What You Need To Know About The Latest Big News In The Mueller Russia Investigation Philip Ewing – November 29, 20185:18 PM ET


Michael Cohen walks out of federal court Thursday in New York, after pleading guilty to lying to Congress about work he did on an aborted project to build a Trump Tower in Russia. Julie Jacobson/AP

There have been so many big developments this week in the Russia story that it’s tough to keep them all straight.

Here’s what you need to know.

Cohen admits lying to Congress

What happened? Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen admitted on Thursday that he and others working for Trump negotiated with important Russians over a possible Trump Tower in Moscow well into the presidential campaign in 2016.

The project ultimately didn’t take place, but Cohen now admits he lied about it to Congress to protect Trump.

What does that mean?

A few things:

– It undercuts Trump’s sometime denials in 2016 and since that he had, as he often put it, “nothing to do” with Russia. In fact he was pursuing a major deal that he suggested on Thursday he might have kept pursuing through the year and might have tried to conclude if he hadn’t been elected.

– It means Trump world already had a channel open with Moscow at the same time the Russian government was trying to bore one into Trump’s campaign. Meanwhile, it was waging a campaign of “active measures” against the U.S. and the West aimed at corroding faith in democracy and, ultimately, helping Trump become president.

– It could deepen the public understanding about the Trump family’s relationship with the Moscow real estate mogul Aras Agalarov, another important player in this saga.

If the Trumps’ negotiations with people in Moscow involved the Agalarovs, as one of their representatives suggested might be the case to the Senate Judiciary Committee, it gives another reason why Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. might have agreed to the much discussed meeting with a Russian delegation that took place in June 2016. And because Cohen has told prosecutors that he briefed Trump about the Moscow deal, it raises new questions about whether Trump might also have been briefed about the meeting Trump Jr. hosted in New York City at Trump Tower.

Trump said Cohen is lying. Trump also reportedly told the office of special counsel Robert Mueller this week in written answers that he didn’t know about the Trump Tower meeting in New York beforehand.

Trump told reporters on Thursday that even if he had pursued the real estate deal with the Russians, it wouldn’t have been against the law. And Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said on Thursday that facts in the court documents revealed on Thursday came from the Trump Organization itself — proof it has nothing to hide.

Manafort’s plea deal in jeopardy

What happened? The plea agreement involving Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort apparently fell apart on Monday. Manafort agreed earlier this year to give information to Mueller’s office, but prosecutors said he has been lying to them.

Manafort said he has been giving the government useful information.

There was much more, though: It emerged that Manafort’s lawyer has been briefing Trump’s lawyer about the evidence Manafort has been giving to the government — ostensibly, according to The New York Times, to reassure Trump’s team that Manafort hasn’t implicated the president.

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