Michael Cohen pleads guilty to lying about a Russia Trump Tower deal

The new plea centers around real estate negotiations with Moscow

Michael Cohen and Trump Tower at 725 5th Avenue (Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia)
Michael Cohen and Trump Tower at 725 5th Avenue (Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia)

President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to a new criminal charge.

Cohen, at a court hearing, said he made false statements to Congress about a Trump Tower deal in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign, the New York Times reported. The deal has been a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

Cohen said he downplayed his interactions with Russia about the potential project and made false statements about the negotiations, according to the report. The negotiations never led to a finalized deal.

His appearance in Manhattan court on Thursday morning came as a surprise. He’s slated to be sentenced in two weeks on other charges. In exchange for the new guilty plea and continued cooperation, he may hope to receive a lighter sentence.

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Last year, Cohen emailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson asking for help getting a real estate project in Moscow approved, according to a previous report. Cohen claimed that he wrote the email at the urging of Felix Sater, a developer who heads the Bayrock Group which co-developed the Trump Soho. Cohen reportedly said he didn’t hear back and the project was abandoned.

Cohen previously pleaded guilty to felony counts of fraud and campaign finance violations. The charges included failing to report $4.1 million in income to the Internal Revenue Service between years 2012 and 2016, including $100,000 in brokerage commissions.

Over the summer, Cohen sold stakes in two apartment buildings in the East Village and Upper East Side totaling $12.9 million. At 133 Avenue D, Cohen sold four stakes to his joint venture partner in the building, Vintage Group, for $4 million, according to filings. He sold four stakes at 330 East 63rd Street to Vintage for $8.9 million. [NYT] — Meenal Vamburkar