Michael Cohen, a confidant of President Donald Trump and a Trump Organization attorney, claimed Monday that Trump was not involved with his efforts to solicit the Kremlin’s help regarding a business deal the Trump Organization was pursuing during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Cohen reached out directly to Vladimir Putin’s press secretary in January 2016 to ask for the Kremlin’s help in a deal to erect a building in Moscow, emails published by the Washington Post and New York Times showed.
Cohen told the Wall Street Journal Monday that he didn’t inform Trump about the emailed appeal for help. According to Cohen, he told Trump that he was working on a licensing deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2015 and received Trump’s signature on a letter of intent for the project in October of that year. He also informed Trump when the project fell through in January, Cohen claimed.
He also told the Journal he didn’t remember hearing a response to his request from Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov.
A longtime business partner of Trump’s, Felix Sater, claimed some credit for pursuing the deal.
“During the course of our communications over several months, I routinely expressed my enthusiasm regarding what a tremendous opportunity this was for the Trump Organization,” Sater said in a statement to the Journal. “Ultimately, in January 2016 Michael informed me that the Trump Organization decided not to move forward with the project.”
Cohen told the Journal he had only emailed Peskov “since the proposal would require approvals within the Russian government that had not been issued,” and that Sater “constantly asked me to travel to Moscow.” He said he told Sater Trump would not go to Russia without a “definitive agreement” in place.
And though emails between Cohen and Sater published by the New York Times show Sater arguing the political benefits of Putin’s help — “Our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it,” he wrote — Cohen said his decisions related to the deal were “unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign.”