President Donald Trump reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin several times in the years prior to running for election, according to new documents released by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The messages do not reveal collusion between Trump and Putin over the 2016 election. The links between his campaign and Moscow were detailed elsewhere in the report. But they do show Trump repeatedly flattering Putin, including one letter congratulating the strongman on being named Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2007.
Trump told Putin: “You definitely deserve it.” He added: “I am a big fan of yours!”
Trump also sent letters inviting Putin to the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013, calling the event a “great tribute to Moscow and Russia.” Trump wanted Putin to be his “Guest of Honor” and wrote: “I look forward to seeing you”:
Julia Davis of the Daily Beast noted that Putin wrote back saying, “I regret that we weren’t able to meet as planned.”
But not all of Trump’s attempts at reaching Putin were private. Trump has also repeatedly praised Putin on Twitter, including around the same time as some of those letters:
Prior to winning the 2016 election, Trump’s description of his relationship with Putin shifted constantly from “I met him a long time ago” and bragging that he “got along with him great” to “I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is.”
In reality, Trump had long been trying to strike a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who’s currently serving a 3-year sentence for lying to Congress and campaign finance violations, has said Trump was pursuing such a deal as recently as during the 2016 campaign, then lying about it in public.
“He lied about it because he never expected to win,” Cohen told lawmakers last year.