Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen giving 'critical information' to Russia investigation

'Walls closing in' on president as key figures cooperate with Robert Mueller, say opponents

Jon Sharman
Friday 21 September 2018 19:01
Donald Trump: Michael Cohen 'flipping' to get better plea deal

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump‘s former personal lawyer, has said he is providing “critical information” as part of the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

Having admitted guilt to a string of charges last month, Mr Cohen said on Thursday he was handing the information to special counsel Robert Mueller‘s prosecutors without a cooperation agreement.

Mr Trump’s former fixer could be a vital witness for investigators as they examine whether the president’s campaign coordinated with Russians.

Mr Cohen was the billionaire’s personal lawyer for more than a decade, a key power player in the Trump Organisation and a fixture in Mr Trump’s political life.

Pressure is mounting on the president as big names, particularly his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, have cooperated with Mr Mueller.

“The walls [are] clearly closing in” on him, said two Democratic members of congress last week.

Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal charges in August and said Mr Trump had directed him to arrange payments, before the 2016 election, to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model, with both women having alleged they had had affairs with Trump.

It was the first time any Trump associate had implicated their boss in a crime, though whether – or when – a president can be prosecuted, remains a matter of legal dispute.

On Thursday night, Mr Cohen tweeted: “Good for @MichaelMrCohen212 for providing critical information to the #MuellerInvestigation without a cooperation agreement. No one should question his integrity, veracity or loyalty to his family and country over @POTUS @realDonaldTrump.”

The tweet was deleted almost immediately and was later reposted by Mr Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, who said he wrote the tweet for his client and asked him to tweet it because he has a “much larger following”.

Mr Davis said he had been delayed in posting the tweet on his own account, so Mr Cohen tweeted it first.

ABC News reported Mr Cohen has met several times – for several hours – with investigators from the special counsel’s office. The network, citing sources familiar with the matter, said Mr Cohen was questioned about Mr Trump’s dealings with Russia, including whether members of the Trump campaign worked with Russians to try to influence the outcome of the election.

Vladimir Putin has denied any such influence campaign took place, though the US intelligence community has concluded it did.

Mr Davis asserted last month his client could tell the special counsel Mr Trump had prior knowledge of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between a Russian lawyer, Mr Trump’s son-in-law and the Republican candidate’s eldest son, who had been told in emails the meeting was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

But Mr Cohen’s attorney later rowed back on the assertions, saying he could not independently confirm claims that Mr Cohen witnessed Donald Trump Jr telling his father about the meeting beforehand.

The president has continued a very public battle against the Mueller investigation, repeatedly labelling it a politically motivated “rigged witch hunt”. He has said he plans to declassify secret documents relating to the probe, an extraordinary move he claimed would show it had been tainted from the start by bias in the Justice Department and FBI.

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