President Donald Trump’s lawyer has denied acting as a go-between in a back-channel scheme to broker a secret Ukrainian peace deal.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Michael Cohen, Trump’s special counsel since 2007, had delivered a proposal from Ukrainian lawmaker Andrey Artemenko to former White House Security Advisor Micheal Flynn.
Artemenko’s proposal allegedly said that Russia should be allowed to keep the annexed Crimean peninsula in return for ensuring peace in eastern Ukraine. It also said that the United States should lift sanctions on Moscow, the New York Times reported.
Cohen confirmed that he had met Artemenko in New York last month, but denied delivering any kind of letter on his behalf.
"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," Cohen told NBC news on Monday. "I didn't see General Flynn while I was at the White House, and I didn't spend two seconds talking about this, not even one second."
He said that the meeting had been arranged by a long-time friend and Trump supporter Felix Sater, and that he had been paid to attend.
"I've known Felix for years," Cohen said. "I received a phone call: 'Hey Mike, you have a few minutes? Can I meet you for coffee? You mind if I bring a friend?' Little did I know it would be a guy who wants to run for president of Ukraine."
Artemenko, a deputy for Ukraine’s Union of Right Forces, claims that his peace plan for Ukraine has been approved by top Kremlin aides, the New York Times reported.
He also alleges to have evidence linking current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to government corruption.
His actions have angered Ukrainian officials. Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Valeriy Chaly, stressed that the deputy was “not entitled to present any alternative peace plans on behalf of Ukraine to any foreign government, including the U.S. administration.”
The Trump administration’s Russian ties remain under close scrutiny following allegations that top campaign aides were in “constant touch” with Kremlin officials before the U.S. elections.
Both the White House and the Kremlin have denied the claims.
Security Advisor Micheal Flynn, the official who allegedly received Artemenko’s secret peace plan, resigned on Feb.14 over claims that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington before Trump’s inauguration.
The retired Lieutenant General initially denied the allegations but then appeared to change his mind
In his resignation, he wrote he had “inadvertently briefed the Vice President-elect and others with incomplete information” on his phone calls with the Russian ambassador.
Russian officials dismissed his resignation as “Russophobic paranoia.”
President Trump announced on Monday that Flynn would be replaced with Lieutenant General Herbert McMaster.