Trump Says He Doesn’t Know any Russians. Really?
Before the Trump presidential campaign began, both Donald Trump Jr. and Sr. repeatedly boasted of their extensive business with Russia. Trump Sr. claimed to be friends with Putin. After the presidential campaign began there was a lot of speculation of his pro-Putin stance, and stories started to surface of Russian ties to his campaign. Suddenly, Trump did a complete one-eighty on the extent of his business interests with Russians. Over the last few days he has claimed that he had no contacts with Russians because he does not know any Russians, and has no business ties with Russians.
This is particularly suspicious, since we already know he has done business with many Russian oligarchs. Donald Trump Jr. has made six business trips to Russia, and Trump himself was there more than once. In 1987, he visited Moscow and St. Petersburg at the invitation of the Soviet ambassador to the US, though he never followed through. He has also been involved in numerous real estate deals with Russian nationals in the United States. Russian oligarchs like to park their money in real estate outside Russia, as their assets in Russia are at the whim of Putin.
Aras & Emin Agalarov
In 2013, Trump made a deal with Russian business partners to hold the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Those Russian’s were billionaire Russian real estate moguls Aras Agalarov and his son Emin. Aras Agalarov, like most Russian oligarchs, has close ties to Putin. His son Emin, 36, a dance-pop singer with ambitions to international stardom, got Trump to appear in one of his music videos. After returning from the pageant, Trump boasted that “almost all of the oligarchs were in the room.” Politico reporting, also confirms that Aras & Emin Agalarov are just two of many ultra-wealthy Russians that Trump has pursued real estate deals with.
Atras Agalarov’s company, Crocus Group, has won contracts from Putin’s Kremlin, including for two World Cub 2018 stadiums. At a 2013 ceremony at the Kremlin, Putin awarded the medal of honor to Agalarov. During the 2013 meetings with the Agalarovs, concerning the Miss Universe pageant, they were joined by Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen, two New York-based Russian developers who helped to develop the Trump Soho hotel and condominium project in Manhattan.
Since then, we also know that Emin Agalarov met with Donald Trump Jr in New York, during the presidential campaign.
As CNN reported Trump was asked about Russia ties in July 2016, because of speculation that Russia was behind the hack of DNC emails in an effort to help his campaign. In Doral, FL he told a reporter, “No, I have nothing to do with Russia. How many times do I have say that? Are you a smart man? I have nothing to with Russia, I have nothing to do with Russia.” Then Trump then acknowledged: There was that one time. “What do I have to do with Russia? You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida… for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million including brokerage commissions.”
The deal he was admitting to at that time was the sale of Maison de L’Amitie, a beachfront estate in Palm Beach, Florida. In a 2004 auction, Trump bought the property in a bankruptcy sale for $41 million. Four years later, with the real estate market collapsing, Trump sold the mansion for $95 million. Although the official deed showed County Road Property LLC as the buyer, it was just a front. The real buyer of the property was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Carol Digges, the South Florida broker who gave Rybolovlev a tour of the luxurious estate two years before he bought it, told CNN Money that the Russian billionaire never moved in.
Trump’s deal with Rybolovlev raises at lot of questions, not only because he never used or rented the property. According to real estate valuations at the time, Rybolovlev grossly over-paid for the property. This lead to speculation of money laundering, or a payment for some other secretive deal with Trump. Rybolovlev was trying to move as much of his money as possible out of Russia because he was in the middle of a divorce. He is also a major share holder of Bank of Cyprus, the bank involved in laundering $10n billion through Deutsche Bank from Russian oligarchs, including relatives of Putin. The guy responsible for the money laundering at Deutsche Bank is now the Chairman of the Board of Bank of Cyprus and the largest shareholder and Vice-Chairman is Wilbur Ross, who just became Trump’s Commerce Secretary. Wilbur Ross is the person who introduced Paul Manafort to Trump, and recommended him to be his campaign manager.
As Mother Jones reported in September 2016, Trump also has ties to a notorious Russian mobster connected to an illegal international gambling ring, run out of Trump Tower. Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov was not at the Trump Tower penthouse the day of the raid, and later showed up in Moscow. Although Trump has gone out of his way to deny knowing Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, seven months after the bust at Trump Tower, he was a VIP attendee at Donald Trump’s Miss Universe 2013 contest held in Moscow. That’s right, a fugitive from American law enforcement was a celebrity guest at Trump’s event.