NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - During summer 2013, Donald Trump mused about whether President Vladimir Putin of Russia would meet him at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow that fall. "If so, will he become my new best friend?" Trump posted on Twitter.
Putin did not make it, but the beauty competition in Moscow brought the Trump family into partnership with Emin Agalarov, a pop star in Russia, and his father, Aras - a duo that develops major real estate projects in Russia and appears friendly with the Kremlin.
Since then, Emin Agalarov has repeatedly boasted of maintaining a warm relationship with Trump. And a publicist for the younger Agalarov said Monday that it was his client who requested that Donald Trump Jr speak with a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the presidential campaign, a meeting first reported by The New York Times.
Trump Jr - who followed through with that meeting last June, along with Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner - said the lawyer promised information damaging to Hillary Clinton but failed to deliver, and quickly switched to a contentious issue involving US-Russia relations.
The publicist, Rob Goldstone, a former British tabloid journalist and the president of a marketing company called Oui 2 Entertainment, has worked with Emin Agalarov, and was involved with the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Goldstone said he helped to arrange and attended the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.
The Agalarovs, who did not respond to an email seeking comment, are originally from Azerbaijan, but now run the Crocus Group, a large real estate development company in Russia. Shortly before the Miss Universe pageant in November 2013, Putin presented Aras Agalarov with the Order of Honour, one of Russia's highest civilian awards. Several years earlier, the Crocus Group was selected to build the Far Eastern Federal University near Vladivostok.
Trump, an owner of the Miss Universe pageant at the time, chose the Agalarovs to host the beauty competition in 2013 in Moscow, and discussed collaborating with them on a tower in Moscow. He also appeared in one of Emin Agalarov's music videos, which featured pageant contestants.