Evan Vucci / AP
For more than a year, journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn have dedicated themselves to covering the links of the Trump campaign with Russia.
Isikoff was the first to report that there was a US intelligence investigation. UU figure in the Trump campaign – Carter Page. Corn was the first to reveal the existence of Russia's infamous dossier, the unverified compilation of reports claiming connections between the Trump campaign and Russia compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.
Now, in his new book, Russian Roulette the two men try to put all the pieces of the story together.
"We started the book with Donald Trump's trip to Moscow in 2013, when he really forms this & # 39; bromance & # 39; with Vladimir Putin," says Isikoff.
Isikoff notes that Trump's trip in 2013 to Russia for the Miss Universe contest centered on a trade agreement: "He signed a letter of intent to build a Trump Tower in Moscow with an oligarch connected by Putin, Aras Agalarov."
In 2016, Agalarov would later be one of the conduits of what Donald Trump Jr. described as an offer of help to the Trump campaign by the Russian government .
The possible previous agreement for the Trump Tower of Moscow failed, says Isikoff, after the Obama administration and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia following the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine.
But Corn says the stalled agreement can help explain other elements of the story: "People have been trying to find out for years the positi Some observations that Donald Trump has made about Vladimir Putin … He almost hides to simple view that one of the reasons he said all these kind things about Putin is that he was always interested in doing business there. "
On Trump's interest in meeting Vladimir Putin during his 2013 trip to Moscow
Michael Isikoff: This is when he chairs the Miss Universe contest. He does his best to try to have a meeting with Putin. He does not appear for a variety of interesting reasons, but then he wants to tell the world that he met Putin anyway, and he actually does it repeatedly, although he did not.
But you can see the seeds of the Trump-Putin relationship on that trip. And what was it about? It was a commercial deal. He signed a letter of intent to build a Trump Tower in Moscow with an oligarch connected with Putin, Aras Agalarov, and it was something that was a very high priority for him and had been for many years.
On how the project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow influenced Trump's views on Russia
Isikoff: In February 2014, Ivanka Trump traveled to Moscow to Explore potential sites for the Trump Tower with Emin Agalarov and the project is finally not carried out. Why? … A development that may well have played a big factor … was … this is just at the moment that Putin annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine, heavy sanctions were imposed by the Obama administration and the European Union, including Sberbank, the bank that was going to finance the operation [Trump Tower].
And Rob Goldstone, quoted in the book, and I think it's the first interview he's given to anyone about these developments, he says he believes it was the imposition of sanctions that ended the deal and that this could happen. They have well influenced Trump's vision of sanctions and his defense later, during the presidential campaign, of lifting sanctions against Russia.
David Corn: Sberbank is majority owned by the Russian state, by the Russian government. Which means that Trump was trying to reach an agreement that would involve the Russian government. And, of course, you can not carry out large projects in Moscow, and this is a deal worth billions of dollars, without government approval. And who runs the government? Vladimir Putin.
On the Trump administration's denial of Russian interference in elections
David Corn: [Trump’s circle] had reasons to believe more than anyone else that there was a Russian effort to help and boost Trump. They knew that members of their own campaign, people like George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, were making connections with Russian officials and Russian cuts. And Trump was even informed in mid-August of 2016 when he was a candidate about the Russian hacking of the elections and still kept saying it was not happening … Again and again, Trump and his supporters say there was no contact with Russia, "We did not do anything wrong."
Gather all that with a little distance and you'll see how the Trump and Trump campaign itself almost somehow helped and instigated what the Russians were continually doing by denying that they had any role in the elections and making it difficult for the United States and The Obama administration forged a bipartisan response to what was happening.
About a Russian general who wrote a document describing Russia's information war
Corn: His name was Gen. [Valery] Gerasimov, and came out in a Dark military diary in early 2013 and nobody paid much attention until a translation appeared a few months later. Basically he said, listen, that the war of the future will not be played in real space. It will not be between battalions and a fleet of fighter jets and planes, but from other means.
It was quite amazing to see it in retrospect – [he] talked about how to exploit the divisions within your enemy. If you look at what happened in 2016 with the campaign on social networks and with the hacks and landfills that the Russians achieved, what they did was to exploit the sometimes very bitter divisions within the United States.
They did it on Facebook, they did it on Twitter, they discovered how to turn Bernie Sanders supporters against Hillary Clinton, they really took advantage of some of the political conflicts and conflicts that we are ultimately responsible for in the United States. States, but that was one of the things the general pointed out that could be armed, and they did quite well, I think, in 2016.
Sam Briger and Thea Chaloner produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and TK adapted it for the Web.