Michael Cohen, personal counsel to reality TV star-turned-president Donald Trump, has changed his story regarding a US-Russia ‘peace deal’ drafted by a pro-Russian politician from Ukraine and lobbied by a Trump real estate associate with deep personal ties to the Russian mob.
Cohen told The New York Times that in late January, he had accepted a sealed envelope from Felix Sater and Andrii Artemenko, then delivered it to the White House office of Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, in early February.
The envelope reportedly contained a proposal to lift sanctions against Russia, and settle the conflict in Ukraine on Russia’s terms, by leveraging evidence of corruption against Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.
Mr. Cohen’s admissions shaped the NYT story published yesterday morning. But in a report late last night, Cohen told the Washington Post that he did not deliver the letter in person or speak about it with anyone at the White House.
Denouncing what he had told the NYT as “fake news,” Cohen maintained that his interaction with Sater and Andrii Artemenko, the Ukrainian politician offering evidence of Poroshenko’s alleged corruption, was only fifteen minutes long and that he had made no promise to carry their letter to the White House.
“I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn,” he said.
Mr. Sater has a long history with Trump. As a key principal in Bayrock Group, a Manhattan development firm located in Trump Tower, Sater was involved with several of Trump’s landmark real estate deals, including Trump SoHo. At one point, he even used Trump Organization business cards.
Sater has been tied to the Russian money that reportedly kept Trump’s business afloat after major US banks stopped financing his projects due to multiple bankruptcies. Sater’s father is also known to federal agents as an underboss in the Russian mafia syndicate of Semion Mogilevich, the world’s biggest mobster.
At first, Trump was not afraid to be seen and even photographed with Sater. It was only after the Russian immigrant’s 1998 fraud conviction, and subsequent service to the feds as a confidential informant, came to light in the media that Trump began denying any familiarity with Sater.
Western spooks have a venerable old joke about KGB/FSB & Russian organized crime: Who do you think organized them?https://t.co/HjrGHcgHqf
— John Schindler (@20committee) February 19, 2017
Here is ABC’s report on Felix Sater from Dec 10th 2015. Trump actually walked out of a BBC interview in 2013 after being asked about Sater pic.twitter.com/tbv7PvoiuD
— Dustin (@DustinGiebel) February 20, 2017
While his colleagues in Ukraine call the wealthy Artemenko “corrupt, untrustworthy or simply insignificant,” he represents the parliamentary bloc that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort helped create to oppose the pro-western Poroshenko. Manafort has denied any responsibility for Artemenko’s proposal.
Artemenko “has fashioned himself in the image of Mr. Trump,” the NYT report says, “presenting himself as Ukraine’s answer to a rising class of nationalist leaders in the West. He even traveled to Cleveland last summer for the Republican National Convention, seizing on the chance to meet with members of Mr. Trump’s campaign.”
Essentially, his plan would require the withdrawal of all Russian forces from eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum whether Crimea, the Ukrainian territory seized by Russia in 2014, would be leased to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years.
The Ukrainian ambassador, Mr. Chaly, rejected a lease of that kind. “It is a gross violation of the Constitution,” he said in written answers to questions from The Times. “Such ideas can be pitched or pushed through only by those openly or covertly representing Russian interests.”
This is the first tangible evidence that Donald Trump’s Russian business associates have tried to lobby his administration on foreign policy. Cohen’s changed story suggests that Trump is very sensitive to these revelations. They almost certainly won’t be the last such disclosures to emerge.Click here for reuse options!
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