Co­hen was in touch with Rus­sian who of­fered to help Trump cam­paign

Man also said he could use his gov­ern­ment ties to help Trump’s busi­ness

The Washington Post - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY ROS­ALIND S. HEL­DER­MAN AND TOM HAM­BURGER

A Rus­sian na­tional who claimed ties to the Krem­lin told Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­ney, Michael Co­hen, as early as Novem­ber 2015 that he could use his Rus­sian gov­ern­ment con­nec­tions to help Trump’s busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal prospects.

The new Rus­sia con­tact was re­vealed Fri­day by spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III, as he out­lined co­op­er­a­tion that Co­hen has pro­vided the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

The in­ter­ac­tion be­tween a top Trump lieu­tenant and a Rus­sian cit­i­zen who claimed gov­ern­ment ties is the lat­est of dozens of sim­i­lar in­ter­ac­tions that have emerged since the Novem­ber 2016 elec­tion. Days af­ter Trump’s vic­tory, his spokes­woman Hope Hicks as­serted that there had been no con­tacts of any kind be­tween Trump as­so­ciates and Rus­sia.

The new in­for­ma­tion about Co­hen is par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant be­cause the con­tact came in the cam­paign’s early months and be­cause pros­e­cu­tors said the Rus­sian na­tional claimed to have in­ter­est in help­ing Trump’s cam­paign as well as his busi­ness.

Pros­e­cu­tors wrote that around Novem­ber 2015, “Co­hen re­ceived the con­tact in­for­ma­tion for, and spoke with, a Rus­sian na­tional who claimed to be a ‘ trusted per­son’ in the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion who could of­fer the cam­paign ‘po­lit­i­cal syn­ergy’ and ‘syn­ergy on a gov­ern­ment level.’ ”

They said Co­hen told pros­e­cu­tors that the Rus­sian re­peat­edly sug­gested ar­rang­ing a meet­ing be­tween Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Trump, in part as a way of help­ing Co­hen ad­vance plans to build a Trump real es­tate pro­ject in Moscow.

“The per­son told Co­hen that such a meet­ing could have a ‘phe­nom­e­nal’ im­pact ‘not only in po­lit­i­cal but in a busi­ness di­men­sion as well,’ re­fer­ring to the Moscow Pro­ject, be­cause there is ‘no big­ger war­ranty in any pro­ject than con­sent of [the Pres­i­dent of Rus­sia],’ ” pros­e­cu­tors wrote.

By the time Co­hen made con­tact with the Rus­sian, he had al­ready be­gun work on a Trump build­ing pro­ject in part­ner­ship with Felix Sater, a Rus­sian-born Trump busi­ness partner. Co­hen has pleaded guilty to ly­ing to Congress about de­tails of that pro­ject, in­clud­ing a phone call he ar­ranged with a Krem­lin of­fi­cial in Jan­uary 2016 to dis­cuss the pro­ject.

Sater, too, sug­gested ar­rang­ing a meet­ing with Putin, and Co­hen told pros­e­cu­tors he did not pur­sue the Rus­sian’s of­fer be­cause he de­cided to work with Sater in­stead.

The new in­for­ma­tion un­der­scores both the fre­quency of of­fers of sup­port that were ex­tended from Rus­sia to Trump’s top aides dur­ing the cam­paign — and the ea­ger­ness with which some of his clos­est ad­vis­ers greeted those en­trees.

Pros­e­cu­tors wrote that Co­hen was an early ad­vo­cate of a meet­ing be­tween can­di­date Trump and Putin. In a Septem­ber 2015 ra­dio in­ter­view, Co­hen sug­gested that Trump meet with the Rus­sian pres­i­dent while he was in New York to at­tend the an­nual meet­ing of the United Nations Gen­eral Assem­bly. Pros­e­cu­tors said that Co­hen later claimed the com­ments were spur of the mo­ment, but he has ad­mit­ted in re­cent weeks that he con­ferred with Trump about reach­ing out to the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

The fall 2015 con­tact came at an im­por­tant time in the cam­paign. As Trump’s can­di­dacy was start­ing to heat up, Putin ap­peared to grow more in­ter­ested in his ef­fort. On Dec. 17, 2015, Putin at­tracted no­tice by of­fer­ing praise for the celebrity busi­ness­man, call­ing him “col­or­ful and tal­ented” and the “ab­so­lute leader of the pres­i­den­tial race.” Trump re­turned the com­pli­ment the next day, call­ing Putin “a leader, un­like what we have in this coun­try.”

Mueller’s fil­ing came in ad­vance of Co­hen’s sen­tenc­ing Wed­nes­day for var­i­ous crimes, in­clud­ing ly­ing to Congress about his Rus­sia con­tacts. Pros­e­cu­tors in New York said Co­hen should re­ceive sub­stan­tial jail time, in part be­cause they said he has pro­vided only grudg­ing co­op­er­a­tion to their in­ves­ti­ga­tions, which are sep­a­rate from the Mueller probe.

In a sep­a­rate fil­ing, how­ever, Mueller said Co­hen has “gone to sig­nif­i­cant lengths” to aid the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sian in­volve­ment in the 2016 elec­tion.

Pros­e­cu­tors said his in­for­ma­tion had helped ex­plain his in­ter­ac­tions with Rus­sian in­ter­ests, as well as in­for­ma­tion re­lated to what they called “cer­tain dis­crete Rus­sia-re­lated mat­ters core” to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion that he learned through reg­u­lar con­tact with ex­ec­u­tives of Trump’s busi­ness. They said he was also able to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about con­tacts with White House of­fi­cials af­ter Trump took of­fice and the cir­cum­stances that sur­rounded the prepa­ra­tion of his false tes­ti­mony to Congress.

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