- Thomas Kronsteiner / Getty Images
- The Trump Organization reportedly planned to give Russian President Vladimir Putin the $50 million penthouse in the now defunct Trump Tower Moscow.
- Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer who oversaw the project, reportedly discussed the idea with a spokesperson for Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.
- Cohen was in touch with Peskov’s office in early 2016 to discuss getting Russia’s approval for the deal. After Cohen gave Peskov’s spokesperson details about the project and asked for help in pushing it forward, she said she would forward his request to others in Russia.
- Felix Sater, the Russian-born businessman who worked with Cohen on the deal, confirmed the Trump Organization’s plan to give Putin the penthouse.
- “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units,” he said. “All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.”
When it was pushing to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, the Trump Organization reportedly wanted to give Russian President Vladimir Putin the penthouse in the building.
According to BuzzFeed News, two law-enforcement officials said Michael Cohen, who was President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer at the time, discussed the idea with a spokesperson for Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.
Cohen pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of lying to Congress about his involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project.
Cohen talked about the deal in a statement to the committee in September 2017 and expanded on it when he appeared before the panel the next month.
Many of the questions focused on Cohen’s email exchanges about the deal with the Russian-born businessman Felix Sater, as well as whether Russia had any involvement in the Trump Organization’s push to build the tower during the election.
In a criminal information unsealed on Thursday, prosecutors wrote that Cohen knowingly misled investigators by giving a false timeline of when the project ended and how extensively he discussed it with others in the Trump Organization, including Donald Trump and his family members.
Prosecutors wrote that Cohen gave “the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before” the Iowa caucus, which took place on February 1, 2016, “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”
In fact, Cohen was in touch with Sater about the deal until as late as June 2016.
Cohen first got in touch with Peskov in January 2016, when he asked him for the Russian government’s help in pushing the deal through. Around January 20, Cohen got a response from a personal assistant to Peskov who said she had been trying to reach him and requested that he contact her using a Moscow phone number.
Shortly after, Cohen called the assistant and spoke to her for 20 minutes, the information says. After Cohen gave her details about the project and asked for help in pushing it forward, she said she would forward his request to others in Russia.
The next day, prosecutors said, Sater wrote to Cohen and asked to speak with him on the phone. “It’s about [Putin] they called today,” Sater said.
- Trump Organization
On Thursday, Sater told BuzzFeed he and Cohen thought giving Putin the penthouse would prompt other wealthy Russian buyers to scoop up apartments in the building.
“In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater said. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.”
The scrapped Trump Tower Moscow project is at the center of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. As part of the inquiry, Mueller is examining whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to sway the race in Trump’s favor.
News that the Trump Organization sought to establish direct financial ties to Putin at the height of the election will likely interest prosecutors who are, among other things, said to be looking into the motivation behind Trump’s repeated deference to Russia and his willingness to trust Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence agencies.
A source close to Trump’s legal team confirmed to INSIDER on Thursday that he answered questions from Mueller related to the deal. And although Trump’s lawyers branded Cohen a “liar” and said “we can’t trust him,” they said that Trump’s version of events related to the project lined up with Cohen’s.