USA prosecutors have revealed that a Russian offered cooperation to Donald Trump's campaign as early as 2015, declaring that the president's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen had provided "relevant" and "substantial" help to the Russia investigation.
Court filings from prosecutors in NY and special counsel Robert Mueller's office Friday laid out previously undisclosed contacts between Trump associates and Russian intermediaries and suggested the Kremlin aimed early on to influence Trump and his campaign by playing to both his political aspirations and his personal business interests.
US Attorney Robert Khuzami accused the 52-year-old, who once vowed to take a bullet for the president, of being motivated by "personal greed" and of "repeatedly" using his power and influence for "deceptive ends". "Totally clears the president".
"After cheating the IRS for years, lying to banks and to Congress, and seeking to criminally influence the Presidential election, Cohen's decision to plead guilty - rather than seek a pardon for his manifold crimes - does not make him a hero", they wrote.
In hours of meetings with prosecutors, Cohen detailed his intimate involvement in an array of episodes, including some that directly touch the president, that are at the center of investigations into campaign finance violations and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
In the 40-page document Khuzami drew a direct link between Cohen's illegal behavior and Trump.
The filing does not name Trump, but refers to an "Individual 1" that it says Cohen "acted in coordination with and at the direction of" in giving payments to silence adult film actor Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who claimed they had affairs with Trump before the 2016 election.
"Cohen did provide information to law enforcement, including information that assisted the Special Counsel's Office", they said.
In an additional filing Friday evening, prosecutors said Manafort lied about his contacts with a Russian associate and Trump administration officials, including in 2018.
The documents reveal a previously unreported contact from a Russian to Trump's inner circle during the campaign.
Cohen told prosecutors he never followed up on the Putin invitation, though the offer bore echoes of a March 2016 proposal presented by Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who broached to other advisers the idea of a Putin encounter.
Later, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in two statements that the Manafort filing "says absolutely nothing about the President" and the Cohen filings "tell us nothing of value that wasn't already known".
But Mueller has been inching ever closer to the White House, and early on Friday Trump fired off a feverish volley of tweets against a probe he dubs a "witch hunt", accusing Mueller of "big time conflicts of interest" and alleging the prosecutor coerced false testimony from witnesses.
The commander-in-chief vowed his lawyers would produce a "major Counter Report" to rebut Mueller's findings, as and when he delivers them.
Burnett then pointed out that "you now have a Democratic-controlled House, obviously not in the Senate, but you have a real question now of whether you're looking at a Bill Clinton-like moment where you get that impeachment vote".
A key figure in the Watergate scandal has told CNN that the allegations against President Donald Trump contained in a court filing are sufficient for Congress to start impeachment proceedings.
"I don't know that this will forever disappear into some dark hole of unprosecutable presidents", Dean said.
In response to the two court filings made by federal prosecutors against Michael Cohen on Friday, President Donald Trump took to the internet.
Manafort, who has pleaded guilty to several counts, violated his plea agreement by then telling "multiple discernible lies" to prosecutors, they said. But prosecutors say they recovered "electronic documents" showing contacts with multiple administration officials not identified in the filings.