This Week in Conflicts: Details on Trump Tower Moscow Deal, Pruitt Escapes Investigations and the Trump Foundation Lawsuit Moves Forward


President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump with President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation and President Sauli Niinistö and Jenni Haukio of Finland, July 16, 2018 (Image Credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This week, new details emerge about the plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow, reports show investigations into Scott Pruitt, the former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have ended due to his resignation, and a judge has ruled the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation can proceed.

Vladimir Putin & Donald Trump in Helsinki, July 2018. (Image Credit: via Wikimedia Commons)

Trump Tower Moscow

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, admitted Thursday he lied to Congress about President Trump’s knowledge of plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

As CNN reports, the Cohen’s guilty plea has “ensnared the President’s children in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.”

Here is some background:

  • Previously, Cohen said talks about plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow stopped in January 2016, before the Iowa caucuses, where then-candidate Trump was running as a presidential candidate.
  • This week, Cohen said talks about the project continued until June 2016, a time when President Trump was considered the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican party.
  • While pleading guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline, Cohen also admitted his conversations with President Trump about the planned Tower were “more extensive” than he originally shared and he had “briefed” other Trump family members about the project along the way.
  • President Trump has verified there were plans for a possible real estate venture in Moscow but said those conversations “lasted a short period of time,” and has said Cohen is “lying” about the timeline.

According to CNN, “discussions over the Trump Tower Moscow project began in 2015 and by October 28, Trump had signed (a) preliminary agreement that would have brought $4 million in fees to his business to work with a Russian to develop a luxury hotel.”

Buzzfeed reports the planned 100-story building, “…would have soared above every other building in Moscow.” In addition, according to Buzzfeed, President Trump’s company planned to give “a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign.”

The building was also going to feature a spa named after President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, according to documents obtained by CNN.

The Washington Post traces President Trump’s desire to extend his real estate footprint to Russia back to the 1980s and in a recent article quotes President Trump from a 2007 deposition.

“Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” President Trump said during the deposition. “We will be in Moscow at some point.”

Now, Democratic House members say they will investigate President Trump’s plan to give Putin the $50 million penthouse when they assume control in January, according to Buzzfeed.

Former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Image Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Pruitt Escapes Investigations

When Pruitt resigned from his position at the EPA, CNN is reporting, his resignation “thwarted multiple investigations into his conduct in office.”

Those investigations by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General included:

  • Pruitt’s rental of a townhouse owned by a lobbyist’s wife
  • Allegations Pruitt used his official position to seek a business opportunity for his wife with fast-food chain, Chik-fil-A.
  • His use of EPA staff to assist him in finding personal housing, a mattress and his use of  security staff to run errands

According to the report from the IG’s office, “Mr. Pruitt resigned prior to being interviewed by investigators. For that reason, the (EPA Office of the Inspector General) deemed that the result of the investigation was inconclusive. The case will be closed.”

President Donald Trump, joined by First Daughter Ivanka Trump talks with NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer onboard the International Space Station Monday, April 24, 2017 from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The President congratulated Whitson for breaking the record for cumulative time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut. The President and First Daughter were also joined by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and discussed with the three astronauts what it is like to live and work on the orbiting outpost as well as the importance of STEM. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Trump Foundation Lawsuit Moves Forward

The New York Attorney General’s civil lawsuit against President Trump, the Trump Foundation and three of his children will move forward.

As CNN reports, in allowing the case to move forward “the judge ruled that a sitting president can face a civil lawsuit in state court for actions not taken in his official capacity.”

The lawsuit was filed in June and alleges President Trump, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, violated state and federal charity guidelines with a “persistent” pattern.

All of the children and President Trump sat on the charity’s board.

The AG’s office is asking for the charity to be dissolved and wants $2.8 million in restitution payments in addition to possible fines. The office is also seeking to ban President Trump and his children from serving as directors of any New York nonprofit in the future. They are asking to ban the president from serving in such positions for 10 years and his children for one year.

According to a 2017 tax return CNN reported on this week, “President Donald Trump’s company donated more than half a million dollars to the Donald J. Trump Foundation last year … The purpose of $502,400 contribution from the Trump Corp. to the foundation was not disclosed in the filings.”

The tax filing also states that the charity intends to dissolve and is asking for permission to distribute its remaining funds. President Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are still listed as directors for the charity. Ivanka Trump resigned from her position with the charity in January 2017.

Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, speaking with U.S. military leaders after arriving in Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2017. (Image Credit: DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Kushner Buying NYC Hotel

According to news reports, Jared Kushner and his brother, Joshua Kushner are buying a hotel on the Lower East Side in New York City.

This will add to properties their family company, Kushner Companies, already owns in New York City, which includes the Puck Building and walk-up apartment buildings in the East Village.

The hotel they are buying is called Hotel on Rivington. It is described as a “20-story glass high-rise — which features a number of party spaces, including a rooftop penthouse.”

According to news reports, a spokesperson with Kushner Companies confirmed the company is under contract to buy the hotel.

Trump International Hotel and Tower, Chicago, Illinois, USA. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Daderot)

Trump Hotel to Host Debt Collection Forum

The 2019 Debt Collection Forum will be held at the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago.

The annual forum is a trade show and a series of seminars that brings together the debt-collection industry.

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Helaine Olen, a personal finance author, writes, “a group of several hundred debt collectors, members of a widely loathed industry that is regulated by the federal government, is going to meet next April at a property belonging to the president of the United States.”

The organization confirmed the location of the 2019 conference, scheduled for April, with Olen and said the choice of venue had to do with the size and layout of the hotel.

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking.

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.