Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty to Lying to Congress About Effort to Build Moscow Tower

Former lawyer for President Trump charged as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation

.. Prosecutors told the judge Mr. Cohen downplayed to investigators his contacts with the Russian government. They said Mr. Cohen had a 20-minute conversation with a Kremlin representative about the proposed deal, but he told Congress that after emailing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top press official for help in January 2016, he never got a response from the Kremlin.
.. Mr. Cohen’s false statements were partly aimed at concealing his discussions with Mr. Trump’s family members within the Trump Organization about the project
.. Mr. Cohen also lied about possible travel to Russia for the project during the campaign, he said. Mr. Cohen told Congress he had discussed the proposal with Mr. Trump on three occasions and that he “never considered asking” Mr. Trump to travel to Russia for the project. In fact, prosecutors said, Mr. Cohen asked Mr. Trump about traveling to Russia and asked a senior campaign official about the matter.
Prosecutors also said Mr. Cohen agreed to travel to Russia, which he had told Congress he never agreed to do. Mr. Cohen said Thursday the trip did not happen, and that he has never visited Russia.
..  A list of questions the special counsel provided to the president’s legal team earlier this year asked specifically about his communications with Mr. Cohen about Russian real-estate projects during the campaign
.. Under his first plea deal, Mr. Cohen and the government agreed to a sentence of between about four years and five years in prison. The false-statement charge carries a maximum of five years in prison.
.. On Thursday, Mr. Cohen said he also lied by asserting the Moscow project efforts had ended in January 2016, when they continued through June 2016. Mr. Trump became the Republican Party’s effective nominee a month earlier.
.. prosecutors said Mr. Cohen minimized the links between the Moscow project and Mr. Trump to give the false impression that the deal talks had ended before the 2016 Iowa caucus, in an attempt to limit the ongoing Russia investigations.

Mr. Trump on Thursday called Mr. Cohen a “weak person” and accused him of “lying” to get a reduced sentence.

.. “there would have been nothing wrong” if he had done it. He said he opted not to do the project because he was “focused on running for president.”

During the campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly said he didn’t have business dealings with Russia.

.. Mr. Cohen’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow began in September 2015, Mr. Cohen told Congress, less than three months after Mr. Trump began running for president.

.. Both Mr. Cohen and another Trump associate, Mr. Sater—identified in the court papers Thursday as “Individual-2”—said in emails obtained by investigators that they planned to enlist top Russian officials’ help for the project.

.. In January 2016, Mr. Cohen sought help from Mr. Putin’s top press official in arranging the deal

.. Mr. Cohen met with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in October 2017. The interviews focused largely on his efforts to build the Trump Tower in Moscow. In his statement for the Senate Intelligence Committee last year, Mr. Cohen wrote the proposal was “solely a real estate deal and nothing more.”