Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen pleads guilty to lying about Russian Federation deal

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That last plan led Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to plead guilty Thursday to a charge brought by the special prosecutor looking into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The president swiftly fired back after news of the new guilty plea broke, blasting Cohen as a "weak person", and claiming his former attorney was "lying" to get a reduced sentence.

Who to believe is becoming a major element of what we know about special counsel Robert Mueller's methodical Russian Federation investigation, which Trump for months has attacked as a witch hunt out to get him.

Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about the extent of Trump's involvement with the project in an attempt to hinder the Trump-Russia investigation and to protect Trump.

Court papers said "Russian Official 1, the Press Secretary for the President of Russia", did respond to Cohen's inquiries about Trump Tower Moscow.

"He's got himself a big prison sentence". Ahead of a second trial, Manafort struck a plea deal with Mueller's team in September in which 10 charges from his first trial were dismissed, thereby avoiding a second trial on foreign-lobbying and money-laundering charges.

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"Now here's the thing".

"Even if he was right, it doesn't matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign", Trump later added.

There will also now be increased scrutiny into whether the president misled the public with statements like "I have no dealings with Russian Federation". After the 2018 midterms, President Donald Trump's decision to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with loyalist Matthew Whitaker-who has been highly critical of Mueller's investigation-seemed highly Nixon-ish to those who are old enough to remember Watergate.

Cohen also told lawmakers he had had limited contact with Mr Trump about the project, when in fact it had been "more extensive".

Cohen began talking to investigators working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose probe has been a thorn in Trump's side, after pleading guilty in August to bank fraud and campaign finance violations in NY.

Cohen initially told Congress that the Trump Tower project in Moscow had ended by January 2016.

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Cohen said he lied to "be loyal" to Trump and consistent with Trump's "political messaging". Sater said he spoke only to Cohen about the project. Cohen previously said he never received a response and the project was halted that month. In fact, he continued working on the project at least through June of that year, even discussing the possibility of Trump visiting Russian Federation after the Republican National Convention, prosecutors say.

Adult-film star Stormy Daniels was given $US130,000 ($178,000) and former Playboy model Karen McDougal was paid $US150,000 ($205,385).

The timing was not lost on Trump's lawyer handling Mueller's criminal investigation.

He asked hours before he left the White House for Argentina, where he's supposed to sit down with Vladimir Putin, 'When will this illegal Joseph McCarthy style Witch Hunt, one that has shattered so many innocent lives, ever end-or will it just go on forever? "Not running or building a building", Trump said. "Now, you have a star witness who has less credibility than he did yesterday and an investigation that has less credibility than it did yesterday".

Reacting to the plea, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Cohen "should be prosecuted to the extent of the law".

Mr Mueller's team confirmed Mr Manafort had breached his plea deal with the special counsel by lying to federal investigators.

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Trump has held out the possibility of a pardon to Manafort, who he says was treated "cruelly" by the investigation.

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