During an unprecedented off-the-rails press conference Wednesday, Donald Trump fielded several questions about his business ties with Russia, but the candidate never answered the essential question — whether Russian business entities are invested in Trump or his projects.
He repeatedly said that he has “nothing to do with Russia,” despite several different variations on the questions from the journalists present at the Trump resort in Doral, Florida.
In the first question about Trump’s business ties with Russia, a reporter asked if he had “any major investments” in Russia.
“None, none,” Trump responded.
He was then asked why he won’t release his tax returns.
“Because it’s under audit,” he replied. “But zero, I mean, I will tell you right now. Zero. I have nothing to do with Russia.”
Trump mentioned that he’s released other documents related to his business, noting that he doesn’t have any investments in Russia.
“I’ve released my papers. 104 pages of documents. I built an unbelievable company, tremendous cash, tremendous company, some of the great assets of the world. You’ve seen it. You were all very disappointed when you saw it actually, but that’s okay. Far greater than anybody ever thought. I have a great company. I built an unbelievable company,” he said. “But if you look there, you’ll see there’s nothing in Russia.”
Later on, a reporter asked whether Russian businesses have any interests in Trump.
“You say that you have no business in Russia. Can you say unequivocally that Russia has no business with you?” the reporter asked.
“No, I have nothing to do with Russia,” Trump said, throwing his arms up.
“How many times do I have to say it? Are you a smart man? I have nothing to do with Russia,” he continued. “What do I have to do with Russia?”
He then detailed one small real estate transaction with a Russian man.
“The closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida,” Trump explained. “Palm Beach is a very expensive place. There was a man who went bankrupt, and I bought the house for $40 million, and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million, including brokerage commissions.”
Then, when a reporter began to ask, “Can you say unequivocally…” Trump cut him off to respond.
“Of course I can. I told you. Other than normal stuff — I buy a house, if I sell it to a Russian. I have nothing to do with Russia,” Trump said, again throwing his arms out. “I said that Putin has much better leadership qualities than Obama, but who doesn’t know that?”
Trump then fielded a question about whether there are any “oligarchs who have investments in the Trump Organization.”
“Of course not, I own the Trump Organization,” Trump responded. “Zero. Zero.”
Later, Trump was asked if he held a Miss Universe pageant in Russia, which has been noted by the Washington Post.
“Yes, I did,” Trump replied.
“Didn’t Don Jr. back in 2008 say that there was Russian money pouring into the Trump Organization?” a reporter then asked.
“We wanted to, yeah,” Trump responded. This answer was the closest he came to acknowledging a business relationship with a Russian entity.
“I don’t know what he said, but we wanted…” Trump said as the reporter attempted to ask a follow-up question.
“Excuse me, listen,” Trump continued. “We wanted to — we were doing Miss Universe four or five years ago in Russia. It was a tremendous success, very, very successful. And there were developers in Russia that wanted to put a lot of money into developments in Russia and they wanted us to do it but it never worked out. Frankly, I didn’t want to do it for a couple of different reasons. We had a major developer in particular, but numerous developers that wanted to develop property in Moscow and other places but we decided not to do it.”