The Trump Organization considered giving Russian President Vladimir Putin a penthouse worth $50 million as part of a failed 2016 project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to multiple reports.
“If we have Putin in the penthouse every oligarch in Russia would want to live in that building,” Felix Sater, a businessman who worked on the project and suggested the idea, told The Washington Post. BuzzFeed News first reported the plan Thursday.
The attempted real estate development was back in the spotlight on Thursday after Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timing of his negotiations over the project. He had told the House Intelligence Committee that the talks ended in January 2016, but he’s now admitted he was in talks during Trump’s campaign as late as June 2016.
It’s not clear whether Trump was aware of the penthouse plan. HuffPost has reached out to the Trump Organization and the White House for comment.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN: “The president never heard of this and the concept never got anywhere beyond an unfunded letter of intent and never even a proposal or draft contract.”
Trump on Friday morning tweeted a defense of his business activities. “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,” he wrote. “Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!”
The Trump Organization tried in vain for 30 years to get a foothold in Russia and Ukraine, exploring possibilities for more than 20 developments, according to The Wall Street Journal.
But the 2016 development is the focus of heightened interest now because of Cohen’s admission that he lied about it. Court filings on Thursday refer to Trump as “Individual-1.” Sater is “Individual-2,” CNN reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Sater and Cohen worked together furiously behind the scenes to try to get the Trump Tower Moscow deal off the ground, BuzzFeed News reported. Sater recalled that he had told Cohen about the penthouse idea and Cohen loved it.
“My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin,” Sater said.