Cabinet members come and go, but the pee-tape story persists.
The infamous allegation that Donald Trump was secretly taped watching prostitutes pee on each other in a hotel room in Moscow first emerged from Christopher Steele’s dossier, and it remains far from confirmed. Trump himself has forcefully denied it, citing his well-known fear of germs, and the president’s supporters have called the whole dossier bogus. Yet some parts of the document have held up to over a year’s worth of scrutiny, and its most salacious detail persists, never far out of reach from any conversation online.
Now, the release of former FBI Director Jim Comey’s memos all but guarantees it won’t go away anytime soon. That’s because according to Comey, Trump says he didn’t spend the night in a hotel in Moscow on that trip. But publicly available details of his itinerary don't square with that assertion.
In Comey’s version of their private conversations, Trump says he couldn’t have been secretly filmed in his hotel room watching what Trump referred to as the “golden showers thing” because he didn’t stay overnight while attending the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Russia. Instead, Trump claims he arrived on the morning of the event, and left soon after it ended in the early hours of the next morning.
But contemporaneous social media posts and a meticulous hour-by-hour timeline of that weekend pulled together by Bloomberg last year suggest Trump arrived in Moscow Friday, Nov. 8, in the daytime, then returned to New York sometime on Sunday, Nov 10.
“He said he had spoken to people who had been on the Miss Universe trip with him and they had reminded him that he didn’t stay over night in Russia for that,” Comey wrote. “He said he arrived in the morning, did events, then showered and dressed for the pageant at the hotel (he didn’t say the hotel name) and left for the pageant. Afterwards, he returned only to get his things because they departed for New York that same night.”
But publicly available social media posts suggest that Trump arrived in Moscow on Friday during daylight hours, and not Saturday morning.
On Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, Trump attended a birthday tribute to the evangelist Billy Graham in Asheville, North Carolina, then jetted off to New York at 9:57 that evening, according to Bloomberg, which cites Federal Aviation Administration plane travel records.
According to The New York Times, Trump then borrowed his friend and business partner Phil Ruffin’s Global 5000 private jet for the trip to Russia.
Trump seems to have popped up in Moscow on Friday, Nov. 8, sometime before sunset. During the trip, he reportedly attended a dinner at Moscow’s swanky Nobu Moscow. The restaurant itself posted a picture of him on Facebook on Friday, Nov 8, taken outside in daylight.
In that picture, Trump poses alongside Emin Agalarov, the young pop star from Azerbaijan who helped Trump bring the beauty pageant to Moscow. Emin, on his own Instragram, posted the same picture that Friday.
Rob Goldstone, then Emin’s manager, also posted about the Nobu dinner Friday, according to Wired. That original post, however, appears to have since been removed. Goldstone reportedly wrote: “At Nobu about to welcome Donald Trump to Moscow for his first Miss Universe event in Russia.”
The next day, Emin posted a picture of himself shooting a music video with Trump.
Trump’s own bodyguard reportedly testified before Congress in November 2017 that after a meeting in the morning before the pageant kicked off Saturday night, “a Russian participant” offered to send five women to Trump’s hotel room.
Keith Schiller reportedly testified that he immediately rejected the offer, and that he stood guard outside Trump’s hotel room door after Trump went to bed for the night. He told investigators he eventually left to go to sleep himself, according to both NBC and the Times.
Later in a statement to NBC, Schiller’s lawyer said: “The versions of Mr. Schiller’s testimony being leaked to the press are blatantly false and misleading.”
Trump has been photographed attending the pageant’s late-night afterparty. An American film industry promoter named Bob Van Ronkel has also told VICE News that he personally saw Trump at the vodka-soaked event — and has sent along pictures to prove it.
The point that everyone seems to agree on is that Trump then returned to New York City sometime on Sunday, Nov. 10.
At 9:44 p.m. Sunday evening, Eastern time, Trump tweeted: “I just got back from Russia-learned lots & lots. Moscow is a very interesting and amazing place! U.S. MUST BE VERY SMART AND VERY STRATEGIC.”
Comey has said that Trump was fixated on rebutting the claim in the dossier about the pee tape, saying it disturbed his wife, Melania.
Comey, for the record, has said he’s not sure whether it’s true or false.
“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” Comey recently told ABC news. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
Cover image: This combination photo shows President Donald Trump speaking during a roundtable discussion on tax policy in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on April 5, 2018, left, and former FBI director James Comey speaking during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, left, and Andrew Harnik)