Donald Trump has never made any secret that he enjoys doing business with Russians.
When I interviewed him for GQ magazine in 2008, he told me how he’d recently made a $60 million profit on a house in Florida that way.
‘I have stuff they (Russians) want to buy,’ he said. ‘I bought a house in Palm Beach for $40 million and just sold it to a Russian for $100 million. They’re very smart, very cunning business people. They know great assets when they see them. And they know exactly what they’re doing when they hand me a big fat check. I am getting a good price but in five years I will probably regret it.’
That house sale was ten years ago, and was well publicized in the media at the time.
I was reminded of this yesterday when it was revealed that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has done a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Russia Collusion investigation.
It’s well known Trump likes making money off Russia. I was reminded of this yesterday when it was revealed that Michael Cohen has done a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Russia Collusion investigation
When I interviewed him in 2008, Trump told me how he’d recently made a $60 million profit on selling this mansion in Florida to a Russian
Cohen’s reportedly spent 70 hours spilling the beans to Mueller’s team, and provided copious notes, emails and tapes.
All very exciting, and, I imagine, very nerve-wracking for the President.
Who in the world would feel relaxed about their long-time trusted lawyer turning on them like this?
Cohen’s biggest bombshell so far is a confession that he lied to Congress about an interest Trump had in buying a building in Moscow and turning it into a new Trump Tower, an interest that apparently continued deep into his presidential campaign in 2016.
It is further suggested that Trump was thinking of giving Russian president Vladimir Putin a $50 million apartment in the new Tower if he went through with it.
As is turned out, the interest came to nothing, but that hasn’t stopped Trump’s enemies and a salivating media treating this revelation as a ‘smoking gun’.
The implication being that it establishes Trump had a commercial relationship with a nation we now know was actively seeking to cyber-attack the 2016 election and help Trump win.
Separately, Mueller is probing a much-rumoured link between Trump associates and WikiLeaks, the website that revealed emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign team stolen by Russia.
As Jens David Ohlin, vice dean of Cornell Law School, put it to CNN: ‘The two big questions have been – was there any person who was acting as a link between the campaign and Russia or Wikileaks, and what incentive did Trump have to collude with the Russians and why is he so beholden to the Russians? I think we now have potential answers to both those questions.’
Yes, but the key word there is ‘potential’.
The fact remains that Mueller, so far as we know, has yet to prove Trump either colluded with the Russians to fix the election or had business activities with Russia that clouded his approach to dealing with Russia.
Nor do we know if Cohen has any actual evidence to implicate the President in wrongdoing.
As for the bombshell Tower story, Trump himself tweeted this today: ‘Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly). Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business – very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail… Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!’
Trump started his Friday with these tweets
If Trump is telling the truth, and I accept this can never be taken for granted, then it seems to me this new Tower story is a gigantic nothing-burger that boils down to ‘real estate billionaire who’s openly done property business before with Russians doesn’t do property business with them again on this occasion before he became President.’
Cohen’s been caught lying about it, and other things, and so is desperate to do a deal to save himself from a lengthy prison sentence.
But that doesn’t mean Trump’s done anything illegal or wrong.
As he said to reporters yesterday, he was perfectly entitled as a businessman running for president to pursue new deals, especially since there was a ‘good chance’ he wouldn’t win.
We don’t know Trump’s done anything illegal or wrong. As he said to reporters yesterday, he was perfectly entitled as a businessman running for president to pursue new deals
Of course, more evidence may emerge that proves something more serious occurred but it hasn’t yet, and Trump’s denials in relation to Russian collusion allegations have been relentlessly emphatic from the time they were first made.
To date, the Mueller investigation has caught a lot of lying Trump associate rats like Cohen, Paul Manafort, General Michael Flynn and Rick Gates, in carefully laid traps.
But it hasn’t proved collusion, and it hasn’t caught Trump,.
And if it doesn’t end up catching the big whale, but only the minnows that swam around him, then we will be left with a spectacularly expensive and ultimately futile fishing expedition.
This investigation was set up to probe election-rigging Russian collusion by the President of the United States, not nail a bunch of his underlings for telling fibs about other stuff.
At the end of our GQ interview in 2008, Trump explained his business philosophy: ‘You’ve gotta win. That’s what it’s all about. You know, Muhammad Ali used to talk and talk, but he won. If you talk and talk but you lose, the act doesn’t play.’
Well, we’re reaching the moment of win-or-lose truth in this Mueller investigation, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
The Special Counsel will either produce hard evidence that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to fix the 2016 election – or he won’t.
There can only be one winner – Mueller or Trump.
The whole Russian collusion scandal will have all been real, or fake news.
And right now, if you cut through all the partisan noise to cold hard facts, I see nothing that says it’s real.
Mueller needs to put up or shut up.