That day, Mr. Trump defended his role in the Trump Tower Moscow discussions, brushing aside concerns that he was advancing his business interests at the time he was hoping to become president. “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?” he told reporters.
Mr. Cohen drafted his statement to Congress in August 2017 along with Steven Ryan, his lawyer at the time, according to people familiar with how the testimony was put together. Mr. Ryan was working with lawyers for the Trump family as part of a joint defense agreement.
At least one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers saw Mr. Cohen’s congressional testimony before he delivered it in August and October 2017, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.
Mr. Cohen initially repeated his false statements about the Moscow tower to prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller after he pleaded guilty in August to campaign finance violations and financial crimes. But he corrected himself during subsequent interviews and proved credible, the special counsel’s office said in a December sentencing memo.
Mr. Cohen said he initially lied because he did not want to contradict his congressional testimony, prosecutors said. Subsequently, he took care “not to overstate his knowledge or the role of others in the conduct under investigation” and provided “useful information” about his contacts with “persons connected to the White House” in 2017 and 2018, the special counsel’s filing said.
That truthfulness was a departure from Mr. Cohen’s pattern of deception throughout his professional life, according to a separate sentencing memo by federal prosecutors in New York, filed at the same time as Mr. Mueller’s. Driven by greed, they said, he “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends.”
Mr. Cohen was sentenced in December to three years in prison for lying to Congress, campaign finance violations and financial crimes. He said he took full responsibility for his crimes, but said he acted out of blind loyalty to Mr. Trump, who he said “led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”