Let’s first recall that Trump has repeatedly lied, starting in early 2016 and until recently, claiming that “he had no deal, and no planned deals” in Russia.
But as shown here, the Tower project plan had moved along quite far and was designed to fit in right at the corner among the buildings shown above.
Trump Tower Moscow had been planned to be the tallest building in Europe when Trump attorney and fixer Cohen managed to gain the support of developer Andrey Rozov.
“The building design you sent over is very interesting,” the Russian real estate developer Andrey Rozov wrote to Cohen in September 2015, “and will be an architectural and luxury triumph. I believe the tallest building in Europe should be in Moscow, and I am prepared to build it.”
In addition to the letter of intent signed in October 2015 by Trump, Felix Sater managed to also obtain a similar signed letter of intent from developer Rozov, which he forwarded to Cohen.
Detailed architectural plans and designs had already been put together based on the work of an architect who had been selected by Ivanka, including a branded spa under her name.
Ivanka Trump recommended the architect for the failed Trump Tower Moscow project in an email to Michael Cohen, it has been revealed.
Cohen copied Ivanka and Don Trump Jr on emails about the project in late 2015, and Ivanka replied suggesting an architect for the building, according to a person close to the Trump Organization.
Ivanka was also due to have a spa inside the building branded with her name, according to documents linked to the project.
Trump's company was explicitly given the option to 'brand any or all portion of the spa or fitness facilities as "The Spa by Ivanka Trump" or similar," according to papers seen by CNN.
Key perks of the project included a planned personal penthouse for Vladimir Putin which would have been worth $50 million, based on an idea that was pitched by Cohen’s partner on the project, Felix Sater, to Putin press secretary Dmitri Peskov.
A show-stopping apartment like that could have been marketed for $50 million. But as BuzzFeed News reported in November, Trump’s fixers planned not to sell it — but to give it away for free, to none other than Vladimir Putin himself. Two US law enforcement officials confirmed that Cohen discussed the idea with an aide to Putin’s press secretary.
The hope was that the lavish gift would help grease the wheels, and in the process entice more Russian elites to move in. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units,” Felix Sater told BuzzFeed News in November. “All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.”
Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying both to Congress and the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO) when he claimed that this project had ended in January 2016, when he attempted to email Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov in Moscow for help moving things forward, and falsely claimed that he received no response.
That was a lie which Cohen admitted in his sentence statement, and he also admitted why he lied: because Trump (Client-1) wanted it.
Michael’s false statements to Congress likewise sprung regrettably from Michael’s effort, as a loyal ally and then-champion of Client-1, to support and advance Client-1’s political messaging.
It was obvious he was in CONSTANT contact with him running ideas, proposals, etc. by him for his approval.”). political ties between himself and Russia, as well as the strongly voiced mantra of Client-1 that investigations of such ties were politically motivated and without evidentiary support, and (b)specifically knew, consistent with Client-1’s aim to dismiss and minimize the merit of the SCO investigation, that Client-1 and his public spokespersons were seeking to portray contact with Russian representatives in any form by Client-1, the Campaign or the Trump Organization as having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016. Seeking to stay in line with this message, Michael told Congress that his communications and efforts to finalize a building project in Moscow on behalf of the Trump Organization, which he began pursuing in 2015, had come to an end in January 2016,
Michael had a lengthy substantive conversation with the personal assistant to a Kremlin official following his outreach in January 2016, engaged in additional communications concerning the project as late as June 2016, and kept Client-1 apprised of these communications. He and Client-1 also discussed possible travel to Russia in the summer of 2016, and Michael took steps to clear dates for such travel.
Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis made this point in a more direct way during an interview with Bloomberg.
"Mr. Trump and the White House knew that Michael Cohen would be testifying falsely to Congress and did not tell him not to," Davis said.
Cohen has admitted under oath that Trump was kept in the loop on the project with at least 10 status meetings during 2016, meaning that Trump was aware that Cohen would falsely claim the project ended in January, when in fact it went until at least June.
One can argue about whether this supports the claim that Trump “told Cohen to lie to Congress” as was also reported by BuzzFeed in a different report, but I think that may be a distinction without a meaningful difference. “Told him to lie” may have been done in an explicit conversation, or it may have simply been implied by Trump’s own very vocal denials of “any connection to Russia.” Common sense would mean that if Cohen went to Congress and told them he was still working on the Moscow project at least until the day that the Washington Post revealed that Russians had hacked the DNC, that might be a bit of a political problem for Trump.
