The Washington Post has a piece up tonight reporting that during the 2016 campaign Donald Trump was trying to put together a deal to build a Trump Tower Moscow. I would not be doing right by TPM’s crack reporting staff if I didn’t note that TPM’s Sam Thielman reported these details in this piece on August 1st. The Times was the first to reference this deal in February, though only obliquely. But in a series of conversations with Thielman, Sater provided considerably more detail about this key project.
From Thielman’s August 1st piece …
“My last Moscow deal [for the Trump Organization] was in October of 2015,” Sater recalled. “It didn’t go through because obviously he became President.” Sater had told the New York Times that he was working on the deal that fall, but over the course of several conversations with TPM, he gave a slightly more detailed timeline. “Once the campaign was really going-going, it was obvious there were going to be no deals internationally,” Sater said. “We were still working on it, doing something with it, November-December.”
That deal was for “The Trump Tower, to develop in Moscow.” It was a similar proposition to the one Trump himself tried to broker with the Agalarovs, a family of vastly wealthy Russian oligarchs who brought Miss Universe 2013 to Moscow and were behind the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting between the President’s oldest son and an attorney said to work for the Russian government.
Sater said he never worked with the Agalarovs on a Moscow deal for Trump: “I don’t work with them and I’ve never worked with them.” When asked who he was working with, Sater chuckled. “A couple of people I’d like to continue working with, and that’s why I don’t want their names in the newspaper. People say, ‘I care about you and love you but why do I need my name in the press?’”
The Post doesn’t reference the Times or TPM. But it does add two important new details. The first is that Michael Cohen was the negotiator on the Trump Organization’s side of the detail. This is not a surprise. It makes sense. Sater and Cohen show up together again and again through the Russia story. And as Thielman was first to report in July, the two knew each other as kids, having a personal relationship long before they both became key business associates of Donald Trump. (Both men grew up in the Russia/Ukrainian emigre world of Brighton Beach and surrounding areas, though Cohen was born in the US.) It was, remember, Cohen and Sater who had that meeting in February of this year where that Ukrainian parliamentarian pitched his ‘peace plan’ for Ukraine and handed over a dossier of documents which Cohen then hand delivered to Mike Flynn at the White House.
Again, it makes perfect sense that Cohen would be the contact in the Trump Organization. But we didn’t know that, at least not the best of my knowledge. As I’ve explained before, Cohen was brought into the Trump Organization because he was conduit for money from the countries of the former Soviet Union. It makes sense.
The other detail is that this information comes from what appear to be subpoenaed Trump Organization emails which the Post says “which are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigators soon.”
As we noted when we reported this a month ago, the fact that Trump was actively trying to secure a deal to build a major development in Moscow during the early months of the campaign is a big, big deal. This was happening months before Russia became a charged campaign issue in the late summer of 2016. But it was while Trump was making various public comments praising Putin and Putin was, on a more limited basis, doing the same in return. With these emails now in the process of being handed over to investigators we are likely to get much more detail not only about on-going communications between Trump Organization officials and people in Russia because on-going business negotiations. The money negotiations were going through Michael Cohen at the same time he was acting as a key spokesman for Trump’s campaign.