President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer changed his story twice more about the Russia-Ukraine peace plan he may have hand-delivered to former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Michael Cohen, special counsel to the president and a longtime employee of the Trump Organization, admitted to the New York Times that he had delivered sealed plans for settling Russia’s conflict with Ukraine to Flynn before his resignation last week.
However, hours after the Times story was published, Cohen told the Washington Post that he had not brought the sealed plan to Flynn's office in the White House or discussed it with anyone who worked there.
Cohen told the Post that he'd met with Felix Sater -- a Russian-American who once worked for Trump, served prison time for stabbing a man in the face with shards from a margarita glass, pleaded guilty in a stock manipulation scheme involving the Mafia and may have worked as an FBI informant -- and Ukrainian lawmaker Andreii Artemenko.
This 15-minute meeting, according to Cohen's remarks to the Post, took place in late January at Park Avenue hotel lobby, and he admitted leaving with the plan in hand but "emphatically" denied bringing it to the White House.
But Cohen again changed his story Monday when he told Business Insider in a series of text messages that he didn't even know what the plan was.
Even that account changed a short time later, when Cohen admitted to the website that he'd met for under 10 minutes with Artemenko to discuss the proposal, which the Ukrainian lawmaker told Cohen "was acknowledged by Russian authorities that would create world peace."
"My response was, 'Who doesn't want world peace?'" Cohen told Business Insider.
He made a similar remark -- “Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” -- to the Times in the original report.
The New York Times reporters and deputy managing editor stood by the newspaper's reporting of Cohen's account, and they said Sater also acknowledged Trump's attorney had taken the sealed plan to Flynn.
Sater told the Post he believed Cohen would deliver the plan to Flynn, but the attorney had to wait because the national security adviser was embroiled in controversy over his communications with the Russian ambassador.
Flynn ultimately resigned after admitting he'd misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of those calls, which intelligence officials say were entirely devoted to discussions about easing U.S. sanctions against Russia.
Artemenko, who aspires to lead Ukraine and claims to have support from Russian president Vladimir Putin, says he has evidence proving corruption that would oust the country's current president, Petro Poroshenko.
Radio Free Europe reported Tuesday that Artemenko was under investigation for possible treason related to the peace plan.
Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko told reporters the plan would lease the Crimean Peninsula to Russia in exchange for Ukraine regaining control of land held by Russian-backed separatists in the east.