New court filings from special counsel Robert Mueller outline the levels of cooperation from Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.
WASHINGTON – Despite a sharply critical assessment of Michael Cohen’s cooperation with New York federal prosecutors in a campaign-finance investigation, President Donald Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney has given Russia special counsel Robert Mueller a potential bounty of information about the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Kremlin.
In seven separate meetings with Mueller’s team, according to new court documents filed Friday, Cohen described contacts with Russian sources that appeared to go far beyond his previously acknowledged efforts to conceal a proposed – and later abandoned –Trump Tower project in Moscow.
“Cohen provided the (special counsel’s office) with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contacts with (Trump Organization) executives during the campaign,” Mueller’s team said in a seven-page sentencing memorandum.
The substance of Cohen’s assistance was not disclosed, but the statement offered perhaps the most striking acknowledgement by the special counsel of the Trump campaign’s links to Russia and government’s pursuit of them.
As early as November 2015, prosecutors said, Cohen was in contact with an unidentified Russian national who claimed to be a “trusted person” in the Russian government who was offering the Trump campaign “political synergy.”
Trump announced his bid for the White House in June 2015.
Cohen told prosecutors that the contact “repeatedly proposed” a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a phenomenal impact not only in (politics) but in a business dimension, as well,” the documents state.
Cohen told prosecutors that the reference to a “business dimension” referred to the ultimately abandoned Moscow Trump Tower project. The Russian contact went further, according to the documents, telling Cohen that there is “no bigger warranty in any project than consent of (Putin).”
Prosecutors said the tower project “likely required the assistance of the Russian government. And if completed, the company stood to gain hundreds of millions dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues.”
In a brief tweet, Trump, who has disparaged Cohen as a liar, appeared to entirely dismiss the new allegations contained in the court documents.
“Totally clears the President,” Trump wrote. Thank you!”
‘Relevant, useful information’ about White House
Cohen pleaded guilty last week to lying to Congress about the Moscow project as part of his cooperation agreement with Mueller.
In yet another detail from Mueller’s Friday memorandum that is likely to give the White House new pause, prosecutors said that Cohen provided “relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period.”
“The defendant has provided and committed to continue to provide, relevant and truthful information to the (special counsel) in an effort to assist with the investigation,” the documents state.
A companion document filed by federal prosecutors in New York, where Cohen also has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, however, offered a sometimes-blistering assessment of Cohen’s cooperation in that case.
“Cohen repeatedly declined to provide full information about the cope of any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged,” New York prosecutors asserted, urging a federal judge to impose a “substantial term of imprisonment.”
More: Who is Michael Cohen?
Prosecutors: Cohen orchestrated payoffs
Still, the New York prosecutors alleged for the first time that Cohen orchestrated payoffs to two women “in coordination with and at the direction of” then-candidate Trump, whom they identified in court filings as “Individual 1.” Cohen had said in court that Trump was behind the payoffs, but Friday’s filing was the first time that Justice Department lawyers have themselves implicated the president in the crime.
Prosecutors in New York said Cohen had met with them to provide information “about the participation of others in the campaign finance crimes” to which he pleaded guilty. The charges against Cohen include veiled references to executives at Trump’s private business, The Trump Organization, as well as at American Media Inc., the publisher of The National Enquirer.
According to the documents, Cohen also “coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls.”
At the same time, prosecutors suggested that Cohen had declined to give them information about yet another subject they were investigating.
White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders criticized Cohen.
“The government’s filings in Mr. Cohen’s case tell us nothing of value that wasn’t already known,” Sanders said. “Mr. Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr. Cohen is no hero.”
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, said the filing from New York prosecutors in the campaign finance case “concluded that the president has directed someone to commit crimes.”
“Michael Cohen is a convicted liar and fraudster,” Mariotti said. “So it’s one thing for him to say that the president directed him to commit a crime. It’s a whole separate thing for federal prosecutors, who ostensibly work for the president, to say that it is their conclusion that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to commit a crime.”
The filings come just days after Mueller cited the “substantial” cooperation provided by former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. Mueller has recommended that Flynn serve no prison time after pleading guilty last year to lying to the FBI in part about his pre-inaugural contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
While the 13-page Flynn filing was heavily reacted, Mueller acknowledged that Flynn had met with prosecutors 19 times in the past year and was not only cooperating in the ongoing Russia inquiry but also in two other investigations. The subjects of those additional investigations, one of them a criminal inquiry, were not disclosed.