By Associated Press and Rockbridge Report Staff
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — President Donald Trump canceled a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 Nations summit Thursday, injecting fresh drama into what already promised to be a tense gathering of world leaders.
Trump cited Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian vessels as the reason, saying in a Tweet from Air Force One: “The ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia.” He added: “I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!”
Coming just hours after the Kremlin said the meeting was on track, the declaration was a departure from much of Trump’s past dealings with Putin. Throughout his presidency, Trump has sought to improve relations despite tensions over election meddling, arms control and the war in Syria.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Trump’s former lawyer, made a surprise appearance before a federal judge in New York and pleaded guilty to lying to Congress to cover up that he was negotiating a real estate deal in Moscow on Trump’s behalf. This came during the heat of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
His comments made clear that his communications with Trump about the project were much more frequent than he had suggested.
Cohen told the judge he lied about the timing of the negotiations, his communications with people in the company and in Russia about the deal, and other details to be loyal to Trump and consistent with Trump’s “political messaging.” Cohen and prosecutors referred to Trump as “individual one” throughout Thursday’s proceedings and said he lied “to be loyal to Individual One.”
Among other lies, Cohen said he told Congress that all discussions about building a Trump Tower in Moscow had ended by January 2016, when they had actually continued until June of that year.
He said he also lied about his contacts with Russian officials and lied when he said he never agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the project and never discussed with Trump plans to travel to Moscow to support the project.
Prosecutors said in a court document that Cohen had misled Congress to give a false impression that the Moscow project had ended before the Iowa caucus and first Republican presidential primary in 2016.
“A weak person”
As he left the White House shortly after the court proceeding concluded, Trump called Cohen “a weak person.”
“Michael Cohen is lying and he’s trying to get a reduced sentence,” Trump said.
Nothing said in court, or in associated court filings, addressed whether Trump or his aides had directed Cohen to mislead Congress.
The charges were handled by Mueller’s team, not the federal prosecutors in New York who handled Cohen’s previous guilty plea in August to other federal charges involving his taxi businesses, bank fraud and his campaign work for Trump. Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 12.
Cohen declined to comment as he left the courtroom.