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Cohen pleads and reveals secret, proposed Trump-Russia skyscraper deal; Trump squirms

Donald Trump has sworn for years that he has no business dealings with Russia, even as most people could tell that wasn’t true.

Trump’s own sons have been quoted talking about how important Russian investors are to their business and how they have been looking to expand into Russia.

Thursday, the level of interest in Russia, specially a skyscraper in Moscow, was laid bare by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, as part of a plea agreement for lying to Congress. Notably, Trump was trying to complete the deal while running for president, raising the specter of serious conflict-of-interest issues that have been constantly alleged by Democrats.

Donald J. Trump was more involved in discussions over a potential Russian business deal during the presidential campaign than previously known, his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen said Thursday in pleading guilty to lying to Congress. Mr. Trump’s associates pursued the project as the Kremlin was escalating its election sabotage effort meant to help him win the presidency.

Mr. Trump’s participation in discussions about building a grand skyscraper in Moscow showed how the interests of his business empire were enmeshed with his political ambitions as he was closing in on the Republican nomination for president. During the early months of 2016, when the business discussions were taking place, he was publicly pressing for warmer relations between the United States and Russia and an end to economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, policy positions that might have benefited his family business.

Cohen later acknowledged to reporters that he lied to Congress out of loyalty to Trump and “to align with Mr. Trump’s ‘political messaging.’”

Trump, who publicly tried to hide any Russia connection, sang a very different tune Thursday, saying there was nothing nefarious about wanting to expand his business in Russia.

But the desire to build in Russia was real and desperate, as he has tried to build in the Eastern European nation for decades. In fact, the Trump Organization was prepared to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse in exchange for being allowed to build the property.

The problem with all of this, of course, is there are serious questions regarding whether the Russians and the Trump campaign conspired to get Trump elected. These questions are only growing louder by the day and are readily apparent.

In its simplest form:

  • Trump wanted to make money in Russia. Trump wanted to get elected president by any means necessary.
  • Russia wanted western sanctions eased. Russians wanted someone they liked in the White House, and had an acrimonious relationship with Hillary Clinton.

It’s not hard to see where these ideas overlap and intersect, especially considering Cohen’s allegations create a timeline where the Russians were actively trying to undermine the election while Trump was trying to negotiate a tower on Russians soil.

Trump appears to understand just how bad of a day Thursday was for him, as he was reportedly in a particularly gruff mood on the way to Buenos Aires, Argentina for the G-20 summit.

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