Michael Cohen, top executive from Donald Trump’s real estate company emailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal 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, the Washington Post reports that.
The request came in a mid-January 2016 email from Michael Cohen, one of Trump’s closest business advisers, who asked longtime Putin lieutenant Dmitry Peskov for assistance in reviving a deal that Cohen suggested was languishing. 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 to 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 outreach documented by a top Trump aide to a similarly senior member of Putin’s government.
Team Trump’s ties to Russian interests Cohen told congressional investigators in a statement Monday that he did not recall receiving a response from Peskov or having further contact with Russian government officials about the project. The email, addressed to Peskov, appeared to have been sent to a general Kremlin press account.
The note adds to the list of contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials that have been a focus of multiple congressional inquiries as well as an investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III exploring Russian interference in the 2016 election. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Kremlin intervened to help elect Trump.
Cohen’s email to Peskov provides an example of a Trump business official directly seeking Kremlin assistance in advancing Trump’s business interests. 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 he discussed the deal three times with Trump and that Trump signed a letter of intent with the company on Oct. 28, 2015. He said the Trump company began to solicit designs from architects and discuss financing. However, he said that the project was abandoned “for business reasons” when government permission was not secured and that the matter was “not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.”
Cohen’s request to Peskov came as Trump was distinguishing himself on the campaign trail with his warm rhetoric about Putin. Cohen said in his statement to Congress that 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. White House special counsel Ty Cobb said Trump knew nothing about Cohen’s effort to enlist Peskov’s help.
“The mere fact that there was no apparent response suggests this is a non-collusion story,” he said.