President Donald Trump called his former personal attorney Michael Cohen a “weak person” and a liar after Cohen accepted a new plea deal from special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday regarding statements he made to Congress in 2017.
Trump added that, even if what Cohen pleaded guilty to is true, it does not implicate Trump in wrongdoing.
Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in New York City to lying to congressional committees about ongoing discussions he had concerning a potential real estate deal in Russia in 2016, known as the Moscow Project, the Washington Examiner reported.
In a court filing, Mueller charged that Cohen made false statements via a 2-page letter to Congress in August 2017 to downplay the deal and that negotiations had continued into the 2016 presidential primary election season.
Trump responded to the plea agreement prior to leaving the White House for the G20 economic summit in Argentina, saying Cohen is changing his story in order to secure a lesser sentence for crimes unrelated to the campaign he pleaded guilty to in August.
“What he’s trying to do, because he’s a weak person and not a very smart person, what he’s trying to do is end — and it’s very simple. He’s got himself a big prison sentence and he’s trying to get a much lesser prison sentence by making up a story,” Trump said.
“He is lying about a project that everybody knew about,” Trump said, according to The Daily Caller, while contrasting Cohen’s “weak” conduct with others, including, presumably, former campaign manager Paul Manafort and author and political commentator Jerome Corsi, who have not provided Mueller what he wanted.
“Here is the thing, even if [Michael Cohen] was right, it doesn’t matter, because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign,” President Trump says after his former attorney pleaded guilty to making false statements https://t.co/vEE5vZwqpw pic.twitter.com/3X8DVKnitv
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 29, 2018
“Here is the thing, even if he was right, it doesn’t matter, because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign,” he explained. “I was running my business a lot of different things during the campaign.”
Trump described the deal as “very public,” and the primary reason he decided not to go forward with the project is because he wanted to focus on his presidential run.
“Everybody knew about it. It was written about in newspapers. It was a well-known project,” he said, according to Fox News. “If I did do it, there would have been nothing wrong.”
Fox News reported that Cohen pleaded guilty to criminal charges in August, including five counts of tax evasion stemming from 2012 to 2016, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution in a loan application, and one count of making an excessive corporate campaign contribution in relation to payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Cohen, 52, could have received up to 65 years in prison if convicted. However as part of the plea deal, the attorney agreed not to challenge any sentence between 46 and 63 months, according to Fox.
Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in New York on Dec. 12.
Legal scholar Alan Dershowitz noted on Fox News on Thursday that it is hard to use Cohen as a witness against Trump because of Cohen’s history of “questionable conduct,” so Mueller’s team is likely looking to him to provide information that could be corroborated independently.
— America’s Newsroom (@AmericaNewsroom) November 29, 2018
Dershowitz added that Mueller appears to be focusing on Cohen because Manafort is no longer cooperating, and the story line regarding the Trump campaign working with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is “falling apart.”
Dershowitz further pointed out all the crimes the Mueller has gained guilty pleas for in relation to Trump’s campaign have come in the form of false statements made to investigators as a result of the probe, not because of any campaign-related crimes committed prior to it.
“The very fact that he’s conducting an investigation has created these crimes. These are not crimes that had been committed prior to his appointment,” he said. “They are crimes that are committed as a result of his appointment. That raises some questions about the role of special prosecutors in creating crimes and creating opportunities for crimes to be committed.
“In the end, I don’t think Mueller’s going to come up with very much in terms of criminal conduct that existed before he was appointed, and that’s quite shocking.”
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