A windfall of news regarding Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election dropped this afternoon and it's going to take some time to process and connect all of it.
The New York Times first reported this afternoon that longtime Trump business associate Felix Slater and Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen exchanged emails discussing their pitch to bring Vladimir Putin into the fold in 2015 with a business deal.
WASHINGTON — A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.
The associate, Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Mr. Putin and predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would highlight Mr. Trump’s savvy negotiating skills and be a political boon to his candidacy.
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
The Washington Post subsequently reported this afternoon that Cohen directly appealed to the Kremlin for help in January of 2016 while he was also serving as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.
Michael Cohen, a Trump attorney and executive vice president for the Trump Organization, sent the email in January 2016 to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top press aide. [...]
“As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon,” Cohen wrote. [...]
In a statement Cohen submitted to congressional investigators, he said he wrote the email at the recommendation of Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who was serving as a broker on the deal.
Finally, Bloomberg reported this afternoon that Cohen told congressional investigators that he and Trump discussed this deal at least three times.
Donald Trump discussed a proposal to build a hotel and condominium tower in Moscow on three occasions with his company’s lawyer, who emailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman to ask for assistance on the project.
The Trump Organization weighed the “Trump Tower Moscow” proposal from September 2015 to January 2016, the lawyer, Michael Cohen, said in a statement to a congressional committee investigating Trump’s campaign ties to Russia.
Cohen reportedly told investigators that the deal was abandoned for business reasons, but color me skeptical. I wouldn't take Cohen's word for it on the time of day.
The story as constructed by these reports doesn't necessarily prove that this pitch is what kicked off Russia's involvement in the Trump campaign, but the timing suggests it might have been. Trump personally praised Russia and Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail in January of 2016 when, at the same time, Cohen was directly appealing to the Kremlin. The Trump Organization also signed a letter of intent to pursue the Trump Tower Moscow project and, at the time, Trump was still the president of the Trump Organization. He signed it.
Given that we're just now hearing about this (Trump denied that he did business with Russia during the campaign), it suggests this might be the kind of information the Kremlin could have held over Trump's head (or at least his business) for leverage. You know, this and the Pee Tape.
The infamous Steele Dossier that claimed Putin has a video of Trump in bed with Russian hookers has a nearly perfect track record so far.