Here’s a detailed timeline of events related to Cohen based on an extended timeline compiled from what Mueller’s filings and the media have revealed. Pardon its length because a lot has happened, but reviewing it this way with all these details makes the patterns of conduct and the overall picture far more clear and easy to identify.
- 2008 —
- 2013 —
- Trump attempts to create a Trump Tower project with his Miss Universe Moscow partner Aras Agalarov. Don Jr. is in charge of the project and Ivanka goes on location scouting trips with Aras’ popstar son Emin. Ike Kaveladze, who works for the Agalarov family is also present.
- 2014 —
- October 13, 2015 —
- October 28, 2015 —
- November 2015 —
- January 14, 2016 —
- January 16 —
- Cohen emails Peskov again, asking to reach a high-level official and for someone who speaks English to contact him.
- January 20 —
- Peskov’s assistant responds to Cohen’s emails and provides a Moscow-based phone number him to call. They speak for at least 20 minutes as Cohen requests assistance on the Moscow Tower project. The assistant takes notes and says they will follow up with others in Russia.
- January 21 —
- Sater emails Cohen asking for a call, then tells him that he’s received a call from Russia. “It’s about Putin, they called today.”
- May 4 —
- Felix Sater writes to Michael Cohen that he’s heard back from Moscow about his trip for the Tower project. "I had a chat with Moscow. ASSUMING the trip does happen the question is before or after the convention. Obviously. the pre-meeting trip (you only) can happen anytime you want but the 2 big guys [Trump and Putin] where [sic] the question. I said I would confirm and revert ." Cohen responded, "My trip before Cleveland. [Trump] once he becomes the nominee after the convention."
- May 5 —
- Felix emails to Cohen: "[Dmitry Peskov] would like to invite you as his guest to the St. Petersburg Forum which is Russia's Davos it' s June 16- 19. He wants to meet there with you and possibly introduce you to either [Putin] or [Medvedev] , as they are not sure if 1 or both will be there. He said anything you want to discuss including dates and subjects are on the table to discuss."
- May 6 —
- Sater asks for Cohen to confirm his dates for St. Petersburg; says “Works for me.”
- Also in May —
- June 1, 2016 —
- Michael Cohen and Felix Sater continue to discuss efforts to obtain help from the Russian government on the Trump Tower Moscow project. Trump is updated on the current status of this more than three times, as are members of his family. [Likely Don Jr. and Ivanka, who had selected the architect for the project.]
- June 2, 2016 —
- June 9, 2016 —
- June 14, 2016 —
- WaPo Reports that the DNC has been hacked by the Russian government and the DNC goes public about the cyber intrusion, confirming Assange’s claim of having “Hillary” info from two days previous.
- Cohen tells Sater in the Lobby of Trump Tower that he’s not going to Russia. [From what we know at the moment, Cohen didn't pursue this project further, although Giuliani has recently quoted Trump as saying the Moscow project “started when I began my campaign and ended when I won.” So in his mind, it was still viable right up until it wasn’t anymore, because it would have been a violation of government ethics rules. This again suggests Trump wasn't expecting to win.]
- June 16, 2016 —
- Alex Downer reports what he heard from Papadopoulos to the FBI and the Crossfire Hurricane investigation begins, (most likely) targeting Papadopoulos, Manafort, Flynn, and Carter Page for their links and contacts with so many Russians. But not Trump … yet.
- June 20, 2016 —
- Chris Steele, while working on opposition research for the DNC via Fusion GPS, begins writing memos to the FBI, which talk about Trump being compromised by Russia and include the fact that the Russians have hacked the DNC email system and detail questionable contacts between Page, Manafort, Cohen and the Russians. [This again means it’s impossible for Steele’s dossier to have started the Russia investigation, because that had already started before he wrote his first memo.]
- July 18-21, 2016 —
- The Republican National Convention takes place, during which Trump national security adviser J.D. Gordon torpedoes a platform plank supporting the arming of Ukrainian rebels against pro-Russian forces, then lies about it. Trump becomes the Republican nominee.
