He’s letting himself off lightly.
President Trump is downplaying his decades of attempting to do business in Russia in the wake of his personal attorney pleading guilty to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump-branded property in Moscow.
Trump tweeted Friday that he had once “lightly looked” at building a massive tower in the Russian capital, insisting his attempts to strike a deal during the campaign were “very legal and very cool.”
The admission stands in stark contrast to the President’s public denials that he has ever had any financial ties to Russia.
A day earlier, Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted in a plea deal that he lied to Congress about his role in the project, discussions of which went on well into the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Oh, I get it!” Trump, who is in Argentina for the annual G-20 summit, tweeted.. “I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly). Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail.”
Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!” he added.
Trump has denied business dealings in Russia for years, saying repeatedly while running for President that he had nothing to do with the county.
At presidential debates and political rallies, Trump flatly denied doing any business that involved Russia.
“I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia,” he said during a 2016 interview in Florida.
However, Trump has spent years forging a relationship with Russian investors and hobnobbing with oligarchs close to the Kremlin. The President famously appeared in Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe contest he owned at the time.
“Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?” Trump tweeted at the time.
Decades earlier, in “The Art of the Deal,” a book Trump co-wrote, the one-time reality TV host fantasized about “building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin in partnership with the Soviet government.”
In 2006, the President’s two eldest children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, visited Moscow with Russian-born business associate Felix Sater, during which time they “(connected) with potential partners.”
Trump, whose presidency has been haunted by a federal investigation into Russia’s attempts to sway the 2016 election in his favor, defended his Moscow project on Thursday.
“There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?” he said.
Cohen made clear during his plea that he was continuing to pursue the Trump Tower Moscow project weeks after his boss clinched the Republican nomination in 2016 and Kremlin-connected intelligence agents were meddling on Trump’s behalf.
Cohen admitted to lying to Congress about the real estate deal in order to be consistent with Trump’s “political messaging.”
The embattled attorney said he discussed the proposal with Trump on multiple occasions and with members of the President’s family, according to documents filed by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.