Trump exec reached out to Putin aide on stalled Moscow tower deal

Trump at­tor­ney sent email to Krem­lin press of­fi­cial in early 2016.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ros­alind S. Helderman,Tom Ham­burger and Carol D. Leonnig

A top ex­ec­u­tive from Don­ald Trump’s real estate com­pany emailed Vladimir Putin’s per- sonal spokesman dur­ing the U.S. pres­i­den­tial cam­paign last year to ask for help ad­vanc­ing a stalled Trump Tower de­vel­op­ment project in Moscow, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments sub­mit­ted to Congress on Mon­day.

Michael Co­hen, a Trump at­tor­ney and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, sent the email in Jan­uary 2016 to Dmitry Peskov, the Krem­lin’s top press aide.

“Over the past few months I have been work­ing with a com­pany based in Rus­sia re­gard­ing the de­vel­op­ment of a Trump Tower — Moscow project in Moscow City,” Co­hen wrote Peskov, ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the email. “With­out get­ting into lengthy specifics the com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween our two sides has stalled.”

“As this project is too im­por­tant, I am hereby re­quest­ing your as­sis­tance. I re­spect­fully re­quest some­one, prefer­ably you, con­tact me so that I might dis­cuss the specifics as well as ar­rang­ing meet­ings with the ap­pro­pri­ate in­di­vid­u­als. I thank you in ad­vance for your as­sis­tance and look for­ward to hear­ing from you soon,” Co­hen wrote.

Co­hen’s email marks the most di­rect in­ter­ac­tion yet doc­u­mented of a top Trump aide and a sim­i­larly se­nior mem­ber of Putin’s govern­ment.

The email shows the Trump busi­ness of­fi­cial di­rectly seek­ing Krem­lin as­sis­tance in ad­vanc­ing Trump’s busi­ness in­ter­ests, in the same months when Trump was dis­tin­guish­ing him­self on

the cam­paign trail with his warm rhetoric about Putin.

In a state­ment Co­hen sub­mit­ted to con­gres­sional i nves­ti­ga­tors, he said he wrote the email at the rec­om­men­da­tion of Felix Sater, a Rus­sian-Amer­i­can busi­ness­man who was serv­ing as a bro­ker on the deal.

In the state­ment, ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Post, Co­hen said Sater sug­gested the out­reach be­cause a mas­sive Trump de­vel­op­ment in Moscow would re­quire Rus­sian govern­ment ap­proval. He said he did not re­call re­ceiv­ing a re­sponse from Peskov and the project was aban­doned two weeks later.

Co­hen has been one of Trump’s clos­est aides for more than a decade. He did not take a for­mal role in the cam­paign how­ever some­times spoke to re­porters on Trump’s be­half and ap­peared on tele­vi­sion as a sur­ro­gate while Trump was run­ning.

“It should come as no sur­prise that, over four decades, the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion has re­ceived and re­viewed count­less real estate de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional,” Co­hen said in a state­ment to the Post. “The Trump Moscow pro­posal was sim­ply one of many de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties that the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion con­sid­ered and ul­ti­mately re­jected.”

He said he aban­doned the project be­cause he lost con­fi­dence that the Moscow de­vel­oper would be able to ob­tain land, fi­nanc­ing and govern­ment ap­provals to com­plete the project. “It was a build­ing pro­posal that did not suc­ceed and noth­ing more,” he said.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported on Sun­day that Co­hen had been in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Sater to at­tempt to build a Trump Tower in the Rus­sian cap­i­tal from Septem­ber 2015 through the end of Jan­uary 2016, as Trump was com­pet­ing for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent.

Co­hen told con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors that the deal was en­vi­sioned as a li­cens­ing project, in which Trump would have been paid for the use of his name by a Moscow-based de­vel­oper called I.C. Ex­pert In­vest­ment Co. Co­hen said that Trump signed a let­ter of in­tent with the com­pany on Oct. 28, 2015, and be­gan to so­licit de­signs from ar­chi­tects and dis­cuss fi­nanc­ing.

How­ever, he said govern­ment per­mis­sion was not forth­com­ing and the project was aban­doned “for busi­ness rea­sons.”

“The Trump Tower Moscow pro­posal was not re­lated in any way to Mr. Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign,” Co­hen wrote in his state­ment to Con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors. “The de­ci­sion to pur­sue the pro­posal ini­tially, and later to aban­don it were un­re­lated to the Don­ald J. Trump for Pres­i­dent Cam­paign.”

Co­hen told con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors that Sater “con­stantly” pushed him to travel to Moscow as part of the ne­go­ti­a­tions, but that he de­clined to do so. He claimed Sater, who has at­tempted to bro­ker Trump deals for more than a decade, was “prone to ‘sales­man­ship,’ ” and, as a re­sult, he did not rou­tinely ap­prise oth­ers in the com­pany about their in­ter­ac­tions and never con­sid­ered ask­ing Trump to go to Moscow, as Sater had re­quested.

Lawyers for the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, Sater and the White House did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

RICHARD DREW / AP

Michael Co­hen, a Trump at­tor­ney and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, said the project was aban­doned “for busi­ness rea­sons.”

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