Mueller Wants Trump’s Business Records. What’s the Russia Connection?

For more than 30 years, Mr. Trump has repeatedly sought to conduct business in Russia. He traveled to Moscow in 1987 to explore building a hotel. He applied for his trademark in the country as early as 1996. And his children and associates have met with Russian developers and government officials on multiple occasions in search of joint ventures.

.. But the company says nothing has come of it.

There Was a Moscow Hotel Deal in the Works During the Campaign

.. Perhaps the closest Mr. Trump came to launching a real estate project in Russia was during the presidential campaign, when he signed a letter of intent in late 2015 for a Trump hotel to be built in Moscow. Ultimately, the deal never materialized.

In email exchanges with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater, a Russian émigré who had previously helped develop Trump SoHo in New York, talked about securing financing for the Moscow project from VTB, a major state-owned Russian bank under American sanctions. He also mused about how the deal, if supported by Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, would “fix relations between the countries by showing everyone that commerce & business are much better and more practical than politics.”

“I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Mr. Sater wrote in one of the emails.

.. Mr. Trump signed the letter of intent with Andrey Rozov, a developer of retail and residential projects in the Moscow region. If the deal went through, Mr. Trump would receive a $4 million upfront fee in exchange for licensing his name, and his company would manage the completed hotel.

.. By January 2016, the project seemed to have stalled. At one point, without success, Mr. Cohen emailed an aide to Mr. Putin seeking help jump-starting it.

.. Mr. Trump’s business opportunities in Russia got little traction until he took the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013.

.. The visit left an impression on Mr. Trump and had him contemplating future endeavors with the Agalarovs.

.. “I had a great weekend with you and your family,” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter in a message to Aras Agalarov. “You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next,” he wrote, before referring to Mr. Agalarov’s son, a pop star: “EMIN was WOW!”

In June 2016, a publicist for Emin Agalarov requested that Donald Trump Jr. meet with a Kremlin-connected lawyer. That meeting, at Trump Tower in New York, first reported by The New York Times last July, included other campaign officials and has been the subject of considerable scrutiny.

.. in a September 2015 interview on “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” he had made the Miss Universe pageant seem far more important.

“I called it my weekend in Moscow,” Mr. Trump said. “I was with the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top-of-the-government people. I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.”

.. Deutsche Bank, offered Mr. Trump more than $4 billion in loan commitments and potential bond offerings, a majority of which were completed, The Times reported last year.

.. the bank last year landed in legal trouble over Russian money laundering — paying more than $600 million in penalties to American and British regulators.

.. Some Deutsche Bank executives expect they will eventually have to produce records as part of Mr. Mueller’s inquiry

.. The bank has already been asked to turn over documents to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn about another client with a White House connection: the Kushner Companies

.. Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire oligarch, paid $95 million for Mr. Trump’s oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, Fla

.. Mr. Trump sold the house less than four years after buying it for about $41 million. Mr. Rybolovlev paid the markup despite buying the property in 2008, at the height of the housing crisis. And Mr. Trump had made few improvements to the mansion, which reportedly had a mold problem.

.. Mr. Rybolovlev, moreover, never lived in the property.

.. At the time of the sale, Mr. Trump was facing financial pressure. He potentially owed Deutsche Bank $40 million after not paying off a loan for his Chicago hotel and tower.

.. James Dodson recounted a conversation he had had with Eric Trump in 2013 on a newly opened Trump golf course in Charlotte, N.C. Mr. Dodson said he had asked Mr. Trump about the company’s sources of funds, and Mr. Trump told him, “We have pretty much all the money we need from investors in Russia.”

.. In 2008, at a real estate conference in New York, Donald Trump Jr. said: “In terms of high-end product influx into the U.S., Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets, say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity

One woman’s account of clandestine meetings, financial transactions, and legal pacts designed to hide an extramarital affair.

.. At the time of the party, Trump had been married to the Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years; their son, Barron, was a few months old. Trump seemed uninhibited by his new family obligations. McDougal later wrote that Trump “immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me – telling me how beautiful I was, etc. It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow, he was all over you – I think you could be his next wife.’ ”

.. Purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call “catch and kill.” This is a favorite tactic of the C.E.O. and chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, who describes the President as “a personal friend.”

.. Six former A.M.I. employees told me that Pecker routinely makes catch-and-kill arrangements like the one reached with McDougal. “We had stories and we bought them knowing full well they were never going to run,”

.. George said that Pecker protected Trump. “Pecker really considered him a friend,” George told me. “We never printed a word about Trump without his approval.”

.. Pecker also used the unpublished stories as “leverage” over some celebrities in order to pressure them to pose for his magazines or feed him stories. Several former employees said that these celebrities included Arnold Schwarzenegger, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, and Tiger Woods.

.. McDougal wrote that Trump impressed her. “I was so nervous! I was into his intelligence + charm. Such a polite man,” she wrote.

..  All three women say that they were escorted to a bungalow at the hotel by a Trump bodyguard, whom two of the women have identified as Keith Schiller.

.. Over the course of the affair, Trump flew McDougal to public events across the country but hid the fact that he paid for her travel. “No paper trails for him,” she wrote. “In fact, every time I flew to meet him, I booked/paid for flight + hotel + he reimbursed me.”

