Michael Cohen. AFP

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump on Thursday pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump tower in Russia.

Cohen’s plea in federal court in Manhattan, his second there in the past four months, came as part of a new deal with special counsel Robert Mueller in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Cohen did not previously have a formal cooperation agreement with Mueller, but it is known that he has been speaking for the past several months to the special counsel’s office and other law enforcement entities.

He told the judge that he lied in 2017 to the Senate Intelligence Committee about proposed Trump Tower development in Moscow in order to be consistent with Trump’s political messages, and out of loyalty to the president.

Cohen’s appearance in court was a surprise as he is due to be sentenced Dec. 12 on his prior guilty plea of eight criminal counts related to tax fraud, excessive campaign contributions and making false statements to a financial institution.

Those charges came in a separate federal case not directly lodged by the special counsel.

In the new case, Cohen has pleaded to a single count of making false statements to Congress.

Last year, Cohen told the House intelligence committee in a statement that in January 2016 it was decided that the “proposal was not feasible for a variety of business reasons and should not be pursued further”.

Cohen worked on the planned project with Felix Sater, a Russian-born associate of the Trumps, who claimed to have connections with influential figures in Moscow.