President Trump’s recollection of discussions about building a Trump Tower in Moscow aligned with those of his longtime fixer Michael D. Cohen, the president’s lawyers said on Thursday after Mr. Cohen admitted in court that he had pursued the project as Mr. Trump secured the Republican nomination for president.
The president knew about the deal and discussed it with Mr. Cohen before it fell apart, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said. Mr. Trump detailed those conversations last week in written responses to investigators for the special counsel investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference, Robert S. Mueller III. Prosecutors had sought to question Mr. Trump for months and eventually agreed to accept written answers for some queries.
“The president said there was a proposal, it was discussed with Cohen, there was a nonbinding letter of intent and it didn’t go beyond that,” said one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Mr. Cohen admitted in court on Thursday that he had lied to congressional investigators about the length of the negotiations over the Trump Tower Moscow project and the extent of Mr. Trump’s involvement. He said that he discussed the deal with Mr. Trump several times and that Mr. Cohen continued to work on a potential deal until at least June 2016, court documents showed — months later than Mr. Cohen had told Congress that the deal fell apart.
Mr. Giuliani said that Mr. Mueller’s office did not ask the president about the timing of his discussions with Mr. Cohen about the project.
The fact that Mr. Cohen’s admission in a deal with prosecutors came so soon after Mr. Trump returned his responses to Mr. Mueller’s questions raised concerns among the president’s legal team that Mr. Mueller was laying a perjury trap — waiting for the president to explain his understanding of events before presenting evidence to the contrary to show that he lied, according to people close to the president’s legal team.
Mr. Giuliani said that the president and the Trump Organization, the umbrella company for his family’s businesses, have been forthcoming with Mr. Mueller’s investigators for months about the deal. The company, he added, voluntarily provided investigators with documents related to the Moscow deal.
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“We have provided them with every document about this from the beginning — that’s the only reason they know about it,” Mr. Giuliani said.
Mr. Giuliani declined to provide the wording of Mr. Mueller’s questions about the deal or Mr. Trump’s answers. Mr. Mueller’s investigators told Mr. Trump’s lawyers earlier this year that they had several questions for the president about the deal.
“What interaction and communication did you have with Michael Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, regarding real estate developments in Russia during the period of the campaign?” the investigators wanted to ask the president, according to notes Mr. Trump’s lawyers took during a meeting with Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors.
Though his lawyers said his statements to Mr. Mueller lined up with Mr. Cohen’s, the president attacked Mr. Cohen’s credibility on Thursday. The president called Mr. Cohen “weak” and accused him of lying to investigators to reduce his prison sentence.
“So he’s lying very simply in order to get a reduced sentence, O.K.?” Mr. Trump said while leaving the White House for the Group of 20 meeting in Buenos Aires.
Mr. Giuliani sought to explain why Mr. Trump would attack Mr. Cohen even if they had the same understanding of the facts.
“He has so many different versions of the same stories, so by definition he is a liar and we can’t trust him,” Mr. Giuliani said of Mr. Cohen. “He has lied, so how can we believe him?”
He added: “Cohen has just told us he’s a liar. Given the fact that he’s a liar, I can’t tell you what he’s lying about.”
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