IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Fresh details add context to Trump-Russia scandal

New details on Donald Trump's Russia scandal don't emerge every day, but once in a while, we learn quite a bit at once.
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany...

New details on Donald Trump's Russia scandal don't emerge every day, but once in a while, we learn quite a bit at once.

NBC News reported late Friday, for example, that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas "seeking testimony from public relations executives who worked on an international campaign organized by Paul Manafort," the president's former campaign chairman. NBC News' report added that this is "the first public indication that Mueller's investigation is beginning to compel witness testimony before the grand jury."

The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that Mueller's team has also issued subpoenas to DC lobbying firms, seeking information on their interactions with Michael Flynn, Trump's former White House national security advisor. The Wall Street Journal had a related piece on the special counsel's scrutiny of Flynn and his possible efforts to obtain Hillary Clinton emails from Russian hackers.

And then, of course, there's the Washington Post's scoop in today's paper on the Trump Organization pursuing a real-estate deal in Russia during Trump's campaign.

While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers.As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested that he could get President Vladimir Putin to say "great things" about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.

The Russian-born real estate developer was Felix Sater, a name that's no doubt familiar to those who've followed Rachel's coverage of the scandal in recent months.

Michael Cohen, a longtime Trump attorney whose name also may sound familiar, "acted as a lead negotiator" for the Trump Organization on the deal in Moscow.

It's worth emphasizing that the proposed project ultimately fell through, but that doesn't negate the significance of the circumstances. As the Post's report added, the details "provide evidence that Trump's business was actively pursuing significant commercial interests in Russia at the same time he was campaigning to be president.... The new details from the emails, which are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigators soon, also point to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid."

The revelations also help provide context to previous events. Trump insisted repeatedly as a candidate that he had no business dealings with Russia, neglecting to tell the whole story. What's more, the Republican seemed eager to praise Vladimir Putin during the campaign -- compliments that may have been related to Trump business considerations that voters weren't privy to at the time.

Watch this space.

Update: The New York Times reports this afternoon that during the campaign, Sater sent emails to Cohen, boasting about his ties to Putin and the political benefits of the proposed real-estate deal.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in one message. “I will get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”