MOSCOW — A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed on Wednesday that he had received a request for assistance on a stalled Trump Tower real estate project in Moscow from a close aide to President Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, but added that the Kremlin did not respond to the letter.
“I confirm that among a number of emails one from Mr. Michael Cohen came to us. This indeed happened,” said Dmitry Peskov, a personal spokesman for Putin, during a telephone briefing with Russian and foreign journalists. “But as far as we don’t respond to business topics, this is not our job, we did not send a response.”
The stalled deal as described to congressional investigators by Cohen, a close aide to Trump since 2007 who now serves as one of his personal lawyers, was for a licensing project between Trump and a Moscow-based developer called I.C. Expert Investment. According to Cohen, Trump signed a letter of intent with the company in October 2015, but added that the project was later abandoned for “business reasons.”
Peskov said that the email described a “Russian company together with certain people [who] had the goal of creating a new skyscraper in Moscow city, but the deal is not moving forward, and they were asking for some recommendations and help advancing this deal.”
Peskov said that he had seen the email but that it was not given to Putin.
The email was sent in mid-January 2016 shortly before the first Republican Party primaries, as Trump stood out on the campaign trail for his warm rhetoric about the Russian president. It is one of a number of contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials that have become the subject of congressional inquiries and an investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III exploring Russian interference in the 2016 election
Cohen has served as a personal lawyer for Trump since January. He did not have a formal role in the campaign,
“Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower-Moscow project in Moscow City,” Cohen wrote to Peskov, according to a person familiar with the email. “Without getting into lengthy specifics, the communication between our two sides has stalled.
“As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon,” Cohen wrote.
The email was sent to a general inbox used by the Kremlin press service, which Peskov said receives thousands of emails pertaining to courts, law enforcement and business topics that the Kremlin regularly passes on. In a statement to Congress, Cohen said he was encouraged to write to Peskov by Felix Sater, a Russian American businessman who was serving as a broker on the deal.
Peskov, a former diplomat who speaks fluent English and Turkish, is seen as one of several gatekeepers to Putin and regularly travels with him on official trips. He was appointed head of the presidential press service during Putin's first term in 2000, and has served as a spokesman for Putin in various roles since.