A Trump Trip to Las Vegas Adds Intrigue to the Steele Dossier

A Trump Trip to Las Vegas Adds Intrigue to the Steele Dossier

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Of all the allegations about Donald Trump contained in the ex-British
spy Christopher Steele’s infamous “dossier,” the most notorious remains
a secondhand report that Trump consorted with prostitutes in 2013 while
staying in the Presidential suite at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, in Moscow,
and that, at his request, the prostitutes urinated on a bed in which
President Barack Obama and his wife had previously slept.

Early last year, when this allegation became public, along with much of
the rest of the dossier, Trump denounced it as “crap” compiled by “sick
people.” Since then, the allegation has remained uncorroborated, a fact
that has given ammunition to those who want to dismiss the entire
dossier as a fabrication. When it first emerged in public, the
hotel-room allegation’s credibility was so hotly debated, it split
the legendary investigative-reporting team of Bob Woodward and Carl
Bernstein, who won a joint Pulitzer Prize for their exposure of the
Watergate scandal. Bernstein, who helped CNN break the news of the
Steele dossier, last January, argued that it was “not fake news.” But
Woodward dismissed it as “garbage,” a comment that won him a thank-you
note from Trump.

In a new book being published on Tuesday, “Russian Roulette: The
Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald
Trump
,”
the co-authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn report an anecdote suggesting
that so-called golden showers were a form of entertainment familiar to
some in Trump’s circle, even if not necessarily to Trump himself.
According to the authors, both of whom are veteran, Washington-based
investigative reporters, in the early-morning hours of June 15, 2013,
some five months before the alleged Moscow incident, Trump visited a Las
Vegas night club called the Act that was infamous for its
sexually explicit theatre shows. Among the skits regularly performed at
the Act were two in which semi-nude women would simulate urination
onstage. As Isikoff and Corn note, it is unclear whether these skits
were performed on the night that Trump visited the club. But court
records confirm that they were in the club’s regular repertoire.

The reason that court records exist at all is that the Act’s obscene
entertainment was, at the time of Trump’s visit, the target of a joint
undercover investigation by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the
club’s landlord, the Palazzo hotel and casino—which is owned by Sheldon
Adelson, a major Republican Party donor. A few months after Trump
visited the Act, a Nevada state judge issued an injunction against the
club, shutting down its “lewd” and “offensive” performances. In the
course of the legal wrangling, investigators submitted detailed
descriptions of the the Act’s shows. These, according to court records,
included “simulated masturbation, simulated use of narcotics, use of
dildos, strap-on penises, simulated defecation, and simulated
urination.” In one skit, titled “Hot for Teacher,” an actor in the role
of a professor would write an obscene title for a lecture on a
blackboard, after which female actors purporting to be college girls
would disrobe and stand over the professor, appearing to urinate on him,
before revealing a water bottle. In another skit, according to the court
records, two women would drink from champagne flutes and snort a white
powdery substance, after which they would undress, and one would
simulate urinating on the other, who would catch the liquid in two wine
glasses and then drink it.

Isikoff and Corn note that the Act closed after the judge ruled against
it, and that they were unable to determine which skits were performed
the night that Trump attended, or even whether Trump paid any attention
to what was onstage. Instead, Isikoff and Corn write that Trump’s focus
that night was apparently the cementing of a business relationship with
one of his companions, Emin Agalarov, an Azerbaijani pop singer. Trump,
the authors write, was wooing Agalarov’s wealthy and Kremlin-connected
family in pursuit of potential Russian business deals. “Russian
Roulette” quotes Rob Goldstone, a British publicist for the pop singer,
who was also present at the Act that night, recalling Trump extolling
his plans. Trump reportedly told Emin, “We’re going to have a great
relationship.” Later that day, Trump announced that the Agalarov family
would partner with him in presenting the 2013 Miss Universe competition in
Moscow. It was during the Miss Universe competition, in November of
2013, according to the Steele dossier’s sources, that Trump allegedly
engaged the prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton. (The White House did not
respond to a request for comment about the book’s allegations concerning
Trump’s 2013 visit to the Las Vegas night club.)

A source close to Steele, who declined to be identified, described the
overlap between the Act’s performances and the Ritz-Carlton allegation
as “interesting.” He acknowledged that for Steele, whose life and work I
recently
investigated
for The New Yorker, the details in the new book are likely to be
“something of a two-edged sword.” As he put it, “There’s a risk that
there was some conflation of the story,” meaning a blurring of what
happened at the Act and what allegedly happened at the Moscow hotel. But
at the same time, he noted, “It does suggest that there is some kind of
track record here. This behavior was not unheard of in Trump’s circle.
So in that sense, it adds to the credibility of the dossier.” (In
“Russian Roulette,” Corn and Isikoff report that Steele would tell
colleagues his confidence in the Ritz-Carlton story was “fifty-fifty.”
He treated everything in the dossier as raw intelligence material—not
proven fact.)

“Russian Roulette” also sheds more light on Steele’s sources—whose
identities he has fiercely guarded. According to Isikoff and Corn,
Steele’s sources include two figures whose expertise may be
questionable. One source for the “golden showers” allegation, according
to Isikoff and Corn, was Sergei Millian, a mysterious
Belarusian-American businessman whose claims to have been an intimate of
Trump and his circle have been disputed by those close to Trump. The
authors assert that Millian was an “unwitting” source for Steele—that he
spoke about Trump to an interlocutor without realizing that his
statements were being conveyed to the former British spy. Millian,
however, has subsequently appeared on Russian television to deny that he
has ever had any damning information about the President. The Steele
dossier, the authors write, “described Millian as a Trump intimate, but
there was no public evidence he was close to the mogul.” (The Steele
dossier, however, did cite several other sources for the Ritz-Carlton
allegation, whom Corn and Isikoff don’t mention, including a “member of
the staff at the hotel” and “a female staffer at the hotel when Trump
stayed there.”) The other unconventional source, according to the
authors, is an unnamed woman whom they describe as “the paramour of a
Kremlin insider.” In other words, as they put it, some of the incendiary
allegations against the President of the United States contained in the
Steele dossier may have begun literally as “pillow talk.”

Travel

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March 13, 2018 at 04:11PM

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