The Justice Department’s Inspector General has declassified some of the roughly 650 pages of transcripts and other records it obtained from phone calls President Trump had with Michael J. Cohen, his lawyer and self-proclaimed fixer, during the 2016 presidential campaign.
But the inspector general has decided not to release or release all of it, at least not yet. And it has presented only a few key excerpts from the transcripts.
That has prompted speculation that the Justice Department and the president’s lawyer could be sparring with each other over how to respond. Here are some of the things to be learned from what is now public.
That’s not the end of this. After Trump made his first call to Cohen in April 2016, the FBI spent several hours eavesdropping on the phone conversation. The transcript shows that the FBI soon discovered that the phone call was being taped, and it let Trump know that he was being wiretapped. (The conversation did not last very long — at about six minutes — and it appears Trump also made several other calls to Cohen that were not recorded.) Cohen told Cohen the call was the only legal contact he had with Trump during the 2016 campaign.
The transcripts also show that Trump asked Cohen to lie to Congress about his efforts to work on a Trump Organization project in Moscow during the campaign, and Cohen then told the FBI about those discussions as well. Trump had previously said those negotiations ended in January 2016, a month before the election.
For more information about the congressional Russia investigation, see ProPublica’s interactive story. For a new series on campaign finance abuses and Russian meddling in the election, see ProPublica’s new story on the Trump-Zelensky call and an explainer on how the FBI chose to trace calls that Cohen said had been taped.
Read the raw transcript: “I didn’t talk to [Donald Trump] at all. We’re waiting for my lawyer to call you. He’s waiting for you. We’re waiting for you to call me. Don’t call me now, because I’m waiting for your lawyer to call me, to talk to me. No, you call me, we talk, and we tell you what’s up. No, you won’t get a call. But you know, it’s probably the slowest process since the Constitutional Convention. [Cohen] was, I’m told, in a meeting somewhere, so I’m waiting for my lawyer to get back to me. I’m not doing any damage to your client. I’m doing absolutely no harm to your client at all. If anything, I hope that you come out with something positive. You know, you’ll come out and you’ll say whatever it is that you think your lawyers tell you to say, and that’s fine. It was honestly just a question of a couple of options, and I said I would give you these options. “After you got some of them, you weren’t willing to take them. But you did see the one or two other ones in the lead-up to the debate … they sounded very good to me, so don’t worry about this. You know what I mean. “Then you go to a couple more and they sounded OK. But [Cohen] ends it by saying, ‘But, in the end, the fact that I can testify, that the president of the United States says that, you know, we’re not interested in a deal – that’s – you know, at that point, I don’t have to tell you, but you’ll know in the end, the fact that he said it, and that means that, ‘I’m not interested,’ because that’s what it means. And I’m sorry, but that’s the only thing that it means. Okay? You know? If there’s a deal, then that’s great. If there’s not a deal, then we’ll go on to other things. But that was the only thing he was saying. But nothing else. “Oh no, that’s very nice. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.”
Read the Trump-Zelensky Transcript here (download PDF here): http://www.ogs.gpo.gov/over…