The New York Times reported on Sunday that Trump’s long-time lawyer and a former business associate, who possesses a criminal history with ties to both Russia and the Mafia, hand-delivered a plan to the president’s ousted national security adviser that proposes a Ukraine-Russia peace deal and the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Moscow.
The details of the plan have come to light as the Trump administration’s alleged connections to Russia face renewed scrutiny. The proposal was put together during a January meeting in New York between Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, associate Felix Sater, and Ukrainian parliamentary politician Andrii Artemenko.
Artemenko has defended peace plans he has pushed previously as nothing more than sincere, but following the Times’ article, Ukraine’s ambassador Valeriy Chaly criticized Artemenko’s involvement and the unofficial plan as being tipped in Russia’s favor.
More than just lifting sanctions, the plan would see Russia hold on to some territory it gained from Ukraine in the war that has been quietly raging since 2014. It fields a number of possible solutions to the conflict. One being that the Kremlin formally withdraw from the region of Crimea and a referendum be held to decide under whose jurisdiction the region should lie, another proposing Russia lease the region from Ukraine for a century.
The Times reports that the proposal document was delivered to then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in the week before his forced resignation for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., which reportedly included U.S. sanctions against Russia.
Critics fear that individuals within Trump’s circle are working toward improving U.S. relations with Moscow by using issues surrounding Ukraine as a bargaining chip.
However, in a statement to the Washington Post, Cohen claimed that although he did meet with Artemenko and Sater there was no Ukraine plan.
“I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn,” he said.
The statement will do little to dissipate curiosity. Cohen, Sater, and Flynn make for strange bedfellows, let alone an odd band of amateur diplomats, all with direct links to either Russia and/or Trump’s administration.
Cohen was named as a Trump–Kremlin liaison in a controversial yet unsubstantiated intel dossier composed by a former British spy and published by BuzzFeed in January. He has consistently denied the allegation, but the meeting will serve as fuel to the contrary.
Artemenko is the outspoken pro-Russian opponent of the current Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, whose political opposition was previously advised by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Sater is a former Wall Street banker with a criminal history who was born in the Soviet Union and did business with Trump in the past.
The meeting is conspiracy gold, but even to a skeptic, it looks undeniably odious.