Tuesday, May 28

Donald Trump’s Russian connections revealed: despite desperately distancing himself from Putin regime



As Donald Trump desperately tries to distance himself and his administration from links with Russia, over in Moscow businessmen, oligarchs and politicians are raising eyebrows and wry smiles.

The President may have told a Washington press conference, “I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we’ve stayed away”, but those in the know believe the truth is very different.

The Mirror travelled to the former Soviet state to investigate allegations which have engulfed Trump and his team regarding clandestine links.

We discovered that far from “staying away” Trump has formed associations with some of Moscow’s most powerful and influential players, has sold his Miss Universe contest there, has a Hollywood Boulevard-style signed star in a shopping mall and even had plans to build a Trump Tower in the capital.

The Mirror has uncovered how Trump was so desperate to make inroads into the Russian market – which he saw as a potential goldmine he tried to trademark some of his projects here as far back as 1996.

But, as recently as three years ago, Trump made a visit to Moscow to pursue business interests.

He sold the rights to the Miss Universe event here in 2013 and brought 86 contestants from around the world, including former Miss USA Olivia Culpo, as he tried to use it to open other doors.

He was so convinced he was about to make a major financial killing he tweeted: Trump Tower Moscow is next. And he added: I know the Russians better than anybody.

In a TV interview, he spoke fondly of his trip and said: I was with the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top of the government people.

I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you I met the top people and the relationship was extraordinary.

On the visit, he stayed at the exclusive Ritz Carlton hotel opposite the Kremlin.

There damaging – and unproven allegations emerged that he paid prostitutes to urinate on a bed previously slept in by Barack Obama.

He later lunched at the expensive Nobu restaurant a short walk away.

He also made a trip to the exclusive Vegas shopping mall in Krasnogorsk, on the outskirts of Moscow. There on the floor is the Walk of Fame-style star bearing Trump’s signature.

One business associate, who asked not to be named, said: He loved that visit. He really thought he was finally going to make a breakthrough on the business front.

At the meal in Nobu he met some of the most senior business and political people in Russia many very close to President Putin.

He was very close to some of the most powerful men in Russia.

Mr Trump tried very hard to make inroads here, but it didn’t take off and then his Presidential campaign started and we can only guess he decided to be more careful.

One of those he met was Herman Gref, the boss of Sberbank Russia’s biggest bank. Mr Gref is very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He served as his finance minister for more than six years and was one of the sponsors of the Miss Universe contest.

Also present was Aras Agalarov, the owner of Crocus Group, one of the country’s largest companies, which worked on the Miss Universe competition.

Mr Agalarov said he gave Trump a tour of Moscow and they inspected several different sites.

He said: We knew he had the idea of building Trump Tower in Moscow. We agreed, but nothing was signed.

Trump is now such a popular figure in Russia, market stalls sell classic souvenir dolls adorned with his image. With no sense of irony they are placed on the shelves right next to those of Stalin, Lenin and Putin himself.

The millionaire has spoken publicly of his “respect” for “intelligent” President Putin, who is accused of interfering in the US election to ensure a victory for The Donald.

Trump dismissed US intelligence chiefs alarming findings that Putin ordered cyber hackers to manipulate the outcome as a total witch-hunt.

His Attorney General Jeff Sessions faces demands to resign after being accused of lying on oath about his undisclosed meetings with top Russian officials during Trump’s election campaign.

And now as the US President continues to censor the media, banning CNN, the BBC and the New York Times as he favours his right-wing friends, he is being compared to Putin, who exerts strict control over the press.

With the FBI hacking probe and the Flynn and Sessions affairs, Trump’s team may be playing a game of deadly Russian roulette.

If they are found to have conspired with the Kremlin over the election, the results could be invalidated and might even end in Trump’s impeachment.