Trump Tower Moscow was never such a hot idea as a business deal, yet Donald Trump risked everything on it. Forbes Magazine says that the initial estimates that Trump stood to make “hundreds of millions” from Trump Tower Moscow are greatly exaggerated. Forbes believes that Trump could have made maybe $35Mil up front and $2.6Mil a year — which is still a lot of money, but it’s 2% of what Trump is purportedly worth, so not exactly a windfall. But despite the fact that this proposition was not a good business deal, coupled with the fact that then-candidate Trump was not doing himself any favors with optics, it makes you wonder how Trump could be so dense to continue to pursue this deal. Or, maybe not. Losing money does seem to be his one consistent achievement in life. And he is in love with Vladimir Putin. Forbes:
Then there was [ex-con felix] Sater’s plan to get billionaire brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg to invest hundreds of millions in the project. From a political standpoint, it would be hard to think of a more problematic pair to bring into a deal with a U.S. presidential candidate. Arkady Rotenberg has known Vladimir Putin since childhood, when they were judo partners. He and his brother are now among Russia’s richest people, worth an estimated $3.7 billion combined, with interests in banking and construction. Arkady Rotenberg’s companies got $7.4 billion in government contracts for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, over $5 billion for the 2018 World Cup (which Russia hosted) and more to build a bridge connecting Russia and Crimea. In 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned both brothers, identifying them as members of Putin’s “inner circle.” The Rotenbergs did not respond to our request for comment.
The same thing that made the Rotenbergs targets of the U.S. government—their ties to Putin—made them appealing to Sater. In his mind, if he could get Putin’s associates to invest $400 million or $500 million, then the Russian president would surely greenlight the project—a key step in a country where the government calls the shots on major real estate developments. Trump would have theoretically had to sign off on bringing in the Rotenbergs or anyone else who wanted a piece of the action. “Everybody was going to make money on this,” Sater says. “And at the end of the day, some schmuck from Vladivostok with a lot of money would have put up all the money.”
It is not clear whether Trump knew about the plans to give Putin a penthouse or his cronies a chunk of the deal. Which is remarkable in itself. A presidential candidate delegated a radioactive deal, in a hostile foreign country, to a former convict (Sater) and a soon-to-be convict (Cohen).
Virtually every part of their plan involved Putin or someone close to him. The equity? Putin’s boys. The debt? Kremlin-connected banks. The land? A Putin ally. The approvals? Government entities. The marketing? Putin himself. Look at Trump Moscow long enough and it gives the impression it was less of a deal between Trump and a random Russian and more of a deal between Trump and Putin.
Don’t forget all the lies about when these negotiations ended, supposedly late 2015, early 2016. Sater intended to keep pursuing this matter, even into the closing months of the campaign, or after the campaign when Trump became a private citizen again. But one snag occurred: As Michael Cohen said before Congress, “He won the presidency.” That’s why the deal ended, because Putin’s long shot paid off sooner and better than he ever could have hoped. The big winner in this negotiation is Vladimir Putin, not surprisingly. Not surprisingly at all. Playing Trump along for a ridiculous hotel deal turned into getting his hands on a really unique piece of real estate, the White House, and all that goes with it. A bloodless coup is better than another penthouse, any day.