Michael Cohen isn’t really supposed to be talking to reporters. The former executive vice president and special counsel at the Trump Organization, who also serves as the personal attorney to the president, sat in the back of the bustling Hampton Coffee Company in the tony beach town of Water Mill, New York, on Tuesday, nursing a large black coffee. His two cellphones beeped every few seconds. Eventually he looked down at the offending devices. “There goes CNN again,” he said. “Friends and my attorney have recommended I not appear on air until after my testimony.”
There was certainly good reason for his lawyers to advise caution. This week has seen Cohen, 51, take another star turn in the ongoing Russia investigation. Cohen (and President Donald Trump) have insisted for more than a year that the Trump Organization has had no business dealings in Russia. Cohen has been one of the president’s most dogged defenders in the media on that point, taking his case to TV, Twitter ― anywhere, basically. Speaking to the Financial Times in December, he dismissed the idea of “any connection with Russia” as “yet another example of the press’s liberal bias towards Mr. Trump.”
But earlier this week, details of a planned business deal with Russia emerged in the press, partly because Cohen’s lawyer filed a two-page statement ahead of Cohen’s upcoming appearance before the House Intelligence Committee. (The hearing, originally scheduled for Sept. 5, has been postponed.) The statement reveals that in 2015 and 2016, Cohen was pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The deal was brought to him by Felix Sater, a freelance Russian-American broker, convicted criminal and former FBI informant who’d worked with the Trump Organization on several previous projects.
Sater said he could lasso a Russian partner for the proposed Moscow deal, and he pursued one with customary brio. In a November 2015 email, Sater told Cohen, who he has known for 30 years, that he would “get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this.” He added, “Our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it.”
But that wasn’t all. According to his statement, Cohen talked about the proposed project with Trump himself on three separate occasions during the course of the campaign. Cohen also admitted that in mid-January 2016, he sent an email to Dmitry Peskov, a senior member of the Kremlin, asking where the government stood on approvals for the tower. He said…