'Individual 1' Looms Large in Cohen Plea

Trump tweets about 'very legal & very cool' plans for 'doing a building somewhere in Russia'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2018 6:42 AM CST
'Individual 1' Looms Large in Cohen Plea
President Trump walks to his motorcade vehicle after arriving on Air Force One, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Newser) – The person identified as "Individual 1" in Michael Cohen's guilty plea Thursday wasn't named—but it's not hard to guess the identity of the former employer who was nominated to be president of the United States. The guilty plea makes it clear that President Trump is a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of links between his campaign and Russia, reports the Washington Post. In his plea, Cohen admitted lying to Congress about plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen, who told two congressional committees that talks on the project were abandoned in January 2016, said the negotiations, and the updates to "Individual 1," continued until June 14, 2016. He said talks began in September 2015 and Trump signed a nonbinding letter of intent. More:

  • Trump pushback. Trump continued to downplay the development after arriving in Argentina for the G20 summit early Friday. "Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly)," he tweeted. "Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail...Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!"

  • Summit overshadowed? The Cohen development came as Trump was preparing for the G20 summit, and Rudy Giuliani finds the timing suspicious, Politico reports. It was "hardly coincidental" that Mueller moved "just as the president is leaving for a meeting with world leaders," he said Thursday, adding that Mueller did "the very same thing" as Trump was departing for a summit in Helsinki last year. Analysts say Trump is certain to face questions about the Cohen plea during the conference.
  • The Sater connection. The New York Times takes a close look at the attempt to land a deal for a Moscow Trump Tower—and at the involvement of Felix Sater, a convicted felon and longtime Trump business associate. Sater, identified as "Individual 2," enlisted a former general in Russian military intelligence to help with the deal, sources say. Cohen says he spoke to a Kremlin aide about the deal for about 20 minutes in January 2016. He says in May of that year, Sater invited him to an economic forum in Russia where he could meet Putin. He says he initially agreed but later told Sater he had decided not to go.
  • Trump's earlier claims. Trump has said the Moscow deal was never a secret, though he strongly denied any links to Russia during his campaign, the AP reports. "I have a great company. I built an unbelievable company, but if you look there you'll see there's nothing in Russia," Trump said at a July 2016 news conference. "But zero, I mean I will tell you right now, zero, I have nothing to do with Russia."

  • Mueller's "most significant move yet." CNN analyst Stephen Collinson calls the Cohen agreement Mueller's most significant move yet, as it shows the special counsel is not afraid to cross the "red line" and investigate Trump's business dealings. The fact that Mueller's team reportedly spent 70 hours securing more testimony from Cohen suggests there are more revelations to come, though "it is not known whether Mueller has documentary evidence to implicate the president in any wrongdoing, or is simply relying on Cohen's testimony," Collinson writes.
  • Trump Jr. could be in trouble. Mueller has shown he is willing to charge people with lying to Congress, which could spell trouble for Donald Trump Jr. and campaign adviser Erik Prince, among others, the Guardian reports. Both men made statements to Congress that were later contradicted.
  • What's next for Cohen. Cohen, who pleaded guilty in August to federal crimes including campaign finance violations, will be sentenced Dec. 12, the Wall Street Journal reports. In Thursday's plea deal, the government said the charge of lying to Congress would add zero to six months to his expected sentence of between four and five years in prison.
(Vladimir Putin would reportedly have been given a $50 million penthouse in Moscow Trump Tower if the deal hadn't fizzled out.)

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