Russian sought ‘synergy’ with Trump campaign in 2015

Russians reached out to Michael Cohen in November 2015 seeking to establish cooperation with Trump’s election campaign. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: A high-placed Russian offered Donald Trump’s presidential campaign “synergy on a government level” in November 2015, well before previous reported contacts between the two sides, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in a court filing Friday.

The unidentified Russian made the offer to Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, proposing a meeting between then-Republican candidate Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the Mueller filing said.

“The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a ‘phenomenal’ impact ‘not only in political but in a business dimension as well,'” the filing said.

There is “no bigger warranty in any project than consent of (the president of Russia),” the person told Cohen.

It said Cohen did not follow up on the offer in part because he was already working with another ostensibly well-connected person on advancing the “Moscow Project,” an effort to build a possibly 100-story Trump Tower on prime land in the Russian capital.

The explosive revelation came a week after Mueller said that Cohen had detailed to the Russia collusion investigation ongoing contacts with a top aide to Putin on the real estate deal throughout the first half of 2016, even after Trump had secured the Republican presidential nomination.

Prosecutors said Cohen had informed Trump and members of his family several times during that period about the project, despite Trump’s repeated claims that he was not doing business with Russia after 2015.

The November 2015 offer of a “political synergy” between Russia and the Trump campaign, and a Putin-Trump meeting, was months earlier than what has so far been revealed in the sprawling Mueller investigation.

In another ominous sign for the president, the filing Friday also said that Cohen had told the investigation about “certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation” that Cohen knew of because of his regular contact with executives in the Trump Organsation during the 2016 campaign.

The evidence of Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller was submitted as mitigating information in advance of his expected sentencing in the coming days on charges of tax fraud, lying, and campaign finance fraud related to hush payments he made to Trump’s alleged former lovers before the election to protect Trump’s reputation.