- Carter Page travels to Moscow, approved by Trump national security adviser J.D. Gordon and Corey Lewandowski via email on June 19, to give several paid speeches. He informs Jeff Sessions of his trip before he goes. While there he later admits to Congress he meets the Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Andrey Baranov, Rosneft's head of investor relations, who tells him of an impending sale of a large portion of their stock.
- Steele receives intel that Page also had secret meetings with Russian government oil firm Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, who allegedly offers him broker fees on the sale of 19 percent of Rosneft stock supposedly as a payoff for influencing Trump to drop sanctions on Russia. He also reports that Page was also informed by Kremlin Official Igor Divyekin that “Russia had compromising materials on Hillary Clinton,” making him the third person in the Trump campaign after Papadopoulos & Don Jr. to be informed of this—yet none of them informed the FBI. Page eventually denies all of this, but then he does admit to Baranov telling him about the Rosneft stock sale, which is weird since Rosneft is sanctioned—so what can he legally do with this information?
- July 31, 2016 —
- October-November, 2016 —
- Cohen protects Trump by negotiating a $130,000 payoff to Stormy Daniels and also attempts to reimburse David Pecker for his payoff to silence Karen McDougal about her affair with Trump. He uses his own money for this, laundering it through a shell company. Trump eventually pays him back using a fraudulent retainer.
- November 7, 2016 — 19.5 percent of Rosneft is sold to the Qatar Sovereign Investment Fund (QIA) operated by Ahmed al-Rumahai. [This seem to be consistent with the Steele memo, which predicted brokerage fees for this sale were offered as a payoff to Page for Trump lifting sanctions on Russia.]
- November 8th— Election Day [‘nuff said].
- December 12, 2016 —
- January 9, 2017 —
- January 20 — Inauguration day.
- February 6 —
- February 21 —
- Artemenko talks to a Ukrainian news outlet and reveals that he’s known Michael Cohen for some time since Cohen has an ethanol business in the country (which is also where his wife was born and where his step-father is from), and that his meeting with Cohen and Sater on Feb. 6 wasn’t their first. According to Artemenko, he discussed the “peace plan” with Cohen and Sater “at the time of the primaries [early 2016], when no one believed that Trump would even be nominated.”
- April 24 —
- May 30 —
- June 2 —
- June 16 —
- August 14 —
- August 18 —
- Michael Cohen writes House and Senate Intel committees a letter falsely claiming that he had ended the Trump Tower Moscow project in January 2016, that it hadn’t been widely discussed within Trumpco, that he’d never agreed to travel to Moscow, and he didn’t recall the Russian government responding after he had emailed Peskov about it. These are all lies.
- August 28 —
- August 30 —
- Dmitry Peskov, responding to questions from CNN, admits that they did receive the email from Cohen about the Trump Tower Moscow project. "But, since, I repeat again, we do not react to such business topics -- this is not our work -- we left it unanswered." [No, they didn’t.]
- September 19 —
- October 2 —
- The Washington Post reports that Michael Cohen, even after his private interview with Senate Intel staff just a week prior, had two more unreported contacts with Russian nationals during the campaign. Weeks before the RNC, he had exchanged emails with a “business associate” to attend a conference that would have included a personal appearance by Putin. [This would be Felix Sater in relation to Dmitry Peskov.] The other was in 2015, when he received a proposal for a Trump-branded residential project in Moscow from a billionaire who used to be a member of the Russian Senate.
- October 25, 2017 —
- April 2018
- April 18, 2018 —
- April 20, 2018 —
- April 21, 2018 —
- April 25, 2018 —
- April 27, 2018 —
- The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump showed up late in 2012 to Michael Cohen’s son’s bar mitzvah, holding up the ceremony as they had waited for him, then complained about having to come, thus embarrassing Cohen. They also report that Cohen was overheard bragging that he had connections to the Russian mob while he was a guest at the wedding of his friend Gregory Erhlich, and that he practically begged to join Trump in the White House, thinking that he’d be named chief of staff instead of Reince Priebus.
- May 2, 2018 —
- Giuliani goes on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show:
He says that Trump paid Cohen back his $130,000 through his retainer fees for $35,000 each plus enough for taxes and a bonus, and that means there’s no “campaign finance” problem, but that’s not how campaign finance law works: that would still be a violation by the size of an “in kind” contribution, and by the fact they didn’t report it, plus potentially money laundering and fraud.
