Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A November surprise: Michael Cohen pleads guilty for lying to Congress about the plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, shining a freshly uncomfortable spotlight on President Trump.

Why it matters: "The new guilty plea firmly — and dramatically — shifts the narrative and timeline of the Russia investigation," journalist Garrett Graff writes for WIRED. "While pursuing the White House, Donald Trump was also pursuing personal business deals with a foreign adversary that, according to Mueller’s earlier indictments, engaged in a multifaceted, complex, expensive, and long-running criminal conspiracy to help deliver Trump to the presidency."

Between the lines: The former Trump lawyer reportedly said in court that his three lies were out of loyalty to the president, per NBC News' Tom Winter.The lies, listed:

  • Lie #1: The Moscow Project ended in January 2016 and was not discussed extensively with others in the Trump Organization.
  • Lie #2: Cohen never agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the Moscow Project and "never considered" asking President Trump to travel for the project.
  • Lie #3: Cohen did not recall any Russian government response or contact about the Moscow Project.

What they're saying: Trump told reporters today that Cohen is "a weak person" for pleading guilty, adding he thinks Cohen is "lying to get a reduced sentence."

  • In his written responses to Mueller, Trump acknowledged that he discussed plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow with Cohen before the deal fell through, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the New York Times.

The bottom line: "The potential innocent explanations for Trump's behavior over the last two years are being steadily stripped away," Graff tweeted.

  • "Mueller has identified two separate criminal conspiracies that aided Trump in 2016: Russian cyber ops & Cohen's campaign finance violations. Today, we learned that the central figure in one (Cohen) was trying to contact and get help from the central figure in the other (Putin)."

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