Donald Trump said today that revelations about his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s work on a 2016 Trump real estate deal in Moscow don’t matter “because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign.” About an hour later, he cancelled a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Cohen has admitted to lying to Congress about the deal’s timeline, and to falsely minimizing Trump and Russian government officials’ involvement in the deal. In response, Trump told journalists that Cohen’s admission of lying about working on a Trump Tower Moscow project was itself a lie. “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,” Trump said.
Trump went on to say that Cohen could in fact be telling the truth, but that it didn’t matter. “Now here’s the thing: even if he’s 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.”
After the impromptu press conference, Trump stepped onto Air Force One to fly to Argentina for the G20 Summit. Once onboard, he tweeted that he was cancelling an upcoming meeting with Putin.
Cohen made a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, admitting that he had worked on the project until June 2016—after Trump was confirmed as the Republican presidential nominee. The court documents reveal that in Jan. 2016, Cohen had a 20-minute phone call about the project with an assistant to president Putin’s powerful press secretary Dmitry Peskov. She “asked detailed questions and took notes, stating that she would follow up with others in Russia,” the document says.
The following day an unnamed Trump associate with whom Cohen had been planning the project, wrote to Cohen asking to speak on the phone, saying Putin “called today.”