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Trump desperately tries to spin damning revelations of his Russian business ties

"I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA," he tweeted last year.

CREDIT: ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images
CREDIT: ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation heats up with new revelations about a planned Trump Tower in Moscow, President Trump took to Twitter Friday morning to rewrite his version of events about his business ties to Russia.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about pursuing construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2016. The lying took place in August 2017, when Cohen told Congress that “the Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.” In reality, negotiations were continuing in June 2016, a month before Trump accepted the Republican nomination. Moreover, BuzzFeed reported Thursday that the Trump Organization was hoping to promise Russian President Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse in the new structure.

In the wake of these revelations, Trump admitted Friday morning that yes, he had indeed “lightly looked” at a Russia project during the campaign.

BuzzFeed could not confirm that Trump knew about the proposed penthouse for Putin, but these tweets suggest that Trump himself was running his business, which would have likely made him privy to these building discussions.

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On Thursday, Trump had also been insisting that there was nothing wrong with continuing to run his businesses while campaigning. “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won,” he said, “in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

The admission is a sharp departure from Trump’s longtime claims to have had no ties to Russia whatsoever. As far back as July 2016, when the Trump Tower Moscow deal might not yet have fizzled, Trump explained:

I have nothing to do with Russia! For anything! 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. Palm Beach is a very expensive place. There was a man who went bankrupt and I bought the house for $40 million and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million, including brokerage commissions. So I sold it. So I bought it for 40, I sold it for 100 to a Russian. That was a number of years ago. I guess probably I sell condos to Russians, OK?

In response to a follow-up question about whether any oligarchs had an investment in the Trump Organization, he added, “Of course not! I own the Trump Organization. Zero, zero.”

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The specificity of the condo sale is an inherent denial of anything related to a Trump Tower in Moscow, particularly if it was still in the works as recently as a month prior.

Trump would continue to insist that he had no connections or deals whatsoever with Russia. For example, just before his inauguration, he tweeted:

He made the same claim again a month later — after he’d taken the oath of office:

In Trump’s infamous May 2017 interview with NBC’s Lester Holt — the one in which Trump admitted to firing FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation — he again listed past deals such as the house sale and the Miss Universe pageant. He boasted that he’d just sent a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stating “that I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever.”

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“I built a great company, but I’m not involved with Russia. I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago,” he said. “I had the Miss Universe pageant, which I owned for quite a while. I had it in Moscow a long time ago. But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia.”

Apparently though, he “lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia” during the campaign. Not only does that not square with anything he has said before, but it raises new question about why he insisted on hiding that project.