President Donald Trump’s company planned to give Russian President Vladimir Putin the penthouse in its proposed Trump Tower Moscow development, BuzzFeed News reported late Thursday.
Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty on Thursday to lying to Congress about the Moscow deal, which he negotiated long into the 2016 presidential election with a representative of Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov.
Now BuzzFeed is reporting that Cohen and former Trump Organization broker Felix Sater planned to give Putin himself the top spot in their planned development.
Some of the people Cohen negotiated the Moscow deal with were also involved in or knew of Russia’s 2016 effort to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, two FBI agents told BuzzFeed News earlier this year.
“In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater told BuzzFeed News. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.”
Cohen and Sater discussed their plan with Peskov’s representative, two U.S. law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News. Cohen has said he updated Trump regularly about the project, but BuzzFeed could not say whether Trump knew of the penthouse plan.
The new revelation is the latest to draw Trump and his campaign closer and closer to the Kremlin and its election meddling efforts — and to an ongoing federal investigation of those efforts by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
It comes the same week Mueller killed a plea deal with former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and secured Cohen’s cooperation. And it comes on the heels of a report Tuesday by The Guardian that Manafort met Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in London months before the website published emails stolen from Trump’s opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump attempted to defend his dealings with Russia after news of the Cohen plea broke Thursday. “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business,” he told reporters Thursday. “And why should I lose lots of opportunities?”
But with Mueller drawing closer to the Oval Office, CNN reported Thursday night that Trump is in a “terrible mood,” “spooked and completely distracted” as he makes his way to the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Trump was totally caught off guard by the Cohen plea,” an unnamed former White House staffer told Vanity Fair. Now, Trump’s children — who have been closely involved with his businesses and his political career — are growing worried as well. “Don’s been telling people he’s very worried after today,” another source reportedly said of the president’s son Donald Trump Jr..
The Mueller investigation — and the steady drip of media stories about it — may have gone dark in the ramp-up to the midterm elections. But that’s over now.