U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer reversed course Wednesday, saying Trump had signed an October 2015 letter of intent to develop a real estate project in Russia during his presidential campaign, after earlier denying it in a weekend television interview.
Rudy Giuliani had told CNN on Sunday that “no one signed” the letter of intent to go forward with the Moscow project, although he acknowledged talks about the development had extended through November 2016 when Trump won the U.S. presidential election.
Giuliani backtracked in comments to Reuters on Wednesday, however, after CNN reported late on Tuesday that it had obtained a copy of the Oct. 28, 2015, letter signed by Trump, who had announced his White House bid in June that year.
“If I said it, I made a mistake,” Giuliani said of his previous denial about Trump having signed the letter.
“There’s nothing wrong with his signing it. When he did it, he wasn’t president yet.”
The letter was also signed by Andrey Rozov, who owns Russia-based I.C. Expert Investment Co., CNN said. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Not disclosed during campaign
The proposed project has become a focus in federal investigations into Russian interference in American politics and potential ties between Trump’s campaign and Moscow being conducted by the U.S. Special Counsel’s Office and Congress.
Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced last week to three years in prison in part for lying to U.S. lawmakers about the planned Moscow development.
Any plans to work with Moscow could be seen as a conflict of interest for someone seeking to represent the United States.
Trump, a real estate developer and former reality television star, still owns the Trump Organization but said he would step away from day-to-day management after taking office.
Trump did not publicly disclose the project during his campaign and repeatedly denied having anything to with Russia.
Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!
Last month, Trump told reporters at the White House he had pursued the Moscow project during his campaign — inaccurately calling the deal “very public” — but decided not to follow through with it. “There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it,” he added.
The planned real estate project included condominiums, a hotel and commercial property, CNN reported.
The Trump Organization had also floated the possibility of offering a $50-million penthouse suite to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a recent report by Buzzfeed, which reported in May that Trump had signed the letter.
Trump has denied any collusion and raised doubts about U.S. intelligence findings that concluded Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election. Russia has also denied any meddling.
But U.S. lawmakers believe Russia did interfere and have imposed a series of sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals. The U.S. Treasury imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Wednesday but said it would lift sanctions on three companies controlled by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
The U.S. Treasury said in a statement on its website that it was imposing the new sanctions on individuals and entities involved in the alleged election interference, the hacking of the World Anti-Doping Agency and other “malign activities.”
The move, which includes sanctioning 15 members of Russia’s military intelligence agency, were taken “in response to Russia’s continued disregard for international norms,” the statement said.
The Treasury said it was lifting sanctions on aluminum producer Rusal, its parent En+, and another company tied to Deripaska, a metals magnate known to be in Putin’s inner circle.
Deripaska will remain under sanctions imposed on him in April, the Treasury said.
The three Deripaska companies — Rusal, En+ and JSC EuroSibEnergo (ESE) — have agreed to restructuring changes including reducing Deripaska’s stake.
“These companies have committed to significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control,” the Treasury said.