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New revelations in Russia probe: five things to know

Michael Cohen

Washington, United States | AFP | New filings by federal prosecutors have brought major revelations about Russian efforts to forge links to US President Donald Trump before the 2016 election and about illegal payments he allegedly ordered to bury potential sex scandals.

Here are some of the key points contained in the filings Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller, as he investigates the Russian links, and by federal prosecutors in New York:

– Earlier approach from Russia –
The filings reinforce a narrative about repeated Russian attempts to curry favor with Trump.

No specific claim of collusion has yet been made — as Trump underscored in a tweet Saturday — but one filing revealed a contact with Trump’s then lawyer Michael Cohen as early as November 2015 by a Russian man claiming to offer “synergy on a government level” with Moscow.

– Trump ‘ordered’ illegal hush payments –
Trump, referred to in the documents as “Individual-1,” was directly implicated in ordering Cohen to make illegal payments to two women — Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — to ensure their silence about alleged sexual affairs.

There is no question that Trump is “Individual-1,” as prosecutors note: “On approximately June 16, 2015, Individual-1, for whom Cohen worked at the time, began an ultimately successful campaign for President of the United States.”

– Manafort told ‘multiple lies’ –
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is said to have told prosecutors “multiple discernible lies” about matters including his contacts with a reputed Russian intelligence agent and with the Trump administration, thereby breaching the terms of an earlier guilty plea.

Manafort was convicted in August of several counts of financial fraud and witness tampering, pleaded guilty to a second set of charges in September, and is currently in jail.

– ‘Substantial’ jail time sought for Cohen –
Prosecutors sought “substantial” jail time for Cohen, citing a “pattern of deception” and saying “his offenses strike at several pillars of our society and system of government: the payment of taxes, transparent and fair elections; and truthfulness before government and in business.”

He is to be sentenced Wednesday on charges filed earlier.

– What next? –
Mueller has yet to complete his investigation and issue his report. Democrats are demanding that it be made public, although that has yet to be decided.

For all of Trump’s denials of colluding with Russia, Mueller has yet to publicly address that fundamental question.

But Trump has now been named as having directed someone — Cohen — to commit a crime. Pressure on the president can only increase in coming days and weeks.

There is a general consensus in the legal community that Trump cannot be charged while serving as president. But once he leaves office, his legal future could change.

Democrats could also launch the process of impeachment in the US House of Representatives when they take control in January, but with Republicans controlling the Senate, that would be unlikely to move forward.

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