President Trump has close and recent business ties to the Russian billionaire at the center of an alleged offer by the Russian government to pass on damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
As recently as mid-2014, the senior Trump bragged on Russian TV about “a really big building in Russia” that he was working on with Aras Agalarov and his pop-star son, Emin. Trump continued to meet with Emin until just days before he announced his candidacy in 2015.
"Well we're actually talking to Emin and his father about doing a really big building in Russia. So we'll see what happens,” Trump said in a video segment broadcast on Russia’s Channel One in August 2014. The video is posted on the official Youtube channel of Emin Agalarov.
It is unclear precisely when the interview with Trump was filmed, and the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The building project did not go forward.
On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. released a June 2016 email exchange with Emin Agalarov’s New York City-based publicist Rob Goldstone.
In the emails, Goldstone said Aras Agalarov had met with a top Russian prosecutor who "offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father."
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone said in the email.
Aras Agalarov, 61, handled much of the development of Moscow after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and his business dealings put him in close circles with the Kremlin.
“He’s a major real estate developer,” said Ken McCallion, a former federal prosecutor who has been researching ties between the Russian government, Russian organized crime and money laundering in the U.S. real estate market.
The large projects Aras Agalarov built required political leaders to approve the condemnation of property in Moscow, McCallion said. “It’s generally understood he would have had the go ahead from the Putin inner circle.”
Florida real estate records indicate the Agalarovs own at least two multi-million-dollar properties in the Miami area, although neither appear to have ties to Trump.
Luke Harding, author of A Very Expensive Poison, which is about the murder of defected Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in Britain, met Agalarov while he was stationed in Moscow for The Guardian newspaper.
“He’s fantastically well-connected,” Harding said.
In 2013, the Agalarovs partnered with Trump to host the Miss Universe Pageant, which Trump owned at the time, in Moscow.
The Moscow event accounted for a “substantial portion” of the $12.2 million in foreign income earned by the Miss Universe pageant that year, according to a letter written by Trump’s tax attorneys this year that was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Trump made no secret of his partnership with the Agalarovs or his desire to develop business in Russia.
In 2013, Trump told Real Estate Weekly that he told a group of investors in Moscow that he was considering bringing a replica of the Trump SoHo hotel to Moscow.
In a November 2013 tweet directed toward Aras Agalarov, he wrote: “I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!”
In interviews and news conferences since winning the presidential election, Trump has indicated the pageant was the last time he had anything to do with Russia.
“I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away,” Trump said in a January news conference. “Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years, don't speak to people in Russia,” he said in February.
“I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian, many years ago,” Trump told NBC News in May. “I had the Miss Universe pageant, which I owned for quite a while, I had it in Moscow, long time ago. But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia.”
But Trump’s relationship with the Agalarovs appears to extend beyond the pageant.
Emin Agalarov had dinner in Las Vegas with Donald Trump and Goldstone, according to a June 15, 2013, Facebook post by Goldstone.
In February 2014, Emin Agalarov posted a photo of himself with Ivanka Trump to his Instagram account, along with a caption indicating the two met in Moscow. On Tuesday, Yahoo News reported the purpose of Ivanka Trump’s trip was to scout locations for a prospective tower in Moscow.
Later, Emin Agalarov performed at a golf tournament in March 2014 at Trump' course in Doral, Florida, and posed for pictures with Donald and Ivanka Trump.
On August 27, 2014, Agalarov made an Instagram post linking to the video in which Trump talks about the prospective Russia building deal.
Just weeks before Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency in June 2015, Emin Agalarov posted that he had met with the tycoon again in New York City.
In the May 20, 2015, post, Emin Agalarov indicated that he had stopped by Trump’s office. A photo features the two smiling and giving thumbs up signs.
“My New York highlight,” Agalarov’s caption states. Stopping by the office "of a Man who has built half of the city proud to call him my friend…excited new projects yet to be announced!”