Donald J. Trump was more involved in discussions over a potential Russian business deal during the presidential campaign than previously known, his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen said Thursday in pleading guilty to lying to Congress. Mr. Trump’s associates pursued the project as the Kremlin was escalating its election sabotage effort meant to help him win the presidency.
Mr. Trump’s participation in discussions about building a grand skyscraper in Moscow showed how the interests of his business empire were enmeshed with his political ambitions as he was closing in on the Republican nomination for president. During the early months of 2016, when the business discussions were taking place, he was publicly pressing for warmer relations between the United States and Russia and an end to economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, policy positions that might have benefited his family business.
Trump seems unfazed. After the Cohen plea deal was announced Thursday, Trump told reporters that he never really cared about the tower project and was focused solely on running for president. “I wasn’t trying to hide anything,” he said, adding that “we decided — I decided ultimately not to do it. There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it.”