Court filings lift the veil on Cohen and Manafort investigations

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8:00 p.m. ET, December 7, 2018

Russian offered Cohen "political synergy" with the Trump campaign, Mueller filing reveals

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Special counsel Robert Mueller revealed Friday that a Russian national who claimed to be well-connected in Moscow spoke with former Trump attorney Michael Cohen in 2015 and offered “political synergy” with the Trump campaign.

Cohen spoke with the Russian national in November 2015, around the same time he was working on separate efforts to land a lucrative real estate deal for the Trump Organization in Moscow. The Russian is not named in the court filings. A footnote makes clear the individual was not Felix Sater and was separate from the project Sater and Cohen were working on.

The Russian national “claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level,’” according to the court filing from Mueller’s prosecutors.

The Russian also “repeatedly proposed” a meeting between candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, prosecutors said, and told Cohen that a meeting could be fruitful “not only in political but in a business dimension as well.” 

Trump and Putin never ended up meeting during the campaign, Mueller’s team said. Cohen decided not to pursue the outreach because he was already working on the other Trump Tower Moscow project, according to Mueller.

Cohen provided this information to Mueller’s office during his voluntary interviews, the filing said.

It’s unclear who Cohen spoke to. The Washington Post previously reported that a Russian billionaire reached out to Cohen in October 2015 to talk about real estate deals, but some details don’t match the interactions mentioned in the Mueller filing.

Hear more details:

6:29 p.m. ET, December 7, 2018

Cohen "relished the status of ultimate fixer," New York prosecutors say

In their sentencing memo, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York argue that Michael Cohen’s actions surrounding his payments to two women who alleged affairs with Trump, suggest that he “relished the status of ultimate fixer."

They also said that his violations of federal elections laws “were also stirred, like his other crimes, by his own ambition and greed.” 

Here's what it says in the filing:

This was not a blind act of loyalty, as Cohen has also suggested. His actions suggest that Cohen relished the status of ultimate fixer – a role that he embraced as recently as May 2018 ... Cohen was driven by a desire to further ingratiate himself with a potential future President—for whose political success Cohen himself claimed credit—and arranged for the payments in an attempt to increase his power and influence. Indeed, after Cohen caused the media company to make an illegal expenditure, in a secretly recorded meeting Cohen took credit for the payment and assured Individual-1 that he was “all over” the transaction. And after making the payment to the second woman, and after Individual-1 was elected President, Cohen privately bragged to friends and reporters, including in recorded conversations, that he had made the payment to spare Individual-1 from damaging press and embarrassment. Cohen’s criminal violations of the federal election laws were also stirred, like his other crimes, by his own ambition and greed. During and after the campaign, Cohen privately told friends and colleagues, including in seized text messages, that he expected to be given a prominent role and title in the new administration. When that did not materialize, Cohen found a way to monetize his relationship with and access to the President. Cohen successfully convinced numerous major corporations to retain him as a “consultant” who could provide unique insights about and access to the new administration. Some of these corporations were then stuck making large up-front or periodic payments to Cohen, even though he provided little or no real services under these contracts. Bank records reflect that Cohen made more than $4 million dollars before the contracts were terminated.
6:44 p.m. ET, December 7, 2018

Manafort accused of lying on five major issues in redacted document

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

A portion of the partially redacted filing.
A portion of the partially redacted filing.

Mueller’s office says Manafort lied on five major issues during his cooperation, including his “contact with administration officials,” a version of the filing posted online Friday night.

They also said he lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, his Russian associate who Mueller alleged has tied to the Russian military intelligence unit accused of hacking the Democrats, and how they may have worked together to tampered with witnesses following Manafort’s arrest last year. 

The investigators say they have evidence about electronic communications related to Kilimnik and travel records. Much of the details the prosecutors released to the court Friday were redacted in the public version of the document.

They say they believe Manafort also lied about a wire transfer made in business to a firm he had hired and “information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation.”

Watch below: Trump team's about-face on Paul Manafort

6:29 p.m. ET, December 7, 2018

Meanwhile, Mueller's team also filed an update on Paul Manafort

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

Special Counsel Robert Mueller team's Michael Cohen memo isn't the only one to drop tonight.

The team has also sent to a federal judge details on why and how prosecutors believe President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied during his cooperation sessions with the FBI and Special Counsels’ Office following his guilty plea deal. 

