Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop star who initiated the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with members of Donald Trump’s campaign, canceled his upcoming US tour after failing to reach a deal with the special counsel’s office and Congress over the contours of his testimony.
Agalarov was set to launch a four-city US tour Saturday in New York. Looming over the impending engagement was the prospect of his being on US soil and subject to US law enforcement.
Agalarov attorney Scott Balber said talks broke down at the end of last week and the decision to cancel the tour was made Monday.
“It’s the only choice we had,” Balber said. “I’ve been endeavoring to engage with the special counsel’s office as well as various congressional committees and despite our best effort we haven’t been able to reach an agreement on the terms.”
The special counsel’s office declined to comment.
Agalarov posted an Instagram video about the cancellation Monday saying it was “due to circumstances beyond my control.” He made no mention of special counsel Robert Mueller.
His tour was to promote his latest single “Got Me Good” and its video satirizing the Mueller investigation.
Talks between the two sides about possibly doing interviews stopped this past summer but were revived when Agalarov planned on coming to the US for his tour.
Balber said Agalarov wanted to appear voluntarily in his interviews and would not agree to be served with a subpoena for his testimony. Balber did not specify whether it was Mueller or Congress who wanted to subpoena him.
As a Russian citizen, Agalarov is not subject to US jurisdiction. If he agreed to accept a subpoena, Agalarov could open himself up to scrutiny if he failed to fully respond to document and records requests, such as obstruction of justice charges, for instance.
“He has nothing to hide. He wants to tell his story,” Balber said.
Mueller’s investigators and several congressional committees are interested in speaking with Agalarov because of his role in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr., his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Emin and his father Aras Agalarov, a billionaire Russian real estate developer close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, helped Trump bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013, discussed a partnership to build a Trump Tower there, and supported Trump during the presidential campaign. On the day after the June 2016 meeting, Aras Agalarov sent Trump an expensive painting for his birthday, according to the House report.
Ties between Trump and the Agalarovs
An interview with either of the Agalarovs could shed light on several investigative areas, including whether Donald Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting in advance and possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump said in written responses to Mueller’s questions that he did not know about the meeting in advance.
The Agalarovs relationship with the Trumps date back to 2013 and the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas. There they discussed hosting the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in Moscow that November. A deal was struck paying the Trump Organization several million dollars.
The Washington Post, citing multiple people, reported that Trump hand wrote a letter to Putin inviting him to the event. Putin didn’t attend the November pageant, but Trump did and that weekend appeared in one of Emin’s music videos using his catch phrase, “You’re fired.” The Agalarovs hosted a dinner for Trump that was attended by various people including the head of Russia’s second-largest bank.
During the trip the Agalarovs and Trump discussed branding a Trump Tower in Moscow. A letter of intent was signed and talks for the tower continued into late 2014 but the deal fizzled out.
The Agalarovs kept in touch with Trump over the next two years as he prepared to launch his bid for the presidency. A potential meeting between Putin and Trump loomed in the backdrop. On July 24, 2015, Agalarov spokesman Rob Goldstone emailed Rhona Graff, Trump’s assistant, asking if then-candidate Trump would travel to Moscow for Aras Agalarov’s 60th birthday and a potential “meeting with President Putin which Emin would set up.” Trump, who had launched his campaign by that point, didn’t attend.
In late February 2016, Agalarov congratulated Trump on the eve of the Super Tuesday presidential primaries and offered “his support and that of many of his important Russian friends and colleagues – especially with reference to U.S./Russian relations,” according to the minority report by House Intelligence Committee Democrats.
The day after the Trump Tower meeting Aras Agalarov sent Trump an expensive painting for his birthday, according to the House report.
Trump responded with a thank you note to Agalarov several days later on June 17, 2016, and according to the House minority report it read, “I’m rarely at a loss for words, but right now I can only say how much I appreciate your friendship and to thank you for this fantastic gift. This is one birthday that I will always remember.”
The relationship between the families continued after Trump won the election and was transitioning to the White House. On November 28, 2016, Goldstone emailed Graff stating, “Aras Agalarov has asked me to pass on this document in the hope it can be passed on to the appropriate team,” according to the House report.
The public attention to the Agalarlovs has had other effects on the family business. After a report that banks flagged suspicious transactions, other banks closed accounts controlled by Ike Kaveladze, Agalarov’s long-time employee. Balber, who represents the Agalarovs and Kaveladze, said there is nothing suspicious about the transactions and they were for legitimate business purposes.
Update: This story has been updated with additional information about interactions between the Agalarovs and Donald Trump.