Sunday, September 23, 2018
Politics

Top Trump Organization executive reached out to Putin aide for help on business deal

A top executive from Donald Trump's real estate company emailed 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.

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," 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 investigators, 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.

Cohen 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.

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 said Sater, who has attempted to broker Trump deals for more than a decade, was "prone to 'salesmanship.' "

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