Below are some of the more interesting and intriguing details.
Trump to Putin in 2007: ‘I’m a big fan of yours’
Trump’s affinity for and cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin — despite Russia’s malign activity in the 2016 election — remains one of the most controversial aspects of his presidency.
A couple of interactions from the report suggest this admiration by the Trumps dates back years.
One is a 2007 letter from Trump to Putin, in which Trump congratulates Putin on being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. (Trump used the former title, Man of the Year.) In the brief letter, Trump adds, “As you probably have heard, I am a big fan of yours!” with the “big fan” clause underlined in pen.
What’s most telling here might be what the Time profile said. It wasn’t laudatory, and in fact, it made explicitly clear that “TIME’s Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor."
“At its best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world — for better or for worse,” the profile said, adding: “At significant cost to the principles and ideas that free nations prize, [Putin] has performed an extraordinary feat of leadership in imposing stability on a nation that has rarely known it and brought Russia back to the table of world power."
That Trump would see that as worthy of congratulating Putin — and that Trump would send such a letter a decade before ascending to the presidency — could certainly been seen as instructive.
“A GIFT FROM PUTIN!”
The other interaction came in late 2013, shortly after Trump held the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. While there, Trump had spoken with Putin-linked Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov about building a Trump Tower in the city — an effort that would continue even during the 2016 campaign in which Russia aided Trump.
A couple of weeks later, Donald Trump Jr. emailed Agalarov’s son, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, about the project. Emin Agalarov later responded with images of a letter and a gift from Putin — the latter which the report describes as “a Fedoskino-style lacquer box,” a traditional Russian gift.
The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Michael Birnbaum first reported on the gift in 2016. What’s new in the report is how the Trumps reacted.
Trump Jr. asked an aide to print the email, on which he wrote in a very excited, all caps: “DAD, SEE ATTACHED FROM EMIN — YOU ARE BEING SENT A GIFT FROM PUTIN! DON."
According to the report, the gift and letter were later delivered in person by Aras Agalarov’s wife, Irina.
Suggestions of a 1996 affair — and a possible kompromat effort
The report includes a discussion of Russia potentially having compromising information on Trump — as the unverified Steele dossier suggested it might — saying it “did not establish” that Russia did.
Despite not ultimately making that conclusion, though, it goes over the possibility in significantly more detail than we’ve seen to date. (Much of this section is redacted, but much of it is not.)
One allegation, according to the report, is that “Trump may have begun a brief relationship with” a former Miss Moscow in 1996. Trump was at the time still married to his second wife, Marla Maples, from whom he separated in 1997.
It also says that, after Trump was elected in 2016, a figure with ties to Russian intelligence and a history of exposing others to kompromat sought to chase down a picture of Trump and the woman.
One named witness said the man, David Geovanis, invited the woman (whose name is redacted) to a 1996 party by noting Trump would be there.
Another witness who was close to Geovanis, Robert Curran, told investigators that based on what Geovanis told him, “I think Trump and [the woman] might have had a brief romantic relationship."
The allegations are unsubstantiated, and the report describes Geovanis as a perhaps-unreliable character. But it also describes the Moscow-based U.S. businessman as having “ties to Kremlin-linked oligarchs” and contacts that are “also associated with Russia’s intelligence and security services”
“Geovanis also has a reputation in Moscow for a pattern of conduct regarding women that could make him, and potentially those around him, vulnerable to kompromat operations,” the report says. It notes at another point that Geovanis had money troubles in 2013.
After Trump was elected president in 2016, Geovanis visited the first witness, Theodore Liebman, for the first time in several years and asked him whether he had any photos of the 1996 party. Liebman later sent Geovanis a photo that the report says is “likely” from 1996, showing Trump and a woman whose face is blocked out (see above).
Geovanis forwarded the photo to Curran. Curran in an email asked Geovanis, “What exactly happened … did they hook up, or whatever?” Curran said Geovanis responded, “yeah, well, I saw them again the next day and they were together, so.”
Unsubstantiated allegations, yes — but allegations that the bipartisan report nonetheless opted to put out there.
Other witnesses would also allude to the idea of Geovanis having kompromat on Trump. One emailed fellow expatriate businessman in October 2016 about a holiday party, saying, “I keep thinking that VVP [Putin] must have some great material on Donald.” The witness said this was based on what Geovanis had told him at the prior year’s holiday party. Another attendee of the gathering recalls that Geovanis suggested “that Mr. Trump should be nice to him in light of the information he had” but said Geovanis may have made the comment in jest.
Cohen said Trump visited a club featuring a bizarre “sex act”
Months before the 2013 Moscow Miss Universe pageant, the Trump Organization invited the Agalarovs to Las Vegas to seal the deal and announce it.
And two witnesses — Rob Goldstone and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen — recall the Agalarovs and the Trump team visiting a club that featured a strange show which Cohen said involved a “sex act.”
Goldstone, a Brit who later served as an intermediary for the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, said Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller approached him about the proposed trip to a club called The Act, where an associate of Emin Agalarov was an investor. “Mr. Trump wants to come,” Schiller said, according to Goldstone.
Cohen described the club as “more than a burlesque club” and a “wild place.” Here’s Cohen’s recollection
He said the show that night featured a “young man” in a body suit who was blind and, in Cohen’s estimation, appeared to have suffered from birth defects. He said the man sang a patriotic song while a large woman in a thong bikini performed “sex acts” on him.
Cohen said he was surprised Trump would attend such a show. “He looked over to me when he was finished — and I’ll never forget this, he looked me right in the face. He goes, ‘That’s a tough way to make a living.’ ”
The report says the Trump contingent “stayed at The Act for several hours.”
A few months later, a Nevada judge ordered the club to scale back on some of its more risque performances. The news report described those performances as including “simulated” — not actual — sex acts.
Trump’s visit to The Act was reported in a 2018 book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, though it didn’t specify what was onstage that night. Cohen has teased his new book by apparently referencing the club visit but referring to another act — one involving urination — that doesn’t appear in the Senate’s report.
Bannon’s wry comment about Donald Trump Jr. and Breitbart
Stephen K. Bannon has bigger problems right now, having been indicted Thursday. But at one point in the report he makes a very dismissive comment both about Donald Trump Jr. and the conservative website that Bannon once ran, Breitbart News.
In September 2016, Trump Jr. got a direct message on Twitter from WikiLeaks, which asked him for comment about a new anti-Trump website at putintrump.org. It gave him a password to access the website before its launch. Trump Jr. didn’t seem to know what to do about the inquiry, but he emailed others saying he tried the password and it worked, and sought input about what to do next.
Investigators asked Bannon about Trump Jr.'s interaction with WikiLeaks, and Bannon offered this:
“I’d describe Don Junior, who I think very highly of, as a guy who believes everything on Breitbart is true,” Bannon said, according to the footnote.
Bannon joined the Trump campaign as its CEO in August 2016 from the then-more-obscure website affiliated with the alt-right. The site refashioned itself in the Trump era as an almost unceasing and often factually challenged advocate for his candidacy and presidency.