President Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen worked on a deal to build a Trump Tower Moscow until late in the presidential campaign, and spoke to a Russian government official about getting it approved, court documents revealed today. That same project would “get Donald elected” with the help of Russian president Vladimir Putin, another Trump associate once claimed.
Cohen discussed getting the Russian government to green light the project as late as June 2016, despite telling Congress that the “Moscow Project” had been halted months earlier. Cohen pleaded guilty today to lying to Congress about the matter.
He lied to give the “false impression that the Moscow Project ended before “the Iowa caucus and…the very first primary” in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations,” the document says.
Cohen’s is the latest of dozens of guilty pleas in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. As well as being Trump’s personal lawyer, Cohen was the deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until recently.
The special counsel’s office released its charges against Cohen this morning. They reveal that in Jan. 2016, Cohen had a 20-minute phone call with an assistant to president Putin’s powerful press secretary Dmitry Peskov. She “asked detailed questions and took notes, stating that she would follow up with others in Russia,” the document says. The following day, Individual 2, an unnamed associate with whom Cohen had been planning the project, wrote to Cohen asking to speak on the phone, saying Putin “called today.”
Peskov invited Cohen to the St Petersburg Forum in June 2016, suggesting he might introduce Cohen to Putin or prime minister Medvedev. Cohen initially agreed to go, but days before the event at a meeting in the Trump Tower lobby, he told Individual 2, who had been in contact with Peskov, that he wouldn’t go.
Cohen discussed the project with Trump, referred to as Individual 1, on several occasions, the document says. He previously told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he discussed the project only three times with then-candidate Trump.
Cohen and Individual 2 also discussed when Trump might visit Russia and asked a senior campaign official about the possibility. In May 2016, Cohen told Individual 2 that the trip should happen after Trump was confirmed as the Republican presidential nominee. The trip does not appear to have happened.
Previous reporting has shown that Cohen discussed Trump Tower Moscow with Trump associate Felix Sater. Their discussion of the project often seemed to touch on Trump’s political prospects: “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote to Cohen in a Nov. 2015 email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.” A Russian-born US citizen, Sater has been convicted of fraud and reportedly had ties to the New York and Russian mafia.
Yahoo News previously reported that Sater provided all his emails to Mueller’s team. Sater told Yahoo that he was actively trying to get the tower built.
The timing of Cohen’s guilty plea is notable, coming nine days after president Trump submitted written answers to Mueller’s questions. There was reportedly a question about Trump Tower Moscow. After months negotiating with Trump’s lawyers over his testimony, it appears he’s taking action now that he has Trump’s answers on paper.