As Rachel Maddow reported this evening, this piece opens with a bombshell:
Even before the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in May 2017, FBI agents investigating Russia’s interference in the election learned that Cohen was in frequent contact with foreign individuals about Trump Moscow — and that some of these individuals had knowledge of or played a role in 2016 election meddling, according to two FBI agents. The agents declined to name those individuals. Both agents have detailed knowledge about the bureau’s work on the collusion investigation that predated Mueller’s appointment. [Emphasis is mine.]
So now we know the President’s personal lawyer had ties to Russians who attacked our election process. I’m just letting that sink in. Was Cohen just talking with these Russians about the Trump Tower deal or did they also collude on the election meddling? At this point, we don’t know the answer, but that’s what Mueller’s investigation is all about and now we’re another step closer to learning the truth.
The article goes on to reveal that the Trump Organization was working on the Moscow Tower deal into May of 2016 (previously we had been led to believe that negotiations for building the tower fizzled back in January). In fact, Michael Cohen and Felix Sater were setting up a trip for Trump to fly to Moscow to discuss the Tower – the trip was planned for after the Republican convention:
Sater told BuzzFeed News that he and Cohen had a conversation about setting up Cohen’s trip to Moscow to reignite the tower project. The next day, May 4, they discussed when in the presidential campaign Trump should take the extraordinary step of flying to a country at odds with the United States in order to negotiate a major business deal. Sater texted Cohen: “I had a chat with Moscow. ASSUMING the trip does happen the question is before or after the convention. I said I believe, but don’t know for sure, that it’s probably after the convention. Obviously the pre-meeting trip (only you) can happen anytime you want but the 2 big guys were the question.”
Cohen wrote back that day: “MY trip before Cleveland. Trump once he becomes the nominee after the convention.”
Sater: “Got it. I’m on it.”
The article does not state it expressly, but it’s easy to draw the conclusion that the only reason the trip did not materialize was because Trump’s rivals were drawing attention to his Russian connections so Trump decided he better cool it:
Sater kept holding out hope — working his sources in Russia right through the convention — until July 26, 2016, when Sater, while relaxing in the backyard of his Long Island home, read a tweet by Trump and knew right then that the deal was dead. [Here’s the tweet:]
Donald J. Trump
For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.
3:50 PM - Jul 26, 2016
“Fuck me, I thought to myself. All that work for nothing,” Sater told BuzzFeed News.
He poured himself a big glass of scotch, he recalled, and lit a cigar.