Trump derides lawyer Michael Cohen as 'weak person' after bombshell guilty plea

Robert Mueller the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting

Andrew Harnik AP,File

Cohen once famously vowed he would take a bullet for Mr Trump, but in April this year the pugnacious attorney's home and office were raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The admission by President Trump's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen that he lied to Congress about the Trump Organization's plans to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Moscow has brought new scrutiny upon the sworn testimony of other Trump associates - including his oldest son.

After previously implicating the president in a conspiracy to shirk campaign finance laws to pay off a Playmate and a porn star, the latest lies Cohen plead guilty to are about Trump's true loves: real estate and Putin.

Mueller's decision to schedule Cohen's new guilty plea just as Trump was leaving the White House on a foreign trip where he was to meet one on one with Russian President Vladimir Putin echoed Mueller's indictment of a dozen Russians for interfering in the 2016 election just days before Trump was scheduled to meet with Putin in Helsinki. Mueller's is investigating "links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump".

Cohen, who initially told Congress the discussions ended in January 2016, admitted today during a surprise court appearance in NY that those talks continued until June of that year.

The timing was not lost on Trump's lawyer handling Mueller's criminal investigation. The project, Trump said, "lasted a short period of time", adding that he decided not to do it because he wanted to focus on running for President.

"Individual 1" is, as the document points out, who Cohen worked for at a Manhattan-based real estate company.

Cohen at one point discussed traveling himself to Russian Federation as they sought government approval for the project.

Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said there was a "counterintelligence imperative" for its members, in the new Congress, to continue to probe the Trump Organization's financial links to Russian Federation. Prosecutor say Cohen is cooperating with Mueller and has met with his team at least seven times.

President Trump said Cohen is "lying about a project that everybody knew about" in order to get a reduced sentence.

"But zero, I mean I will tell you right now, zero, I have nothing to do with Russian Federation", he said.

Trump's plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow went back as far as 1996 when the future president paid a visit to the Russian capital to check out building sites on land being developed by a USA company.

Whitaker was advised of the plea ahead of time, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Trump ultimately secured the Republican nomination for president just weeks later in July 2016.

In a press scrum outside court moments after the hearing, Cohen said nothing to reporters.

Thursday's charges were handled by Mueller, not the federal prosecutors in NY who handled Cohen's previous guilty plea in August to other federal charges involving his taxi businesses, bank fraud and his campaign work for Trump.

He testified under oath that Trump had directed him to make hush money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, contradicting Trump's previous claims that he was not aware of the pay-offs. He previously worked in the Canberra press gallery and recently finished a Masters of Journalism at Columbia University in NY.

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