President Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, is working in overdrive to deny any connection between himself and the events that seem to be drawing more and more Trump associates into the Russia probe.
Specifically, Cohen has given a point-by-point rebuttal to the controversial dossier compiled by a former British spy, which mentions his connections to Russia in several places, and lists him as a central figure.
The New York Times reports:
In an eight-page letter to the House Intelligence Committee, a lawyer for Mr. Cohen offered a full-throated rejection of any suggestion that Mr. Cohen was involved in an effort to work with Russia to disrupt the election.
“We have not uncovered a single document that would in any way corroborate the dossier’s allegations regarding Mr. Cohen, nor do we believe that any such document exists,” wrote the lawyer, Stephen M. Ryan.
“Mr. Cohen vehemently denies the claims made in the dossier about him, which are false and remain wholly unsubstantiated.”
Trump’s lawyer has a lawyer.
Cohen’s involvement got a fresh look this past week, when an old name surfaced: Felix Sater.
Sater is a former business associate of Donald Trump’s. He’s recently suggested that he, and potentially the president would be seeing the world not through the gilded halls of Trump Tower, but prison bars, eventually.
Mr. Cohen produced records to Congress this week, including a series of emails he had received in 2015 from Felix Sater, a real estate broker with ties to the Kremlin. In the emails, Mr. Sater predicted that a Trump Tower being planned for Moscow could be built with the help of the Russian government, and that the project would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.
The pitch began in the latter half of 2015, when Mr. Trump was already running for president. The emails show that even then, some around him believed that close ties to Russia were politically advantageous. But the project failed to get funding or permits and was dropped shortly before the Republican primaries. Mr. Cohen said that Mr. Sater, who worked on and off for the Trump Organization over many years, was given to boastful language and overstated his influence.
One of the claims of the dossier that Cohen is disputing is a claim that he had secret meetings in Prague with a Russian official last summer.
Cohen not only denies the meetings, but denies ever having been to the country, and claims his passport can prove it.
He also denies any efforts on his part to cover up ties between Trump and Russia.
“Mr. Cohen is not aware of any impropriety related to Mr. Trump’s ‘relationship’ with Russia, nor is he aware of Mr. Trump having an improper political relationship with officials of the Russian Federation,” letter said.
That’s not really covering, actually, unless it’s covering his own butt.
Basically, Cohen is saying, “Yeah, whatever Trump has going with Russia, I don’t know anything about it.”
Cohen also wants to know who paid for the dossier. It was first commissioned by Republicans (some suggested Jeb Bush, but he’s denied it), then was picked up by Democrats. It eventually caught the interest of the FBI, as they began their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“The committee should discern and publicly disclose the entity or entities that paid for the 35-page dossier,” Mr. Cohen’s letter to the House Intelligence Committee said.
What we do know about Cohen’s involvement is that he was wrapped up in the efforts to have a massive Trump Tower project approved in Russia, at a time when Trump was running for the presidency.
As he pushed for the proposed Moscow project, Mr. Cohen sent an email to a spokesman for the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. But Mr. Cohen sent the message to a general email inbox, not directly to the spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.
Mr. Peskov on Wednesday confirmed to reporters that the Kremlin had received the email, but he said he did not respond to it, and that his office did not get involved in such matters.
A lot of Olympic-styled butt-covering there, Mr. Cohen, but you can relax, for now.
To date, investigators have uncovered a lot of meetings and superficial connections between Trump associates and campaign officials, but have yet to reveal any thread that pulls all the pieces together into one, cohesive case for collusion.