(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer acknowledged Monday that the president’s company pursued a Trump Tower in Moscow during the Republican primary, but that the plan was abandoned “for a variety of business reasons.” He said that at one point he reached out to the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin about approvals from the Russian government.
The attorney, Michael Cohen, said in a statement to the House intelligence committee that he worked on the real estate proposal with Felix Sater, a Russia-born associate who he said claimed to have deep connections in Moscow. The panel is one of several on Capitol Hill investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The discussions occurred in the fall of 2015, months after Trump had declared his candidacy, and ended early last year when Cohen determined that the project was not feasible, according to the statement from Cohen.
The potential deal shows that the Trump Organization was actively considering doing business in Russia during the presidential election, providing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators considerable fodder for turning their investigation into Russian collusion toward Trump’s personal and business finances. Trump has said Mueller would be crossing a red line by delving into his finances.
The negotiations of the possible Trump Tower Moscow deal were first reported Sunday night by The Washington Post. On Monday, The New York Times reported on an email in which Sater appeared to boast that the real estate deal could help Trump get elected.