St Basil's Cathedral on Red Square is seen September 26, 2003 in Moscow.
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Will Trump’s business ties in Russia be the next line of inquiry?

Updated
The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/8/17, 9:23 PM ET

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Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, talks with Rachel Maddow about what was learned from testimony in the Senate by Sally Yates and James Clapper, and why it took Donald Trump so long to act on knowledge that Mike Flynn was…
Towards the end of yesterday’s high-profile Senate hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who chaired the proceedings, asked former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper an interesting question, which led to an exchange that raised some eyebrows.
GRAHAM: General Clapper, during your investigation of all things Russia, did you ever find a situation where a Trump business interest in Russia gave you concern?

CLAPPER: Not in the course of the preparation of the intelligence committees’ assessment.

GRAHAM: Since? At all, any time?

CLAPPER: Senator Graham I can’t comment on that because that impacts an investigation.
Wait, it does? Clapper couldn’t comment, which is understandable when an investigation is underway, but therein lies the point: his answer made it sound as if Donald Trump’s business interests in Russia might also be drawing scrutiny.

Or an NBC News’ First Read team put it, “Whoa.”

This afternoon, Graham told reporters that he’s seen no evidence of wrongdoing related to Trump’s dealings with Russia, but added, “[D]o I want to know about business ties? Yes.” The GOP senator added that this is an area of “interest” to him.

Time will tell if this possible line of inquiry goes anywhere, but shortly before becoming president, Trump told reporters, “I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away.”

That wasn’t true. As the New York Times reported a few months ago:
Mr. Trump repeatedly sought business in Russia as far back as 1987, when he traveled there to explore building a hotel. He applied for his trademark in the country as early as 1996. And his children and associates have appeared in Moscow over and over in search of joint ventures, meeting with developers and government officials.

During a trip in 2006, Mr. Sater and two of Mr. Trump’s children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, stayed at the historic Hotel National Moscow opposite the Kremlin, connecting with potential partners over the course of several days.

As recently as 2013, Mr. Trump himself was in Moscow. He had sold Russian real estate developers the right to host his Miss Universe pageant that year, and he used the visit as a chance to discuss development deals, writing on Twitter at the time: “TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next.”
Trump once told a biographer, “I know the Russians better than anybody.”

What about the president’s specific claim that he currently has “no deals in Russia”? That may be true, but it’s difficult to know for sure. As the Washington Post recently reported, “It is not possible to verify whether Trump does not have current deals or loans with Russian entities because he has refused to release his tax returns.”

Update: Trump has reportedly hired outside counsel to handle questions related to his business’ dealings in Russia.