In the past week, it’s come out that Donald Trump was still trying to make a deal on a project in Moscow even as he was running for president of the United States. He had convicted mobster Felix Sater on the ground working to find Trump some property. He had lawyer Michael Cohen trying to grease the wheels at the Kremlin by writing to one of Putin’s assistants. 

And he had two of Russia’s biggest banks along as partners … banks that happened to be operating under US sanctions.

Real estate news outlet The Real Deal was first to surface news of the apparent associations between the Moscow-based firm, I.C. Expert Investment, and VTB and Sberbank. The firm’s website lists both VTB and Sberbank as partner banks. …

Sberbank and VTB were both sanctioned in the wake of Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and the U.S. Treasury specifically disallows them from issuing the kinds of financing used in real estate transactions to “U.S. persons or within the United States.” Trump signed the letter of intent to do business with IC Expert on Oct. 28, 2015, according to the Washington Post; but by January, Cohen said he killed the proposal.

Dealing with Sberbank or VTB was already illegal, but Cohen didn’t cancel the deal until Trump had been campaigning for six months.

Emails between Sater, Cohen, and other parties involved in Trump’s attempt to land that Russian deal he denied having, have begun to emerge, and with them has come the news that this operation was about more than just finding land for a Trump hotel.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”