On Friday, the fallout continued from a report alleging President Donald Trump instructed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about when the Trump Tower Moscow deal concluded.
If the report is accurate, it could mean that Trump pursued business ventures in Russia far longer than he previously claimed.
Security analyst Marcy Wheeler dug deeper into the timeline of events, concluding that Trump may have been compromised by Putin far earlier than the Trump tower meeting between Russian agents and Donald Jr. and Jared Kushner.
As Michael Cohen negotiated the Trump Tower deal on behalf of then-candidate Trump in January of 2016, he spoke with someone in Dmitry Peskov's office—Vladimir Putin's press secretary—detailing their plans for the project, including land acquisition and financing construction. Putin's office contacted Felix Sater, a former mobster and real estate developer, the next day.
The financial institution Cohen would have considered is either VTB or GenBank, according to a Buzzfeed article from May. Both had been officially sanctioned by the US.
Wheeler notes the import. "While Sater (who seems to have knowingly set this trap) dismissed the import of the sanctions, Cohen clearly knew — and left record that he knew in communications with Sater — that they were the intended funders."
A former GRU spy also facilitated the deal.
"Obtaining funding from GenBank would have relied on Putin and Peskov," Wheeler says.
"All of which is to say that when Cohen called Peskov’s assistant, he would have told her that he was speaking on behalf of Donald Trump, that Trump remained interested in a Trump Tower in Moscow (as he had been in 2013, the last time Putin had dangled a personal meeting with Trump), and that on Trump’s behalf Cohen was willing to discuss making a deal involving both a sanctioned bank (whichever one it was) and a former GRU officer," Wheeler writes.
"Even before the GRU hacked John Podesta, even before Don Jr told his June 9 visitors that his dad would consider lifting sanctions if he got elected, Michael Cohen let a key Putin deputy know that Trump would be happy to discuss real estate deals that involved both partnering with the GRU and with sanctioned banks," she concludes.
"And Putin has been sitting on that receipt ever since."