Special counsel Robert Mueller examined whether President Donald Trump learned during the 2016 presidential campaign of the rumored existence of compromising tapes made of him years earlier when he visited Moscow, according to a redacted version of Mueller’s report.
According to a footnote in the special counsel’s report, which was released Thursday, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, received a text from Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze in October 2016 that said: “Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know…”
Rtskhiladze told Mueller that “tapes” referred to “compromising tapes of Trump rumored to be held by persons associated with the Russian real estate conglomerate Crocus Group,” which had helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant, according to the report (the pageant was owned by Trump for years). Cohen told the special counsel that he spoke to Trump about the issue after receiving Rtskhiladze’s text.
That episode occurred months before top intelligence officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him that were contained in a dossier prepared by retired British spy Christopher Steele, which CNN has reported took place in January 2017.
BuzzFeed News published the full, unverified dossier that included the infamous claim that Russian authorities had evidence of Trump watching prostitutes urinate in a hotel suite.
There is no indication that such a tape exists and Trump has vehemently denied it. Rtskhiladze also told prosecutors that he was told the tapes were fake, but that he didn’t convey that to Cohen.
Scott Balber, a lawyer for Crocus Group founder Aras Agalarov, said the allegation is “total nonsense.” He added that Crocus Group does not have any compromising tapes.
The footnote raises the matter in the context of explaining that Comey had briefed the President-elect in January 2017 on the dossier, including that “the Russians had compromising tapes of the President involving conduct when he was a private citizen during a 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant.”
Trump has criticized the 35-page dossier, calling it a political document paid for by Hillary Clinton.
In October 2017, the law firm for Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, Perkins Coie, acknowledged its clients’ role in paying for opposition research on Trump that helped lead to the now-infamous dossier.
CNN’s Devan Cole and Kara Scannell contributed to this report.