Maybe Felix Slater – the Russian-born investor/developer/shady-biznethman – is closest to the truth in an interview he had with the Daily Beast on the topic of the Trump organization’s interest in building a Trump Tower in Moscow during late 2015 and up to mid-2016. He said:

It was like, ‘OK, shit, he got the nomination, it’s not happening, it’s not happening now—that was the idea.

If Michael Cohen did indeed have far more contacts with Russia – and even with an aide to Putin – during the first half of 2016, then maybe it was true that Trump the candidate was reluctant to let slip what he considered a good business opportunity in Moscow. And it could be that while Trump was enjoying the process of campaigning for the nomination and the conflicts and the increased media storm around him, he perhaps doubted that he would make it all the way to the White House, and still largely saw himself as a businessman.

But let go he eventually did. Whether the contacts in the late spring and early summer of 2016 are a case of Sater pursuing the deal on his own, or on behalf of candidate Trump, remains to be seen. But even if true, while uncomfortable because of the lies used to cover it up, it does not represent evidence of any collusion. And as Alan Dershowitz said to Fox’s Bill Hemmer regarding the Michael Cohen accusations:

I think the weakness of Mueller’s substantive findings are suggested by the fact that he has to resort to false statement prosecutions, which really shows that he didn’t start with very much, and that the very fact that he’s conducting an investigation has created these crimes. These are not crimes that had been committed prior to his appointment, they’re crimes that were committed as the result of his appointment, and that raises some questions about the role of special prosecutors in creating crimes or creating opportunities for crimes to be committed.

So, let’s review.

  • Trump announces candidacy in the summer of 2015.
  • Trump expresses interest privately in building a Trump Tower in Moscow in fall of 2015 a few months after his candidacy has been declared. It’s hard to say for how many years he’s wanted to build in the city, but one suspects it’s been a while.
  • Trump does far better than anyone expected in the nominating process and is nominated to the GOP and the world’s shock in late spring 2016.
  • Trump’s advisors have final contacts on a Trump Tower in Moscow around June of 2016.

The conspiracy theorists will say something like: it was hinted to Trump by Putin aides or cut-outs that he could help Trump win the election. A Trump Tower Moscow was a potential prize he suggested to the candidate back sometime in early or mid-2016, or perhaps later in the year.

This is probably ridiculous.

By June 2016, Donald Trump realized he had a very real shot at the presidency. Would he invite Russian interference in his own country’s elections to get a tower built? Trump haters will jump up and down and scream: you bet! But up to now, not a shred of evidence has been unearthed to support such a quid pro quo.

Dershowitz’s words remain very relevant when thinking about the Mueller (and the Kenneth Starr) probe. A pack of prosecutors in search of a crime. And yes, when you have associates like Cohen and Sater, prosecutors can and will find crimes to prosecute. But they haven’t found any collusion yet.

Let’s see what else emerges from the charges they laid against Cohen and what kind of evidence his 70 hours of testimony brings into the light.