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Kremlin Confirms Donald Trump's Team Reached Out For Help During 2016 Election Campaign

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30/08/2017 14:56 BST

The Kremlin has confirmed that Donald Trump’s lawyer reached out to them during the 2016 presidential campaign in an attempt to obtain the Russian government’s help for a business project.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday that they had received an email from Michael Cohen, which was sent to the press office’s general email address.

The existence of the document in question was raised on Monday in a statement from the lawyer to the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Stephanie Keith / Reuters
Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen pictured in January

Cohen said the plan was abandoned for various reasons, reports the Associated Press.

The revelation throws further doubt on Trump’s claims such as that made in July of last year when he said; “I have nothing to do with Russia, nothing to do, I never met Putin, I have nothing to do with Russia whatsoever.”

Peskov said it was one of many emails the Kremlin press office gets - since its email address is available online - and that the Kremlin did not reply to it.

Cohen said he worked on the real estate proposal with Felix Sater, a Russia-born associate who he said claimed to have deep connections in Moscow.

The negotiations of the possible Trump Tower Moscow deal were first reported Sunday night by The Washington Post.

On Monday, The New York Times reported on an email in which Sater appeared to boast that the real estate deal could help Trump get elected. Sater did not respond to a request for comment from the AP on Monday.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in an email, according to the Times. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

He also said in another email about a possible ribbon-cutting: “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”

The discussions about a real estate deal in Moscow occurred in the fall of 2015, months after Trump had declared his presidential bid.

They ended early in 2016 when Cohen determined that the project was not feasible, according to Cohen’s statement.

Cohen also disclosed that Trump was personally aware of the deal, signing a letter of intent and discussing it with Cohen on two other occasions.

Asked whether Putin had seen the email, Peskov said Wednesday that he “cannot discuss with President Putin the hundreds and thousands of various requests coming from different countries” that end up in that Kremlin mailbox.

Peskov said the press office did not reply to Cohen’s email because it “does not react to such business requests. It is not our job”.

In his statement, Cohen downplayed the comments Sater made in email correspondence about the Trump Tower Moscow deal.

“Over the course of my business dealings with Mr. Sater, he has sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to ‘salesmanship’,” Cohen said. “As a result, I did not feel that it was necessary to routinely apprise others within the Trump Organisation of communications that Mr. Sater sent only to me.” 

Mark Von Holden via Getty Images
Trump, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater attend the Trump Soho Launch Party on 19 September 2007 in New York

Cohen said that Sater “constantly” invited him to travel to Moscow and encouraged him to bring Trump. But Cohen said he rebuffed the overtures.

He said he has never traveled to Russia, and never considered asking Trump to go to Russia, which he said he only would have encouraged if there was a “definitive agreement in place.”

Cohen said the proposal, which was contingent upon the developer finding an appropriate property and getting necessary permits, was under consideration until the end of January 2016. At that point, he said that he determined the “proposal was not feasible for a variety of business reasons and should not be pursued further”.

He said neither the decision to pursue the development nor the decision to abandon it were related to Trump’s presidential campaign.