Trump Tower Russia was a real thing with plans, architect . . .

Despite Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump’s multiple claims that there was no “Trump Tower Moscow” deal, it appears that not only was there a deal, but there were extensive plans in place to make it the largest building in all of Europe based on a new set of documents and emails recently released by BuzzFeed News.

The plan was dazzling: a glass skyscraper that would stretch higher than any other building in Europe, offering ultra-luxury residences and hotel rooms and bearing a famous name. Trump Tower Moscow, conceived as a partnership between Donald Trump’s company and a Russian real estate developer, looked likely to yield profits in excess of $300 million.

The tower was never built, but it has become a focal point of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Trump’s relationship with Russia in the lead-up to his presidency.

The president and his representatives have dismissed the project as little more than a notion — a rough plan led by Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his associate Felix Sater, of which Trump and his family said they were only loosely aware as the election campaign gathered pace.

But the plan was much more than just a basic idea and outline. Many of the specifics had already been worked out including the architectural plans, the developer, and the funding for the project.

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.

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Conception design for Trump Tower Moscow

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.

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Relatives heights for the Trump Moscow Tower

“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.

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Letter by Felix Sater

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.

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Concept designs for Trump Tower Moscow

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.

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.
Last October law professor Seth Abramson laid out how Trump should be impeached for knowingly violating 18 U.S.C. § 2, “aiding, abetting and procuring for a crime” after the fact by his multiple attempts to pay off Russia for their acts of computer fraud with attempts to drop sanctions and pursue his Tower project.

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.