Trump has ties to Rus­sia ty­coon

Bil­lion­aire Agalarov is at cen­ter of email of­fer­ing dirt on Clin­ton

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Steve Reilly and Oren Dorell

Pres­i­dent Trump has close and re­cent busi­ness ties to the Rus­sian bil­lion­aire at the cen­ter of an al­leged of­fer by the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment to pass on dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about Hil­lary Clin­ton.

As re­cently as mid- 2014, Trump bragged on Rus­sian TV about “a re­ally big build­ing in Rus­sia” he was work­ing on with Aras Agalarov and his pop- star son, Emin. Trump con­tin­ued to meet with Emin un­til just days be­fore he an­nounced his can­di­dacy in 2015.

“Well we’re ac­tu­ally talk­ing to Emin and his fa­ther about do­ing a re­ally big build­ing in Rus­sia. So we’ll see what hap­pens,” Trump said in a video seg­ment on Rus­sia’s Chan­nel One in Au­gust 2014. The video is posted on the of­fi­cial YouTube chan­nel of Emin Agalarov.

It is un­clear pre­cisely when the in­ter­view with Trump was filmed, and the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. The build­ing project did not go for­ward.

On Tues­day, Don­ald Trump Jr. re­leased a June 2016 email ex­change with Emin Agalarov’s New York City- based pub­li­cist, Rob Gold­stone. In the emails, Gold­stone said Aras Agalarov had met with a top Rus­sian pros­e­cu­tor who “of­fered to pro­vide the Trump cam­paign with some of­fi­cial doc­u­ments and in­for­ma­tion that would in­crim­i­nate Hil­lary and her deal­ings with Rus­sia and would be very use­ful to your fa­ther.”

“This is ob­vi­ously very high

level and sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion but is part of Rus­sia and its gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for Mr. Trump,” Gold­stone wrote.

Aras Agalarov, 61, han­dled much of the de­vel­op­ment of Moscow af­ter the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and his busi­ness deal­ings put him in close cir­cles with the Krem­lin.

The large projects Aras Agalarov built re­quired po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to ap­prove the con­dem­na­tion of prop­erty in Moscow, McCal­lion said. “It’s gen­er­ally un­der­stood he would have had the go- ahead from the Putin in­ner cir­cle.”

Florida records in­di­cate the Agalarovs own at least two mul­ti­mil­lion- dol­lar prop­er­ties in the Mi­ami area, al­though nei­ther ap­pear to have ties to Trump.

Luke Hard­ing, au­thor of A Very Ex­pen­sive Poi­son, which is about the mur­der of de­fected Rus­sian spy Alexan­der Litvi­nenko in Bri­tain, met Agalarov while he was sta­tioned in Moscow for The Guardian news­pa­per.

“He’s fan­tas­ti­cally well- con- nected,” Hard­ing said.

In 2013, the Agalarovs part­nered with Trump to host the Miss Uni­verse Pageant, which Trump owned at the time, in Moscow.

The Moscow event ac­counted for a “sub­stan­tial por­tion” of the $ 12.2 mil­lion in for­eign in­come earned by the pageant that year, ac­cord­ing to a let­ter writ­ten by Trump’s tax at­tor­neys this year that was sent to the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

Trump made no se­cret of his part­ner­ship with the Agalarovs or his de­sire to do busi­ness in Rus­sia.

In 2013, Trump told Real Es­tate Weekly he told a group of in­vestors in Moscow he was con­sid­er­ing bring­ing a replica of the Trump SoHo ho­tel to Moscow.

In a Novem­ber 2013 tweet di­rected to­ward Aras Agalarov, he wrote: “I had a great week­end with you and your fam­ily. You have done a FAN­TAS­TIC job. TRUMP TOWER- MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!”

In in­ter­views and news con­fer­ences since win­ning the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Trump has in­di­cated the pageant was the last time he had any­thing to do with Rus­sia.

“I have no deals that could hap­pen in Rus­sia, be­cause we’ve stayed away,” Trump said in a news con­fer­ence in Jan­uary. “Haven’t made a phone call to Rus­sia in years, don’t speak to peo­ple in Rus­sia,” he said in Fe­bru­ary.

“I sold a house to a very wealthy Rus­sian, many years ago,” Trump told NBC News in May. “I had the Miss Uni­verse pageant, which I owned for quite a while, I had it in Moscow, long time ago. But other than that, I have noth­ing to do with Rus­sia.”

But Trump’s re­la­tion­ship with the Agalarovs ap­pears to ex­tend be­yond the pageant.

Emin Agalarov had din­ner in Las Ve­gas with Don­ald Trump and Gold­stone, ac­cord­ing to a Face­book post by Gold­stone on June 15, 2013.

In Fe­bru­ary 2014, Emin Agalarov posted a photo of him­self with Ivanka Trump to his In­sta­gram ac­count, along with a cap­tion in­di­cat­ing the two met in Moscow. On Tues­day, Ya­hoo News re­ported the pur­pose of Ivanka Trump’s trip was to scout lo­ca­tions for a prospec­tive tower in Moscow.

Later, Emin Agalarov per­formed at a golf tour­na­ment in March 2014 at Trump’ course in Do­ral, Fla., and posed for pic­tures with Don­ald and Ivanka Trump.

On Au­gust 27, 2014, Agalarov made an In­sta­gram post link­ing to the video in which Trump talks about the prospec­tive Rus­sia build­ing deal.

Just weeks be­fore Trump de­clared his can­di­dacy for the pres­i­dency in June 2015, Emin Agalarov posted that he had met with the ty­coon again in New York City.

In the May 20, 2015, post, Emin Agalarov in­di­cated that he had stopped by Trump’s of­fice. A photo fea­tures the two smil­ing and giv­ing thumbs up signs.

“My New York high­light,” Agalarov’s cap­tion states. Stop­ping by the of­fice “of a Man who has built half of the city proud to call him my friend… ex­cited new projects yet to be an­nounced!”

MIKHAIL METZEL, AP

In 2014, Don­ald Trump touted his ties to Rus­sian busi­ness­man Aras Agalarov.

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