- Trump continued to pursue the Tower deal for a year after he declared himself a candidate for president. “By early November 2015, Trump and a Russia-based developer signed a Letter of Intent laying out the main terms of a licensing deal,” the Senate Intelligence Committee found. Trump’s representatives directly lobbied aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2016. Yet repeatedly during the 2016 campaign, Trump falsely stated that he had no business with Russia—perhaps most notably in his second presidential debate against Hillary Clinton, in October 2016.
- Early in 2016, President Putin ordered an influence operation to “harm the Clinton Campaign, tarnish an expected Clinton presidential administration, help the Trump Campaign after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, and undermine the U.S. democratic process.” Again, that’s from the Senate Intelligence Committee report.
Felix Sater argued that a skyscraper in Moscow bearing Donald Trump’s name could be the key to putting the real-estate tycoon in the White House.
“Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater, a Moscow-born businessman, wrote to Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, on Nov. 3, 2015, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
“Putin gets on stage with Donald for a ribbon cutting for Trump Moscow, and Donald owns the republican nomination. And possibly beats Hillary and our boy is in,” wrote Sater, a former undercover asset to the FBI, who was twice convicted of felonies in the 1990s.
Throughout his campaign, Trump repeatedly denied having any business interests in Russia, claiming in July 2016 that “the closest I came to Russia” was a Palm Beach home he sold to one of the country’s billionaires. “I have nothing to do with Russia,” he said.
It was a lie of omission. Trump signed a letter of intent with a Russian firm to build Trump Tower Moscow on Oct. 28, 2015, well after he began his campaign for president — a deal that promised him $4 million at the building’s groundbreaking and a percentage of its future revenue.
Trump had sought to build a Trump Tower in Moscow for years, even tweeting about the idea in 2013. Around September 2015, four months into Trump’s presidential campaign, Sater approached Cohen with a fresh proposal. Sater had previously helped Trump with development deals, including ventures in Russia, and at one point even had an office in Trump Tower in New York on the same floor as the billionaire
Sater was also pursuing financing for the project from a Russian bank operating under U.S. sanctions, Genbank. The bank was owned by Yevgeny Dvoskin, who in 2000 was deported from the U.S. after being convicted on tax fraud and remained under U.S. indictment for stock fraud.
In November 2015, after Trump signed the letter-of-intent for the tower, a Russian named Lana Erchova emailed Ivanka Trump on behalf of her then-husband, Dmitry Klokov, who was at the time an official at a large Russian electricity company. Erchova offered her husband’s assistance to the campaign, describing him as someone close to Putin who had helped the Russian president win election.
Ivanka Trump, one of Trump’s daughters, forwarded the email to Cohen, who conducted an Internet search on Klokov and thought incorrectly that he was a former Olympic weightlifter. Klokov and Cohen talked on the phone and exchanged emails. The Russian told Cohen he could offer the Trump campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.”
He recommended that Cohen travel to Russia in order to facilitate a future meeting between Trump and someone Klokov called “our person of interest.” Mueller’s team was unable to verify an email saying that person was Putin.
Klokov added in a “second email to Cohen that, if publicized well, such a meeting could have ‘phenomenal impact in a business dimension’ and that the ‘person of interest[’s]’ ‘most important support’ could have significant ramifications for the ‘level of projects and their capacity,’” Mueller wrote.
Ultimately, Mueller didn’t find evidence Cohen ever brought Klokov’s offer of assistance to the Trump campaign. Cohen wound up sticking with Sater, who was separately pursuing a meeting between Trump and Putin through his own Russian contacts. Cohen eventually tried to make contact with the Kremlin himself, sending a letter to the general email address for the Russian government’s press secretary.
Cohen told Congress and Mueller’s investigators that he didn’t recall receiving a response to his email to the Kremlin and that he decided to stop work on the Moscow project in January 2016. Those statements were lies, which Cohen later said he told to stay with the “party line” and help put an end to Mueller’s probe.
In fact, Cohen received a response from a personal assistant to Putin’s press secretary on Jan. 20, 2016, and Cohen spoke to her by phone for 20 minutes.