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5 things we now know about Russia after Michael Cohen’s guilty plea

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  • On Thursday, November 29, news broke that Michael Cohen,
    President Donald Trump’s longtime fixer and lawyer,
    pleaded guilty to lying to Congress
    .
  • BuzzFeed news claims that Russian-born businessman Felix
    Sater’s plan for Trump Tower Moscow included giving Russian
    President Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse to entice other
    Russian oligarchs to purchase apartments in the building.
  • “He was convicted of various things unrelated to us,”

    Trump said
    of his former fixer, adding that Cohen was
    “a weak person and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced
    sentence.”
  • If all the new information seems disorienting, don’t worry,
    we have you covered. 

On Thursday, November 29, news broke that Michael Cohen,
President Donald Trump’s longtime fixer and lawyer,
pleaded guilty to lying to Congress
. Specifically the

charges revolved
around how long he and the Trump
Organization had been in conversations about building a Trump
Tower in Moscow and the extent that Trump was involved vs. what
he told congressional investigators.

And then a flurry of reports emerged — each in some way related
to the revelations and special counsel Robert Mueller’s
investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s
2016 presidential campaign.

If all the all the new information seems dizzying, don’t worry,
we have you covered. Here are five details you need to know:

1. “Individual 1”

Cohen appeared in Federal District Court in Manhattan, and the
charges were made public, on Thursday. “In exchange for pleading
guilty and continuing to cooperate with Mr. Mueller, he may hope
to receive a lighter sentence,”
The New York Times
explained. This is the first charge
levied against him by Mueller. Earlier this year, Cohen pleaded
guilty to charges, including campaign finance violations, brought
by federal prosecutors.

The latest court document charges Cohen with lying to both Senate
and House investigations into whether the Trump campaign
coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. In
the document Trump is referred to as “the owner of [Trump
Organization] (‘Individual 1’).”

Cohen was the point person for trying to secure a deal to place a
Trump Tower in Moscow. In 2017, Cohen told investigators that he
worked on the deal from September 2015 to January 2016 — but
stopped before the Iowa Caucus.

In reality, he didn’t abandon the discussions until June of 2016,
the court document reveals.

The court document also details other misleading statements from
Cohen — he claimed he never planned to travel to Russia or
arrange for Trump to travel to Russia, he said that the tower
plans were “not discussed extensively with others in the
Company,” and he told congressional investigators that he had no
response from Russian government officials.

All of these claims, the document states, were false. Cohen
worked with “Individual 2” (we’ll get to him) to try to travel to
Russia (plans which were abandoned in June), and to try to get
“Individual 1” to go; Cohen talked about the plan at least three
times with “Individual 1,” and he also discussed it with a
personal assistant to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov for 20
minutes.

Trump canceled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin
that was scheduled to take place in Argentina during the G20
Summit —
via Twitter
. The cancellation was allegedly due to the
Russian military’s clash with the Ukrainian navy in the Kerch
Strait, on Sunday, and the capture of 24 Ukrainian sailors.

“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been
returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best
for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled
meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin,” Trump wrote.
“I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this
situation is resolved!”

And according to what spokesman Peskov told a state-owned news
agency, Trump’s tweet was the first the Kremlin heard of the
cancellation.

Following the news of the plea deal, both the
New York Times
and
BuzzFeed News
released stories with information on Felix
Sater, who reportedly worked with Cohen on the Trump Tower Moscow
discussions and referred to as “Individual 2” in the
aforementioned charges. Sater, a businessman who was born in
Russia and moved to the US as a child, was an associate of Cohen
and is a convicted felon, who also assisted US intelligence
agencies. Sater worked to connect Cohen to contacts in Russia.

In its report, BuzzFeed news claims that Sater’s plan for Trump
Tower Moscow included giving Russian President Vladimir Putin a
$50 million penthouse to entice other Russian oligarchs to
purchase apartments in the building.

While leaving Washington to head to Argentina for the G20 Summit,
Trump was asked by reporters about Cohen pleading guilty that
morning in Manhattan.

“He was convicted of various things unrelated to us,”
Trump said
. He also stated that Cohen was “a weak person and
what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence.”

Regarding the Moscow deal that never went through, Trump said,
“There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case
I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose
lots of opportunities?”

Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly painted Cohen as a liar, but as

INSIDER’s Sonam Sheth wrote
, “At the same time, they said
Trump’s version of events about a defunct effort to build a Trump
Tower in Moscow during the election lines up with what Cohen told
prosecutors.”

5. The implications

The guilty plea shows that the Trump Organization was indeed
trying to secure a business deal in Russia, and it also reveals
that lying to Congress about this investigation falls under the
purview of the special counsel’s office.

“There are certainly others at the Trump Organization that knew
about this Russian overture,”
Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor told
Sheth
. “If they knew about it and lied, either to Mueller or
to Congress, there’s no reason to think they’d be treated
differently than Cohen. You don’t get a pass because your last
name is Trump.”

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