President Donald Trump’s construction company had plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the Republican primary and sought assistance from Russians, but the plan was shelved “for a variety of business reasons,” says Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Cohen had personally reached out to the Kremlin for aid in building a Trump Tower in Moscow well into the business mogul’s presidential campaign, he said Monday, adding that he discussed the project with Trump three times.
Cohen told the House intelligence committee that he worked on proposal with Felix Sater, a Russia-born associate who he said claimed to have deep connections in Moscow. The panel is one of several on Capitol Hill investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The potential deal shows that the Trump Organization was actively considering doing business in Russia during the presidential election, providing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators considerable fodder for turning their investigation into Russian collusion toward Trump’s personal and business finances. Trump has said Mueller would be crossing a red line by delving into his finances.
Previous reports had indicated that efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow were underway during the presidential campaign in 2015, but it had not been reported that those efforts continued into 2016.
The negotiations of the possible Trump Tower Moscow deal were first reported Sunday night by The Washington Post. On Monday, The New York Times reported on an email, in which Sater appeared to boast that the real estate deal could help Trump get elected.
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in an email, according to the Times. “I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
He said in an another email about a possible ribbon-cutting: “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”
Cohen downplayed the significance of the findings saying: “In late January 2016, I abandoned the Moscow proposal because I lost confidence that the prospective licensee would be able to obtain the real estate, financing and government approvals necessary to bring the proposal to fruition,” he added. “It was a building proposal that did not succeed and nothing more.”