Don Trump Jr is facing renewed questions about his Congressional testimony after information in Michael Cohen’s guilty plea that could be construed as contradictory.
Trump Jr, the President’s eldest son, testified in September 2017 that he was ‘peripherally aware of’ but ‘not involved’ in plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
On Thursday, Cohen’s plea deal revealed he had consulted about the deal with President Donald Trump’s family members, including Trump Jr.
Cohen confessed that he had lied to Congress when he said that the plans for the luxury development in Russia had fallen through in January of 2016, though they had actually fallen through in June of that year.
Michael Cohen confessed on Thursday that he had lied to Congress about plans for a Trump Tower Moscow, saying the plans fell through in January 2016 instead of June
Don Trump Jr (above in September) testified last year that he was ‘peripherally aware of’ but ‘not involved’ in plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow
The Trump Organization’s plans for a Trump Tower Moscow, which never materialized, were previously reported and there was nothing inherently illegal about them.
However, Cohen’s guilty plea to lying about the plans brings the failed project under new scrutiny.
Trump Jr testified last year that he was aware that Cohen had pursued a deal to build a Trump Tower in Russia with Felix Sater, a real estate developer and convicted mobster turned federal informant who served as an advisor to the Trump Organization.
Trump Jr told the Senate Judiciary Committee of Sater: ‘He was involved as a broker. I don’t know if he’s a principal. I wasn’t involved.’
Court filings from Cohen’s guilty plea on Thursday suggest that the lawyer consulted with Trump Jr to some extent on the deal.
The filing reads in part: ‘COHEN discussed the status and progress of the Moscow Project with Individual 1 [Trump] on more than the three occasions COHEN claimed to the Committee, and he briefed family members of Individual 1 within the Company about the project.’
Prosecutors for special counsel Robert Mueller said that Cohen lied in part to conceal discussions he’d had with Trump family members about the project.
Trump is seen with developer partners Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater (right) in 2007. Sater was a broker involved in the Trump Organization’s failed plan to build a Trump Tower Moscow
Seen above is the relevant section of Don Trump Jr’s September 2017 testimony about failed plans to build a Trump Tower Moscow
A person close to the Trump Organization told the AP that Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump were copied in on emails about the project and Ivanka Trump suggested an architect for the building.
The emails were exchanged in late 2015 and included in a tranche of emails turned over to congressional committees by the Trump Organization.
The person says the company doesn’t have any email traffic about the project post-January 2016. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Wall Street Journal also reported the existence of the emails fitting the same description from Cohen to Trump Jr and Ivanka Trump, citing law enforcement sources.
President Donald Trump on Thursday defended the failed deal to build a Trump Tower in Russia, saying that it was a normal part of his business to explore new developments.
He called Cohen a ‘weak person’ who was lying to get a lighter sentence and repeatedly stressed that the real estate deal at issue was never a secret and never executed.
‘There would be nothing wrong if I did do it,’ Trump said of pursuing the project. ‘I was running my business while I was campaigning. 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?’
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for the G20 summit in Argentina on Thursday night. He has blasted Cohen as ‘weak’ and a liar over the plea deal
Trump is seen touching down in Argentina. He continued to blast the Mueller probe in a series of tweets on Thursday night
Trump went on to criticize Mueller in tweets once again on Thursday night.
‘This is an illegal Hoax that should be ended immediately. Mueller refuses to look at the real crimes on the other side. Where is the IG REPORT?’ he wrote.
Trump’s critics have pointed to the failed deal as evidence that he lied in the presidential debate in October 2017 when he said ‘I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don’t deal there. I have no businesses there.’
However, because the proposed deal had fallen through by June 2017, Trump’s supporters would argue that there was nothing false about his denial.
The failed plan at the heart of the controversy was the latest in a long-running dream Trump had of building a Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow, a plan that flared and fizzled several times over the years.
Trump’s plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow went back as far as 1996 when the future president paid a visit to the Russian capital to check out building sites on land being developed by a U.S. company.
That idea fell through, along with plans to revamp the dilapidated Hotel Moskva next to the Kremlin, but the real estate mogul raised the prospect of a ‘super-luxury residential tower’ bearing his name on other sites he visited on his three-day stay in the city.
‘Moscow is going to be huge,’ Trump told Playboy magazine in a 1997 interview.
Trump is seen in 1996 checking out sites in Moscow for luxury residential towers. Trump’s dream of building a luxury tower in the heart of Moscow flared and fizzled several times
Trump visits a reception in 1996 as he checks out building sites in Moscow. Despite several attempts, his plans to build there failed, most recently in 2016
Trump revived the idea in 2013 during his visit to Moscow as owner of the Miss Universe pageant.
Trump later said he had discussed the idea with Aras and Emin Agalarov, a father-and-son Russian development team close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump reportedly scouted a potential site, but the idea again faded.
The tower idea came back yet again in October 2015, when Andrey Rozov, an obscure Russian real estate developer, signed a letter of intent sent by Cohen to advance the construction of a Trump World Tower that would feature 250 luxury condos, no fewer than 15 floors of hotel rooms, commercial and office space, a fitness center and an Ivanka Trump spa.
It was a potentially lucrative deal for Trump’s company, handing it $4 million in upfront fees plus possibly millions more from a cut on everything from food and banquet fees to spa charges. His share on the first $100 million in condo sales alone would reach another $5 million.
Rozov’s signed letter was sent back to Cohen by Felix Sater, another Trump world figure who had worked on and off for the Trump Organization and operated as a government informant following a 1998 conviction in a stock fraud case.
Sater sent Cohen an email expressing optimism: ‘Let’s make this happen and build a Trump Moscow. And possibly fix relations between the countries by showing everyone that commerce and business are much better and more practical than politics.’
Trump is seen at the 2013 Miss Universe competition in Moscow, where he revived the idea of building a luxury development in the Russian capital
Like the previous failed projects, the Rozov-helmed effort soon ran aground. According to Cohen’s testimony in 2017 and his plea agreement, negotiations with Rozov’s group stalled, and the two Trump associates turned to aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin to move the project forward.
Cohen told congressional investigators last year that he had sent an email in January 2016 to Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman. Cohen told the committee he never heard back from Peskov and the tower deal collapsed by the end of that month.
But according to Cohen’s new statement to prosecutors, the tower deal remained viable as late as June 2016, after Trump had vanquished his Republican presidential rivals and was mounting his general election campaign against Hillary Clinton. Cohen said he kept Trump, named as ‘Individual 1’ in the plea, updated about the deal’s progress, and also ‘briefed family members of Individual 1 within the company about the project.’
Cohen said in his plea that he also spoke by phone with an assistant to Peskov – identified in the plea as ‘Russian Official 1’ – in January 2016 and outlined the project and ‘requested assistance in moving the project forward.’
According to the plea, Cohen later discussed traveling to Moscow to jump-start the deal. In May 2016, a month after Trump had emerged the winner of the GOP primaries, Sater – identified as ‘Individual 2’ – told Cohen that Peskov wanted to meet him in mid-June at an international business forum in St. Petersburg and ‘possibly introduce you’ to Putin or Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Sater and Cohen continued to email about the foundering project well into June 2016, soon after a much-scrutinized meeting at Trump Tower in New York between Trump’s son Don Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and several Russian attendees, purportedly to discuss the possibility of ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton.
On June 14, Cohen met Sater in the tower lobby and told him his potential trip to St. Petersburg was off.