FEBRUARY 5, 2019
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – The former mayor of Moscow has confirmed Donald Trump met with officials in Russia in the 1990s to discuss a possible building project after archival footage of the meeting was posted online.
The video, allegedly aired by Russian state television in 1995, shows the US president meeting with members of the former mayor’s administration.
“Trump was in Moscow,” Yury Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow from 1992 through 2010, told the Interfax news agency. “He had contacts…on matters related to the construction of the Okhotny Ryad underground mall on Manezh Square.”
The video adds new insight into Mr Trump’s business dealings in Russia well before the 2016 presidential election. It had previously been reported he visited Moscow in 1996 — a year after his alleged meeting with the former mayor’s administration — when he announced plans to invest upwards of $250m into the city.
The video was unearthed by someone who had “been going through the Russian TV archives”, according to Daniel Sandford, a home affairs correspondent for BBC News, who previously served as a correspondent in Moscow.
Mr Trump’s reported meeting with Moscow officials in 1995 and the newly-unearthed footage does not show any clear wrongdoing on the part of the president. It does, however, refute the notion that he had zero dealings in Russia before assuming the White House in 2016 — a frequent claim made by Mr Trump and his inner circle.
“I know nothing about Russia,” Mr Trump said during the second presidential debate against Hillary Clinton. “I don’t deal there.”
He also previously told CBS4 in 2016, “I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”
And again, in 2017, the president reiterated those claims in a tweet: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”
The White House and Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Besides claiming not to have any business dealings with Russia, the president has also long defended his campaign from alleged collussion with Russian officials to sway the 2016 election in his favour. That accusation is currently being probed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, as investigators seek to understand Russia’s interference operations in the election season that secured the White House for Mr Trump.
“[Trump] planned to take part in the mall’s construction,” the former mayor reportedly told Interfax. “There were intentions… but the matter didn’t go further.”
The video surfaced the same day BuzzFeed News uploaded a trove of documents outlining the Trump Organisation’s plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and efforts among the president’s inner circle to meet and discuss the project with Russian officials throughout the election.
Those documents showed an interest among the Trump team in building “the tallest tower in Europe”. The extent of Mr Trump’s knowledge or direct involvement in those dealings, however, remains to be seen.