December 20, 2018 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
We Now Know Trump Defrauded Voters
He repeatedly denied business interests in Russia. He lied.
Something happened this week that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. I’m not saying the press corps is slacking on the job. Far from it. I’m saying there’s so much going on, it’s easy to miss things that don’t seem as important at the time.
I’m talking about a letter obtained by CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
It’s a letter of intent between the Trump Organization and a Russian real estate development firm to move forward with negotiations over a proposed Trump Tower Moscow. The letter features Donald J. Trump’s monumental signature. It is dated October 25, 2015. That’s about five months after Trump launched his campaign.
Trump did not inform the public of potential business interests in Russia even as he pushed for better relations with Vladimir Putin. He called for easing or eliminating sanctions against Russia for its 2014 invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Worse, Trump and campaign repeatedly denied involvement in Russia when pressed, claiming the candidate had “nothing to do with” it. In denying material interests, the campaign gave the impression that Trump’s stance was principled. He was a Republican of the old Robert Taft mold, a man deeply skeptical of America’s role as policeman of the post-Soviet “new world order.” This appealed to America’s political fringes—to the anti-war left and to the isolationist right—and Trump successfully played both ends against the middle, where Hillary Clinton’s campaign resided.
Trump’s isolationism appeared to be on display again this week when he announced, all of sudden, that the US had defeated ISIS in Syria, and therefore would pull out its roughly 2,000 personnel immediately. (This was probably the biggest news of the week so far, thus overshadowing Cuomo’s exclusive.) “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won,” Trump said.
That’s probably not true. What is true is retreat is a boon to Russia. Per Bloomberg: the “abrupt decision to call home American troops sets Putin up as the pivotal figure in resolving the Syrian war and strengthens his hand across the Middle East. Trump’s declaration fulfills a long-standing Russian demand for a US withdrawal from Syria.”
That might be tolerable, even to the president’s critics, if not for the letter of intent Cuomo obtained. It’s document evidence that the president has been lying about his involvement with Russia, that his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has been lying, and that the White House has been lying, too. It’s evidence that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, was telling the truth. But it suggests more than that. Much more.
The deal didn’t go through, but if it had, it would have “given Trump’s company a $4 million upfront fee, no upfront costs, a percentage of the sales and control over marketing and design,” according to CNN’s reporting. “The deal also included an opportunity to name the hotel spa after Trump’s daughter Ivanka.” The special counsel’s office has said the real estate deal would have been very lucrative.
Buzzfeed reported last month another detail of the deal, had it been completed: It would have included giving, as a gift, a $50 million penthouse to Putin. That’s according to a spokesperson for Putin’s press secretary. This detail is especially important, because it establishes a material link between the Trump Organization and the guy who runs Russia, between Trump and the country that he says the United States should be nicer too by lifting retaliatory economic sanctions.
Why didn’t the deal go through? I don’t know, but one of those sanctions is on VTB Bank. The Times reported in August 2017 that Felix Sater, a Trump associate, tried secure financing for the proposed Trump Tower Moscow through VTB Bank.
The Times revealed emails from Sater to Michael Cohen, in which Sater suggested that the deal would be the nexus by which Putin would get something and Trump would get something, including Putin’s help in Trump’s run for the presidency.
What those somethings were is still unclear. But the pieces are falling into place in our effort to fully understand what happened in 2016. Where all this will end is anyone’s guess. It could end with credible accusations of treason. But one thing we know.
We now have hard evidence supporting the claim that Trump deprived Americans of having the fullest set of facts in making a good decision on Election Day. This president is not who he said he is. That he defrauded voters is now fact.
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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.