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Trump eyed Russia tower deal during campaign, lawyer emails show

Michael Cohen says he signed letter of intent for Moscow property, but it was unrelated to campaign; broker reportedly saw move as key to getting Trump elected

In this photo from December 16, 2016, attorney Michael Cohen arrives in Trump Tower in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
In this photo from December 16, 2016, attorney Michael Cohen arrives in Trump Tower in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s real estate company actively pursued plans for a commercial development in Moscow while he was running for president, Trump Organization lawyers said in documents reviewed and reported by US media Monday.

The involvement by the then-candidate in a proposed commercial property in Russia contradicts Trump’s repeated declarations during the presidential campaign that he had no business ties to the country.

The deal, in which a Trump Tower-style edifice was planned for Moscow, reached the “letter of intent” stage, but ultimately was not finalized, the Trump Organization’s chief counsel at the time, Michael Cohen, told ABC News in a statement.

“Certain documents in the production reference a proposal for ‘Trump Tower Moscow,’ which contemplated a private real estate development in Russia,” Cohen said.

The Washington Post quoted portions of an email from Cohen to Dmitry Peskov, a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing a person familiar with it.

“Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower-Moscow project in Moscow City,” Cohen wrote, according to the Washington Post. “Without getting into lengthy specifics, the communication between our two sides has stalled. As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

The decision to pursue the proposal was “unrelated” to Trump’s presidential campaign, Cohen said. But he added that he personally told Trump about the proposal “on three occasions, including signing a non-binding letter of intent in 2015.”

According to ABC, the revelation came as Cohen’s attorney provided several documents and emails to US congressional investigators.

The commercial proposal was first reported Monday by The Washington Post.

The newspaper detailed how a Russian-born real estate developer, Felix Sater, urged Trump to push the deal.

Sater also boasted of his ties to Putin, saying he could get the Russian president to say “great things” about Trump, according to people briefed on the exchange.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in a November 2015 email quoted by The New York Times.

“I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

Cohen said in a statement that he dismissed Sater’s comments as puffery and never actually arranged a trip to Russia to pursue the deal, according to The New York Times.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit at the G20 Summit, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Hamburg. (AP/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit at the G20 Summit, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Hamburg. (AP/Evan Vucci)

The reported exchanges form some of the strongest signals yet that Trump was connected — at least through his company — to Russia, a country that US intelligence leaders have concluded sought to sway the US presidential election in Trump’s favor.

The US Justice Department and congressional committees are probing the extent of the ties and collusion, if any, between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Sater, according to the reports, said he had arranged financing for the deal through Russia’s VTB Bank, which was under US sanctions for its alleged involvement in Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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