Michael Cohen’s admission that he lied to Congress about the timeline for an aborted Trump Organization deal to build a Trump Tower Moscow (Cohen initially told Congress that the deal fell apart in January 2016, but confessed on Thursday that talks had continued until August of last year) triggered a wave of speculation Thursday morning about whether this was the masterstroke that would finally bring down the president. But amid all of the breathless coverage (as the media did its part in trying to revive the long-dead Russian collusion narrative), one important detail was lost: The fact that Trump – as he told reporters on the White House lawn Thursday – never lied to anyone about the Trump Tower Moscow project.
In fact, the details of Cohen’s admission fit with Trump’s claims that he didn’t have any business in Russia during his time as president (the deal, after all, never materialized). And what’s more, when Trump submitted written answers to Mueller last week, he offered a truthful accounting of the deal that comports with the description provided by Cohen, according to White House lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
During an interview with the New York Times, Giuliani revealed that Mueller had asked about the Trump Tower Moscow deal, and that Trump had been completely transparent about his involvement – turning over all requested documents and answering all of the special counsel’s questions, unlike Cohen, who blatantly lied to Congress.
Mr. Cohen admitted in court on Thursday that he had lied to congressional investigators about the length of the negotiations over the Trump Tower Moscow project and the extent of Mr. Trump’s involvement. He said that he discussed the deal with Mr. Trump several times and that Mr. Cohen continued to work on a potential deal until at least June 2016, court documents showed – months later than Mr. Cohen had told Congress that the deal fell apart.
Though the president tried to accommodate the special counsel’s office (within reason), he never provided a timeline for the deal talks. Why? Because Trump was never asked.
Mr. Giuliani said that Mr. Mueller’s office did not ask the president about the timing of his discussions with Mr. Cohen about the project.
Given the timing of Cohen’s plea deal with prosecutors, Giuliani believes that Mueller was attempting to lay a perjury trap for Trump – waiting for the president to offer more details about the deal in the hopes that he would catch him in a lie.
The fact that Mr. Cohen’s admission in a deal with prosecutors came so soon after Mr. Trump returned his responses to Mr. Mueller’s questions raised concerns among the president’s legal team that Mr. Mueller was laying a perjury trap – waiting for the president to explain his understanding of events before presenting evidence to the contrary to show that he lied, according to people close to the president’s legal team.
Mr. Giuliani said that the president and the Trump Organization, the umbrella company for his family’s businesses, have been forthcoming with Mr. Mueller’s investigators for months about the deal. The company, he added, voluntarily provided investigators with documents related to the Moscow deal.
Fortunately for Trump, he didn’t fall for it.