Daily Signal: Amid the media hysteria over Michael Cohen’s guilty plea and discussions between the lawyers representing Paul Manafort and President Donald Trump, it’s important to understand from a legal standpoint what this means—and what it does not.
We don’t know what other evidence special counsel Robert Mueller may have that hasn’t yet been disclosed. But the evidence disclosed to date—including in Cohen’s plea deal—still doesn’t reveal any illegal conduct by Trump or his campaign or any collusion with the Russian government to change the outcome of the 2016 election. There is nothing illegal or unethical about discussions and sharing of information between lawyers representing individuals who may be the focus of the same prosecutor.
Cohen pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress. What was he lying about? For the past 30 years, the Trump real estate organization has been trying to negotiate a deal to build a marquee property in Moscow. There is certainly nothing unusual or untoward about that.
The criminal information filed by the special counsel describes the false statements that Cohen now admits he made. Cohen originally told Congress that the negotiations he was involved in over that deal ended in January 2016 and that they did not involve Trump himself. He now admits that the negotiations didn’t end until June 2016 (the deal was never consummated), and that he did brief individuals within the Trump Organization, including Trump, about the negotiations.
Cohen also stated that he never planned to travel to Russia for the hotel deal, nor did he ask Trump to travel there. He also swore to Congress that he had reached out to the press secretary for the Russian president, but that he did “not recall” whether he received a response. These statements were also false, thus constituting a federal crime of lying to Congress.
No one should minimize the seriousness of lying under oath to Congress. During the guilty plea before the district court judge, Cohen said, “I made these statements to be consistent with Individual-1’s political messaging and to be loyal to Individual 1.”
So Cohen lied to be loyal to Trump (Individual 1 presumably). But it’s important to understand that the underlying conduct that Cohen was lying about—negotiating a real estate deal—is not illegal or unlawful in and of itself, whether you’re working to get something built in New York City or Moscow. read more