WASHINGTON — Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, told federal investigators that another lawyer representing Mr. Trump dismissed his warnings that a letter to Congress describing discussions between Russian officials and representatives of the Trump Organization about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow omitted key details, newly released memos show.
“Cohen said there were more communications with Russia and more communications with Trump than” what was documented in his letter, one memo said, noting that among them was a conversation he had had with a “woman from the Kremlin” whom he had told the president about.
The memo cites Mr. Cohen quoting the other lawyer, Jay Sekulow, saying the details did not need to be included in the letter to Congress because the Moscow project never moved forward.
Mr. Cohen’s letter to Congress was sent in August 2017. Twelve months later, he pleaded guilty to a range of financial crimes and a campaign finance-related charge stemming from his payments to a pornographic film actress who had claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump.
In November 2018, Mr. Cohen made a surprise appearance in federal court to plead guilty to an additional charge of lying to Congress and revealed that Mr. Trump and his representatives were more involved in discussions over a potential real estate deal in Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign than had been previously known. He told prosecutors that he intentionally lied to protect Mr. Trump.
Mr. Cohen is currently serving a three-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to financial crimes as well as lying to Congress.
The conversations between Mr. Cohen and Mr. Sekulow about what to disclose about the project are laid out in memos written by investigators who interviewed Mr. Cohen as part of the examination by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, of a possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign in 2016 and Russian officials.
Mr. Cohen has claimed that Mr. Sekulow, who still represents Mr. Trump, told him to tell Congress that the discussions about the possible Trump Tower project, which Mr. Cohen had personally pushed for while he worked at the Trump Organization, had gone on for less time than they actually had.
Mr. Sekulow has denied that claim. Asked on Tuesday about the new batch of memos — documents called “302s” summarizing interviews with witnesses — he said the Trump team had declined to respond to Mr. Cohen’s claims because his testimony was “not truthful.”
The timing of the Trump Tower discussions was significant to investigators because the proposal represented a business interest that Mr. Trump would have had in Russia during the campaign.
Another matter detailed in the 302s — the 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer who had claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton — was scrutinized closely by investigators as a possible instance of conspiracy between the campaign and Russia.
The memos were among nearly 300 pages of documents released by the Justice Department in response to being sued by BuzzFeed and CNN. They include summaries of interviews with Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, and Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director.
The interview summaries do not change the understanding of events that was documented in the report Mr. Mueller submitted to the Justice Department, and many of them are heavily redacted.
But they help paint a clearer picture of activities by the Trump campaign and by White House aides. And some describe a pattern of behavior by the president that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.
In one summary, Mr. Lewandowski described Mr. Trump directing him to deliver a statement to Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, that he wanted Mr. Sessions to release in his own name.
Mr. Sessions had recused himself from matters related to the Russia investigation after it was reported that at his confirmation hearings, he had not revealed the extent of his own contacts related to Russia during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Mueller was appointed as a result.
The recusal infuriated Mr. Trump, and according to the summary of Mr. Lewandowksi’s interview, he wanted Mr. Sessions to say that Mr. Trump “didn’t do anything wrong” and that the existence of the special prosecutor was “unfair” to Mr. Sessions.
The statement was also supposed to say that Mr. Sessions would meet with Mr. Mueller and tell him how unfair the investigation was to the president. Mr. Trump, according to the interview summary, believed that issuing such a statement would get Mr. Sessions “back on track.”
Mr. Lewandowski never delivered the message to Mr. Sessions, according to Mr. Mueller’s report.
In other interviews with investigators, Ms. Hicks described in detail her discussions with the president about a meeting that his son Donald Trump Jr., in search of dirt to use against Mrs. Clinton in June 2016, agreed to hold with an associate who wanted to bring a Kremlin-connected lawyer to Trump Tower in New York.
Ms. Hicks recalled joining Mr. Trump and his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, in the White House residence shortly after the meeting, when the Mueller inquiry was a few weeks old.
Mr. Kushner said they had discovered something that Mr. Trump should be aware of but was “not a big deal.” He then told his father-in-law that he, Donald Trump Jr. and the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had attended the meeting at Trump Tower.
Mr. Kushner started to open a folder full of documents, Ms. Hicks recalled, but Mr. Trump “stopped him and said he did not want to know about it.”
A week later, the group met again, this time to discuss emails related to the meeting that had been discovered between the younger Mr. Trump and others. Ms. Hicks proposed a “softball interview” to get ahead of the story.
Mr. Kushner again said it was “not a big deal, just a meeting about Russian adoption,” according to the interview summaries.
Mr. Trump said that “they should not do anything, asked why so many people had the emails, and that they needed to let the lawyers deal with it,” according to the summaries.
At another point, Ms. Hicks told interviewers that she knew the news coverage of the emails would be “really bad,” and that her impression was that Mr. Trump did not believe that they would ever become public.
Other memos recount Ms. Hicks’s recollection of working on a statement to provide to The New York Times when the newspaper learned of the meeting between the younger Mr. Trump and the lawyer, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, who had links to the Kremlin. She presented the statement to the president as they were traveling on Air Force One, but he told her it contained too much information, according to the interview summary.
The statement that was eventually released by Donald Trump Jr., the parameters of which were dictated by his father, said the meeting had been “primarily” about Russian adoptions — a reference to an anticorruption measure passed in the United States in 2012 that banned adoptions from Russia — and did not mention the promise of information about Mrs. Clinton.
Another set of summaries describe how Rod J. Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general who wrote a memo that became the justification for firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey in 2017, was conflicted about what he had done.
The day before Mr. Comey was fired, Mr. Rosenstein was called to the White House to meet with the president and others and told to write a memo summarizing his concerns about Mr. Comey.
“I knew when I left Director Comey would be fired,” Mr. Rosenstein is quoted as saying. After it happened the next day, Mr. Rosenstein said he felt “angry, ashamed, horrified and embarrassed.”
Recounting his feelings for Mr. Comey, Mr. Rosenstein then “paused a moment, appearing to have been overcome by emotion, but quickly recovered and apologized,” investigators wrote.
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