A plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow mulled by the Trump Organization ahead of the US 2016 presidential election campaign was just a business deal and had nothing to do with Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Kremlin, the president’s lawyer said.
Discussions between the Trump Organization and its contractor in Russia concerning the construction of a Trump Tower in the Russian capital that would have become “the world’s largest building in Moscow” were “solely a real estate deal and nothing more,” Michael Cohen, a personal lawyer for US.
President Donald Trump, said ahead of a US Senate hearing.
In a prepared statement that was handed over to the US media and some news agencies before the hearing, Cohen vehemently denied that the deal was “in any way” related to the presidential electoral campaign or was somehow linked to Russia’s alleged interference into the US 2016 elections.
Discussions about the project between the Trump Organization and some Russian companies as well as the Russian authorities took place in autumn 2015, months after Trump had announced his candidacy. Cohen revealed some details of the project during another hearing in his statement to the House Intelligence Committee last month.
He particularly confirmed that he appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as he believed that the project would require approval from the Russian government. He also said that he worked on the project together with Felix Sater, a Russia-born American real estate developer and former managing director of Bayrock Group LLC.
However, the project was abandoned in January 2016, almost half a year before both Democratic and Republican National Conventions, at which the presidential candidates were elected.
“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,” Cohen said in his Tuesday statement, commenting on abandoning the project.
Earlier, the Trump Organization also said that the licensing deal “was not significantly advanced” and that the parties to the negotiations failed to choose the construction site and to reach an agreement on the financial issues.
‘Not a hint’ of collusion with Russia
The lawyer also vehemently denied both his and Trump’s involvement in any alleged Russian interference in to the US electoral process, adding that all such accusations are aimed at discrediting Trump’s presidency.
“Given my own proximity to the president of the United States as a candidate, let me also say that I never saw anything – not a hint of anything – that demonstrated his involvement in Russian interference in our election or any form of Russia collusion,” Cohen said in a statement he handed over to the media.
“I have never engaged with, been paid by, paid for, or conversed with any member of the Russian Federation or anyone else to hack Democratic Party computers; and I have never engaged with, been paid by, paid for, or conversed with any member of the Russian Federation or anyone else to create fake news stories to assist the Trump campaign or to damage the Clinton campaign,” he added.
“I’m also certain that there are some in this country who do not care about the facts, but simply want to politicize this issue, choosing to presume guilt – rather than presuming innocence – so as to discredit our lawfully elected president in the public eye,” Cohen argued.
The lawyer then denounced the allegations raised in a report prepared by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who particularly said that Cohen played a significant role in Trump’s contacts with the Russian authorities and even secretly met with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016.
“I have never in my life been to Prague or to anywhere in the Czech Republic,” Cohen said as he slammed the dossier for being “riddled with falsehoods and intentionally salacious allegations.”
Text of the dossier alleging cooperation between Donald Trump’s camp and Russian hackers, and also claiming that Moscow has been blackmailing the US president-elect for past sex adventures, was published on Buzzfeed website in January 2017.
Trump then said that intelligence insiders have confirmed to him that the much-hyped dossier was a “complete fraud.” Putin also condemned the report by saying that those behind the allegations against Trump featured in the dossier have “no moral scruples.” He also added that he had no reasons to attack or protect the US president, since he does not know him personally.
Following the publication of the dossier, Trump even received backing from the staunch anti-Russian critic, US Republican Senator John McCain, who said that the leak of the “damning” document was “totally wrong.”
In the meantime, the Senate committee dealing with the investigation of the alleged Russian interference postponed Cohen’s hearing after he handed his prepared statement to the media.
The committee also said it now wants Cohen to testify during a public hearing, even though Tuesday’s meeting was planned to be held behind closed doors. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner released a joint statement Tuesday, in which they said that they were “disappointed that Mr. Cohen decided to pre-empt today’s interview.”
“As a result, we declined to move forward with today’s interview and will reschedule Mr. Cohen’s appearance before the Committee in open session at a date in the near future,” the senators added.
Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, also confirmed that the meeting was postponed. “The committee has chosen to postpone today’s interview and we will come back for a voluntary interview whenever we can to meet with them,” he told reporters. “Mr. Cohen will continue to cooperate.”