US President Donald Trump is blasting the investigation in which his former lawyer pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal he pursued for the billionaire during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Michael Cohen says he lied to be consistent with Mr Trump’s “political messaging.”
Mr Trump says Cohen is lying now.
In a tweet from Argentina, Mr Trump recalled “happily living” his life as a developer before running for president after seeing the “Country going in the wrong direction.”
Mr Trump says “Against all odds” he decided to run for president and continue to run his business, which he calls “very legal & very cool.”
He said he “talked about it on the campaign trail.”
However, on the campaign trail he repeatedly denied having any interest in Russia and while Mr Trump asserted that the Moscow project was common knowledge during the campaign, there is no record of him discussing it publicly.
The only public mention from him of Trump Tower Russia was a tweet in November 2013, while thanking his hosts at the Miss Universe pageant in Russia, where he said “You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next.”
His tweet came as Felix Sater, a real estate developer who advised the Trump Organisation on the Trump Tower Moscow deal, said the business at one time planned to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a penthouse worth $US50 million in the tower.
“In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Mr Sater told Buzzfeed. “My idea was to give a $US50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $US250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.”
Mr Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is now co-operating with Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia probe.
He has said that the negotiations about building the Moscow tower continued as late as June 2016, when Mr Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee, even though Cohen told two congressional committees last year that the talks had ended that January.
Mr Trump is currently at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina having abruptly cancelled a meeting with Mr Putin.
Originally published as Trump defends ‘very legal’ Russia talks