President Donald Trump’s former long-time attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty Thursday to making false statements to Congress last year in connection to a Trump real estate deal in Russia, according to multiple reports.
Cohen made an unexpected appearance Thursday morning in a federal courtroom in Manhattan, The New York Times reported.
He pleaded guilty to lying in 2017 during a closed-door session with the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence about the timing of a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to The Associated Press and ABC News.
Cohen previously claimed that discussions surrounding the Moscow Trump Tower project ended by January 2016, but he admitted Thursday that talks continued until June of that year, just months before the presidential election.
Cohen said he lied about the timing of negotiations and other details in an effort to stay consistent with “Trump’s ‘political message,’” according to the AP and the Times. Cohen added that he lied "to be loyal to Individual One," an unnamed person in court records who was identified by the AP as Trump.
Cohen admitted to lying about contacts he had with Russian officials, including a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election “to minimize links between the Moscow Project and (Trump),” authorities said in court records published Thursday.
Cohen aimed “to give the false impressions that the Moscow Project ended before ‘the Iowa caucus and ... the very first primary’ in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations,” officials said.
The president on Thursday slammed Cohen, who he claimed was lying to reduce his sentence on unrelated charges.
“He’s a weak person and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence,” Trump told reporters. “He’s lying about a project that everyone knew about.”
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani echoed the president in a statement released Thursday, calling Cohen "a proven liar who is doing everything he can to get out of a long-term prison sentence for serious crimes of bank and tax fraud."
"It's no surprise that Cohen lied to Congress," Giuliani said.
Cohen’s plea came after special counsel Robert Mueller's team reached a tentative cooperation deal with him, ABC News reported. Cohen has spent more than 70 hours speaking with investigators on Mueller’s team since he pleaded guilty earlier this year to several charges in federal court, according to the news network.
"Michael Cohen has cooperated," his attorney told reporters outside the courthouse Thursday. "Mr. Cohen will continue to cooperate."
The charge marked the first levied by Mueller's team against Cohen. In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to charges including multiple counts of tax evasion and a campaign finance charge stemming from so-called “hush money” payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal.