Donald Trump tweeted Friday that his planned Trump Tower Moscow project was “very legal & very cool” — a day after his former fixer pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the deal on Trump’s behalf.
“Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly),” he posted.
“Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail... Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!”
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to a congressional committee last year, admitting he spoke to a Kremlin official about obtaining Russian government backing for a planned property development during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
After signing a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, Cohen said in court he had made the false statements “to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty with Individual 1” — a reference to Trump. He admitted to falsely claiming that the push for the Moscow development ended in January 2016, when talked actually continued through to June that year
Cohen’s guilty plea flies in the face of Trump’s repeated denials that neither he, nor his associates, had any contact with Russian officials, nor any business dealings in Russia.
The Trump Organization even planned to give the proposed tower’s $50 million penthouse to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the negotiations over the project, BuzzFeed reported Thursday.
Felix Sater, a businessman who worked on the project, explained to the Washington Post Thursday: “If we have Putin in the penthouse every oligarch in Russia would want to live in that building.”
The BuzzFeed report cited U.S. law enforcement officials as saying that Cohen had discussed the proposal with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman.
The report said it was not established if Trump personally knew of the proposal to give Putin the apartment. But Cohen admitted Thursday that he had briefed Trump on the Moscow project more frequently than he had previously claimed, as well as unidentified Trump family members.
Trump has stuck to familiar messaging in the wake of Cohen’s confession, branding his former fixer “a weak person” Thursday while insisting he himself had done nothing wrong in pursuing business opportunities in Russia.
“Michael Cohen is lying and he’s trying to get a reduced sentence for things that have nothing to do with me,” Trump told reporters.
“There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”
Cover image: President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to the G-20 summit in Argentina from the White House in Washington, U.S., November 29, 2018. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)