In what appear to be some of the most damning pieces of evidence yet connecting President Donald Trump to the Russia investigation being led by special counsel Robert Mueller, documents in a federal court today revealed that Trump, as a presidential candidate, along with his then “fixer” lawyer Michael Cohen, sought to speak directly to, and schedule a meeting as a candidate with, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Per reporting from Quartz, Cohen and Trump discussed with one another the possibility of trying to schedule a meeting with Putin shortly after Trump’s campaign for president started, long before the first primary or caucus contest in the GOP nomination election cycle. Putin was visiting New York city for the annual United Nations General Assembly in 2015, and the two agreed it would be a good time to “reach out to gauge Russia’s interest” in meeting with Trump.
No meeting ever took place, and the reason for why Trump or Cohen wanted to speak with Putin wasn’t made immediately clear.
In a series of tweets, however, MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin quoted several aspects of the court filing made by Mueller on Friday evening that seemed to indicate that Trump and his campaign had wanted to discuss ways in which Russia could be involved in his presidential run.
In one tweet, Griffin elaborated that Cohen had spoken directly to Trump about scheduling such a meeting. Cohen admitted to the special counsel “that he had in fact conferred with Individual 1 [Trump] about contacting the Russian government before reaching out to gauge Russia’s interest in such a meeting.”
Wake up GOP. It began in the primaries.#CohenSentencingMemo: "November 2015, Cohen...spoke with, a Russian national who claimed to be a 'trusted person' in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign 'political synergy'"https://t.co/eiAtf8QPye— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) December 7, 2018
At a later time, Cohen also “received the contact information for, and spoke with, a Russian national who claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level,'” Griffin wrote in another tweet.
A tweet from Brad Heath, an investigative reporter for USA Today, also noted a new development from the filing: that Trump had directed Cohen to commit criminal actions.
“Federal prosecutors have said for the first time in a court filing that Cohen committed campaign finance crimes ‘in coordination with and at the direction of’ President Trump,” Heath wrote in his tweet.
If the allegations stated in today’s filings by Mueller are true, and are corroborated by evidence he has provided to the special counsel, they could spell huge legal problems for Trump in the months ahead, including the possibility of charges filed against the president himself. They could be especially troubling if Mueller has evidence that Trump’s campaign ended up being successful in coordinating with the Kremlin as the election went onward, as the filings made today only seem to indicate Trump and Cohen made attempts to do so.
The president tweeted out shortly after the documents were made public, however, that he believed the filings cleared him of any wrongdoing.
“Totally clears the President,” Trump wrote. “Thank you!”