Cohen reveals Russian outreach attempts in 2016 Trump campaign
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump secretly authorized his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to try to arrange a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in New York just three months after Trump had announced his White House bid, according to new disclosures from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Friday.
The proposed meeting between the real estate mogul and the Russian leader, who was visiting New York for the U.N. General Assembly in September 2015, did not take place. It’s unclear whether Russian authorities considered the offer, which Cohen made in a radio interview.
Two months later, Cohen spoke with a Russian national who claimed to be a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation. The person, who was not named in the court document, offered Trump’s campaign “political synergy” and repeatedly proposed a meeting between Trump and Putin.
The Russian said a meeting with Putin would have a “phenomenal” impact not only on Trump’s political career “but in a business dimension as well,” which prosecutors said was Trump’s decadeslong effort to build a luxury hotel and condominium tower in Moscow.
Whether the offer for collaboration with Moscow was genuine isn’t known. Cohen did not pursue it because, prosecutors say, he already was working with another person “who Cohen understood to have his own connections to the Russian government.”
The previously unknown interactions flesh out how Trump’s personal financial interests repeatedly collided with his unconventional presidential campaign, the latest data points for the special counsel investigation into whether Trump or his aides assisted Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Trump Tower Moscow project could have generated “hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues” for the Trump Organization, the holding company for Trump family businesses, prosecutors wrote, estimating the project’s potential value for the first time.
The company, they added, “sought and likely required” Russian government assistance to build the Moscow tower.
The fact that Cohen discussed it with Trump “well into the campaign” was significant, prosecutors said, “particularly because it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.”
The details were revealed in a seven-page sentencing memo for Cohen, who has cooperated with Mueller’s office after pleading guilty to several crimes involving the president.