.. In July, 2006, McDougal joined Trump at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, at the Edgewood Resort, on Lake Tahoe. At a party there, she and Trump sat in a booth with the New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and Trump told her that Brees had recognized her, remarking, “Baby, you’re popular.”

.. During the Lake Tahoe tournament, McDougal and Trump had sex, she wrote. He also allegedly began a sexual relationship with Clifford at the event.

.. Another adult-film actress, whose screen name is Alana Evans, claimed that Trump invited her to join them in his hotel room that weekend. A third adult-film performer, known as Jessica Drake, alleged that Trump asked her to his hotel room

.. During Trump’s relationship with McDougal, she wrote, he introduced her to members of his family and took her to his private residences. At a January, 2007, launch party in Los Angeles for Trump’s now-defunct liquor brand, Trump Vodka, McDougal, who was photographed entering the event, recalled sitting at a table with Kim Kardashian, Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Trump, Jr.,’s wife, Vanessa, who was pregnant. 

.. At one point, Trump held a party for “The Apprentice” at the Playboy Mansion, and McDougal worked as a costumed Playboy bunny. “We took pics together, alone + with his family,” McDougal wrote. She recalled that Trump said he had asked his son Eric “who he thought was the most beautiful girl here + Eric pointed me. Mr. T said ‘He has great taste’ + we laughed!”

.. In Trump Tower, McDougal wrote, Trump pointed out Melania’s separate bedroom. He “said she liked her space,” McDougal wrote, “to read or be alone.”

.. McDougal’s account, like those of Clifford and other women who have described Trump’s advances, conveys a man preoccupied with his image. McDougal recalled that Trump would often send her articles about him or his daughter, as well as signed books and sun visors from his golf courses.

.. Trump also promised to buy McDougal an apartment in New York as a Christmas present. Clifford, likewise, said that Trump promised to buy her a condo in Tampa. For Trump, showing off real estate and other branded products was sometimes a prelude to sexual advances.

.. The decision was reinforced by a series of comments Trump made that McDougal found disrespectful, according to several of her friends. When she raised her concern about her mother’s disapproval to Trump, he replied, “What, that old hag?” (McDougal, hurt, pointed out that Trump and her mother were close in age.)

.. friend mentioned a relationship she had had with an African-American man. According to multiple sources, Trump remarked that the friend liked “the big black dick” and began commenting on her attractiveness and breast size. The interactions angered the friend and deeply offended McDougal.

..Crawford said, referring to Trump. “I said, ‘You know, if you had a physical relationship with him, that could be worth something about now.’ And I looked at her and she had that guilty look on her face.”

 

Trump Breaks With Bannon, Saying He Has ‘Lost His Mind’

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Mr. Trump said in the statement. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

Mr. Trump berated Mr. Bannon for the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama and said the former adviser did not represent his base but was “only in it for himself.” Rather than supporting the president’s agenda to “make America great again,” Mr. Bannon was “simply seeking to burn it all down,” Mr. Trump said.

.. “Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was,” he added. “It is the only thing he does well.

.. Mr. Bannon had said he planned to back a slew of candidates in Republican primaries this year to take down establishment incumbents he saw as insufficiently conservative, even if it clashed with Mr. Trump’s endorsements.

That did not seem to bother Mr. Trump and indeed struck many as a way for the president to keep Mr. Bannon as an outside hammer pressuring Republican lawmakers to stay in line.

.. But accusing the president’s eldest son of treason crossed the line, even for an inner circle of aides who regularly fought and privately disparaged each other.

.. The book presents Mr. Trump as an ill-informed and thoroughly unserious candidate and president, engaged mainly in satisfying his own ego. It reports that early in the campaign, one aide, Sam Nunberg, was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” it quoted Mr. Nunberg as saying, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

.. According to the book, neither Mr. Trump nor his wife, Melania Trump, nor many of his aides actually expected to win the election in November 2016 and indeed did not really want to.

.. It describes a distraught Mrs. Trump as being in tears on election night, not out of joy, and said the new president and first lady were fighting on Inauguration Day.

 Comments:

Sarah Sandberg

Toronto 5 hours ago

It seems like the wheels are falling of the bus that is the Trump presidency. It is also interesting to note that anyone who leaves his administration and causes Trump to get negative coverage, was only a minor player.

Bannon – Minor player with a role that required the highest level of security clearance
Papadopoulous – Minor unpaid player who somehow managed to get photographed in a meeting with Trump
Flynn – Minor player with the administration a short time
Manafort – Minor Manager of his whole campaign.

I wonder who the major players are? Will Kushner be a minor player if/when he leaves?

NM

Poetic justice for both Trump and Bannon.
Trump wanted the counsel and company of an anarchist – well, no surprise, he got endless chaos.
Bannon wanted a loose cannon in our highest office – well, now it was turned on him.

Loren C

San Francisco 5 hours ago

Notice how Trump never refutes anything Bannon says; instead he just ridicules and attempts to minimize the man he previously clearly embraced as his closest advisor. Notice also that all of Trump’s other closest advisors and spokespersons, except his family members, are now gone and have been excommunicated (Manafort, Flynn, Priebus), and in every case Trump has tried, unsuccessfully, to distance himself from them as if they never had anything to do with his campaign. See a pattern?