In a story broken tonight by The Washington Post, Donald Trump was in negotiations with Russian officials to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during his presidential campaign in 2015. The deal apparently fell through only shortly before the beginning of the primary races in 2016.
According to WaPo, Trump and various representatives of the Trump Organization were actively pursuing a real estate deal in Moscow. One of the named individuals, Felix Sater, was a point person in the negotiations, which included having Russian President Vladimir Putin speak favorably about Trump. Putin began doing so in at the end of 2015. Regarding Trump, Putin said “He says he wants to move to another, closer level of relations. Can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome that.” The article does state that while these remarks came shortly after Sater suggested that the Russian President would speak favorably about Trump, there is no indication that the two are related.
Sater also sent various emails to Trump associate and attorney Michael Cohen, one of which read “Can you believe that two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a President?” These emails are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigations are said to “point to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid.”
In July 2016 Trump tweeted out that “for the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia” followed the next day by a statement “I have nothing to do with Russia.” Trump also denies knowing Felix Sater, although he was once given office space in the Trump Organization, stating in a 2013 court deposition “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”
Trump’s statements may be technically accurate, as in depending on what the meaning of “is” is, but it certainly raises serious questions about his involvement with a foreign entity hostile to U.S. interests during a time when he was in a position to sway public opinion. And he definitely misled American voters about the extent of his organization’s dealings with Moscow.
Needless to say, attorneys for Sater, Cohen, and others involved have all refused to comment on the story. But as the allegations of impropriety, at best, between Trump associates and Russia, continue to pile up, it is clear that this will remain an albatross around the neck of the Trump presidency for some time to come.