National News

Trump Denies Business Dealings With Russia. His Former Lawyer Contradicts Him.

Posted November 29, 2018 8:38 p.m. EST

On Thursday, after Michael Cohen revealed new information about the Trump Organization’s business dealings with Russia, President Donald Trump called his former personal lawyer a liar.

“He is a weak person,” Trump told reporters at the White House. He added: “Very simply, Michael Cohen is lying.” He was referring to Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress about a real estate deal to build a tower in Moscow.

But Trump, who is identified as “Individual 1” in court documents that accompanied Cohen’s admission, was himself less than forthcomingabout the prospective real estate project during the 2016 campaign.

At no time did Trump disclose that the Trump Organization had entered negotiations for the property, known as the Moscow Project. And evidence presented in the documents filed Thursday contradicts Trump’s repeated denials of his financial interests in Russia and his playing down of campaign contacts with Russian officials.

According to the documents, Cohen pursued the project through June 2016 — as Trump’s presidential campaign gained momentum. At the time, Cohen served as executive vice president and special counsel for the Trump Organization, which he joined in 2007; he also was a frequent public mouthpiece for the Republican front-runner’s campaign.

Here is the special counsel’s account of the Trump Organization’s efforts to build the Moscow tower, based on new information from Cohen, compared with what Trump has said about it.

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WHAT THE CHARGES SAY:

The Moscow Project was discussed multiple times within the Company and did not end in January 2016. Instead, as late as approximately June 2016, COHEN and Individual 2 discussed efforts to obtain Russian governmental approval for the Moscow Project. COHEN discussed the status and progress of the Moscow Project with Individual 1 on more than the three occasions COHEN claimed to the Committee, and he briefed family members of Individual 1 within the Company about the project.

What Trump Said:

“I have nothing to do with Russia. I never did.”

On at least 23 occasions since the summer of 2016, Trump has said either that he had “nothing” to do with Russia, or that he has “no deals,” no investments and no “business” in Russia.

While the Moscow Project never materialized, Trump never disclosed that he had pursued the deal while running for president. In several instances, his denials were misleading by omission.

“What do I have to do with Russia? You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida,” Trump said at a news conference on July 27, 2016, referring to a mansion he sold to a Russian businessman for $95 million in 2008.

Trump also repeatedly sought business opportunities in Russia over three decades. ______

WHAT THE CHARGES SAY:

COHEN did recall that in or around January 2016, COHEN received a response from the office of Russian Official 1, the Press Secretary for the President of Russia, and spoke to a member of that office about the Moscow Project.

What Trump Said:

“There was no talking to Russia. There was no phone calls.”

Cohen admitted that he called the assistant to the Russian president’s spokesman, at a Moscow-based phone number, and spoke with her about the proposed tower.

Trump, however, has said at least six times that nobody on his campaign spoke to any Russians. He also has contradicted himself on that point, by describing aides who have admitted to having contactwith Russians as “low level” or only briefly employed.

Asked by a reporter on Feb. 16, 2017, whether he was aware if anyone who advised his campaign had contacts with Russia during the campaign, Trump said his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, “obviously was dealing.”

But other than Flynn, “no, no, nobody that I know of,” Trump answered.

“I have nothing to do with Russia,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.” ______

WHAT THE CHARGES SAY:

COHEN agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the Moscow Project and took steps in contemplation of Individual 1’s possible travel to Russia. COHEN and Individual 2 discussed on multiple occasions traveling to Russia to pursue the Moscow Project.

What Trump Said:

“He brings his passport to my office. I say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. He didn’t leave the country. He wasn’t out of the country.’ They had, ‘Michael Cohen of the Trump Organization was in Prague.'”

At a news conference on Jan. 11, 2017, Trump dismissed a salacious dossier that, among other things, claimed that Cohen had traveled to Prague to meet with Russian officials.

While there is no proof that Cohen went to Prague on Trump’s behalf, the lawyer did consider traveling to Russia, according to the charging documents.

According to the documents, Cohen asked Trump about the possibility of Trump himself traveling to Russia “in connection with the Moscow Project.” Cohen also discussed going to Russia himself.