Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, admitted in court on Thursday that he had engaged in negotiations to build a tower in Moscow for Mr. Trump well into the 2016 presidential campaign, far later than previously known.
Mr. Cohen said he discussed the status of the project with Mr. Trump on more than three occasions and briefed Mr. Trump’s family members about it. He also admitted he agreed to travel to Russia for meetings on the project.
The revelations, which came as Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, were a startling turn in the special counsel’s investigation of Mr. Trump and his inner circle.
Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea comes at a particularly perilous time for Mr. Trump, whose presidency has been threatened by Mr. Cohen’s statements to investigators. In recent days, the president and his lawyers have increased their attacks on the Justice Department and the special counsel’s office.
After Mr. Cohen’s plea, Mr. Trump said his former fixer was once again lying in order to get a reduced sentence for the crimes he pleaded guilty to earlier this year.
“He was convicted of various things unrelated to us,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “he’s a weak person and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence.”
Mr. Trump made his comments to reporters as he left Washington for an economic summit in Argentina.
At a surprise federal court hearing in Manhattan, Mr. Cohen admitted that he had minimized Mr. Trump’s role in efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and gave the false impression to Congress that the negotiations had ended in January 2016, just before the Iowa caucuses.
In fact, Mr. Cohen admitted, the negotiations continued for at least another five months, until June. He also admitted he agreed in early May to travel to Russia for meetings on the project.
Mr. Cohen also asked Mr. Trump about the possibility of him traveling to Russia for meetings on the deal, despite telling Congressional investigators that he had not done so. The trips never happened.
Mr. Cohen concluded his statement in court, saying: “I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1.”
“Individual 1” is President Trump, officials said.
The new guilty plea in Federal District Court marks the first time the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has charged Mr. Cohen. In exchange for pleading guilty and continuing to cooperate with Mr. Mueller, he may hope to receive a lighter sentence than he otherwise would.