Here are the latest additions to the Trump-Russia Timeline at BillMoyers.com. More updates are in process and you can see a summary of the latest entires in a separate post appearing next to the introduction to the Trump-Russia Timeline.
Oct. 28, 2015: Trump Signs Letter of Intent for Trump Tower in Moscow
Trump signs a letter of intent for the use of his name on a planned Trump Tower in Moscow. If completed it would be one of the largest residential projects in real estate history and, according to Felix Sater, the ”the world’s tallest building in Moscow.” A Moscow-based developer, I.C. Expert Investment Co., would have paid Trump a licensing fee. After news of the deal breaks in August 2017, Trump Organization Executive Vice President and attorney Michael Cohen tells The Wall Street Journal that he had discussed the proposal with Trump once before Trump signed it and a second time when he did. [Added Aug. 30, 2017]
November 2015 – January 2016: Pursuit of Trump Tower in Moscow
A February 2017 article in The New York Times, citing Felix Sater, reports that Trump’s bid for the presidency brings work on a Trump Tower in Moscow to a halt in the Fall of 2015. Emin Agalarov makes a similar statement in a March 2017 interview with Forbes; Agalarov says he and his father had previously signed a letter of intent with their Trump counterparts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. “He ran for president, so we dropped the idea,” Agalarov says. “But if he hadn’t run we would probably be in the construction phase today.”
Later reporting indicates the story might not be so simple.
In July 2017, Yahoo! News’ Michael Isikoff reports that work with the Agalarovs to build a Trump Tower in Moscow came to a halt because of an economic downturn in Russia that was caused, in part, by sanctions the US and others imposed on Russia in 2014, following its intervention in Ukraine.
In an Aug. 1, 2017 article, Talking Points Memo’s Sam Thielman reports that Sater was still working on a deal for Trump Tower in Moscow in “November-December” 2015. In interviews with Thielman, Sater claims that it didn’t involve the Agalarovs, but he doesn’t elaborate.
On Aug. 27, 2017, The Washington Post reports that, in November 2015, Sater urges Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggests that he “could get President Vladimir Putin to say ‘great things’ about Trump.” According to The Post, “Sater also predicted in an email that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating — both one of the biggest residential projects in real estate history and Donald Trump’s election as president, according to two of the people with knowledge of the exchange.” The Post also reports that, “Sater wrote to Trump Organization Executive Vice President Michael Cohen ‘something to the effect of, “Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?”’”
On Aug. 28, 2017, The New York Times picks up the story, quoting from one of Sater’s Nov. 3, 2015 emails to Cohen: “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected… Buddy our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
Following Sater’s recommendation, in January 2016, Cohen seeks the help of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s personal spokesperson and the Kremlin’s top press aide. According to subsequent reporting in The Washington Post, Cohen writes, “Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower – Moscow project in Moscow City. Without getting into lengthy specifics the communication between our two sides has stalled. As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon.”
Peskov receives Cohen’s email, and later says, “But as far as we don’t respond to business topics, this is not our job, we did not send a response.”
According to The Post, “Trump never went to Moscow as Sater proposed. And although investors and Trump’s company signed a letter of intent, they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned at the end of January 2016, just before the presidential primaries began, several people familiar with the proposal said.”
On Aug. 28, 2017, the Trump Organization issues a statement saying, “To be clear, the Trump Organization has never had any real estate holdings or interests in Russia.”
Cohen likewise issues a statement, saying, “I did not ask or brief Mr. Trump, or any of his family, before I made the decision to terminate further work on the proposal. The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.” In an Aug. 28, 2017 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Cohen says he discussed the proposal with Trump only three times: once before Trump signed the Oct. 28, 2015 letter of intent, a second time when Trump signed it, and a third time when work on the deal ended. [Revised Sept. 1, 2017]
April 3, 2016: Panama Papers Leaked
A massive leak of more than 11 million papers from the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm reveals a money trail allegedly showing a network of secret offshore deals and vast loans worth $2 billion leading to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and his associates. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top spokesperson, dismisses the accusations as “another series of fibs.” Beyond Russia, the Panama Papers implicate politicians and public leaders throughout the world and, over the subsequent year, lead to audits, investigations, inquiries, and arrests in at least 79 countries. In February 2017, Panama police arrest the founders of the law firm at the center of the scandal and charge them with money laundering. They deny wrongdoing. [Added Aug. 30, 2017]
April 8, 2016: Putin Convenes Russian Federation Security Council
Since Jan. 15, 2016, Putin has been meeting weekly with the Russian Federation Security Council weekly. As the leak of the Panama Papers approached, the council met more frequently — on March 28, 31 and April 5. The Kremlin’s official summary of the April 8 meeting states, “Participants discussed the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the efforts Russia is undertaking these days to facilitate it. Current domestic and international issues were also discussed with a special focus on the creation of the National Guard.”
Russian investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan — experts on how the Kremlin operates in the digital sphere — believe there was actually more going on. In August 2017, they told The Washington Post that “the meeting of the Russian Security Council on April 8, when Putin urgently gathered only the most trusted officials — most of them with secret services background — could be the meeting when a very sensitive matter was discussed, such as the need for a retaliatory response to the Panama Papers exposés.”
