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Trump's Moscow plans caught Mueller's eye

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on March 18, 2019 - Duration: 02:20s

Trump's Moscow plans caught Mueller's eye

An intriguing area of focus in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Kremlin’s role in the 2016 U.S. election is a proposed Moscow real estate deal that Donald Trump pursued while running for president despite denying at the time any links to Russia.

Zachary Goelman reports

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Trump's Moscow plans caught Mueller's eye

(SOUNDBITE)(English) MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY SAYING (FEBRUARY 27, 2019): Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it.

He lied about it because he never expected to win.

He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.

A deal that never came to fruition to build a tower which does not exists has emerged as an object of interest for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Mueller is investigating whether Donald Trump's campaign received help from Russia to win the 2016 presidential race.

And his office is expected to soon deliver a report on his findings.

Last year, the president's former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to an array of fraud charges - and to lying to Congress about a Trump Organization deal to build a skyscraper in Moscow.

The plea agreement reached between Mueller and Cohen suggests that deal - which never materialized - came under scrutiny.

Reuters legal correspondent Jan Wolfe: (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS LEGAL CORRESPONDENT JAN WOLFE, SAYING: "In a court filing in December, Mueller's office said two things that were very interesting.

He said that this business deal could have made hundreds of millions of dollars for the Trump Organization.

And he said that there was no way this business deal would have have happened without the Russian government's support." But Cohen's testimony suggests that Trump was pursuing the deal while he was running for president, at a time when U.S. intelligence agencies believed Russia was in the midst of an attack on the U.S. election to sway the race toward the Republican, and while Trump was both praising Russian president Putin and denying he had any dealings in Russia.

(SOUNDBITE MASHUP) (English) U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE DONALD TRUMP SAYING: AUGUST 11, 2015: "Putin, who I would get along with very well..." JULY 28, 2016: "No, I have nothing to do with Russia.

[flash] What do I have to get involved with Putin for?

I've never spoken to him, I don't know anything about him, other than he will respect me." In 2017, nine days before his inauguration, Trump tweeted, "I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!" The Michael Cohen plea agreement changed that.

In November, the Trump said he "Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia.

Put up zero money, zero guarantees, and didn't do the project.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, IN AN EXCHANGE WITH REPORTERS, SAYING (NOVEMBER 29, 2018): "I decided not to do it.

Primary reason was very simple i was focused on running for president.

There would be nothing wrong if i did do it... and why should i lose opportunity?" (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS LEGAL CORRESPONDENT JAN WOLFE, SAYING: "Michael Cohen said in his guilty plea that he lied about when the negotiations ended.

In his testimony to Congress he said it was made clear to him by Trump that he should lie.

Why was there an effort to lie?

Was there something people were trying to cover up here?" Trump has denied colluding with Russia and called the investigation into his administration, his campaign, and his businesses a witch hunt.

Mueller's office is expected to deliver a report on his findings soon.

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