An unverified report published by BuzzFeed Tuesday night, containing allegations of President-elect Donald Trump’s politically damaging activities in Russia, made a litany of claims concerning the real estate billionaire’s business dealings in the country, all of which he vigorously denied.
Because the president-elect has yet to release his tax returns, the strength of his financial ties to Moscow remains unclear, but reports of Trump’s business dealings in Russia are far from lacking.
As Russian-American business group leader Sergei Millian told ABC News in September, Trump’s transactions with Russian executives netted him “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“They were happy to invest with him, and they were happy to work with Donald Trump,” said Millian, who told the broadcaster he once helped sell Trump-built condominiums in Russia and former Soviet states. “He knows that a lot of Russians love his properties. They buy his luxury residences. So it was good, very good business for him.”
Millian also said the president-elect had either negotiated projects or sent his children to search for sites in Moscow, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
“I know there were some drafts prepared for the [Moscow] project when Donald Trump flew to Moscow,” he told ABC. “And he shared those drafts with some of the Russian businessmen. It didn’t go any further at the moment.”
The Washington Post’s investigation of Trump’s business in the country is more specific, starting with his 1987 search for hotel construction sites in Moscow with his first wife, Ivana — a project that was never completed. Nine years after the first attempt to get construction of the hotel off the ground, he partnered with members of the American tobacco industry for a proposed condo complex in the Russian capital, to be named Trump International, an architect involved with the plan told the Post. In 2005, he once again tried to initiate a real estate project — to be called Trump Tower — in Moscow, the newspaper found.
At a 2008 real estate conference in New York, Donald Trump Jr., the president-elect’s eldest son and Trump Organization’s vice president of operations, highlighted the large influx of investment from the country, the online trade publication eTurboNews reported.
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” he said, according to the site. “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 and, of course, the weak dollar versus the ruble.”
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s relationship with Moscow has also prompted scrutiny, and, more seriously, an inquiry by the FBI.
The report published on Buzzfeed — which remains unsubstantiated, but a summary of which CNN claimed had been presented to President Barack Obama and Trump himself — also has a few things to say about the president-elect’s financial connections to Moscow.
“So far Trump has declined various sweetener real estate business deals offered him in Russia in order to further the Kremlin’s cultivation of him,” the summary of the 35-page dossier reads. Another passage added, “regarding Trump’s claimed minimal investment profile in Russia, a separate source with direct knowledge said this had not been for want of trying. Trump’s previous efforts had included exploring the real estate sector in St. Petersburg as well as Moscow, but in the end Trump had had to settle for the use of extensive sexual services there from prostitutes rather than business success.”
One more time, for good measure: the report has not been verified.