August 30, 2017 7:57 pm -

Remember that Trump Tower Moscow matter that was first reported a couple of days ago? Well, it just got weirder by virtue of an unexpected development.

The Kremlin on Wednesday confirmed that President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer reached out to them during the 2016 presidential campaign, seeking help for a business project in Russia.

In a statement to the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen said Monday the president’s company pursued a project in Moscow during the Republican primary. He said the plan was abandoned for various reasons.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday that they received Cohen’s email, which was sent to the press office’s general email address. Peskov said it was one of many emails the Kremlin press office gets — since its email address is available online — and that the Kremlin did not reply to it.

Cohen said he worked on the real estate proposal with Felix Sater, a Russia-born associate who he said claimed to have deep connections in Moscow.

Michael Cohen decided to weigh in when HuffPo‘s Vicky Ward got a hold of him:

Michael Cohen isn’t really supposed to be talking to reporters. The former executive vice president and special counsel at the Trump Organization, who also serves as the personal attorney to the president, sat in the back of the bustling Hampton Coffee Company in the tony beach town of Water Mill, New York, on Tuesday, nursing a large black coffee. His two cellphones beeped every few seconds. Eventually he looked down at the offending devices. “There goes CNN again,” he said. “Friends and my attorney have recommended I not appear on air until after my testimony.”

There was certainly good reason for his lawyers to advise caution. This week has seen Cohen, 51, take another star turn in the ongoing Russia investigation. Cohen (and President Donald Trump) have insisted for more than a year that the Trump Organization has had no business dealings in Russia. Cohen has been one of the president’s most dogged defenders in the media on that point, taking his case to TV, Twitter ― anywhere, basically. Speaking to the Financial Times in December, he dismissed the idea of “any connection with Russia” as “yet another example of the press’s liberal bias towards Mr. Trump.”

But earlier this week, details of a planned business deal with Russia emerged in the press, partly because Cohen’s lawyer filed a two-page statement ahead of Cohen’s upcoming appearance before the House Intelligence Committee. (The hearing, originally scheduled for Sept. 5, has been postponed.) The statement reveals that in 2015 and 2016, Cohen was pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The deal was brought to him by Felix Sater, a freelance Russian-American broker, convicted criminal and former FBI informant who’d worked with the Trump Organization on several previous projects.

Sater said he could lasso a Russian partner for the proposed Moscow deal, and he pursued one with customary brio. In a November 2015 email, Sater told Cohen, who he has known for 30 years, that he would “get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this.” He added, “Our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it.”

But that wasn’t all. According to his statement, Cohen talked about the proposed project with Trump himself on three separate occasions during the course of the campaign. Cohen also admitted that in mid-January 2016, he sent an email to Dmitry Peskov, a senior member of the Kremlin, asking where the government stood on approvals for the tower. He said he didn’t hear back, and the project never got off the ground.

This goes against Cohen’s earlier claim that Trump had no connection to Russia “altogether,” not to mention Trump’s own blanket denial from February: “I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person I deal with does.”

I asked Cohen how it feels to be caught in a contradiction. “I feel great,” he said. “Which picture did The Wall Street Journal use of me? Was it good?” He continued: “I am in many respects just like the president. Nothing seems to rattle me, no matter how bad the hate.”

He is not doing himself any favors running his mouth. Here’s another reason:

Michael Cohen, a longtime lawyer for the Trump Organization, is among the potential witnesses as the Senate Intelligence Committee prepares to conduct more interviews next month as part of its investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort are also likely to appear for closed-door interviews with committee staffers, according to a source close to the committee. Manafort met with Senate investigators in July to discuss a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer organized by Trump Jr., but his interview included a commitment to return to discuss other topics, the source said.

The House and Senate Intelligence committees are both investigating Russia’s election meddling, including the possibility of collusion with the Trump campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller is also investigating the issue, and FBI agents working under Mueller last month raided the Virginia home of Manafort, who formerly chaired the Trump campaign.

Over the August congressional recess, the Senate Intelligence panel has been receiving documents on a “daily basis” as part of its investigation, the source said. The panel is preparing to hold a number of closed-door interviews with high-profile members of the Trump campaign.

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.