Trump’s ties to Russia have earned appropriately-intense scrutiny but Ivanka Trump has remained unscathed. Now, however, Buzzfeed is out with a new article stating that Ivanka connected Trump’s “Fixer” – Cohen, with a Russian weightlifter who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin. The weightlifter offered to help get a 100-story Trump tower built in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and their four sources with knowledge of the matter.
According to the article, though there is no evidence yet that Ivanka did anything illegal (in this context, we’ll see about China at some other point), the sources stated that while Trump campaigned to become president of the United States, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian athlete who had access to Putin, the world’s most ruthless dictators. She made the connection to help close a business deal that could have made the Trump family millions, back when they planned on losing the election.
The other big revelation in the article is that Michael Cohen played an even more insidious role than previously known.
By the fall of 2015, attempts to get the tower built were well underway. Cohen negotiated with Felix Sater, a name we’ve heard many times arising within the Mueller investigation, and one of the president’s longtime business associates. Sater and Cohen agreed upon a Russian developer to build the tower and Trump personally signed a nonbinding letter of intent on Oct. 28, 2015, the day of the third Republican debate. In typical Trump business mode of operation, Trump would allow a Russian developer to brand the tower with Trump’s name. The agreement went so far as to state that the Trump Organization would have the option to brand the hotel’s spa and fitness facilities as “The Spa by Ivanka Trump” and that Ivanka Trump would be granted “sole and absolute discretion” to have the final say on “all interior design elements of the spa or fitness facilities.”
Buzzfeed best describes the response to its investigative story:
Ivanka Trump, who now works in her father’s administration, did not respond to questions sent to her personal email, chief of staff, and the White House. A spokesperson for her attorney wrote that Ivanka Trump did not know about the Trump Moscow project “until after a nonbinding letter of intent had been signed, never talked to anyone outside the Organization about the proposal, and, even internally, was only minimally involved. Her only role was limited to reminding Mr. Cohen that, should an actual deal come to fruition (which it did not) the project, like any other with the Trump name, conform with the highest design and architectural standards.”
But emails and interviews suggest that her involvement ran deeper.
Ivanka Trump directed Cohen to contact Klokov, according to the four sources and Cohen did end up having at least one phone conversation with the weightlifter. Buzzfeed couldn’t determine what was discussed over the phone, but the string of emails are now being analyzed by both the Congressional committees and Mueller’s team.
In one of those emails, Klokov told Cohen that he could arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Putin to help pave the way for the tower. Later, Cohen sent an email refusing that offer and saying that the Trump Organization already had an agreement in place. He said he was cutting off future communication with Klokov. Copying Ivanka Trump, the Russian responded in a final brusque message, in which he questioned Cohen’s authority to make decisions for the Trump Organization. Frustrated by the exchange, Ivanka Trump questioned Cohen’s refusal to continue communicating with Klokov, according to one of the sources.
BuzzFeed News was only shown the emails on the condition they do not quote directly from the emails.
No one can yet explain how it is that Ivanka knew Klokov who originally told Buzzfeed that he didn’t send any emails to Cohen, and then stopped corresponding with Buzzfeed when confronted with the actual evidence. Cohen referred all inquiries to his attorney who won’t comment on anything, for lack of time, good sense, and understandable bewilderment (that’s me editorializing just a bit).
You should read the Buzzfeed article to get more detail from the story, but I will say that I have always thought that the one “soft underbelly” to Trump’s “fight like hell” exterior is the possibility that criminal liability might extend to his family. One of the scenarios in which I can envision a deal cut whereby Trump steps down or even cops to a plea, would be in exchange for immunity to his kids if evidence of serious criminal behavior on their part arises. Depending upon the circumstances, the deal might be worth it.
One word of caution, David Corn of Mother Jones wrote a column yesterday regarding the Trump-Russia scandal, warning of items just like the breaking news above. Corn believes Trump is getting away with the biggest scandal in U.S. presidential history because we get so caught in the minutia, looking for some sort of “smoking gun.” We’re so fixated on details that we’ve perhaps missed the forest fire right in front of our faces. There is no question that Russia conspired to interfere with our election, nor is there any question that Trump campaign officials met with Russians during the campaign, looking for Russian assistance. Really, we shouldn’t need to know much more than that to end the Trump presidency. Yet the drip drip drip nature of the story, the way details emerge, make it appear as if we’re always just one big revelation away. This allows Trump to respond to everything in the same manner to everything, and never have to account for himself. It used to be “Fake news!” and then it evolved to “Hoax,” and “Witch-Hunt,” and now it is an “FBI Set-Up.” Throughout, we’ve gone through the #release the memo bullshit and so much more.
So, we use the information in the article as another brick in the wall, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that we actually DO have that wall, as opposed to Trump, whose promised wall remains invisible, unpaid for, and always will. Someday, we’ll push Trump up against our wall, and frisk him.
***Due to popular demand, I am now on twitter and would be honored if you followed me @MiciakZoom, where I’ll talk politics and other stuff that strikes me as interesting that day.