He says that the NY FBI who raided Cohen’s office were “Stormtroopers.” [Wait, didn't they use to work for Giuliani?]
He says Cohen hardly did any “legal work” for Trump. [So what’s the retainer for, because if it's not for legal work THAT’S FRAUD. And how are they still claiming attorney/client privilege for something Cohen wasn’t doing?]
Trump tweets and confirms Giuliani’s claim that Cohen was reimbursed using a retainer payment and says none of the money “came from the campaign," which is totally missing the point because it still benefited the campaign. Avenatti says “whatever lawyer wrote those tweets is a moron.” [I’m betting it was Giuliani.]
Jeff Toobin on Giuliani’s comments about Cohen : “That’s a confession.” [You betcha!]
Huckabee-Sanders finally confirms that Trump paid Cohen back but she says she didn’t lie and only shared the “Best information she was given.” [Facepalm!]
May 3, 2018 —
May 4, 2018 —
May 8, 2018 —
May 9, 2018 —
May 10, 2018 —
May 11, 2018 —
Giuliani says he wouldn't debate Avenatti for $10 million. [Which is a nice round number for them to request in a defamation judgment.] He also accelerates in his cheap shots from calling Avenatti an “ambulance chaser” to saying he's a “pimp.” He also says that “Trump blocked the AT&T deal” so that means the money paid to Cohen had no influence, [and/or Cohen committed fraud with his claims he could impact Trump’s decisions] but this also contradicts the DOJ, who has claimed their suit wasn't motivated by his political feud with CNN (which is owned by Time Warner).
The Wall Street Journal reports that Mueller is seeking documents from Ford about the pitch made to them by Michael Cohen for consulting work, which they had turned down.
- August 21, 2018
- August 23 —
- August 24 —
- The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg “was granted immunity by federal prosecutors for providing information about Michael Cohen in the criminal investigation into hush-money payments for the two women during the 2016 presidential campaign.” [Uh oh, there goes another “flipper!”]
- August 30 —
- September 20 —
- September 26 —
- Trump lashes out at Stormy Daniels attorney Avenatti: “Avenatti is a third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations, like he did on me and like he is now doing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” [Uh, but Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to being involved in exactly what Avenatti was accusing.]
- October 11 —
- October 25 —
- Prosecutors from SDNY reveal in a filing that they are still investigating Michael Cohen, even though he’s already agreed to plead guilty and has been cooperating. [Apparently not cooperative enough for them.]
- November 9 — The Wall Street Journal reveals that President Donald Trump was fully aware of all the steps taken by former “fixer” Michael Cohen in making illegal campaign contributions as a way to funnel hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Cohen had noted this in court under oath already, but it also seems that David Pecker has confirmed it with SDNY prosecutors, who nearly included Trump in their draft indictment of Cohen.
- November 29 —
- November 30 —
- December 1 —
- December 2 —
- December 3 —
- December 6 —
- December 7 —
December 12 —
December 16 —
- December 17 —
- After Trump calls Michael Cohen a “Rat,” Fox contributor Andrew McCarthy tweets back telling him to “Stop with the Mobster Lingo.”
- Michael Cohen’s friend Donny Deutsch says that “Russia and Stormy Daniels” are the least of Trump’s concerns, “real estate is a slimy business and Donald was the bottom of the bottom of the bottom. What is going to put him in jail, what is going to destroy everything he’s ever built and his children is a 30-year criminal enterprise.”
- December 21 —
December 27 —
January 10, 2019 —
- January 15, 2019 —
- The Wall Street Journal reports that federal prosecutors will likely limit Michael Cohen’s testimony since there are several ongoing cases pending, as associates of his claim that he’ll say that he was working for a “madman” and that “it’s explosive.”
January 18, 2019 —
- January 19, 2019 —
January 20, 2019 —
- January 21 —
- January 22, 2019 —
- January 23, 2019 —
What this timeline displays is that Cohen—with support from Sater, Trump, Ivanka, and Don Jr.—kept up his work to coordinate with Peskov right up to the point that it was reported that the Russians had hacked the DNC. The political heat had already been on Trump for his Russian links before that, but once the Russians had been reported to have committed cyber espionage against the Democrats (which was ultimately in support of Trump), it was too hot to stay in the kitchen and everything about the project went dark.
