Michael Cohen, a former personal attorney to President Trump, pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project Trump pursued during the months he was running for president, according to the Associated Press.
During the campaign, Cohen acted as Trump’s point person in an attempt to built a Trump-branded development in Moscow. He has said the project was in its early stages in the fall of 2015, as Trump’s presidential campaign heated up.
But he has said the project stalled in January 2016 prompting him to email a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin to ask for help. Cohen previously has said he never received a response and the project was halted in January 2016.
Cohen’s new guilty plea is the latest development in a wide-ranging investigation by Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump had insisted in the summer of 2016 that he had no business interests in Russia, statements that would be undermined if Cohen is now asserting conversations about the project continued past January 2016.
In August, Cohen, 52, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations related to payments before the election to two women who had alleged they had affairs with Trump. He told the court he had arranged those payments, designed to keep the women quiet before the presidential vote, at the direction of Trump.
He had also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of tax evasion, as well as bank fraud, related to his personal finances and management of taxi medallions and faces sentencing later this month.
Cohen worked as a top lawyer to Trump and his real estate company for a decade. After Trump took office, Cohen left the company and became a personal attorney to the president, while taking on consulting clients, including AT&T, Novartis and a New York firm that manages assets for a Russian billionaire.
Once one of Trump’s most loyal aides, he has taken a swift and thorough against the president in recent months. He used to describe himself as Trump’s pit bull and delighted in jousting with the celebrity businessman’s enemies, once asserting that he would “take a bullet” for his longtime boss.
But after pleading guilty, he said his conscience required him to tell the truth about Trump. Before the midterm elections, he urged the public to vote for Democrats, writing on twitter that the election “might be the most important vote in our lifetime.”
In recent months, he has been spending hours meeting with prosecutors, including Mueller’s team and was spotted recently arriving in Washington for additional meetings with his legal team.