President Donald Trump ordered his longtime attorney and fixer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his involvement in a proposed Moscow Trump Tower project, two federal law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News.
Not only did Trump order his lawyer to commit perjury, according to the report, he pushed for a visit to Russia to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during the presidential election as part of the tower negotiations.
Trump, who repeatedly denied he was involved in any business deals in Russia, he received 10 personal updates about the progress of the Moscow Trump Tower project from Cohen, as did Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr, the officials told BuzzFeed News.
Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in November after he pleaded guilty to fraud charges and campaign finance violations in a federal court in New York. In the earlier case, Cohen said Trump ordered him to commit campaign finance violations by paying Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, two women who threatened to go public about their alleged affairs with Trump during the campaign.
In his most recent guilty plea, which came in the Mueller investigation, prosecutors wrote that Cohen’s false claim to Congress sought to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — aka Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”
According to BuzzFeed’s source, Trump ordered Cohen to lie by claiming to Congress that the negotiations for the Trump Tower Moscow projected ended earlier than they actually did to conceal Trump’s involvement.
According to the report, Trump repeatedly pushed the Trump Tower Moscow project during the campaign, hoping it would result in more than $300 million in profits for his company. He had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the project during the campaign, per the law enforcement officials.
The trip Trump hoped for never took place and the Trump Tower Moscow project did not proceed.
Trump’s AG pick testified that asking someone to lie to Congress was a crime:
Just days before the news broke, Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr testified that ordering someone to lie to Congress would constitute a crime.
“A president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction, is that right?" Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked Barr at his confirmation hearing.
“Yes,” Barr replied.
“So if there was some reason to believe that the president tried to coach somebody not to testify, or testify falsely, that could be obstruction of justice?” asked Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“Yes,” Barr replied. “Under an obstruction statute, yes.”
HuffPost pointed out that “Barr and Graham were trying to defend Trump from obstruction charges by saying that his actions related to Comey ― including firing him ― wouldn’t be considered obstruction. But in doing so, they may have helped to spell out exactly what Trump was accused of in the BuzzFeed report.”
Trump, lawyer don’t deny allegations:
Trump, his attorney, and his spokesman have all taken turns responding to the allegations by trying to smear Cohen, even though BuzzFeed noted that Mueller had evidence that Trump ordered him to lie before ever speaking to Cohen. None of them have actually denied the allegations.
Trump shared a quote from a Fox News pundit painting Cohen as a liar rather than issue a statement.
His attorney, Rudy GIuliani, took a similar tact.
“If you believe Cohen I can get you a good all cash deal on the Brooklyn Bridge?” he told a reporter.
“I’m not going to give any credence or credibility to Michael Cohen,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Fox News.
“That was not a denial,” the host pointed out.
While it’s true that Cohen pleaded guilty to lying, it is again worth noting that the report cited multiple sources within the Trump Organization that gave Mueller evidence before Cohen voluntarily met with prosecutors.
Democrats call for impeachment, launch investigation:
Rep. Joaquin Castro, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote that if the BuzzFeed report is accurate, Trump “must resign or be impeached.”
“The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date. We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true,” wrote Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
Also worth noting that he said the revelation that Trump ordered perjury, which was an article of impeachment brought against both Presidents Nixon and Clinton, was “among the most serious to date,” but not the most serious.