New Correspondence Reveals Trump Moscow Dealings Coincided With Public Praise Of Putin
Newly publicized correspondence between two associates of President Donald Trump have revealed possible connections between real estate plans in Moscow and Trump's public praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A cache of documents revealed by BuzzFeed News showed that from a period between October 2015 and June 2016, Trump's former general counsel Michael Cohen and his associate Felix Sater worked with The Trump Organization toward the development of a 120-story tower in Moscow, 3 miles from the Kremlin.
As Sater and Cohen probed their contacts in Russia, including developer IC Expert and U.S. sanctioned VTB Bank, they spoke to each other of the need to get Putin on board with the project, the documents revealed. In multiple instances, discussions of needing Putin's support were followed within three days by a public statement from Trump praising Putin and promising "a good relationship" between the U.S. and Russia, BuzzFeed reports.
The Trump Organization admitted to signing a nonbinding letter of intent attached to a preliminary rendering of the tower in the fall of 2015, but Cohen later admitted in a guilty plea that his claim of negotiations ending in January 2016 was false. It was among the lies he admitted to telling special counsel Robert Mueller in the latter's investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia that eventually landed Cohen a three-year prison sentence.
Emails obtained by BuzzFeed between Cohen and Sater show the two pushing for a visit from candidate Trump to Russia in May 2016, as Trump approached the number of primary delegates required to secure the Republican nomination for president. Cohen spoke with an assistant to Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peshkov, about securing a Moscow meeting between Putin and Trump, potentially offering the $50M penthouse in the proposed tower to Putin as a sweetener, according to BuzzFeed.
According to BuzzFeed, a Trump Tower meeting with Cohen on June 14, 2016, was when Sater learned the Trump Moscow deal was dead — the same day the Washington Post reported that the Russian government had hacked the Democratic National Convention to obtain its opposition research on Trump. Less than a week earlier, Donald Trump Jr. attended a meeting with a Kremlin-connected attorney in an attempt to gain "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.
While the documents obtained by BuzzFeed do not prove that Trump had knowledge of or direct participation in the Trump Moscow negotiations, they do show that discussions of a Trump project in Russia went beyond preliminary, included multiple signed letters of intent, and extended deeper into Trump's campaign than anyone but Cohen had previously admitted.