Jan 18, 2019

BuzzFeed: Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress about Moscow tower

Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. Photos: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez and Martin H. Simon - Pool via Getty Images

President Trump directed his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the extent of his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow — charges to which Cohen has since pleaded guilty, BuzzFeed News' Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier report.

Details: The report — which cites "two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter" — alleges that Trump and Cohen had at least 10 face-to-face meetings about the Moscow deal during the 2016 campaign, and that Cohen provided "regular, detailed updates" to Trump's children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka. Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly obtained evidence that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress through witness interviews and internal documents and communications from the Trump Organization.

  • BuzzFeed also reports that Trump supported Cohen's plan to fly the candidate to Russia during the campaign to meet with President Vladimir Putin to further negotiate the deal.
  • Cohen declined to comment to Buzzfeed News. The White House and attorneys for Trump Jr. and the Trump Organization did not return a request for comment. A spokesperson for Ivanka's attorney told Buzzfeed that she was only "minimally involved" in the project.

Why it matters: If true, the report would suggest that Trump downplayed Russian interference and repeatedly lied about having business dealings in Russia during the 2016 campaign, all while secretly pushing the lucrative Moscow project behind the scenes. It would also suggest, for the second time, that investigators have evidence Trump personally directed his attorney to commit a felony.

  • Bill Barr, Trump's nominee for attorney general, wrote in a now-famous memo: "[I]f a President knowingly...suborns perjury, or induces a witness to change testimony...then he, like anyone else, commits the crime of obstruction."

Go deeper: Michael Cohen pleads guilty in Mueller investigation for lying to Congress

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Coronavirus kills 2 Diamond Princess passengers and South Korea sees first death

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. U.S. numbers include Americans extracted from Princess Cruise ship.

Two elderly Diamond Princess passengers have been killed by the novel coronavirus — the first deaths confirmed among the more than 600 infected aboard the cruise ship. South Korea also announced its first death Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,200 people and infected over 75,465 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 118 new deaths since Thursday.

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SoftBank to cut its stake to get T-Mobile's Sprint deal done

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

T-Mobile and Sprint announced a revised merger agreement that will see SoftBank getting a smaller share of the combined company, while most shareholders will receive the previously agreed upon exchange rate. The companies said they hope to get the deal as early as April 1.

Why it matters: The amended deal reflects the decline in Sprint's business, while leaving most shareholders' stake intact and removing another hurdle to the deal's closure.