Soldatov and Borogan wrote in a 2017 book that Russian interference in the US election may have been a response to the Panama Papers. “Putin believed the Panama Papers attack was sponsored by Hillary Clinton’s people — this, in a way, provided him with a ‘justification’ for a retaliatory operation,” they told The Post. [Added Aug. 30, 2017]
Aug. 7, 2017: Trump Complains About Bill to Limit His Power to Fire Mueller
Four days after Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) had co-sponsored legislation that would limit Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Mueller, Trump reportedly calls Tillis to complain about the bill and say that he doesn’t want it to pass. According to Politico, in late July, Trump had also called Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) to complain about the then-pending Russian sanctions bill. Corker reportedly told Trump that the legislation would pass both houses of Congress with bipartisan support. “It seems he is just always focused on Russia,” one senior GOP aide tells Politco. [Added Aug. 28, 2017]
Aug. 9, 2017: Trump Blasts McConnell Over Russia Investigation
During a phone call that became a profane shouting match, Trump reportedly accuses Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of bungling the health care issue. But according to subsequent reporting by The New York Times citing Republicans briefed on the conversation, Trump is even more upset that McConnell has, in his view, not protected him from investigations of Russia’s election interference. [Added Aug. 28, 2017]
Aug. 11, 2017: Russian Lobbyist Testifies Before Mueller’s Grand Jury
Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian lobbyist who, along with Russians Natalie Veselnitskaya and Ike Kaveladze, attended the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, testifies for several hours before special counsel Mueller’s grand jury. [Added Sept. 1, 2017]
Aug. 11, 2017: House Democrats Renew Request to Subpoena Deutsche Bank Documents Relating to Trump
Democrats on the House Committee on Financial Services ask Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) to issue a subpoena to Deutsche Bank. They request that the subpoena seek documents relating to Russian money-laundering and to Deutsche Bank accounts involving Trump and his family. The Democratic committee members note that Rep. Hensarling never answered their March 10, 2017 letter seeking a “thorough, objective, and bipartisan investigation…into the Russian money laundering scheme at Deutsche Bank….” [Added Aug. 28, 2017]
Aug. 22, 2017: Fusion GPS Co-Founder Testifies About “Steele Dossier”
Glenn Simpson, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and co-founder of the consulting firm Fusion GPS, testifies to Senate Judiciary Committee investigators for more than 10 hours.
Working for a client that it has not yet named, Fusion GPS had hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile what became the infamous “Steele dossier” about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. Trump has decried the dossier as fake news, and US intelligence officials have testified that it was not the basis for any US intelligence findings of Russian interference with the 2016 election.
It remains unclear which, if any, of the allegations in the dossier US officials have been able to confirm independently. In a statement following Simpson’s session with the committee, Simpson’s lawyer says, “Fusion GPS is proud of the work it has conducted and stands by it.” [Added Aug. 28, 2017]
Aug. 25, 2017: Mueller Subpoenas Grand Jury Witnesses in Manafort Probe
NBC News reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed public relations executives who worked with Paul Manafort’s international lobbying effort on behalf Ukraine from 2012 to 2014. According to Manafort’s subsequently amended reports, a pro-Russian political party that ran the country had paid Manafort $17 million for his consulting work during that period. [Added Aug. 28, 2017]
Aug. 25, 2017: Mueller Investigating Possible Flynn Connection to Clinton Email Project
The Wall Street Journal reports that Mueller is examining the role, if any, that Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn may have played in Peter W. Smith’s effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers during the campaign. Smith was a long-time political operative who had told the Journal in May 2017 that during September 2016 he had tried to assemble a team that would pursue those emails. Smith died ten days after the interview. [Added Aug. 28, 2017]
Aug. 29, 2017: CNN reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Paul Manafort’s former lawyer and Manafort’s current spokesperson. [Added Aug. 30, 2017]
Aug. 30, 2017: Mueller Consulting with NY Attorney General on Manafort
Politico reports that, in recent weeks, teams working with special counsel Mueller and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have been sharing evidence in connection with their investigations of Paul Manafort and his financial transactions. [Added Sept. 1, 2017]
Aug. 30, 2017: More Reports on Manafort Ties to Russian Oligarch
The Wall Street Journal reports on Manafort’s alleged financial dealings with Oleg Derispaka, a Russian oligarch. According to The Journal, the dealings began in 2004 and the two men had a falling out, cutting ties in 2014, but Manafort’s work for Ukraine continued into 2015. According to a court filing on Deripaska’s behalf in May 2017, he “never had any arrangement, whether contractual or otherwise, with Mr. Manafort to advance the interests of the Russian government.” [Added Sept. 1, 2017]
Aug. 30, 2017: Cohen Rebuts “Steele Dossier”
The New York Times reports that Michael Cohen’s lawyer has provided the House Intelligence Committee with an eight-page, point-by-point rebuttal of the allegations in the ‘Steele dossier’ insofar as they pertain to Cohen. “We have not uncovered a single document that would in any way corroborate the dossier’s allegations regarding Mr. Cohen, nor do we believe that any such document exists,” wrote Cohen’s lawyer. “Mr. Cohen vehemently denies the claims made in the dossier about him, which are false and remain wholly unsubstantiated.” [Added Sept. 1, 2017]