On 31 October 2016, the blog Bipartisan Report posted a story entitled “BREAKING: ABC Uncovers MILLIONS Of Payments From Russia To Trump, Campaign Panics.” Hours later, Occupy Democrats posted a similar story:
Republican nominee Donald Trump has been treading treasonous territory for months now, raising eyebrows around the nation for a foreign policy that openly supports the ambitions of Vladimir Putin, the dictator of the Russian Federation. He’s surrounded himself with men with close ties to the Kremlin and the oligarchs that pull the strings behind the scenes; he’s being openly supported by Russian state-controlled media and by Russian intelligence services, who have breached the electronic servers of Democratic Party operatives and released selected pieces of information in an attempt to sow discord.
Both posts were referencing a report that was, by then, more than a month old. A 22 September 2016 story from ABC News does say Trump has business investments in Russia, but it does not say that Trump is being paid millions by the Russian government, which might be inferred by the headlines on the above posts:
As questions have been raised about Trump’s business interests with Russians, the candidate has sought to distance himself from Moscow.
“For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia,” he wrote on Twitter in July.
He later told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “Will I sell condos to Russians on occasion? Probably. I mean I do that. I have a lot of condos. I do that. But I have no relationship to Russia whatsoever.”
But an ABC News investigation found he has numerous connections to Russian interests both in the U.S. and abroad.
“The level of business amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars — what he received as a result of interaction with Russian businessmen,” said Sergei Millian, who heads a U.S.-Russia business group and who says he once helped market Trump’s U.S. condos in Russia and the former Soviet states. “They were happy to invest with him, and they were happy to work with Donald Trump. And they were happy to associate—[and] be associated with Donald Trump.”
Trump’s relations with Russia and that country’s president, Vladimir Putin, have been the source of intrigue and consternation through the course of the 2016 election cycle. But while the report pointed to Trump’s dealings with Russian businessmen, it does not claim that government officials are funneling him money. Instead, it raises concerns that Trump will be swayed as president by his financial interests in Russia to the detriment of U.S. foreign policy — namely, lifting sanctions to ease the flow of money:
But [Florida broker Daniel] Pansky and [New York real estate agent Victoria] Shtainer told ABC News that purchases from Russian buyers in New York and Miami began to drop precipitously in 2014, when the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Russia in response to the Russian military incursion into Crimea.
To Russian buyers looking to move money out of their home country, Shtainer explained, the sanctions “basically cut off their oxygen.”
Should Trump come out on top in the elections in November, he has said he’ll consider whether or not to lift sanctions on Russia.
“We’ll be looking at that, yeah we’ll be looking,” Trump responded in July when asked if he would roll sanctions back.
While Trump has expressed an affinity for Putin, no evidence of a direct monetary link between Trump and the Kremlin has been presented. The question raised by the ABC report was the possibility that Trump might use the office of president to benefit his own finances, while the blog posts asserted that Trump’s relationship with Russia had less to do with business than with cozying up to the Kremlin — a claim that was not made by the original source of the story.