When did the Trump Organization stop trying to build a tower in Moscow?
The story from Trump’s allies has evolved since the 2016 election, with yet another new answer revealed Thursday when former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to one false statements charge in relation to his work the project.
The court documents made public on Thursday revealed that Cohen’s attempt to land a Trump Organization project in Russia lasted further into the year than had previously been reported.
The plea shows that Cohen lied about when talks ended, and that they continued until June 2016, not January 2016, as he had previously stated to congressional investigators. Cohen also admitted to contacting high-level Russian officials in preparation for a trip to Russia as part of the deal.
Until today, relatively little was known about the attempts between 2015 and 2016 to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Felix Sater (pictured above on the right), a Russian-born fixer and occasional real estate developer told TPM in August 2017 that he worked on the project as late as November 2015. He also said that the Russian business partners would not have been the Agalarov brothers, who hosted Trump in the Russian capital for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.
Emails obtained from Sater by the Washington Post show Sater pitching the deal to Trump attorney Michael Cohen in late 2015. Sater framed the deal as a way to ensure Trump’s election and deal-making prowess.
“I will get Putin on this program, and we will get Donald elected,” he wrote in a November 2015 email to Cohen.
The Post also reported that Cohen emailed a Russian official about the potential project in January 2016.
Sater the told Yahoo News in the spring of 2018 that he was “trying to build the tallest tower in Europe” and messages obtained by Yahoo revealed that Sater and Cohen were working on the project as late as May 2016.
A criminal information attached to Cohen’s guilty plea shows that he made numerous efforts to contact high-ranking Russian officials during winter and spring 2016, lasting until June 2016.
Cohen tried to attend the 2016 St. Petersburg Economic Forum in a bid to meet high-ranking officials, also apparently trying to have an unnamed person who matches the description of Trump visit Russia during the campaign.
In January 2016, Cohen reached out to the office of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in connection with the “Moscow project.”
“On that call, COHEN described his position at the Company and outlined the
proposed Moscow Project, including the Russian development company with which the Company had partnered,” the filing reads. “COHEN requested assistance in moving the project forward, both in securing land to build the proposed tower and financing the construction.”
The next day, an unnamed person whose description matches that of Sater wrote Cohen to say “it’s about [Putin] they called today.”
Trump’s take on the deal and his Russia ties has changed from time to time, but he did boast in 2015 that “…the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top of the government people. I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.”