On his way to board Marine One, Donald Trump paused to attack Michael Cohen. In the process, Trump essentially agreed with everything that Cohen stated.
In the process, Trump called Cohen—the former executive vice president of the Trump Organization—both a “weak person” and “not a very smart person.” Trump repeatedly stated that Cohen was lying in an attempt to reduce his sentence. Except that Trump immediately turned around and appeared to admit that he was continuing his effort to land a deal with Moscow even as he was campaigning for president.
Both Trump and Cohen had earlier stated that efforts to make a deal in Moscow were over by January of 2016. But Trump appeared to contradict that in his very first statement.
Trump: Michael Cohen has made many statements to the house and to the senate, he put out a statement about a project that was essentially, more or less, of an option, that we were looking at in Moscow. Everybody knew about it. It was written about in newspapers. It was a well known project. It was during the early part of ‘16, and I guess even before that. It lasted a short period of time. I didn’t do the project. I decided not to do the project. So I didn’t do it. So we’re not talking about doing a project, we’re talking about not doing a project.
Trump repeatedly said that everyone knew about the project—except that the public did not know about the project. Trump and Cohen explicitly stated during the campaign that he “had no business” with Russia. News of his attempt to build Trump Tower Moscow did not become widely known until after the election.
Trump: There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it. If I did do it, there would have been nothing wrong. It was my business.
The position that Trump is now taking seems to be, literally, that because the deal was put on ice when he won the election, that makes it “not a deal.” Because while Trump repeatedly said that Cohen was lying, everything Trump said seemed to back up Cohen’s statements.
The problem for Trump is that throughout the campaign he denied that he was conducting any business with Russia. And the questions on which Trump provided written responses to the special counsel’s office last week included questions about the Trump Tower Moscow project.
Cohen’s testimony on the Trump Tower Moscow project may turn out to be at least as significant as his testimony concerning the Trump Tower meeting in New York. Because what Trump seems to be admitting is that the deal continued well after he had previously indicated. And Trump’s claims that Cohen is lying are likely to be contradicted by emails, phone logs, and other evidence already collected by Mueller.
Transcript of Trump’s statements …
Trump: Michael Cohen has made many statements to the House and to the Senate, he put out a statement about a project that was essentially, more or less, of an option, that we were looking at in Moscow. Everybody knew about it. It was written about in newspapers. It was a well known project. It was during the early part of ‘16, and I guess even before that. It lasted a short period of time. I didn’t do the project. I decided not to do the project. So I didn’t do it. So we’re not talking about doing a project, we’re talking about not doing a project.
Michael Cohen, what he’s doing, is he was convicted, I guess, you’ll have to put it in legal terms, but he was convicted with a fairly long-term sentence on things totally unconnected to the Trump Organization, having to do with mortgages and having to do with cheating the IRS, perhaps, and uhhh — I don’t know exactly, but he was convicted of various things unrelated to us, he was given a fairly long jail sentence, and he’s a weak person. And by being weak, unlike other people that you watch, he’s a weak person, and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence. So he’s lying about a project that everybody knew about, I mean, we were very open with it, we were thinking about building a building. I guess we had it in a form that you would call an option, I don’t now what you would call it. We decided, I decided, ultimately not to do it.
There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it. If I did do it, there would have been nothing wrong. It was my business.
So he’s lying, very simply, to get a reduced sentence. [break in audio] During the period [break in audio]
Trump: When I run for president, it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to do business. I mean, I was doing a lot of different things when i was running. After I won, obviously I don’t do business, I mean from January twentieth. But more importantly … which is, the following year. But, I ran a business. In fact, I often joke about the fact that I was the only person that campaigned and simultaneously ran a business.
But that was … that was a project that we didn’t do. I didn’t do. That was a project that wasn’t done for a lot of reasons. Number one is that, not that I really had to do it, but I was focused on running for president, I wanted that to be my primary focus. Not running or building a building.
This was a deal that didn’t happen. That was no deal. I mean, if you look … This was an option … I guess, I don’t know if I want to, I want to be very specific, but to my way of thinking, it was an option that I decided not to do. So if you look, we didn’t really have [Crosstalk]
Trump: This was an option, in a form … Here’s very simple. We had an option, in a position, to possibly do a deal, to build a building of some kind in Moscow. I decided not to do it. The primary reason, there could have been other reasons, but the primary reason was very simple, I was focused on running for president. There would be nothing wrong if I did do it. I was running my business while I was campaigning. There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won. In which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?
So, here’s the story. Go back, and look at the paper that Michael Cohen wrote before he testified in the House and or Senate. It talked about his position. What he’s trying to do — because he’s a weak person, and not a very smart person — what he’s trying to do is … And, and it’s very simple. He’s got himself a big prison sentence. And he’s trying to get a much lesser prison sentence by making up a story. Now, here’s the thing, even if he was right, it doesn’t matter. Because I was allowed, to do whatever I wanted during the campaign. I was running my business, a lot of different things during the campaign.
So, very simply, Michael Cohen is lying, and he’s trying to get a reduced sentence, for things that have nothing to do with me. Now, let me go a step further. I think you should go back to, I think it was January. It was just reported by Catherine Herridge, she’s a terrific reporter on Fox. She talks about a letter that he signed, I don’t even remember it, and it specifically talks about this deal. This deal was a very public deal. Everybody knows about this deal. I wasn’t trying to hide anything.