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Trump-Russia business ties and financial dealings

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Donald Trump Russia
Emin
Agalarov, Donald Trump and Aras Agalarov attend the red carpet at
Miss Universe Pageant Competition 2013 on November 9, 2013 in
Moscow, Russia.

Victor Boyko/Getty
Images


  • President Donald Trump has often claimed he has “nothing to
    do with Russia,” but that’s far from the truth. 
  • Trump’s efforts to lay down his name in the Russian capital
    stretch back more than 30 years. 
  • According to Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen,
    the president’s most recent attempt to break ground in Moscow was

    a drawn-out process that lasted well into the 2016 presidential
    campaign season

President Donald Trump is adamant that he has no financial
interests in Russia.

“Russia has never tried to use leverage over me,” he
tweeted in January 2017. “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO
DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

But a glimpse at his actions over the last few decades
paints a quite different picture, one that shows a concerted
effort by the real-estate mogul to lay a foundation for the Trump
name in the heart of Moscow.

Trump’s business ties to Russia jumped back into the
spotlight this week, after his former longtime lawyer, Michael
Cohen, admitted that he lied to Congress about the extent of the
Trump Organization’s push to open a Trump Tower in Moscow during
the 2016 election.

Prosecutors said Cohen “discussed the status and progress
of the Moscow Project” with Trump “on more than the three
occasions Cohen claimed” to the Senate Intelligence Committee
last year and that “he briefed family members” of Trump within
the Trump Organization about it.

They also said Cohen admitted to pursuing the deal as late
as June 2016, after Trump became the presumptive Republican
presidential nominee.

After Cohen’s stunning revelations about the timeline of
discussions on building Trump Tower in Moscow, Trump tweeted that
he “lightly looked” at “doing a building somewhere in Russia.”
But the president added that he “didn’t do the project” and
claimed he made no verbal or financial commitments. The defunct
Moscow project is just the latest in a long history of the
president trying — and failing — to make his mark in the Russian
capital.

Here’s a rundown of Trump’s attempted business dealings in
Russia:

  • Trump’s interest in doing business in Russia was first piqued
    in 1986, when he met the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin and they
    began discussing building a “large luxury hotel across the street
    from the Kremlin in partnership with the Soviet government,” as
    Trump recounted in his 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal.”
  • Trump traveled to Russia in 1987 to survey potential
    locations for his hotel as landmark
    policies like perestroika and glasnost
    made the Soviet Union
    more open to foreign investments.
  • Trump
    in 1988 said
    the hotel plan failed because “in the Soviet
    Union, you don’t own anything. It’s hard to conjure up spending
    hundreds of millions of dollars on something and not
    own.”
  • Trump went back to Russia in 1996 and announced a plan to
    invest $250 million in Russian real estate and slap his name on
    two luxury residential buildings. 
  • Trump boasted about his plan when he met the Russian
    politician Aleksandr Lebed in New York in 1997, telling Lebed,
    “We are actually looking at something in Moscow right now …
    Only quality stuff. And we’re working with the local
    government, the mayor of Moscow, and the mayor’s people. So
    far, they’ve been very responsive …” The plan never came to
    fruition.
  • But that wasn’t the end of Trump’s connection to Russian
    money. According to The Washington Post, the
    real estate mogul began seeing significant returns from Russian
    investments in US properties bearing the Trump name in the
    2000s.
  • A Reuters investigation last
    year found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports
    or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of
    property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern
    Florida, for instance.
  • Reuters noted that its tally of Russian investors may be
    conservative. At least 703 — or about one-third — of the owners
    of the 2,044 units in the seven Trump buildings are limited
    liability companies, or LLCs, which have the ability to hide
    the identity of a property’s true owner.
  • In the mid-2000s, the Trump Organization partnered with a
    company called the Bayrock Group, contracting it to pursue a
    development deal in Moscow. This effort was led by the
    Russian-born businessman Felix Sater, who’s become
    a key figure in Mueller’s investigation
    and Cohen’s plea
    deal.
  • In 2005,
    Sater found a former pencil factory
    he thought could be
    converted into a high-end skyscraper, and was in discussions
    with Russian investors about it.

    The deal
    ultimately fell through, but Sater continued to maintain a
    relationship with the Trump Organization. 
  • At a real estate conference in 2008, Donald Trump Jr.
    discussed the family’s attempts to break into the Russian
    business world. “As much as we want to take our business over
    there, Russia is just a different world,”
    he said at the time
    . “It is a question of who knows who,
    whose brother is paying off who…It really is a scary
    place.”

    Trump Jr. at that point had traveled to
    Russia a number of times, including a 2006 visit with Sater his
    sister, Ivanka Trump, and Sater.
  • At the 2008 conference, Trump Jr. also said, “Russians
    make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our
    assets.” He explained that despite the difficulties his family
    had in trying to build in Russia they were still determined to
    keep pushing for it. In the 18 months prior to the conference,
    Trump Jr. made six trips to Russia.
  • In 2013, Trump traveled to Moscow for the Miss Universe
    pageant. During the visit, he said, “I have plans for the
    establishment of business in Russia. Now, I am in talks with
    several Russian companies to establish this skyscraper.”
  • In 2015 and 2016, Cohen and Sater teamed up in an attempt
    to put up a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen said discussions on
    the plan lasted until June 2016, which was after Trump had
    clinched the GOP nomination for president.
  • Cohen was in touch with the office of Russian President
    Vladimir Putin’s press secretary over the matter, which
    reportedly included a plan to offer Putin a
    $50 million penthouse
    in the tower. Those talks fell
    through as well and the plan eventually
    crumbled.  
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