The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has released the testimony of Glenn Simpson, the private investigator who was looking into Donald Trump’s financial relationships and investors. As many remember, Dmitry Rybolovlev has been linked to the President through a number of financial and social relationships.
From the transcripts released yesterday, we can see that Simpson was interested in the art, real estate, and society milieu were Rybolovlev, Trump and others connected:
Another one that I think surfaced in probably the early winter was the amazing number of people from the former Soviet Union who had purchased properties from Mr. Trump, including Dmitry Rybolovlev, who purchased a derelict estate at an extreme markup in Florida. And a number of other people bought Into his properties. […] The other one that I would subpoena is the related group, and they were the ones that were involved with the Trump Hollywood. And there was a lot of interesting transactions involving the Trump Hollywood. And that was — that’s a guy named Jorge Perez, who’s a major developer who was in the picture with Sergi Millian and Donald Trump that I was talking about previously.
And there is a very puzzling sequence of events that we spent a lot of time looking at […] there is a specific sequence of events that has intrigued us for a long time, where Cohen and lvanka and Jared and Trump, and I can’t remember whether Manafort’s in this mix too, are all in the Hamptons area in August, and Dmitry Rybolovlev’s plane is somewhere nearby, and flies to Nice. And then most of these guys sort of come off — fall off the radar and then, you know, I think it’s the 12th of August, Rybolovlev’s plane lands in Dubrovnik, and Jared and lvanka surface in Dubrovnik. And I don’t know how they got there or whether they got there on his plane.
The plane, you know, we have been told that Rybolovlev’s boat was also nearby. There were all these other yachts nearby and that, you know, there had been rumors of meetings between Trump people and Russians on yachts off Dubrovnik.’ And the Rybolovlev jet then flies to Budapest from Dubrovnik. And I can’t tell you whether it’s meaningful or not, but there are certainly things I was interested in and still find unanswered and intriguing. I guess the same would — again, I don’t know what Mr. Cohen has told you, but his public statements about his whereabouts I found unsatisfying.
The direct connection between Trump and Rybolovlev, a $95m Florida real estate deal, was initially dismissed by Simpson because of Rybolovlev’s well-publicized pattern of over-spending on real estate and art. Here’s what Simpson said in response to California Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s questions:
MS. SPEIER: Thank you, Mr. Simpson, for being here, and for your attitude. I would like to kind of focus on some of the real estate. At one point I think earlier you referred to that mansion in Florida as a derelict estate. Is that the word you used?
MR. SIMPSON: I don’t remember the exact words, but it had fallen into disrepair.
MS. SPEIER: So, it was purchased by Mr. Trump for $41 million and sold to Mr. Rybolovlev for $95 million. And since there had been few improvements made by then-developer Mr . .Trump, what is your opinion, I guess, as to why that big hike in the sale price?
MR. SIMPSON: Well, I originally dismissed this transaction as […] not relevant, because of my imperfect and incomplete understanding of the whole timeline. And I had never heard of Dmitry Rybolovlev. So it seemed like an absurd acquisition. But the explanation for why he overspent was that he was hiding money from ·his wife. And the depiction of him as a sort of reckless big spender was pretty thoroughly developed in the press. So, I mean this guy was spending money like a drunken sailor on all kinds of things, and people were ripping him off in art deals. So that was my original take on this. Also, when we first heard about it, it didn’t fit with my timeline of when Trump seemed to have gotten deeply involved with the Russians. Later, as I understood more, I began to realize that it actually was in the sort of first trimester of the Trump-Russia relationship, in that it actually fit in pretty well with some of the early things that had happened. I also began to learn more about Dmitry Rybolovlev. And that changed my view. In particular, I didn’t know in the early period that he was closely linked to Igor Sechin, and that, in fact, he was accused of essentially destroying an entire city environmentally with his potash mining operations, and w a s criminally accused, and managed to get out of it and walk out of Russia with billions of dollars with the apparent assistance of Sechin and Sechin’s people. And subsequently, received a report from a Russian emigre who is familiar with these events that that was — there were political or corruption aspects to that. So, as my understanding of what I think has been happening developed, I began to think, again, about all of this, and I am now very suspicious that he was· deliberately overpaying. And, I mean, what we have seen over the last couple of years that, as sort of cynical and conspiracy minded as I am, I am still shocked by all kinds of things that have happened here, including the Trump Tower meeting. And what we have seen is that a number of oligarchs have left Russia in recent years who seem to still be doing the bidding of the Kremlin. And to some extent, they like to have an image as someone who is on the outs with the Kremlin, but when you look closely, they are not. And you know, when we looked at Rybolovlev’s plane travel, you could see that he was going to Moscow all the time, and that all his legal problems went away, and that there was questions about whether he really did get ripped off in these art deals or whether he just said he got ripped off as a way of accounting for all the money that’s missing. So I am now of the view that that transaction is suspicious.
MS. SPEIER: And the additional $50-plus million that Donald Trump received was for what purpose?
MR. SIMPSON: l don’t know. I mean — you mean the profit from that?
MS. SPEIER: Right.
MR. SIMPSON: Trump just claimed it was one of his great business deals. He just claimed he talked him into paying double, which was odd, because the market was going south at that point.