Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump are in the hot seat over Trump Tower Moscow
As Bloomberg reports, the latest revelations from former Trump attorney Michael Cohen only tend to solidify the idea that the Russians held Kompromat on Donald Trump. It wasn’t just that Trump was in the midst of making a deal to put his name on the tallest building in Moscow—with a $50 million penthouse reserved for Vladimir Putin—at the same time he was running for president. It was that the Russians knew that Trump was trying to make this deal, at the same time he was denying trying to make any deal. The difference between what Trump was saying in public, and what he was doing in private, made Trump subject to leverage, no matter what he did or didn’t pay for in a Moscow hotel room.
But it’s not just Donald Trump the elder who has trouble aligning his words with reality. As NPR reports, Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony before the Senate didn’t admit that negotiations with Russia were still ongoing in 2016. Or even 2015.
Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017 that although there had been negotiations surrounding a prospective Trump Tower in Moscow, they concluded without result “at the end” of 2014.
Just as with that other Donald Trump, Junior painted the attempts to create a Trump Tower Moscow as something that had ended well before voting began in the primaries, and even before Trump glided down the golden escalator to spread a message of racism and division. It’s just one of the reasons that Yahoo News is reporting that both Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump are under examination by the special counsel’s office.
Multiple sources have confirmed to Yahoo News that the president’s elder daughter, Ivanka, who is now a top White House adviser, and his eldest son, Don Jr., were also working to make Trump Tower Moscow a reality.
Those efforts include not just being aware of Cohen’s ongoing negotiations, but also working directly with Russian oligarchs to secure funding a property for what would have been the tallest building in Moscow—and possibly the world.
While Trump and his current legal team have tried to paint the actions of his former lawyer as a minor event going on mostly without Trump’s knowledge, the effort to plant the Trump “T” in Moscow was an effort that went back decades. As The Atlantic reported in 2017, Donald Trump Sr. and Ivana Trump went to Moscow as early as 1987, trying to make a deal when the Soviet Union was still the Soviet Union. That effort foundered, as did another attempt in 1996, and one in 2008.
But the effort that was still going on through 2016—and possibly after—was a family affair that had been underway for years. It was certainly underway by the time Trump visited Moscow in 2013, where he was already partnered with real estate moguls Aras and Emin Agalarov. Trump claimed at that time that Agalarov was going to partner with him in building a tower in Moscow. Trump returned from that trip bragging about his ability to “make deals with those people” when “Obama can’t.” That trip became an ongoing effort to create Trump Tower Moscow, one that ultimately involved signing a letter of intent with another Russian billionaire, Andrey Rozov, to create what could have been the tallest building in the world. That letter of intent, brokered on the Moscow end by long-time Trump associate Felix Sater and on the New York end by Michael Cohen, was signed by Trump.
While the letter of intent wasn’t disclosed during the campaign, it was widely reported in 2017. However, reporting in sources at the time indicated that the deal was “dead” by January 2016. They reported it that way, because that’s what Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Michael Cohen were saying. Only it wasn’t true. Negotiations to build a Trump property in Moscow continued even as Trump was solidifying his position as the Republican nominee. When the negotiations ended, if they ever did, remains unclear.
What is clear is that both Don Jr. and Ivanka were involved with and aware of the deal well after Trump Jr. testified that the whole affair was over. Not only were they working directly with the Agalarovs—one reason that Don Jr. wasn’t surprised by the emails offering to set up the Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives—but the plea deal with Cohen also indicates that Cohen “briefed family members” about his negotiations.
And, just as with Donald Trump, sources connected to Junior and Ivanka are calling Cohen a liar … while agreeing with him.
“Michael was looking at that deal. Don and Ivanka knew about it and Don testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was peripherally aware of it,” the source said, adding, “That’s why we’re so perplexed Cohen would lie about briefing them, because no one’s ever disputed that they knew he was looking at it.”
Cohen “lied” about briefing them … but they knew. Just as Trump claimed that Cohen “lied” about the timing of the deal, before his own legal team came forward to say that Trump’s recollection “agreed” with Cohen’s dates.
It seems clear that the Trump Tower Moscow deal was in the works for years and had reached the point where, at about the same time he entered the presidential contest, Trump signed a letter of intent to go forward with the plans. With Sater coordinating with Rozov and the Agalarovs in Moscow, and Cohen, Trump Jr., and Ivanka all working on the deal from the US side, the intention seems to have been to provide a turn-key arrangement as soon as Trump lost the election. That arrangement would see Trump lending his name to a massive, high-prestige structure in a deal that would hand him millions up front, and hundreds of millions more when the project was complete.
But the fact that there was a deal hanging out there through the election meant that Russia not only had leverage over Trump in the form of an arrangement that could provide him with a genuine, and much needed, influx of cash, Trump and Russia shared a secret. When Trump was out there saying how nice it would be to get along with Vladimir Putin, when he was changing the Republican platform to be more Russia friendly, when he was denying that Russia was involved in hacking DNC emails—Trump had hundreds of millions of reasons to support Russia and deny the truth.
Still, until he handed his paperwork in to Mueller this week, it seems that Trump hasn’t lied about the Trump Tower Moscow deal under oath. But Cohen did. And Donald Trump Jr. did.
Donald Trump may need to stay near a phone. Robert Mueller has a habit of handing out indictments on Friday afternoons.