WSJ: Trump Paid Cohen to Rig Polls in Likely Campaign Finance Violation

JAN 18, 2019

H7 cohen tweet

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that Donald Trump ordered Michael Cohen to rig online polls in Trump’s favor during the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen reportedly paid for the service by handing the head of an IT firm a bag of cash containing more than $12,000. On Twitter, Cohen did not dispute the Journal’s report, and tweeted, “[W]hat I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS.” Campaign finance experts say the payment could be a criminal breach of campaign finance laws because Trump failed to report it to the Federal Elections Commission.

Buzzfeed’s Trump lawyer report NOT accurate – Mueller’s office

Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr is quizzed about obstruction

US special counsel Robert Mueller has disputed a claim that President Trump told his long-time lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.

Mr Mueller’s office said the report by by Buzzfeed News was “not accurate”.

The website said that Cohen had told investigators that Donald Trump had instructed him to lie about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Mr Trump later denied the report saying his ex-lawyer had lied to investigators to “reduce his jail time”.

Responding to the special counsel’s statement, Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith tweeted that he stood by the story.

Democratic politicians have said they will investigate the allegations.

What did Mueller’s office say?

In a brief statement, it said: “Buzzfeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterisation of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

The statement did not say which parts of the BuzzFeed report were inaccurate.

It is extremely rare for Mr Mueller’s office to issue such a statement.

The special counsel is investigating alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election and whether Trump campaign figures were complicit – a claim repeatedly denied by Mr Trump.

What did the Buzzfeed report say?

Buzzfeed said its report was based on testimony from two unnamed law enforcement officials investigating the matter.

Cohen told Congress that talks over the Trump Tower plan had taken place between September 2015 and January 2016, when the project was scrapped.

What does it take to impeach a president?

But he now says that the talks latest until June, when Mr Trump was a candidate for president.

Quoting the officials, Buzzfeed said Cohen told the special counsel that after the November 2016 elections, Mr Trump “personally instructed him to lie” – by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier then they actually did – “in order to obscure Trump’s involvement”.

Mr Mueller had already revealed that Cohen lied about the date the Moscow Trump Tower project ended.

The Buzzfeed report also said Mr Trump had allegedly encouraged Cohen to plan a trip to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during the election campaign.

Cohen was sentenced to 36 months in December after he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress over the Trump Tower plan. He also admitted campaign finance violations and tax evasion.

In court he said his “weakness was a blind loyalty to Donald Trump” – whose “dirty deeds” he had felt compelled to cover up.

What is the latest with the Russia investigation?

Mr Mueller’s investigation is still ongoing and it is unclear when he will submit his findings to the attorney general. It is up to the attorney general to notify Congress and decide whether the report will be released publicly.

President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, is currently undergoing confirmation in Congress. He has said he will make as much of the Mueller report public as possible but has not promised to publish it all.

Michael Cohen arriving for sentencingCohen was sentenced in New York last month

So far Mr Mueller’s investigation has led to charges against more than two dozen Russians, as well as several people connected to Mr Trump himself, including his former national security adviser and the former chairman of his election campaign.

A number of them, including Cohen, are known to be co-operating with Mr Mueller’s inquiry.

Cohen must report to prison by 6 March, but before that, he has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee in February.

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Congress to probe report that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to them

Buzzfeed reports Trump personally directed his ex-lawyer to lie to Congress about possible Moscow real estate project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress in 2017 to cover up that he was negotiating the real estate deal in Moscow on Trump's behalf [File: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP]

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress in 2017 to cover up that he was negotiating the real estate deal in Moscow on Trump’s behalf [File: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP]

US President Donald Trump directed his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow, Buzzfeed news reported on Thursday, an allegation that Democrats have vowed to investigate.

Citing two unnamed law enforcement officials, BuzzFeed reported that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress by claiming negotiations over the project ended earlier than they actually did. The report also said that Cohen regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow Trump Tower project – even as Trump said he had no business dealings with Russia. The Associated Press has not been able to independently verify the report.

