The door might be officially closed on the curious saga once known as the “pee tape,” according to the Mueller report.
For those not familiar with the origins of the pee tape speculation, BuzzFeed News published the now-infamous “Steele dossier” in January 2017, which has fueled endless rumors concerning Donald Trump, pee, and Russian sex workers. That dossier, written by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, alleged that Trump hired sex workers to urinate on a bed in a hotel room in Moscow where President Barack Obama had once slept.
At the time, Trump was in Russia for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, and Russia supposedly had a videotape of the incident. Russian officials even used it to blackmail Trump, according to the dossier.
As it turns out, any “compromising tape” remains unverified, according to a footnote on page 27 and 28 of Mueller’s 448-page report, released Thursday by Attorney General William Barr.
But it appears members of Trump’s circle were at one point very much trying to determine whether any evidence existed that could substantiate the tape's existence. On Oct. 30, 2016 — just days before Trump was elected — Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney, received a text from a Giorgi Rtskhiladze, a Russian businessman, that read: “Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know…”
Neither urine nor sex workers are mentioned in the body of the report. But Mueller’s team wrote that Rtskhiladze’s comment refers to rumors of compromising tapes in the possession of the Russian real estate company Crocus Group, which co-hosted the pageant that year. Rtskhiladze told investigators that he was told the tapes were fake — but he never told Cohen, according to the report.
The text conversation also occurred long before the public was aware of the rumor’s existence, and it’s unclear why Rtskhiladze would’ve told Cohen he stopped “flow of tapes” he didn’t believe to be real.
Nonetheless, this isn’t the first time the pee tape’s existence has been disputed. Former FBI Director James Comey — also a subject of the report, concerning allegations surrounding obstruction of justice after Trump sacked him — wrote in his book that Trump was deeply concerned about the allegations in the apparently nonexistent tapes and wanted them investigated.
“He just rolled on, unprompted, explaining why it couldn’t possibly be true, ending by saying he was thinking of asking me to investigate the allegation to prove it was a lie. I said it was up to him,” Comey wrote in his 2018 memoir, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.”
Trump also asked whether the intelligence community could publicly refute the allegations in the Steele report, according to the Mueller report.
Here’s the full footnote:
Comey's briefing included the Steele reporting's unverified allegation that the Russians had compromising tapes of the President involving conduct when he was a private citizen during a 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant. During the 2016 presidential campaign, a similar claim may have reached candidate Trump. On October 30, 20I6, Michael Cohen received a text from Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze that said, "Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there's anything else. Just so you know ….” Rtskhiladze said "tapes" referred to compromising tapes of Trump rumored to be held by persons associated with the Russian real estate conglomerate Crocus Group, which had helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia. Cohen said he spoke to Trump about the issue after receiving the texts from Rtskhiladze. Rtskhiladze said he was told the tapes were fake, but he did not communicate that to Cohen.
Cover image: President Donald Trump gestures while speaking at a Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)