Michael Cohen, the former Donald Trump lawyer and loyalist, has now revealed more of the president’s lies and misrepresentations, this time exposing falsehoods about the history of the president’s business dealings with Russia. The lies were detailed in court documents made public on Thursday, as Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.
Cohen previously admitted to the lies told about arrangements he had undertaken at the president’s direction to bury potential press stories about alleged extramarital relationships. The newly disclosed lies are similar in seriousness to those falsely denying payments to conceal alleged affairs. It is their content that distinguishes these falsehoods from the disturbing but less consequential series of tall tales, embellishments, and fabrications for which the president, in tweets and public statements, has become notorious. In the case of the election-eve payments made to conceal his affairs, the president was engaged with others in the commission and cover-up of violations of federal campaign-finance law. The most recent disclosure involves the obstruction of a congressional investigation, and the question now presented is whether, directly or indirectly, the president had any part in Cohen’s choice to lie to Congress.
The sentencing memo submitted by Cohen’s lawyers attributes to misplaced loyalty his decision to lie to Congress about Trump’s business negotiations over a Moscow hotel project. Cohen does not say that the president instructed him to lie. He was aware, his lawyers write, of the president’s public statements—that he had no such dealings with Russia—and he chose a line of testimony that would not contradict them. He was especially concerned to refute any suggestion that the negotiations continued into the active phase of the presidential campaign, well past the date on which the president had locked up the nomination.