The White House was not immediately available for comment. Trump has previously denied reports that he directed Cohen to break the law. He suggested in a tweet on Friday that Cohen was “lying to reduce his jail time”.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s current lawyer, told CNN that if “you believe Cohen, I can get you a great deal on the Brooklyn Bridge”, suggesting that Cohen is lying.

In a statement later on Friday, Giuliani said that “any suggestion … that the president counseled his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false”.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff tweeted on Thursday that the allegation that Trump asked Cohen to lie “to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date”.

“We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true,” Schiff, a Democrat, added.

Adam Schiff

@RepAdamSchiff

The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date. We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.

BuzzFeed News

@BuzzFeedNews

BREAKING: President Trump personally directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in order to obscure his involvement. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/jasonleopold/trump-russia-cohen-moscow-tower-mueller-investigation?bftwnews&utm_term=4ldqpgc#4ldqpgc 

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

“The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work,” Nadler tweeted.

An adviser to Cohen, Lanny Davis, declined to comment on the substance of the article, saying that he and Cohen wouldn’t answer questions out of respect for special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and contacts with the Trump campaign.

Ex-Trump lawyer: Rigging polls ‘was at the direction of’ Trump

According to BuzzFeed, Mueller learned that Trump directed Cohen to lie through multiple witness interviews, internal emails and text messages and other documents.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying to Congress in 2017 to cover up that he was negotiating the real estate deal in Moscow on Trump’s behalf during the heat of his presidential campaign. The charge was brought by Mueller and was the result of his cooperation with that probe.

Cohen was recently sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to tax crimes, bank fraud and campaign violations. He is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 7.

If true ‘it’s obstruction of justice’

The report comes as House Democrats have promised a thorough look into Trump’s ties to Russia. Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has discouraged any talk of impeachment in the early days of her new majority, some senior Democrats said that if the BuzzFeed report is true, Trump’s actions could rise to that level.

FBI investigated Trump’s Russia ties after Comey firing: NYT

“If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached,” tweeted Texas Democrat Joaquin Castro, a member of the House intelligence panel.

Congressman David Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted that if Trump directed Cohen to lie, “that is obstruction of justice. Period. Full stop”.

William Barr, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, said at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday that a president or anyone else who directs a witness to lie is illegally obstructing an investigation. That statement attracted attention, given Barr’s expansive views of presidential powers and his belief that presidents can’t be scrutinized by prosecutors for acts the Constitution allows them to take.

Cohen says that “Dirty Deeds” Trump knew hush money payment was wrong

Cohen walked free from court – but will have to report to jail in March

US President Donald Trump’s former lawyer insists Mr Trump knew making hush money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign was wrong.

Speaking after he was sentenced to prison for campaign finance and fraud crimes, Michael Cohen told ABC News: “He directed me to make the payments.”

“Nothing at the Trump organisation was ever done unless it was run through Mr Trump,” he said.

The president has denied ever asking Cohen to make illegal payments.

“He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law,” Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday, suggesting Cohen had pleaded guilty “to embarrass the president”.

Cohen, 52, was sentenced to three years on Wednesday and must report to prison by 6 March.

He admitted to lying to Congress, campaign finance violations and tax evasion. In addition to the jail term, he was also ordered to forfeit nearly $2m (£1.6m).

He is the first of Mr Trump’s inner circle to be jailed following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

What else did Cohen say?

He was asked in the ABC News interview about money paid to two women to keep quiet about alleged affairs with the then-presidential candidate.

Mr Trump “was very concerned about how this would affect the election”, Cohen said.

The purpose of the payments had been to “help [Trump] and his campaign”, he added.

“People of the United States of America, people of the world, don’t believe what he is saying,” Cohen continued.

“The man doesn’t tell the truth. And it is sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.”

What are Cohen’s crimes?

The sentencing was related to two separate cases brought by the Southern District of New York and the Mueller investigation.

Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for his role in making hush money payments regarding the two women, porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

He confessed to making a $130,000 payment to Ms Daniels and arranging for a $150,000 payment to Ms McDougal.

