Shortly before he was inaugurated,in his first post-election press conference, President-Elect Donald Trump denied having any ties to Russia.
"You are fake news," Trump exclaimed as he repudiated rumors he had a financial relationship with Moscow.
"I have no deals in Russia," Trump said. "I have no deals that could happen in Russia and I have no loans with Russia."
Trump boasted that "as a real estate developer, I have very very little debt." This was not true; his businesses owed nearly $2 billion to at least 150 separate entities at the time. "But I have no loans with Russia," he added.
Trump repeated these points several more times, stressing that he had "very low debt" and large assets. "So I have no loans, no dealings, and no pending deals" with Russia, he said.
Trump also expressed his desire to get along with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Watch Trump's remarks below:
Donald Trump's first presser 1/11/17 'NO TIES TO RUSSIA, NO DEALS WITH RUSSIA, NO LOANS' https://t.co/hSEkYCten9 #TrumpRussia— Sandi Bachom (@Sandi Bachom)1543503161.0
The president's cover story blew up on Thursday when Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court to lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower Moscow. Court papers were filed in Manhattan by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller *personally signed* Cohen’s new plea to lying about Moscow Project and outreach to the Kremlin on behalf of… https://t.co/sfwAUU46co— Ari Melber (@Ari Melber)1543512694.0
While Cohen initially told the Intelligence Committees in the US House and Senate that efforts to erect a Trump property in Russia had fizzled by January 2016, he admitted Thursday that negotiations continued well into the summer... after Trump had secured the Republican presidential nomination.
@MSNBC He told us in Feb. 2017 too. https://t.co/nlDoAZTJQ8— Pathos 🇺🇸 (@Pathos 🇺🇸)1543523009.0
So, in 2016, while Trump was campaigning & claiming he had absolutely no ties to Russia, Michael Cohen was directly… https://t.co/1ICw968pVw— @ATXGirl (@@ATXGirl)1543529123.0
@thehill you continually said you had NO business ties to Russia over and over again why lie if you did? all the l… https://t.co/CFVEwnJkyX— Turkey / Goof™ (@Turkey / Goof™)1543524460.0
This could have enormous legal ramifications for the president.
“The potential significance of Cohen’s cooperation is immense,” said Kendall Coffey, a former United States Attorney in Florida. "It cannot be determined if Cohen’s cooperation will lead to other criminal allegations. But for most high-powered business people with complex business interests, having one’s personal attorney become a star witness for the prosecution is the worst possible legal nightmare."
And yet Trump dismissed the news this morning and called Michael Cohen a “liar”... https://t.co/khEKDQIuVo— Manu Raju (@Manu Raju)1543520280.0
CNN: Trump is in a “terrible mood,” “spooked” and “completely distracted,” all regarding the Michael Cohen plea deal.— Scott Dworkin (@Scott Dworkin)1543531077.0
Beyond that, Trump earlier this month submitted written answers to Mueller's questions about Trump's ties to Russia. So far, we know he denies knowing about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting or Roger Stone's collusion with Wikileaks.
Presumably, Trump stuck to his "no ties to Russia" theme. Based on Cohen's testimony, however, Trump more likely than not knew Cohen was doing his bidding in Russia. And if Trump lied about it to Mueller, he committed perjury, a federal crime.
Was this before or after he tweeted that he had no business ties to Russia? https://t.co/N9qwnRyrrl— Enough Of That Now (@Enough Of That Now)1543524127.0
The revelation last week that Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was double-dealing behind Mueller's back also raises the odds Trump lied to Mueller. Trump has not ruled out offering Manafort a pardon, though it would not legally benefit either of them.
In the past 24 hours... 1) Jerome Corsi admitted he and Roger Stone lied to Congress 2) Trump's main lender, Deuts… https://t.co/j0tG32CRrK— Tea Pain (@Tea Pain)1543512167.0
To help Trump, Cohen lied to Congress about Trump’s business interests in Russia. The President’s own denials durin… https://t.co/PS2vCSB9Nn— Adam Schiff (@Adam Schiff)1543511948.0
So far today, in coordinated fashion it appears: 1) Michael Cohen pled guilty related to Trump Org deal and agrees… https://t.co/y5Ll7GFUDR— Daniel Goldman (@Daniel Goldman)1543513986.0
Trump, in his response to the news about Cohen, told reporters Cohen was lying to get a more lenient sentence. Rudy Giuliani, Trump's TV lawyer, said the same thing.
For nearly a year, candidate Trump was in secret talks with the Kremlin for projects that would benefit businessman Trump.
Trump said Thursday he was running his business and his campaign simultaneously because there was a chance he could lose the election.
@DonnaMo45291404 @MSNBC On the lawn Trump said he was working with Russia to build a Trump Tower. Trump just got c… https://t.co/gVHN9YyXLf— CKS (@CKS)1543525984.0
And although there is nothing illegal about running a business and a campaign at the same time, Trump lied to keep his financial interests hidden from the public — just like when he refused to release his tax returns.
The documents filed by Mueller say that Cohen discussed the project with Trump more than three times between January and June of 2016.
@Texas_Eric1 "I have no ties to Russia", all through the freaking campaign, over and over and over. And now we know… https://t.co/1BNLplMgTD— Spider Jerusalem (@Spider Jerusalem)1543528128.0
Specifically, Cohen was tasked with setting up a meeting between Trump and Putin and, given his role as fixer, Cohen would be the intermediary.
Folks need to remember when Michael Cohen was negotiating the deal with "Russia" for Trump, he was not negotiating… https://t.co/L2qjnRkSDb— Neal Katyal (@Neal Katyal)1543508743.0
Cohen's account, according to Mueller's records, was corroborated by "Individual 2," who met with Cohen at Trump Tower in New York on June 14. This is when Trump's dream of a structure in Moscow died.
@realDonaldTrump @SteveScalise Cohen has been writing a book too. Can't wait to read it. No ties to Russia, altho… https://t.co/RkGsZrBJFG— Lugnut420 (@Lugnut420)1543529444.0
Why "Project Moscow" ultimately fell apart is not yet known. BuzzFeed News reported on Thursday the Trump Organization wanted to gift Putin the $50 million Trump Tower Moscow penthouse.
Bloomberg's Noah Feldman thinks Trump's campaign advisors caught wind of the backchannelling and talked him out of it.
@MSNBC The entire Trump Administration will go down in history as "The Moscow Project".— O. Douglas Jennings (@O. Douglas Jennings)1543522585.0
"It seems likely," wrote Feldman, "that the deal was killed not because Trump realized it was wrong but because outside advisers told him it would look bad."
Regardless, Cohen's latest confession has vaporized Trump's assertions he had no interests in or pending with Russia.