohen’s reversal on the Moscow project description likely will be on that list.
Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed his chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as acting AG. Whitaker is seen as a loyalist and can take over management of Mueller’s work.
Democratic members and some Republicans have warned Trump to let Mueller finish his work amid talk the president might order the acting AG to either curtail the probe or shut it down.
In recent days, Trump has been increasingly critical of Mueller, launching a number of Twitter attacks aimed at trying to discredit the former FBI chief and his investigation.
Trump said he will likely still meet with Putin at the G-20 summit despite frustration with military actions in Ukraine and the Cohen plea deal. “We haven’t terminated that meeting,” he said.