In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published on Monday, President Donald Trump's attorney Michael Cohen confirmed emailing President Putin's personal spokesperson, as well as discussing a controversial Moscow development deal with Trump. Cohen, who also serves as executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said the topic came up on three occasions: twice in 2015 and then again in 2016, when Cohen told the then-candidate that he had killed the project. The conversations with Trump "totaled less than four minutes," Cohen told CBS News.
"The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected," Cohen said in a statement, according to CNN. "In late January 2016, I abandoned the Moscow proposal because I lost confidence that the prospective licensee would be able to obtain the real estate, financing and government approvals necessary to bring the proposal to fruition. It was a building proposal that did not succeed and nothing more."
According to a Washington Post report published on Sunday, Michael Cohen and a Russian-born real estate developer named Felix Sater encouraged the then-candidate Trump to meet Putin in Russia. The Post notes that in September 2015, around the time discussions of the Moscow tower deal became more serious, Trump began praising Russian President Vladimir Putin — a notable difference from the other GOP presidential candidates.
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in a 2015 email, The New York Times reported on Monday. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.” In another email obtained by the Times, Sater wrote: “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected."
Nonetheless, Cohen maintained that the Moscow project did not have any political motives. Along with retired General Michael Flynn, Cohen was subpoenaed to appear in front of the House Intelligence Committee as part of ongoing and ever-expanding special investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia. “I did not ask or brief Mr. Trump, or any of his family, before I made the decision to terminate further work on the proposal," Cohen said in a statement, according to Bloomberg. “The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.” Cohen has said that his associate Sater uses "colorful language” and is "prone to ‘salesmanship.”’