United States President Donald Trump has labelled his former personal lawyer as “weak” after Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statement to Congress regarding dealings the Trump Organisation had with Russia.
Cohen on Thursday entered a guilty plea in Federal Court in New York to one count of making false statements during a Congressional investigation into whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia to sway the 2016 US election.
In his guilty plea in Manhattan Court, Cohen said that in 2017 he submitted a written statement to Congress saying all efforts relating to a real estate project in Moscow by the Trump Organisation had ceased by January 2016, by which time the Presidential campaign was well underway.
Cohen has now admitted that those interactions continued until June of 2016.
He also earlier said he had limited contact with Trump concerning the project when in fact it was more extensive.
Trump responded before his departure for the G20.
“Michael Cohen, what he’s doing is… he was convicted, I guess. You will have to put it into legal terms, but he was convicted with fairly long-term sentence on things totally unrelated to the Trump organisation, having to do with mortgages and having to do with cheating the IRS perhaps – a lot of different things. I don’t know exactly. ”
“But he was convicted of various things unrelated to us. He was given a fairly long jail sentence and he’s a weak person and by being weak, unlike other people that you watch, he’s a weak person and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence. So, he’s lying about a project that everybody knew about. I mean we were very open with it.”
Cohen admitted that he’d been untruthful about his involvement in plans to build the skyscraper in Moscow bearing Trump’s name in order to remain loyal and curry favour with the President. Trump was pressed by reporters as to when the proposed deal in Moscow fell apart.
“I don’t know when I decided, but somewhere during the period of time, I was never very enthused because I was running for president. But when I run for President that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to do business. I was doing a lot of different things when I was running. After I won, obviously, I don’t do business from January 20th, but more importantly which is the following year.”
“I ran a business. I often joke about being the only person that campaigned and simultaneously ran a business.”
Before taking office in January 2017, Trump had consistently maintained that he had no business relationship with Russia.
The ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff says he believes Cohen was one of many who made false statement to Congress.
“We need to look into, among other things, the credible allegations that the Russians may have been laundering money through the Trump administration. That has been a constant concern of ours, but an issue that the Republicans were unwilling to look into.”
“That is something that we expect to pursue, but I think Michael Cohen’s guilty plea also underscores the importance of something else, and that is we believe other witnesses were untruthful before our committee.”
“We want to share those transcripts with Mr. Mueller. In this case, the special counsel only had the advantage of written testimony that the witness made public. We think that the special counsel ought to have the benefit of the transcripts, not only of Mr. Cohen’s testimony, but other witnesses like Roger Stone who may similarly have attempted to mislead the committee.”
Roger Stone is a close associate of President Trump while Adam Schiff will become the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats take over as majority leaders in January.