Well, this will certainly breathe some new life into the Russia probe.
According to a new story from the Washington Post, while Donald Trump was still candidate Trump, through late 2015 to early 2016, his company was in talks with Russia to begin a huge Trump Tower in Moscow.
As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested that he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.
The developer, Felix Sater, predicted in a November 2015 email that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating — both one of the biggest residential projects in real estate history and Donald Trump’s election as president, according to two of the people with knowledge of the exchange.
There’s that name again.
Sater recently confided to friends that he and Trump could be looking at prison time. Could this be what he was talking about?
Sater wrote to Trump Organization Executive Vice President Michael Cohen, “something to the effect of, ‘Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?’ ” said one person briefed on the email exchange. Sater emigrated from what was then the Soviet Union when he was 6 and grew up in Brooklyn.
Trump never went to Moscow as Sater proposed. And although investors and Trump’s company signed a letter of intent, they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned at the end of January 2016, just before the presidential primaries began, several people familiar with the proposal said.
Nevertheless, the details of the deal, which have not previously been disclosed, provide evidence that Trump’s business was actively pursuing significant commercial interests in Russia at the same time he was campaigning to be president — and in a position to determine U.S.-Russia relations. The new details from the emails, which are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigators soon, also point to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid.
I’ll return to what I’ve said often from the beginning: Trump never intended to win. He was only building his brand. It was his goal to shake things up, wreck the process, maybe help out his pals on the left, along the way, and then go back to his life.
There is a caveat to this report, and it may make all the difference.
The plans for this project were presented by an unnamed investor, with licensing rights to use the Trump name. Michael Cohen acted as the negotiator for the project.
So the project was scrapped and Trump made no mention of it. That makes sense, as the controversy surrounding Trump and his love of Russia was beginning to ramp up, even before the DNC email dump that eventually led to what we see now with the Russia probe.
Trump’s interests in building in Moscow, however, are long-standing. He had attempted to build a Trump property for three decades, starting with a failed effort in 1987 to partner with the Soviet government on a hotel project.
“Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” he said in a 2007 court deposition.
“We will be in Moscow at some point,” he promised in the deposition.
Sater was involved in at least one of those previous efforts. In 2005, the Trump Organization gave his development company, the Bayrock Group, an exclusive one-year deal to attempt to build a Moscow Trump Tower. Sater located a site for the project — an abandoned pencil factory — and worked closely with Trump on the deal, which did not come to fruition.
Sater also went on to testify about the Trump children making trips to Moscow, at their dad’s request.
Sater’s Bayrock Group operated out of an office in Trump Tower, and he even carried cards billing himself as a “senior adviser to Donald Trump,” but once his legal troubles kicked in, Trump cut ties. In 2013, he said in a court deposition that he wouldn’t recognize Sater if he was sitting in the room with them.
Now, is this latest news of yet, another Russia connection for the Trump family a smoking gun?
Certainly not. The deal didn’t even go through.
What it shows, however, is a continuing effort to build ties with a political adversary.
To be honest, I don’t even think, for Trump’s part, it’s a political plot. I suspect his interests are very much about his bottom line. The problem is, however, in trusting Russia.
You add up all these little incidents, from this scrapped project to Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with the Russian attorney, hoping to get help from the Russia government to bring down Hillary Clinton, along with a host of shady characters in the Trump orbit, and it all becomes too much to simply write-off as a political witch hunt.