Court filings laid out previously undisclosed contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediaries and suggest the Kremlin aimed early on to influence Trump and his campaign by playing to both his political aspirations and his personal business interests.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, they yielded even more detail about the alleged hush money payments made during the campaign to a porn star and Playboy model.
The filings, in cases involving Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, cap a dramatic week of revelations in Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Here’s a summary of the main allegations:
- In one of the filings, Mueller details how Cohen spoke to a Russian who “claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level’.” The person repeatedly dangled a meeting between Trump and Putin, saying such a meeting could have a “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well”.
- Cohen lied to Congress in an attempt to play down his role in the planning of a Trump Tower Moscow to hide “the fact that the Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government”.
- Manafort lied about his interactions with Russian-Ukranian political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik, Kilimnik’s efforts to tamper with witnesses, the circumstances surrounding a $125,000 payment to a firm working for Manafort, and Manafort’s contacts with officials in the Trump administration.
- Manafort was in touch with Trump officials long after initially thought, with text messages showing communications early in 2018 after he was indicted.
- Cohen, dubbed Trump’s “legal fixer” in the past, also described his work in conjunction with Trump in orchestrating hush money payments to two women — adult actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal — who said they had sex with Trump. Prosecutors in New York, where Cohen pleaded guilty in August in connection with those payments, said the lawyer “acted in coordination and at the direction” of Trump, suggesting they had implicated him in Cohen’s crime.
So, quite a bit then. Well, not according to the President who almost immediately decided the revelations “totally cleared” him.
After making the highly dubious assertion, many commentators suggested Trump wasn’t aware that all of the documents refer to him not by name, but as “Individual-1”.
Later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in two statements that the Manafort filing “says absolutely nothing about the President” and the Cohen filings “tell us nothing of value that wasn’t already known”.
The latest revelations came just hours after Trump posted a tweet calling his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “dumb as a rock”.
On Thursday, Tillerson told CBS News that he constantly had to tell the president no to things that are against the law.
“I’d have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you wanna do, but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law, it violates treaty.’ He got really frustrated,” Tillerson said. “I think he grew tired of me being the guy who told him, ‘You can’t do that.’”
Tillerson also noted that Trump didn’t like to read.
Judging by the President’s tweet, he heard about the interview, writing:
“Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State”
The court filings followed a sentencing memo earlier this week regarding Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who Mueller praised for providing “substantial” cooperation and argued for no prison time, Reuter reports.
Cohen had been hoping prosecutors would make a similar recommendation in his case. But the New York prosecutors were unsparing in their descriptions of his conduct, saying he was motivated by “personal greed” and that he “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends.”
They said Cohen should receive some credit for cooperating with Mueller but noted he had not entered into a similar agreement with their office. They said his sentence should reflect a “modest” reduction from the four to five years they said federal guidelines would suggest.
Mueller, for his part, praised Cohen for voluntarily providing information about his own and others’ conduct on “core topics under investigation” and described the information as “credible and consistent with other evidence” they had obtained.
Considering that cooperation, Mueller suggested the sentence for lying to Congress run concurrently with the sentence in the New York case.
Stay tuned next week for more White House shenanigans.