A redacted version of the document was posted on the court site.

We were expecting this filing to be secret: According to an update from the court earlier today, the special counsel's office was expected to file its brief under seal.

Watch below to get caught up: Who is Paul Manafort?

7:39 p.m. ET, December 7, 2018

Without explanation, Trump tweets: "Totally clears the President"

As news outlets (including CNN) cover the Michael Cohen memos, President Trump just tweeted, "Totally clears the President. Thank you!" 

He did not offer further explanation of his comment.

Cohen previously served as President Trump's personal attorney. He famously once declared he would "take a bullet" for Trump.

Here's the tweet:

Hear more:

6:05 p.m. ET, December 7, 2018

Mueller’s memo lays out how the Trump Tower Moscow project is relevant to Russia election meddling

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sentencing memo lays out how the Trump Tower Moscow project is relevant to Russia’s election meddling during the 2016 campaign. 

The special counsel’s office said the fact that Cohen continued to work on the Trump Tower Moscow project through June 2016, not ending in January as he falsely testified — and discuss it with Trump — was material to both the ongoing congressional and special counsel investigations, noting in particular that “it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.”

The special counsel memo states that Cohen’s false statements to investigators about the Trump Tower Moscow project “obscured the fact that the Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government.” 

Mueller argues that the false timeline that Cohen laid out publicly and in his testimony — that the Trump Tower Moscow discussions ended in January 2016 — was a deliberate effort to limit the investigations into Russia’s election interference.

More on the Moscow Trump Tower: Last week, Mueller made a case that Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen was negotiating to build a Trump Tower in Moscow into June 2016 — long after it was clear that his boss would win the GOP nomination and in contravention of the President's statements that he had no business ties with Russia.

6:01 p.m. ET, December 7, 2018

Michael Cohen is the 3rd person in Trump's orbit accused of lying to Mueller

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Michael Cohen is the third person in Trump’s orbit accused of lying to Mueller even after offering to help the investigation. Mueller’s team said that during their first meeting, Cohen lied about the unsuccessful Trump Tower proposal in Russia. 

During an August 2018 meeting with Mueller, Cohen “voluntarily provided information relevant to other aspects of the (special counsel office’s) ongoing investigation, but when asked questions about the Moscow Project, Cohen provided false answers in what he later explained was an effort not to contradict his congressional testimony,” Mueller’s team wrote in a court filing. 

So who are the other two Trump associates accused of lying to Mueller?

  • Earlier this year, former Trump campaign official Rick Gates pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller during one of his early meetings with Mueller’s team of veteran prosecutors.
  • And last month, Mueller’s team accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of lying to them about several topics even after he agreed to fully cooperate with the investigation. More on him later.
6:12 p.m. ET, December 7, 2018

There are two memos out on Michael Cohen — here's what they're all about

Two different court memos about President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen — and his future — just dropped.

One is from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Another is from prosecutors from special counsel Robert Mueller's office.

So, why two memos?

  • The Southern District of New York filing: Federal prosecutors Friday requested that Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen receive "a substantial term of imprisonment" for various finance-related crimes which Cohen has pleaded guilty to, after helping investigators in their pursuit of campaign finance crimes.
  • The Mueller filing: Special Counsel Robert Mueller has filed his sentencing memo on Michael Cohen, outlining the role the president’s former fixer has played in the Russia investigation. Cohen took “significant steps” to help the investigation and has accepted responsibility for his crimes, the filing said.

CNN is reviewing both documents now. We'll post highlights here.

Watch: CNN's Jeffrey Toobin outlines Mueller's Cohen documents

5:51 p.m. ET, December 7, 2018

Mueller files court brief outlining Cohen’s cooperation in Russia probe

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has filed his sentencing memo on Michael Cohen, outlining the role the president’s former fixer has played in the Russia investigation.

In the court filing Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller said Michael Cohen took “significant steps” help the investigation has accepted responsibility for his crimes:

“In recent months, however, the defendant has taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct. He chose to accept responsibility for his false statements and admit to his conduct in open court.
He also has gone to significant lengths to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation.
He has met with the SCO on seven occasions, voluntarily provided the SCO with information about his own conduct and that of others on core topics under investigation by the SCO, and committed to continuing to assist the SCO’s investigation. The information he has provided has been credible and consistent with other evidence obtained in the SCO’s ongoing investigation.”