At several points, existing sanctions on Russia and their banks become a problem blocking the project. It explains why Cohen and Sater were attempting to arrange a so-called “peace deal” with Ukraine that would have ended the dispute (by essentially giving up Crimea to Russia) and eliminated the reason for sanctions, thereby opening up the door for the Moscow Tower project yet again.
Let me repeat again that there was a problem with the bank that Sater had lined up to fund the project—because it was sanctioned.
Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman with financial ties to the Trump Organization, confirmed Friday that President Donald Trump's business was privately negotiating a deal with a sanctioned Russian bank during the 2016 US election.
On Friday, Sater told MSNBC host Chris Hayes that a local developer in Russia worked on behalf of the Trump Organization to secure financing for a Trump Tower in Moscow from VTB Bank, Russia's second-largest bank and a US-sanctioned entity.
"I had a local developer there [in Russia], and I had the Trump Organization here [in the US], and I was in the middle," Sater said. "And the local developer there would have gotten financing from VTB and/or another Russian bank, but VTB at that point was the go-to bank for real-estate development."
Violation of U.S. sanctions is actually a much bigger and more serious crime than lying to the FBI or Congress.
Punishment for violations of the sanctions can be severe. Civil fines range from $11,000 to $1 million for each violation. Civil fines may be imposed even if the violation was committed unknowingly and with innocent intent. The majority of the fines imposed are most likely the result of corporations simply failing to recognize trade transactions involving a targeted country or SDN. Additionally, criminal penalties may be levied for willful violations and include fines from $50,000 to $10 million and imprisonment from 10 to 30 years.
The offer of a free $50 million personal penthouse for Putin could be considered a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, even though the deal was never completed.
“Do you see anything here touching illegality?” asked anchor Stephanie Ruhle, noting that Trump was “employing his classic punch back strategy”, saying first that accuser Michael Cohen is a liar, then claiming that he had nothing to hide, and finally admitting “even if I was hiding something, it’s legal so I’m allowed to do it.”
“There’s a lot of potential illegality here,” replied Vance. “Probably the biggest chunk would be if there’s an issue with this story that we heard last night that there had been a promise of a $50 million penthouse to Putin if the project went forward.”
“It can also be illegal to enter into a conspiracy to do something that you don’t do actually do,” she said. “It can even be illegal to make an attempt in certain circumstances.”
All of this would be, besides the political considerations, a very large reason for Trump, Cohen, Don Jr., Ivanka, Sater, and notably Peskov and his deputy to lie about all this—because that’s exactly what they all did.
That’s especially problematic if their willingness to ignore the Russian attack on our election in 2016—and Trump’s decision to side with Putin against his own intelligence community—was also linked to their own possible culpability and participation in what all of this actually was: a conspiracy.
As Anthony Cormier told Rachel Maddow on December 12t when Cohen was sentenced, this all appears to be connected.
“Do you believe that the Trump Tower Moscow deal, or anything else that Michael Cohen was personally involved in during the course of the campaign, is directly related to Russia interfering in the election to help Trump — any cooperation, conspiracy, collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to work together to help Trump get elected with foreign assistance?” Maddow asked.
“So there is a small line in the story — in both the one we published in May and the one we published today — in which two FBI agents with direct knowledge of this inquiry before [Robert] Mueller got involved told us that Michael Cohen had communications with more than one individual who either knew about or took part in the election interference,” Cormier replied.
“So he is talking to them about Trump Tower Moscow, but they themselves were involved in or had knowledge of the interference operation?” Maddow asked.
“That’s exactly right,” he replied.
Trump and his associates have repeatedly lied to the American people to cover up their multiple attempts to ignore and get around sanctions on Russia to implement this project. They’ve undermined U.S. foreign policy and implemented multiple violations of the Logan Act by reaching out to Russia while they were still in the campaign or during the transition, before they had legal authorization to negotiate on behalf of the United States.
The Russians had a conspiracy to undermine Hillary Clinton and the U.S. in general favor of Trump. At the same time, Trump and his cohorts had a parallel conspiracy to do this deal with Russia and undermine sanctions while ignoring and minimizing their attacks.
The cover-up is the criminal conspiracy to collude with Russia: they are one and the same. This is not sour grapes, and this is not partisan: This is about the basic standards of conduct that this country expects from its leaders. Either we have some recognition of the rule of law, or we don’t.