White House says court filings show nothing new

(MGN/file)
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WASHINGTON (AP) The White House says new court filings about President Donald Trump's former lawyer and campaign chairman offer nothing new or damaging about Mr. Trump, but some legal experts say otherwise.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says government filings about former Trump attorney and personal "fixer" Michael Cohen "tell us nothing of value that wasn't already known."

That's despite the fact that the federal special counsel said in one of the documents that Cohen was in touch as far back as 2015 with a Russian who offered "political synergy" with the Trump election campaign.

Sanders also says the filing pertaining to former campaign chair Paul Manafort "says absolutely nothing about the president" and is blaming the media for "trying to create a story where there isn't one."

Prosecutors say Manafort lied to them about his contacts with a Russian associate and Trump administration officials.

Manafort cut the deal in September and agreed to plead guilty to two felonies.

It headed off a second trial for Manafort related to his Ukrainian political consulting and unregistered foreign lobbying.

Prosecutors say Manafort met with investigators from Mueller's office and the FBI on 12 separate occasions. They allege he told "multiple discernible lies."

An attorney for Cohen is declining to comment on the recommendation by federal prosecutors that Cohen serve a "significant" prison term.

Attorney Lanny Davis declined to comment Friday after prosecutors said in court filings that Cohen has overstated his assistance to law enforcement.

Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced next week for tax evasion, orchestrating hush-money payments and lying to Congress.

Mueller credited Cohen for meeting seven times with his prosecutors investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Federal prosecutors in New York say sentencing guidelines call for Cohen to serve about four years behind bars.

They say Cohen declined to cooperate in all aspects of their investigation and shouldn't receive full credit for cooperating because he wasn't forthcoming.

Court papers say Cohen described speaking to a Russian national who claimed to be a "trusted person" in the Russian Federation and proposed a meeting between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The person offered Mr. Trump's campaign "political synergy" and "synergy on a government level."

The person wasn't identified by name in the court documents.

Mr. Trump has made little secret of his frustration with the swirling probe into Russian election interference and potential misdeeds committed by those in his orbit and is seeking to undermine the legitimacy of Mueller's investigation.

Earlier Friday Mr. Trump tweeted: "Robert Mueller and Leakin' Lyin' James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest."

Mueller's investigation has produced dozens of criminal charges and four guilty pleas from Trump associates.

Mr. Trump also argues his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, is "totally conflicted." Rosenstein oversaw the probe until last month.

Comey met behind closed doors Friday with two House committees and afterward said he testified again about Hillary Clinton's emails.

Comey says House Republicans asked about Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

He says GOP lawmakers focused "a whole lot" on Clinton's emails, telling reporters that a transcript of the six-hour interview "will bore you."

Republicans say Comey and other Justice Department officials were biased against President Donald Trump as they investigated his campaign's ties with Russia and cleared Clinton in a separate probe into her email use.

Comey says he will be back at the Capitol for another closed-door interview the week of Dec. 17.