UPDATED: Nov. 29, 11:40 a.m: Despite President Trump’s claims during the presidential campaign that he has “nothing to do with Russia” including “no deals,” emails obtained by the Washington Post and the New York Times show that former Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen and former Bayrock Group executive Felix Sater were actively working on a licensing deal with a Moscow-based developer as recently as last year.
In one January 2016 correspondence, Cohen reportedly emailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide, Dymytry Peskov, to ask for his help pushing the project forward.
The Trump Organization had even secured a letter of intent with a developer, IC Expert Investment Co., but had not yet had success obtaining building permits from the Russian government, according to the Washington Post.
In a statement submitted to congressional investigators, Cohen said he could not recall receiving a response from Peskov and claimed the project was abandoned two weeks later, the Washington Post reported.
IC Expert appears best known for building a large-scale suburban real estate development in Reutov, a town just east of Moscow.
According to its website, the firm was founded in 2005 and has since developed millions of square feet of mixed-use property around Moscow. Most notably, the real estate firm developed the “Novokosino” and “Novokosino-2” complexes in Reutov, a more than 4 million-square-foot “micro district” with 17 residential buildings and thousands of apartments.
However, according to Russian news reports from last year, construction at “Novokosino-2” has taken much longer than many expected, drawing protests from apartment buyers, some of whom complained that the company is not employing enough construction workers. Some buyers haven’t been able to move in for over a year, according to the reports.
Nearby, IC Expert also developed Reutov Park, a 1 million-square foot shopping mall. The mall was co-developed with Amma Development, a company reportedly founded by former executives in the Russian division of IKEA.
Other development and banking partners listed on IC Expert’s website include Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender. Sberbank is embroiled in a federal gravel quarry dispute that landed in a New York court earlier this year, and it’s hired Trump’s former personal attorney Marc Kasowitz. At the time he was hired by Sberbank, Kasowitz was also working for Trump on matters related to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
A subsidiary of VTB Bank is another of IC Expert’s listed partners. According to an email obtained by the Times this week, Sater said he had already lined up financing for the Trump Moscow project with VTB as a lender.
Both Sberbank and VTB are majority state-owned and were placed under U.S. sanctions following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in Ukraine in 2014.
Representatives for IC Expert could not immediately be reached.
After the publication of this story, VTB provided The Real Deal with a statement denying having ever discussed any financing with IC Expert or having ever partnered with the developer through its subsidiary VTB24. “VTB24 has never had any relationship with this organization,” a company representative wrote in an email. “As per our request the VTB24 logo has been removed from the website.”
Ariel Stulberg contributed to reporting.