Prosecutors argued successfully that these payments amounted to illegal campaign contributions. Under US law, an individual donation cannot exceed $2,700.

The payment to Ms McDougal was made by American Media Inc (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer tabloid, to suppress her allegations of an affair with Mr Trump.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced it had reached a deal with AMI to avoid prosecution if the company admitted it made the $150,000 payment “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign” and to “ensure that the woman did not publicise damaging allegations” ahead of the 2016 election.

AMI has agreed to continue co-operating with investigators.

Mr Trump has acknowledged both payments were made despite denying having actual affairs, and has called them a private transaction unrelated to his election campaign.

Cohen’s other convictions, for tax evasion and bank fraud, are unrelated to the president.

Cohen also admitted to making false statements to Congress about a property deal Mr Trump was looking into in Moscow in the run-up to the 2016 election.

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Comrade Trump: ‘I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law’

Cohen walked free from court – but will have to report to jail in March

US President Donald Trump has said he never directed his former private lawyer to break the law, a day after he was was sentenced to prison.

“He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.” Mr Trump tweeted of Michael Cohen, adding that he pleaded guilty “to embarrass the president”.

His comments came a day after Cohen received a three-year jail sentence for campaign finance and fraud crimes.

Cohen had blamed Mr Trump’s influence and “dirty deeds” at his sentencing.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, Mr Trump also insisted that he “did nothing wrong” in regards to campaign finance laws.

He said Cohen “probably was not guilty” of those campaign violations but pleaded guilty to benefit himself.

“As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!”

Cohen, 52, was sentenced on Wednesday and must report to prison by 6 March.

He had admitted to lying to Congress, campaign finance violations and tax evasion. In addition to the jail term, he was also ordered to forfeit nearly $2m (£1.6m).

He is the first of Mr Trump’s inner circle to be jailed over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The attorney, who once said he would take a bullet for the president, told Judge William Pauley that Mr Trump had caused him to “follow a path of darkness rather than light”.

Cohen said it was his “blind loyalty” to the president that led him to ignore his own “moral compass” and “cover up [Mr Trump’s] dirty deeds”.

Mr Trump, who calls Mr Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt”, has repeatedly criticised his former ally since he began co-operating with investigators.

Donald Trump dismissed Michael Cohen as a “weak person” and a liar

He told reporters last month that Cohen was “weak” and “not a very smart person”.

What are Cohen’s crimes?

The sentencing was related to two separate cases brought by the Southern District of New York and Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for his role in making hush money payments to women who alleged affairs with Mr Trump.

One of those payments was made by American Media Inc (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer, to suppress a woman’s allegations of an affair with Mr Trump.

The Department of Justice announced on Wednesday it had reached a deal with AMI to forego prosecution as long as the company admitted it made the $150,000 payment “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicise damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 election”.

The tabloid publisher has agreed to continue co-operating with investigators.

The president has acknowledged the payments despite denying the affairs, and called them a private transaction unrelated to his campaign.

Cohen’s other convictions for tax evasion and bank fraud charges are unrelated to the president.

The special counsel had charged Cohen on one count of lying to Congress after a plea deal given his co-operation with the Russia inquiry.

The ex-Trump ally admitted to making false statements to Congress about a Trump property deal in Moscow during the 2016 election.

Michael Cohen arrived for his sentencing with members of his familyMichael Cohen arrived for his sentencing with members of his family

Who else has been implicated?

In other Russia investigation developments, former US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted to lying to the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambassador, has asked for leniency.

Flynn’s attorneys requested he serve no prison time as he has co-operated with the special counsel’s investigation from the start.

Last week, the special counsel’s team announced that they would not be pursuing jail time for Flynn as he provided “substantial” details regarding the Trump campaign team and Russian officials.

Cohen, Flynn and ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort are among a number of the president’s aides being investigated by Mr Mueller’s team.

Mr Manafort – who has been convicted of fraud – had been co-operating with the special counsel’s inquiry.

But last Friday, Mr Mueller’s team released a memo alleging he had breached a plea agreement by lying to investigators.