President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said Friday he was in “close and regular contact” with Trump’s White House staff and legal team when he prepared a statement for Congress that he now says falsely downplayed Trump’s effort to land a Trump Tower Moscow deal during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In a filing seeking a lenient sentence, Cohen’s attorneys say his false statement to Congress — which Cohen pleaded guilty to on Thursday — was based on Trump and his team’s efforts to “portray contact with Russian representatives” by Trump, his campaign or his company “as having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016.”
“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.”
They also say Cohen kept Trump “apprised” of his contacts with Russia during the campaign.
In the filing, Cohen’s lawyers say his false statement to Congress arose out of loyalty to Trump, who they refer to throughout as “Client-1.”
“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,” his lawyers wrote.
Cohen’s filing also explicitly describes his efforts to silence two women who claimed to have had sexual relationships with Trump in the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign. Cohen pleaded guilty in August to making hush-money payments to one woman and arranging an effort with the National Enquirer to bottle up the other’s story in violation of campaign finance laws.
Cohen’s lawyers explicitly describe the payments as “centered on extramarital affairs of a presidential candidate.”
They also repeatedly refer to Cohen, 52, as “Michael,” an attempt to cast him in a softer light as he prepares to be sentenced. The filing includes two dozen letters of support from Cohen’s family, friends and associates attesting to his character.
Petrillo and Lester say Cohen should be sentenced to “time served” rather than face incarceration based on his remorse and his ongoing cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller.
“Michael participated in seven voluntary interview meetings with the Special Counsel’s Office of the Department of Justice,” they wrote. “He intends to continue to make himself available to the SCO as and when needed for additional questioning. He also agreed to plead guilty to an additional count, namely, making false statements to Congress, based in part on information that he voluntarily provided to the SCO in meetings governed by a limited-use immunity proffer agreement.”
Petrillo and Lester say Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller, as well as New York prosecutors investigating the Trump Foundation, underscore his “personal resolve, notwithstanding past errors, to re-point his internal compass true north toward a productive, ethical and thoroughly law abiding life.”
Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, who once called Cohen an “honest” person, has repeatedly slammed him as a self-serving liar since he turned on Trump over the summer.
After Cohen’s second guilty plea this week, Giuliani reemphasized Cohen’s history of lying.
“It’s no surprise that Cohen lied to Congress. He’s a proven liar who is doing everything he can to get out of a long-term prison sentence for serious crimes of bank and tax fraud that had nothing to do with the Trump Organization,” Giuliani said in a statement. “It is important to understand that documents that the Special Counsel’s Office is using to show that Cohen lied to Congress were voluntarily disclosed by the Trump Organization because there was nothing to hide.”
Giuliani said Trump had been “open and transparent” about his efforts to build a Trump Tower Moscow. In fact, Trump had long sought a deal to build in Russia but as his campaign gained traction, he downplayed his business relationships there and repeatedly insisted he had nothing to do with Russia, a denial he underscored repeatedly after the discovery of Russia efforts to interfere in the election.