In a court filing late Friday night made by his attorneys, Michael Cohen, President Donald J. Trump’s former personal attorney, admitted he was in “close and regular contact” with Trump’s legal team and the White House when he lied to Congress in 2017 about the then-presidential candidate’s plans for a real estate development in Moscow.
Looking to get a lenient sentence, Cohen also admitted to paying off women to keep them silent regarding their romantic relationships with Trump and to prevent them from “disseminating narratives that would adversely affect the Campaign and cause personal embarrassment,” his attorneys wrote.
Cohen’s lawyers, Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester, also claimed that the Trump campaign wanted to send the message that any contact with Russia by the campaign or Trump corporation had “effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016,” despite that being untrue.
According to the filing, Cohen lied when he told Congress that communication between Trump and Russia had ceased: “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.”
However, the lawyers admit, Cohen remained in contact with Russia months after the campaign claimed it cut off communications, even making moves for Trump to travel to Russia that summer. “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,” his attorneys wrote, adding, “He and [Trump] also discussed possible travel to Russia in the summer of 2016, and Michael took steps to clear dates for such travel.”
Furthermore, the filing said that misleading Congress was at the behest of Trump and that he was collaborating with the White House and Trump’s legal team when he did so. “In each case, the conduct was intended to benefit [Trump], in accordance with [Trump]’s directives,” they wrote.
Cohen has been cooperating with Robert Mueller’s investigation into the ties between Trump and Russia, and his lawyers argued that his cooperation should earn him a sentence of “time-served” as opposed to the potential sentence of five years and three months recommended by federal sentencing guidelines.
“Michael regrets that his vigor in promoting [Trump]’s interests in the heat of political battle led him to abandon good judgment and cross legal lines,” the lawyers wrote. The filing also included letters written by Cohen’s family, friends, and associates, including his father who is a Holocaust survivor, speaking to Cohen’s character, in the hopes that he would receive a lesser sentence.