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Michael Cohen, an attorney for Donald Trump, in Trump Tower Dec. 2016. (Richard Drew / AP)

Michael Cohen, an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, emailed Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, in January 2016 and asked him to help accelerate the building of a Trump Tower in Moscow, reports The Washington Post, citing documents submitted to Congress Monday.

"Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower - Moscow project in Moscow City. Without getting into lengthy specifics, the communication between our two sides has stalled... As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals."

Why it matters: Cohen's email to Peskov is the most direct documented correspondence of a top Trump aide and a high-ranking member of Putin's government during the campaign.

Cohen's background: Cohen, who has been one of Trump's closest aides for more ten years, did not take a formal role in the campaign, but he did sometimes appear as a Trump surrogate in the media.

Trump's involvement: Cohen told congressional investigators that the business deal was proposed as a licensing project, and would have been built by Moscow-based developer I.C. Expert Investment Co. Cohen also said Trump signed a letter of intent with the company on Oct. 28, 2015, after which he "began to solicit designs from architects and discuss financing." Note: The signed letter of intent contradicts Trump's repeated denials that he has no business deals with Russia.

Cohen's response: In a statement turned over to Congress, Cohen claimed that Felix Slater, a Russian immigrant and Trump associate, had advised him to write the email, suggesting that such a massive real estate project in Moscow would require Russian government approval. The New York Times reported Monday that Sater promised in 2015 to build a Trump Tower in Moscow with Putin's help, and said the real estate deal would help Trump win the 2016 election.

Cohen's statement to the Post: "It should come as no surprise that, over four decades, the Trump Organization has received and reviewed countless real estate development opportunities, both domestic and international. The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected."

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

7 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."