Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen worked feverishly to help his boss put his name atop what would have been the tallest building in Europe — Trump Tower Moscow — deep into the 2016 presidential campaign.
Cohen and Felix Sater, who had worked on Trump’s behalf in Moscow since 2004, tried to arrange a face-to-face meeting between the Republican presidential candidate and Russian president Vladimir Putin until at least July 2016, reported Buzzfeed News.
Sater, a Russian-American convicted felon with mob ties who also worked as an FBI informant, arranged in October 2015 to have his surrogates in Moscow meet with Putin and a “top deputy,” and he told Cohen that VTB Bank president and chairman Andrey Kostin had agreed to finance the tower.
American citizens and companies were barred from doing business with VTB, which was under U.S. sanctions, but Sater told congressional investigators this year that the local development partner would have gotten funding through the Russian bank.
Trump himself signed a letter of intent to build the tower on Oct. 28, 2015, the day of the third GOP presidential debate, although Cohen asked Sater and their Moscow development partner, Andrey Rozov, to keep the agreement a secret.
Over the next six weeks, Sater worked his contacts to arrange a meeting between Cohen and the Russian president, and on Dec. 1, 2015, he asked the attorney to send photos of his passport.
The very next day, Trump told the Associated Press he was “not that familiar” with Sater — but he put Cohen on the phone Dec. 13, 2015, with an old friend with deep links to the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence that is believed to have interfered with the U.S. election.
By Dec. 17, 2015, Cohen was so certain the meeting would happen that he emailed Sater to say “now is the time” when Putin praised Trump as “talented” and “a very colorful man.”
Two days later, Sater promised Cohen that VTB’s powerful president would meet him in Moscow, thanks to former GRU pal — and he asked for a photo of Trump’s passport, as well, although the attorney said that should wait until after his own visit.
“It’s premature for his and I am the one going,” Cohen told Sater.
However, Cohen grew impatient for updates as Christmas 2015 came and went, and he bombarded Sater with angry text messages on Dec. 30, 2015, and the two men argued over Trump’s approval.
Cohen told Sater to stop “playing point person” on the Russia deal, but he continued working his contacts — and on New Year’s Eve 2015 he sent Cohen a copy of a letter from GenBank inviting the pair to visit Moscow.
The U.S. Department of Treasury had sanctioned GenBank just nine days earlier for operating in Crimea after Russia invaded — but that’s not why Cohen was angry.
“First it was a government invite, then VTB and then some third-rate bank signed by a woman Panamarova with no title,” Cohen told Sater by email. “It’s like being invited by Independence Savings Bank. Let me do this on my own. After almost two months of waiting you send me some bullsh*t letter from a third-tier bank and you think I’m going to walk into the boss’s office and tell him I’m going there for this? Tell them no thank you and I will take it from here.”
Sater assured the attorney that GenBank operates through Putin’s administration, and “nothing gets done there without approval from the top,” but Cohen broke off their business arrangement.
“You are putting my job in jeopardy and making me look incompetent,” Cohen said. “I gave you two months and the best you send me is some bullsh*t garbage invite by some no name clerk at a third-tier bank. So I am telling you enough as of right now. Enough! I will handle this myself.”
“Do you think I’m a moron?” he added. “Do not call or speak to another person regarding MY project.”
Cohen said his attempts to secure a deal for Trump Tower Moscow ended in January 2016, but Sater said he did not believe the deal was dead until his old boss gave an acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.