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Trump Associate Boasted That Moscow Business Deal ‘Will Get Donald Elected’

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President Donald Trump speaks to reporters, as Vice President Mike Pence looks on. - AL DRAGO/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Al Drago/The New York Times
  • President Donald Trump speaks to reporters, as Vice President Mike Pence looks on.

By MATT APUZZO and MAGGIE HABERMAN
© 2017 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — A business associate of President Donald Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, that he said would help Trump win the presidency.

The associate, Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Putin and predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would highlight Trump’s savvy negotiating skills and be a political boon to his candidacy.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

The emails show that, from the earliest months of Trump’s campaign, some of his associates viewed close ties with Moscow as a political advantage. Those ties are now under investigation by the Justice Department and multiple congressional committees.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election to try to help Trump. Investigators want to know whether anyone on Trump’s team was part of that process.

Sater, a Russian immigrant, said he had lined up financing for the Trump Tower deal with VTB Bank, a Russian bank that was under U.S. sanctions for involvement in Moscow’s efforts to undermine democracy in Ukraine. In another email, Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Moscow.

“I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Sater wrote.

There is no evidence in the emails that Sater delivered on his promises, and one email suggests that Sater overstated his Russian ties. In January 2016, Cohen wrote to Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, asking for help restarting the Trump Tower project, which had stalled. But Sater did not appear to have Peskov’s direct email, and instead wrote to a general inbox for press inquiries.

The project never got government permits or financing, and died weeks later.

“To be clear, the Trump Organization has never had any real estate holdings or interests in Russia,” the Trump Organization said Monday in a statement.