Trump Org lawyer provides details about Russia Trump Tower project

Michael Cohen (R), executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, arrives at Trump Tower, on Jan. 12, 2017, in New York City.

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CBS News has obtained the statement Trump Organization lawyer and executive vice president Michael Cohen provided to the House Intelligence Committee, describing his involvement in the Trump Organization's interest in a real estate development in building Trump Tower-Moscow.

The two-page statement partly explains the report, confirmed by CBS News' Jeff Pegues, that Cohen sent an email in January 2016 to Russian President Vladimir Putin's personal spokesman during the U.S. presidential campaign asking him for help advancing Donald Trump's business interests in Russia. Cohen provided that email as a part of documents his lawyer submitted to Congress Monday.

Cohen told the House Intelligence Committee that an intermediary -- Russian-born U.S. citizen Felix Sater -- suggested in mid-January 2016 that he email Putin press secretary Dmitry Peskov about the project, which was supposed to be a luxury hotel, office and residential condominium. But those "permissions were never provided," Cohen claimed. Cohen said he does not "recall any response to my email, nor any other contracts by me with Mr. Peskov or other Russian government officials about the proposal." Cohen claimed he abandoned the attempt to invest in Trump Tower-Moscow shortly thereafter. Cohen said now-President Trump, to the best of his knowledge, was never in contact with anyone -- other than himself on three occasions -- about the proposal. 

Before that email to Peskov, the project went as far as creating a non-binding letter of intent in October 2015, soliciting building designs from architects and holding preliminary discussions about possible financing for the proposal, Cohen noted. Cohen said he first received a proposal for the construction of the luxury hotel, office and residential condominium "in or around September 2015," and abandoned by the end of January 2016, after he said he recalls no response to his email.

"The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump's presidential campaign," Cohen wrote. "The decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it, was unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President campaign. Both I and the Trump Organization were evaluating this proposal and many others from solely a business standpoint, and rejected going forward on that basis."

The Washington Post first reported emails between Sater and Cohen. At one point in 2015, Sater told Cohen, "Our boy (Trump) can become president of the USA and we can engineer it." He boasted, "I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process" and said, "I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected."

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees, along with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, and any ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Mueller has convened a grand jury in the investigation, a clear sign the probe is gaining traction. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.