Russian singer who worked with Trump team on Miss Universe and Trump Tower Moscow speaks out about Mueller investigation
When the musician and entrepreneur Emin Agalarov first read about the conclusions of the so-called Mueller probe, he was pleasantly unsurprised. “We were very glad, of course,” Agalarov told the Russian-language investigative outlet The Bell. But, he added, “we always knew that would be the result. I mean, I was the one who organized that fantastical meeting [with attorney Natalya Veselnitskaya], and I know what it was all really like.”
Agalarov, who runs the multi-industry Crocus Group along with his father, Araz, did not comment on his relationship with the Trump family while Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Donald Trump’s Russian connections was ongoing in the United States. However, with the probe’s conclusions already on paper, the singer gave an interview to The Bell. In his conversation with journalist Anastasia Stognei, the younger Agalarov discussed the Miss Universe competition that first brought him into contact with Donald Trump, Veselnitskaya’s alleged offer to provide compromising information about Hillary Clinton, and the planned American tour that almost made the musician himself an official witness for Mueller’s team.
“Let’s find the most beautiful girl in the United States”
Agalarov told The Bell that he had just finished recording an album in New York when he first heard about the Miss Universe competition. In a 2012 meeting with his manager, the publicist Rob Goldstone, the singer asked where he might find “the most beautiful girl in the United States” to act in one of his music videos. Goldstone mentioned Miss Universe, and before long, Agalarov discovered that the same name he associated with the skyscrapers sprouting around him was in charge of the beauty pageant as well.
After visiting the Miss America competition in Las Vegas in June of 2013, the Agalarovs hosted Miss Universe in November of that same year. The pair had recently opened a new Moscow mega-venue, Crocus City Hall, and hoped to attract partnerships and investment as a result of the partnership. While Agalarov said the result was ultimately a $2 million loss, Trump’s 2013 visit to the Russian capital became an explosive point of interest in the timeline of his relationship with the Russian government.
“Naturally, when he got to Russia, Trump asked whether Putin would be there, whether we invited him,” Emin Agalarov told The Bell. “We said, of course, that we did.” As a competition with a large global audience, Agalarov reasoned, Miss Universe merited the attention of Putin himself. However, in the two days during which the singer said he accompanied Trump around the city, Putin ultimately spent his time meeting with the king of Jordan. “If I’m not mistaken,” Agalarov explained, “my father passed an invitation along to Putin through his press secretary, and either he or someone else from the presidential administration said the president would have liked to come but couldn’t.” The singer said he did organize a “meet and greet” for Trump with employees of the state-owned Sberbank but that “no business came out of it” in the end. He called American media speculation about a near-run-in between Trump and Putin in 2013 “some kind of conspiracy theory” and said the Steele dossier describing Trump’s Moscow visit was “a piece of total absurdity with no foundation underneath.”
“We were planning to build 14 towers. Why not name one of them after Trump?”
After the 2013 Miss Universe contest, the Agalarovs made contact with Trump’s businesses to discuss the possibility of building a Trump Tower in Moscow. “My father was always against it, but I was for it,” the musician said. He explained that the Trump brand was not yet big enough in Russia to attract as much attention as it would today. Nonetheless, he thought to himself, “We were planning to build 14 towers. Why not name one of them after Trump?”
Agalarov said he and his father signed two documents with Trump Organization representatives in 2015: a letter of intent that the singer said had no legal authority as well as a non-disclosure agreement. The relevant negotiations disintegrated over time and did not include Trump himself, Agalarov added. “When Trump started running for president, they stopped altogether. It was only post facto that we found out they were also talking about building a Trump Tower with other developers,” he said.
“I think political questions of some kind really could have been discussed”
By 2016, the U.S. presidential campaign was in full swing, but the relationship between the Agalarovs and the Trump conglomerate was not yet over. When Araz Agalarov asked his son to arrange a meeting with someone within the Trump team, Emin did not see anything strange in the request. He delegated the task to Rob Goldstone, and Russian attorney Natalya Veselnitskaya ultimately met with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his campaign manager Paul Manafort in Trump Tower. Agalarov said that when he asked Goldstone about the meeting after the fact, his former manager told him, “This is the most ridiculous meeting I have ever attended.”
Ridiculous or not, Agalarov said, he soon forgot about the meeting. If it would have seemed important, he claimed, he would have handled it himself rather than delegating its organization to Goldstone. Now, he says that Goldstone said Veselnitskaya had offered the Trump campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton and her team just to hook Trump’s aides into unrelated political discussions. “I think political questions of some kind really could have been discussed during that meeting. That lady, the lawyer, she had plans that weren’t just about the Magnitsky list, as I understand it.” When news of the meeting blew up in the American media, the Russian singer said, he stopped discussing his communications with the Trump team with anyone, including his father, on the advice of their attorneys.
At first, Agalarov said, he was open to cooperating with Robert Mueller’s team as the latter investigated the possibility of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. “I have nothing to hide,” the musician claimed. He said he planned a U.S. tour and booked concert venues in five American cities with the intention of meeting with Mueller’s team in the process. However, Agalarov said he discovered shortly before he was due to depart for the States that he would be permitted to testify only once Mueller issued a subpoena, at which point the singer would be obligated to remain in the U.S. until the investigation concluded. Agalarov told The Bell he decided to take a financial hit and cancel his tour. “I would have had to cancel half my life, I have four kids,” he explained. The musician added that tickets for the concerts he had planned sold successfully and that he hoped to make up for the monetary loss of canceling t by going on tour in the U.S. this coming fall. When asked whether he plans to renew his contacts with the Trump family as well, Agalarov responded, “I don’t think so.”
Summary by Hilah Kohen