Donald Trump met at least twice with a Russian-Ukrainian oligarch and current Rudy Giuliani client over a Trump Moscow franchising deal in the late 2000s, the oligarch told TPM.
Pavel Fuchs (pictured to the left of Giuliani), a Moscow real estate developer who recently hired Rudy Giuliani for an “investment project” related to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, said that he met with Trump in New York City in 2006 and in Palm Beach in 2008.
Fuch’s claims fill in more of the picture of Trump’s long-running interest in developing a Moscow project and illustrate how some of the same characters continue to reappear in dealings with those in Trump’s orbit.
The deal – potentially very legal and very cool – would have seen Fuchs buy a Trump franchise for a Moscow skyscraper, similar to other deals that the Trump Organization has concluded in Azerbaijan, Dubai, Turkey, India, and elsewhere.
“During the construction of one of his properties, Pavel Fuchs reviewed the possibility of purchasing a Donald Trump franchise,” Fuchs told TPM through a spokesperson. “This became the reason for acquaintance and the beginning of negotiations.”
The Fuchs spokesperson said “in total there were a few meetings” without specifying the exact number beyond the New York City and Palm Beach meetings.
A White House spokeswoman referred TPM to Trump outside counsel. Neither Jay Sekulow nor Rudy Giuliani replied to requests for comment. The Trump Organization did not reply to a request for comment.
Trump’s Muscovite real estate ambitions came into sharper focus yesterday as former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying about communications over a 2016 iteration of the project, which reportedly would have included giving Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse apartment to drive up interest among the Russian oligarchy. Former Trump associate Felix Sater told Buzzfeed that the project ended on July 26, after Trump publicly disavowed any business ties to Russia.
Trump had been trying to cut a Moscow deal since at least 2005, often using Sater as a conduit.
Fuchs said that the relationship with Trump ended in 2008, after franchising negotiations fell through due to the “franchise conditions.” Fuchs said in a separate interview to a Ukrainian news website that one of Trump’s sons – he didn’t say which one and his spokesperson wouldn’t clarify it to TPM– had flown to Moscow to discuss the deal.
At the time, Donald Jr. was openly discussing Russian partnerships with the Trump organization. At a September 2008 real estate conference, he said that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York.”
“We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia. There’s indeed a lot of money coming for new-builds and resale reflecting a trend in the Russian economy,” he added.
The Trump Organization’s franchising arrangements have come under scrutiny over allegations of potentially lax due diligence. Under the deals, the Trump Organization typically agrees to sell the Trump brand as a “license” in exchange for cash, along with “technical services” agreements that have allowed the company to oversee details of the franchise design.
More recently, Fuchs has engaged Giuliani, who serves as President Trump’s personal attorney in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. They met in 2017 in New York over a project to “search for investors to develop Kharkiv’s economy” and to sign a deal whereby Giuliani’s security consulting company provided NYPD expertise to Kharkiv law enforcement.
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