The housing secretary was "insistent" a planning application be allowed just in time to save its Tory donor backer up to £50m, new government documents reveal.
Papers released amid pressure on Robert Jenrick show an official in his department recorded he wanted approval to be given to the Westferry development sought by former newspaper owner Richard Desmond.
Business minister Nadhim Zahawi has defended Mr Jenrick, telling Sky News he had "explained himself" and the issue has been "laid to rest".
A partly redacted email sent on 9 January said the cabinet minister "was insistent that decision issued this week ie tomorrow - as next week the viability of the scheme is impacted by a change in the London CIL [Community Infrastructure Levy] regime".
That decision allowed Northern and Shell to avoid paying between £30m and £50m extra to the council and overruled both Tower Hamlets Council and a planning inspector.
Mr Jenrick subsequently reversed the ruling following legal action by the council, admitting that what he did was "unlawful by reason of apparent bias".
It later emerged that Mr Jenrick had sat next to Mr Desmond at a Conservative Party fundraising dinner in November 2019.
The minister admitted Mr Desmond did "bring out his iPhone and show me some images of the development" at the event.
Two weeks after the housing scheme was approved, Electoral Commission records show that Mr Desmond personally gave £12,000 to the Conservatives.
Text exchanges between Robert Jenrick and Richard Desmond, released by the government
Mr Jenrick has since been fighting allegations of "cash for favours" but has dismissed any claims of impropriety as "false allegations".
New texts between the pair also emerged as part of a bundle of documents released by the government in a bid to clear Mr Jenrick's name.
They show he texted Mr Desmond on 18 November 2019 saying: "Good to spend time with you tonight Richard. See you again soon I hope."
In another exchange two days later, Mr Desmond tried to arrange a meeting with the housing secretary on 19 December, as well as a site visit to the Westferry Printworks, complaining about having to deal with "Marxists".
He wrote: "Good news finally the inspectors reports have gone to you today, we appreciate the speed as we don't want to give Marxists loads of doe for nothing!
"We all want to go with the scheme and the social housing we have proposed and spent a month at the Marxist town hall debating, thanks again, all my best, Richard."
Mr Jenrick replied declining a meeting until after a decision had been made due to his position because "it is important not to give any appearance of being influenced by applicants of cases that I may have a role in or to have predetermined them".
He added: "And so I think it is best that we don't meet until after the matter has been decided, one way of [sic] another ‐ and I can't provide any advice to you on that, other than to say that I will receive advice from my officials after the general election assuming I remain in office and will consider it carefully in accordance with the rules and guidance.
"I hope that is okay and we can meet to discuss other matters soon, hopefully on the 19th [of December]."
An email on 14 January appears to show Mr Jenrick was keen to get the decision passed quickly, a housing department official writing they needed confirmation "by 5pm" to "avoid any criticism that the decision was not received within office hours".
It is understood Boris Johnson considers the Westferry case "closed", according to a civil service letter shared on social media.
The letter, written by civil service boss Sir Mark Sedwill, is addressed to Labour's shadow communities secretary Steve Reed in response to his questions on what basis the housing secretary approved the Westferry development and what contact he had with the developer.
Mr Sedwill wrote Mr Jenrick had "set out a full and factual account" of his actions, adding: "In light of this account, the prime minister considers that the matter is closed."
Mr Johnson has previously stood by Mr Jenrick.
When asked previously if he had done the right thing, the prime minister replied: "As far as I know, of course he did."
And Mr Zahawi told Sky News: "All the details were discussed yesterday. Rob Jenrick's intention was to get more homes built in London and the rest of the country and that should be the focus, rightly so.
"I think the matter is considered to be over. This government has been more transparent on this than any previous government on any planning issue."
But the PM is now facing calls to sack the housing secretary.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said his position was "untenable".
"The public will be appalled at what looks like a clear abuse of power - Robert Jenrick must go and the Conservative Party must hand back this donation," she demanded.
Labour's Steve Reed said the documents "raise more questions than they answer".
He said: "The documents show Mr Jenrick rushed the decision through on the 14th January specifically so he could help Mr Desmond avoid £30m-£50m in a community levy that would have been spent on things like schools, youth clubs and clinics in one of the most deprived communities in the United Kingdom.
"It seems highly inappropriate that Mr Jenrick told the House that he closed down a conversation with Mr Desmond at the dinner and then the very next morning, there he is sending him very chummy text messages seeking to meet up.
"The documents make crystal clear that Robert Jenrick was trying to do favours for Richard Desmond by rushing this decision through the day before a community levy came into force."
In the Commons earlier on Wednesday, Mr Jenrick said: "Transparency matters, openness matters and settling this matter matters because I certainly don't want to be the subject of the innuendo and the false accusations that the Opposition are choosing to peddle."