By David Corn and Michael Isikoff
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. The shadow of their relationship has overshadowed the entire American election campaign.
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This is the first of two excerpts adapted from Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump (Twelve Books), by Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News , and David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones . The book will be released on March 13.
This was his second day in the Russian capital, and the brash businessman and reality TV star was running through a whirlwind schedule to promote that evening's extravaganza at Moscow's Crocus City Hall: the Miss Universe pageant, in which women from 86 countries would be judged before a worldwide television audience estimated at 1 billion.
Trump had purchased the pageant 17 years earlier, partnering with NBC. It was one of his most prized properties, bringing in millions of dollars a year in revenue and, perhaps as important, burnishing his image as an iconic international playboy celebrity. While in the Russian capital, Trump was also scouting for new and grand business opportunities, having spent decades trying -- but failing -- to develop high-end projects in Moscow. Miss Universe staffers considered it an open secret that Trump's true agenda in Moscow was not the show but his desire to do business there.
Yet to those around him that afternoon, Trump seemed gripped by one question: Where was Vladimir Putin?
From the moment five months earlier when Trump announced Miss Universe would be staged that year in Moscow, he had seemed obsessed with the idea of meeting the Russian president. "Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow -- if so, will he become my new best friend?" Trump had tweeted in June.
Once in Moscow, Trump received a private message from the Kremlin, delivered by Aras Agalarov, an oligarch close to Putin and Trump's partner in hosting the Miss Universe event there: "Mr. Putin would like to meet Mr. Trump." That excited Trump. The American developer thought there was a strong chance the Russian leader would attend the pageant. But as his time in Russia wore on, Trump heard nothing else. He became uneasy.Go to Mother Jones to read the rest of this article.