Michael Cohen: Donald Trump continued Russian real estate deal into campaign

Trump responded to Cohen's admission at the White House Thursday, calling his former lawyer "very weak."

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and bank fraud in a case brought by federal prosecutors in NY.

The president swiftly fired back after news of the new guilty plea broke, blasting Cohen as a "weak person", and claiming his former attorney was "lying" to get a reduced sentence. He has said the project was in its early stages in the fall of 2015, as Trump's presidential campaign heated up.

Asked why he worked with Cohen for so long, Trump said, "Because a long time ago he did me a favor".

"There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it", Trump said Thursday of the Trump Tower Moscow project.

That means the Trump Organisation was continuing to pursue a business opportunity in Moscow deep into Trump's run for president - a deal that remained live at a time when Russians were seeking to make multiple inroads into the campaign and had, according to Mueller, began social media and hacking efforts to benefit Trump's campaign.

Cohen said he also lied about his contacts with Russian officials and lied when he said he never agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the project and never discussed with Trump plans to travel to Moscow to support the project.

The Mueller investigation has cast a cloud over the current American administration.

Cohen's lawyer told the judge the plea deal involved co-operation with Mr Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election. He says they were "voluntarily disclosed" by the president's company.

Outside the courthouse on Thursday (Friday NZT), Guy Petrillo, a lawyer for Cohen said, "Mr Cohen has cooperated".

After previously implicating the president in a conspiracy to shirk campaign finance laws to pay off a Playmate and a porn star, the latest lies Cohen plead guilty to are about Trump's true loves: real estate and Putin.

Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., have admitted they went into the meeting expecting material that would be useful against their opponent but said that is common practice in politics and that nothing came from it.

Warner told reporters that associates of Trump are "pleading guilty about their ties to Russia and Russians, and what are they covering up for?" He said sentencing in the case is scheduled for December 12.

Mueller is trying to determine whether anyone on Trump's campaign conspired with the Russians who interfered with the election using cyberattacks, the dumping of stolen data, agitation on social media and other techniques. It's also not yet known exactly what Cohen told Trump and his family members-who are not identified by name in the information-about the Moscow project planning.

  • Rogelio Becker