As the Russia probe surrounding President Donald Trump deepens, a shocking new report says his namesake company was planning to develop a “massive” Trump Tower in Moscow at the very same time the then-candidate was running for office — and could partially explain why the mogul repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin during the campaign.
According to the Washington Post, Russian-born real estate developer Felix Sater — a convicted felon who has longtime ties to the Trump Organization — predicted in a November 2015 email that he and Trump Organization executives would have two reasons to celebrate in the coming year: the development of a huge residential property in the Russian capital, and the election of Donald Trump.
Sater also reportedly urged Trump to come to Moscow to support the proposed venture, and bragged that he could get Putin to say “great things” about Trump.
Ultimately, Trump did not travel to Moscow for the proposed project, which was abandoned at the end of Jan. 2016, reportedly due to lack of land and permits.
However, Trump did speak highly of Putin during the period that Trump Tower Moscow was being considered. For instance, the Post reports that when Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly asked Trump in Sept. 2015 whether he had ever met and bonded with Putin, Trump replied “No … but I will tell you that, I think, in terms of leadership, he is getting an A and the president is not doing so well.”
At the end of 2015 Putin called Trump a “colorful and talented” person, and Trump said afterward that the compliment was an “honor,” the Post states, but noted that there’s no clear indication that either man was influenced by Sater or the proposed Moscow deal.
PEOPLE’s attempts to reach Sater were unsuccessful, and he and his attorney did not respond to the Post‘s request for comment. White House officials also declined to comment to the Post.
The latest revelation comes as special counsel Robert Mueller continues to oversee the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — and any potential role Trump or his associates might have played in it.
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It also comes less than two months after the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., admitted to meeting with a lawyer allegedly connected to the Russian government in June 2016 after she allegedly promised damaging information on his father’s presidential campaign rival, Hillary Clinton.
Predictably, Twitter had some feelings about the latest news:
“He sold his country out for a building,” tweeted former Hillary Clinton advisor Philippe Reines.
“Oops,” tweeted Trump critic and commentator Keith Olbermann. “Trump Inc. sought a “Trump Tower Moscow” WHILE HE WAS RUNNING FOR POTUS.”