Thu, 27 Feb 2020

Trump denies collusion despite Mueller's big revelation

By Sheetal Sukhija, Cincinnati News.Net
10 Dec 2018, 02:11 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - This week, the developments made in the federal investigation against the U.S. President Donald Trump's election campaign ties with Russia, that led to Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election brought with it a storm of troubles for Trump's side, threatening his very position as the country's Commander-in-Chief. 

On Friday, the Justice Department appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed in separate court filings that the former Trump attorney Michael Cohen made payments to two women in "coordination with and the direction of" Trump.

Cohen also told investigators that he spoke with a Russian national, who offered help during the President's 2016 election campaign.

Meanwhile, Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort was alleged to have lied to the FBI and Mueller's office about five major issues, after agreeing to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

In effect, U.S. prosecutors concluded that Trump committed a campaign finance violation, by directing his personal lawyer to make illegal hush payments to two women ahead of the 2016 election. 

In separate memos submitted to U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan, prosecutors detailed Cohen's cooperation in two cases.

Prosecutor's filings revealed that in his guilty plea made in August in New York, Cohen implicated the president in the hush payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with the president. 

Further, in one of the filing, Mueller wrote that Cohen had provided his office with "useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact" with Trump's real estate company during the 2016 campaign.

The unnamed Russian who approached Cohen reportedly claimed to be a "'trusted person' in the Russian Federation," and offered "synergy on a government level" with the Trump campaign.

He pushed for a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and prosecutors said that Cohen told them that he did not follow up.

According to the filing, the contact occurred during discussions about a possible hotel bearing Trump's name in Moscow.

Mueller wrote that the discussions about a potential Trump hotel in Moscow were relevant to his investigation, because they occurred "at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election."

Prosecutors have sought a "substantial" prison sentence of roughly four years for tax fraud and campaign finance crimes for the former Trump loyalist, with his sentence set to be decided on December 12.

Collusion illusion?

Despite being implicated in the filings, Trump denied collusion and all the other claims. 

After the release of explosive filings on Friday, Trump tweeted, "Totally clears the President. Thank you!"

He also took to Twitter on Saturday and tweeted in bold letters, "AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!"

Hours later, he against took to Twitter and describing Mueller's probe with his usual choice of words, the President wrote that it was "Time for the Witch Hunt to END."

Trump quoted Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera as saying, "This is collusion illusion" and "there is nothing impeachable here."

When questioned directly by a reporter at the White House on Saturday, if he directed Cohen to commit election-related crimes, Trump firmly said, "No."

He then called Mueller's investigation a "very one-sided situation," and argued that the "last thing I wanted is help from Russia on the campaign."

He also pivoted to attacking Democratic presidential nominee and election rival Hillary Clinton. 

Trump said, "We're very happy with what we're reading because there was no collusion whatsoever."

He told reporters he has not read the court filings.

However, later in the day, the President's top lawyer Rudy Giuliani echoed Trump's comments and argued that "Mueller's late Friday dump demonstrates yet again no evidence connected to President."

He tweeted, "It also indicates SDNY is asking that Cohen receive a 4 year prison sentence, longest so far, because as we have said he's still lying."

However, following Trump's comments, Democrats and other Trump critics fearing the President's potential efforts to shut down the probe, called for Mueller and his probe to be protected.

Further, Democrats feared that the newly appointed acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who is a Trump loyalist, could fire Mueller or undermine the investigation by cutting off its funding. 

Senator Diane Feinstein said in a statement, "These legal documents outline serious and criminal wrongdoing, including felony violations of campaign finance laws at the direction of President Trump."

A former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin has pointed out, "In total, the prosecutors seem to be saying the president was more aware than he has claimed to be."

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