Mueller Outlines 3 Business Deals Trump Pursued In Russia – Forbes
By Dan Alexander, Noah Kirsch and Chase Peterson-Withorn
Donald Trump chased three potential business deals in Russia around the time of his presidential campaign, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in his 448-report report released Thursday. Forbes outlined the three deals, and the characters working to make them happen, below.
Beginning in 2013 the Trump Organization pursued a real estate partnership with Crocus Group, a property developer helmed by billionaire Aras Agalarov and his son, Emin, according to the report. The plan was to build a Trump tower in Moscow, which could have included 800 units. Trump had previously partnered with the Agalarovs to host the Miss Universe competition in Russia; he owned the pageant and received an estimated $7 million in licensing fees as part of that deal.
Crocus Group and the Trump Organization signed a preliminary term sheet for the tower, in which the Trumps would receive a 3.5% cut of all sales, according to the report. Ivanka Trump met with Emin Agalarov in Russia in February 2014, Mueller said, and the two parties continued to discuss the details of the proposed project. However, by the fall of that year communications between the groups slowed before coming to a halt in November.
In February 2017, just after President Trump took office but before Mueller’s appointment, Forbes spoke to Emin Agalarov, who boasted of continued access to the president’s inner circle, including his sons, Eric and Donald Trump, Jr.: “Now that he ran and was elected, he does not forget his friends.”
With the Agalarov deal stalled, the Trump Organization turned to Felix Sater, who had helped develop a Trump-branded luxury hotel in Manhattan in the early 2000s.
Sater’s plan called for a company named I.C. Expert Investment Company, run by developer Andrei Rozov, to build a massive tower in Moscow and slap the Trump brand on it. According to Mueller, Donald Trump—by then a leading contender for the GOP nomination—gave Cohen permission to go ahead and negotiate a deal.
“Under these terms, the Trump Organization stood to earn substantial sums over the lifetime of the project, without assuming significant liabilities or financing commitments,” Mueller wrote in the report.
Sater and Cohen believed a project this size would surely require the Russian government’s approval. “[A]ll that we need is Putin on board and we are golden,” Sater wrote to Cohen in the early phases of the process. Sater reached out to Putin’s administration through a business contact, according to the report. In January 2016, Cohen fired off an email intended for Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for the Russian government, seeking a meeting with Putin’s chief of staff. Peskov’s assistant replied with her personal phone number, and Cohen called to explain the deal and ask for help securing both land and financing.
The assistant asked detailed questions and took notes, Cohen told Mueller, but he never heard back.
At the same time that he was talking to Sater, Cohen also reached out to Giorgi Rtskhiladze, whom he had worked with on a Trump project in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. They traded emails back and forth, and Rtskhiladze made it clear he wanted to get Russian government entities involved.
On September 24, Rtskhiladze sent a draft of a letter they planned to send to the mayor of Moscow. “He is aware of the potential project and will pledge his support,” Rtskhiladze told Cohen. In the draft letter, Rtskhiladze pitched the business deal as a chance to bring Russia and the United States closer, calling the project a “symbol of stronger economic, business and cultural relationships between New York and Moscow and therefore [the] United States and the Russian Federation.”
Forbes spent time with Rtskhiladze in July 2017, when he was cooking up a wild plan to revive a stalled Trump tower in Georgia—and brimming with confidence. “I don’t even care if Mueller comes here,” he said, sitting in the seaside town of Batumi, Georgia. “They can’t find anything. There is nothing there.”
Before long, Mueller’s team was in touch for an interview.