President Donald Trump tweeted that his business dealings were “very legal” and “very cool,” after his former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about efforts to build a Trump tower in Moscow.
In July 2016, Trump said he had no business interests in Russia, but Cohen said in federal court Thursday that he was pursuing a Trump development at the same time on behalf of the then-candidate.
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“Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!"
Trump’s Friday tweets mark a distinct shift from his past rhetoric.
“No, I have nothing to do with Russia,” he told reporters in July 2016. “How many times do I have say that?
"I have nothing to with Russia, I have nothing to do with Russia.”
He continued: “There were developers in Russia that wanted to put a lot of money into developments in Russia. And they wanted us to do it. But it never worked out.”
Yet the project was still being pursued, Cohen said. His plea marked the first time the president and his private business dealings in Russia were named in open court amid special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's ties to the Trump campaign.
Prosecutors said Cohen lied to minimize links between Trump and Russia, giving the false impression that the project had ended before the Iowa caucuses in February 2016.
On Thursday, Trump responded by calling Cohen a "weak person" and said his company's efforts in Moscow was "a well-known project" that he ultimately ended.