Donald Trump’s company was pursuing a deal to build a huge Trump Tower in Moscow at the time he was campaigning to be the U.S. president, the Washington Post reported Sunday. The revelation is likely to bring Trump’s repeated denials of links to Russia under even greater scrutiny.
The Post’s report, which cited people familiar with the proposed deal and records viewed by Trump Organization attorneys, revealed for the first time that:
- The Trump Organization and investors signed a letter of intent to pursue a massive residential development in Moscow. Under a licensing agreement, the proposed project would bear Trump’s name.
- A Russian-born real estate developer, Felix Sater, urged Trump to come to Moscow to promote the project and claimed he could get Russian President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump. Sater has served time in jail for attacking a man in a bar with a margarita glass and was later convicted for his involvement in a stock scam.
- Discussions about the development began in earnest in September 2015. But the project was abandoned in January 2016 due to a lack of land and permits, before the question of Trump’s business ties to Russia became a big issue on the campaign trail.
The revelation of the Trump Organization’s plans for the Moscow development comes amid investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees into whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. election. Those investigations are reportedly looking into possible broader financial crimes by Trump and his associates.
In July 2016, when he’d clinched the GOP nomination and the question of his potential ties to Russia were coming under scrutiny, Trump tweeted: “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.” The following day he told a news conference that he had “nothing to do with Russia,” not mentioning that his company had been pursuing a major project in Moscow just months earlier.
The Post reported that the details from the emails at the heart of its story would be handed to congressional investigators looking into Trump’s Russian links. The newspaper reported that the emails pointed to “the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid.”
Both Trump and the Russian government have repeatedly denied any collusion. But fierce ongoing scrutiny of the issue has brought to light a number of contacts, including some involving members of Trump’s own family.
Last month, it was revealed that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., held a meeting with Trump’s son-in-law and campaign aide Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian government lawyer. Trump Jr. was told the Russian could provide “information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton]” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”
The White House and Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, both declined to comment for the Post’s story.