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One of Trump's key Russia claims starts to unravel

Donald Trump told then-FBI Director James Comey more than once that he never spent the night in Russia. That story now appears to be false.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with law enforcement officials on the MS-13 street gang and border security, in the Cabinet Room of the White...

It's not exactly a secret that the Steele dossier includes one especially provocative claim: the report alleges that Donald Trump, while in Moscow in 2013, had lewd interactions with prostitutes. The alleged incident remained relevant because it raises the possibility that Russia has proof of the encounter, which it could use as leverage against the American president.

Former FBI Director James Comey's newly released memos show that Trump seemed "obsessed" with disproving the claim, raising the issue several times with Comey over the course of several meetings. Indeed, as far as Trump was concerned, he effectively had an alibi: he never actually spent the night in Russia, so the story couldn't be true. The president stressed this point to Comey on multiple occasions.

The trouble is, Trump's defense appears to have unraveled. As Rachel noted on the show last night, Bloomberg News reported yesterday on the Republican's flight records from the time.

[T]he broad timeline of Trump's stay, stretching from Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, through the following Sunday morning, has been widely reported. And it's substantiated by social media posts that show he slept in Moscow the night before the Miss Universe contest.Now, flight records obtained by Bloomberg provide fresh details. Combined with existing accounts and Trump's own social-media posts, they capture two days that, nearly five years later, loom large in the controversy engulfing the White House and at the heart of the Comey memos, which the Justice Department turned over last week to Congress.

Trump may not have spent that Saturday night in Russia, but the records suggest he did spend Friday night there.

What's more, this is consistent with the version of events from Trump's longtime bodyguard, Keith Schiller, who told Congress last fall that he was offered Russian prostitutes for Trump -- they declined the offer, he said -- and as NBC News reported in November, Schiller "discussed the conversation with Trump as Trump was walking back to his hotel room, and Schiller said the two men laughed about it as Trump went to bed alone. Schiller testified that he stood outside Trump's hotel room for a time and then went to bed."

In other words, he spent the night in Russia.

It's possible, of course, that the president misremembered some of the details of the trip when he spoke to James Comey about his experience a few years later.

It's also possible that Trump lied to the FBI director about his experience in Russia, trying to manufacture an alibi that wasn't real.