Michael Cohen, the longtime friend and personal attorney to President Donald Trump, had two previously unreported business contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign, according to the Washington Post.
The newspaper reported Monday that documents detailing those interactions had been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller and to congressional committees investigating Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.
Per the report, Cohen exchanged emails shortly before the Republican National Convention with a business associate and old friend, Felix Sater, about attending an economic conference in Russia alongside the country’s financial and government leaders, including President Vladimir Putin. Late in 2015, a billionaire Russian real estate mogul also reportedly pitched Cohen on having the Trump Organization construct a residential building in Moscow.
These communications contextualize another campaign-season project involving Cohen and related to Russia: a separate 2015 effort to finally construct a Trump-branded luxury hotel and condo building in downtown Moscow. While that effort, like the two newly reported contacts, never yielded anything, the same characters played prominent roles in trying to coordinate them.
Sater, a Russian-born former Trump Organization associate, emailed Cohen in June 2016 with an invitation to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, according to the Post. Anonymous people familiar with the message told the Post that the notoriously braggadocious Sater, a convicted felon with a rocky history, wrote to Cohen that he could be introduced to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and even possibly to Putin at the event.
Sater and Cohen had teamed up on a 2015 effort to build a Trump tower in Moscow, and Sater boasted in previously reported emails that the project, along with assistance from “all of Putins team,” would help secure Trump’s electoral victory. Though Trump signed a letter of intent in October 2015 to move forward with the project, it ultimately stalled after Cohen threw a Hail Mary by emailing Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, urging him for assistance with the “important” development.
It was that failed project that prompted this other, newly surfaced Moscow proposal to go unexplored. Russian billionaire Sergey Gordeev had contacted Cohen through an intermediary in Oct. 2015, according to the Post, but Cohen turned him down, saying the Trump Organization was already committed to the proposal involving Sater.
Cohen told the Post Monday that he did not attend the economic conference in St. Petersburg and has “never been to Russia.” Robert Wolf, an attorney for Sater, declined the newspaper’s request for comment.
Mueller and lawmakers on Capitol Hill will review these exchanges as they try to determine whether anyone associated with the President worked with Russia to try to influence the election. Cohen and the Trump campaign have insisted Cohen had no formal role with the campaign, even though the Trump Organization attorney was serving as a surrogate on TV and at campaign rallies while working on the Moscow deal.