(Vatican Radio) The Russian government says U.S. President Donald Trump's lawyer reached out to them during the 2016 presidential campaign, seeking help for a massive real estate project in Russia. Wednesday's announcement was expected to put additional pressure on the White House amid an ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:
The Kremlin confirmed Wednesday that contacts between Trump's presidential campaign and Moscow were more intensive than the billionaire businessmen-turned U.S. president wanted to admit.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Trump's personal lawyer sent an electronic mail message in January 2016 to the Kremlin's press office's general e-mail address containing a special request.
In the e-mail, lawyer Michael Cohen wrote about what Peskov called "a certain Russian company and certain people" who wanted to build a skyscraper in Moscow and sought help for the project.
In published remarks spokesman Pescov stressed however that the Kremlin's press office does "not react to such [questions about] business issues" as in his words "this is not our job." He added that the press office left the matter without a response.
Peskov explained that he "cannot discuss with President Putin the hundreds and thousands of various requests coming from different countries" that end up in that Kremlin mailbox.
He spoke shortly after Trump lawyer Cohen already acknowledged that he contacted the Kremlin on behalf of his client.
Cohen made the announcement Monday in remarks to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential vote and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
He said the president's company pursued a real estate project in Moscow during the Republican primary election. Cohen stressed that the plan was abandoned for various reasons.
The lawyer added that he worked on the real estate proposal with Felix Sater, a Russia-born associate who he said claimed to have deep connections in Moscow.
These discussions about a real estate deal in Moscow occurred in the fall of 2015, months after Trump had declared his presidential bid. Cohen claimed that the talks ended early last year when he saw that the project was not feasible.
But Wednesday's announcement by the Kremlin was expected to fuel concerns among critics that President Trump is getting too close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The White House denies wrongdoing, and the Trump administration has stepped up criticism over Russia's role in Ukraine where it annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
Elsewhere fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 10,000 people.