President Donald Trump explicitly told his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie, including while in testimony and under oath in Congressional committee hearings, about his business dealings with Russia that occurred in 2016, according to a bombshell report published by BuzzFeed News on Thursday evening.
The report reveals that Cohen was ordered by Trump, after his 2016 presidential election victory, to dispel any notions of impropriety or business dealings that his company, the Trump Organization, had attempted to make with the Kremlin.
The report from BuzzFeed News was based on statements made from two law enforcement agents with knowledge of testimony from Cohen, as well as documents supporting the notion that Trump had told him to lie.
While speaking to both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, Cohen repeatedly said that President Donald Trump, then running as a Republican candidate for office, had ended all attempts at formulating a deal with Russia to build a Trump Tower in Moscow by January of 2016. That would have meant that Trump had scratched the deal before the date of the Iowa caucuses that year, the official start of the election season.
In fact, Cohen had lied and admitted to the lie in November of last year as part of a plea deal with the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller, according to a report from the Associated Press.
Multiple sources have reportedly told Mueller that Trump personally directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Moscow tower project: https://t.co/d2lZCQTs9z
— Slate (@Slate) January 18, 2019
It’s been alleged that since Cohen’s plea deal that the Trump Organization had still been trying to negotiate a Trump Tower in Russia as late as June 2016 — around the same time that Trump secured the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
This new report from BuzzFeed News, however, adds new insights to those negotiations, including who knew about them. Trump was well-aware of his company’s attempts to get the project done, as the investigators who spoke to BuzzFeed News say he had personally directed Cohen to get the deal done. “Make it happen,” Trump allegedly told Cohen regarding the deal.
At least two of Trump’s children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., were also aware of the dealings, as Cohen regularly told them updates on the deal’s progress on a regular basis.
The special counsel reportedly learned about allegations of Trump telling Cohen to lie under oath through a number of different means, including emails, text messages, and other documents obtained from the Trump Organization. They also spoke with company officials about the dealings, and Cohen himself confirmed that Trump had directed him to lie about how long the negotiations had lasted.
If the allegations are true, it would be the first known time that Trump told someone to lie on his behalf, under oath no less, about his connections with Russia, BuzzFeed News pointed out.
Compelling someone else to lie under oath is itself a criminal activity called suborning perjury. According to U.S. Code, the penalty for trying to get someone else to lie on your behalf is imprisonment up to five years behind bars, or a fine, depending on the severity of the matter.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, attempted to quell concerns about these latest revelations by suggesting Cohen wasn’t a reliable witness. “If you believe Cohen I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge,” Giuliani said, according to a tweet from New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.
But as journalist Yashar Ali pointed out in a tweet of his own, the report from BuzzFeed News didn’t rely on statements from Cohen, but rather federal law enforcement officials.