WASHINGTON -- The Trump Organization's pursuit in 2013 of a tower in Moscow bearing the Trump name was much farther along than previously disclosed, with a memorandum of understanding signed and financing arranged, according to new documents released to the public and information obtained by McClatchy.
President Donald Trump and his children have described a possible Moscow hotel deal in only the broadest of terms, calling it something that grew out of the Miss Universe contest held in Moscow that year.
Sources tell McClatchy, however, that by then talks had been underway for months and architectural drawings had been submitted. One of the sources of planned financing was the Sapir family, which had backed the now-failed Trump Soho project in Manhattan years earlier.
"I think it was a fairly far along deal," said a person with direct knowledge of the deal, who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The revelations add another dimension to the depth of discussions between Trump's organization and his family and individuals in Russia, many of them close to its leader, Vladimir Putin. Trump has long insisted, including in early 2017, before he took office, that "I have nothing to do with Russia."
A statement from Donald Trump Jr. given to the Senate Judiciary Committee was among the more than 2,500 pages of congressional testimony released unexpectedly by the panel on Wednesday. The documents involved some of the players in the now infamous June 2016 meeting between a Russian lawyer and Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower.
The Trump Jr. statement said that the Trump Organization and Aras Agalarov's Crocus Group began preliminary discussions on "potential real estate projects in Moscow" soon after the pageant. It was a publicist for Agalarov's son, Emin, a Russian pop singer, who contacted Trump Jr. to set up the 2016 meeting, telling Trump Jr. that the Russian lawyer would deliver negative information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Under direct questioning from senators, Trump Jr. described a residential tower "still to be designed with maybe some retail components as Trump-branded property."
But elsewhere in the documents released Wednesday was testimony from Irakly "Ike" Kaveladze, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in the Soviet republic of Georgia who since 2003 has been a representative for both Agalarovs.
Aras Agalarov, a Russian oligarch and real estate magnate, is said to be close to Putin. He hosted the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, paying Trump between $14 million and $20 million for the right to do so.