Giorgi Rtslchiladze’s Honor Has Been Sullied because He Can’t Decide Whether He Knows the Tapes He Suppressed Exist or Not

The image for this post is associated with this post.

Giorgi Rtslchiladze believes his honor has been sullied by Robert Mueller.

Rtslchiladze is a naturalized American businessman from Georgia who shows up several times in the Mueller Report.

First, the section that describes Michael Cohen’s attempts to negotiate a Trump Tower deal explains that Cohen pitched Rtslchiladze on a Trump Tower deal in fall 2015, before deciding to pursue the Sater deal instead.

Also during the fall of 2015, Cohen communicated about the Trump Moscow proposal with Giorgi Rtslchiladze, a business executive who previously had been involved in a development deal with the Trump Organization in Batumi, Georgia.313 Cohen stated that he spoke to Rtskhiladze in part because Rtskhiladze had pursued business ventures in Moscow, including a licensing deal with the Agalarov-owned Crocus Group.314 On September 22, 2015, Cohen forwarded a preliminary design study for the Trump Moscow project to Rtskhiladze, adding “I look forward to your reply about this spectacular project in Moscow.” Rtskhiladze forwarded Cohen’s email to an associate and wrote, “first we could organize the meeting in New York at the highest level of the Russian Government and Mr. Trump this project would definitely receive the worldwide attention.”315 On September 24, 2015, Rtskhiladze sent Cohen an attachment that he described as a proposed “[l]etter to the Mayor of Moscow from Trump org,” explaining that “[w]e need to send this letter to the Mayor of Moscow (second guy in Russia) he is aware of the potential project and will pledge his support.”316 In a second email to Cohen sent the same day, Rtslchiladze provided a translation of the letter, which described the Trump Moscow project as a “symbol of stronger economic, business and cultural relationships between New York and Moscow and therefore United States and the Russian Federation.”317 On September 27, 2015, Rtslchiladze sent another email to Cohen, proposing that the Trump Organization partner on the Trump Moscow project with “Global Development Group LLC,” which he described as being controlled by Michail Posikhin, a Russian architect, and Simon Nizharadze.318 Cohen told the Office that he ultimately declined the proposal and instead continued to work with I.C. Expert, the company represented by Felix Sater.319

313 Rtskhiladze was a U.S.-based executive of the Georgian company Silk Road Group. In approximately 2011, Silk Road Group and the Trump Organization entered into a licensing agreement to build a Trump-branded property in Batumi, Georgia. Rtskhiladze was also involved in discussions for a Trum -branded ro’ect in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Office twice interviewed Rtskhiladze, [redacted]

The details on this second Trump Tower deal show that at some of the initiative for an election season Trump Tower deal came from Trump, not the Russians. This Rtskhiladze deal is noteworthy because he pursued (note the word) deals in the past with the Crocus Group — the Agalarov company — and because Mueller at least suggests he doesn’t entirely buy Rtslchiladze’s representation of the ownership of Global Development Group. Note that Rtskhiladze himself promised Cohen he had ties to the Mayor of Moscow.

An interview with Rtskhiladze is also footnoted in a discussion of Trump Organization’s decision to close out certain business deals in the wake of the election.

After the election, the Trump Organization sought to formally close out certain deals in advance of the inauguration.945

945 Cohen 9/18/18 302, at 1-2; see also Rtskhiladze 4/4/18 302, at 8-9.

The report doesn’t explain why Trump Org would have any open business deals with Rtskhiladze in November 2016.

Note that Silk Road Group is funded by Kazakh bank BTA group, payments to Michael Cohen from which were one of the reasons Mueller investigated him in the first place (and which has sued Felix Sater for attempting to launder funds through a Trump Tower deal).

It’s the second mention of Rtskhiladze that has sullied his name, according to reports and a letter his attorney sent Bill Barr asking for a retraction (Rtskhiladze’s attorney, A. Scott Bolden, works for the same firm, ReedSmith, that is engaging in a trollish defense of Concord Management; the letter he released to the press is actually a revised version of one he sent the day before).

As part of an explanation of why Jim Comey briefed Trump on the Steele dossier on January 6, 2017, a footnote explains that Rtskhiladze texted Cohen about compromising tapes in October 2016.

112 Comey 1/7/17 Memorandum, at 1-2; Comey 11/15/17 302, at 3. Comey’s briefing included the Steele reporting’s unverified allegation that the Russians had compromising tapes of the President involving conduct when he was a private citizen during a 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant. During the 2016 presidential campaign, a similar claim may have reached candidate Trump. On October 30, 20 I 6, Michael Cohen received a text from Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze that said, “Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know …. ” 10/30/16 Text Message, Rtskhiladze to Cohen. Rtskhiladze said “tapes” referred to compromising tapes of Trump rumored to be held by persons associated with the Russian real estate conglomerate Crocus Group, which had helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia. Rtskhiladze 4/4/18 302, at 12. Cohen said he spoke to Trump about the issue after receiving the texts from Rtskhiladze. Cohen 9/ 12/ 18 302, at 13. Rtskhiladze said he was told the tapes were fake, but he did not communicate that to Cohen. Rtskhiladze 5/10/18 302, at 7.

As I read it, the entire point of including this reference is not to substantiate the existence of a pee tape. Rather, it’s to explain why Trump may have believed in the existence of one. It actually provides one explanation that makes Trump’s response to Comey’s briefing (as reflected in Comey’s own notes on it) less incriminating, not least his oblique reference to the Stormy Daniels and Susan McDougal allegations.

After all, the communications between Rtskhiladze and Cohen on October 30, 2016 would have happened just days after Cohen paid off Stormy Daniels on October 27. It would be unsurprising if Cohen discussed both with Trump at the same time.

Rtskhiladze is  complaining about a number of things. Some of them are fair complaints about how his communications with Cohen were portrayed in the footnote.

  • Referring to Rtskhiladze as a “Russian” businessman, his lawyer claims, it “implies he participated in a conspiracy to collude or interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.”
  • Quoting from the texts in isolation, “the isolated texts are suggestive of nefarious undertakings and, as such, defame Mr. Rtskhiladze’s character. Viewing the texts in their entirety against the backdrop of Mssrs. Cohen and Rtskhiladze’s cordial relationship places them in their proper context.”
  • Quoting the “‘Stopping the flow’ gives the impression that you are referencing the alleged salacious content of the alleged acts viewed on the tapes. To the contrary, this was a colloquialism by Mr. Rtskhiladze indicating that there was nothing to the rumors of the tapes, and that he did not believe there were any tapes, nor had he seen what was on the tapes, even if they existed.”
  • Misquoting the text without the word “some” — making the correct quote “stopped flow of some tapes from Russia.” Bolden claims, illogically, that the word some “is crucial as it establishes the fact that Mr. Rtskhiladze had no knowledge of the tapes’ content.”

That last bullet point, of course, makes zero sense. From there, the letter gets even more self-contradictory. Bolden first claims,

The texts that were excised from the Mueller Report clearly indicate that Mr. Rtskhiladze does not have direct knowledge of what was said at the party in Moscow, which he did not attend. Mr. Rtskhiladze also does not know and cannot identify who allegedly made the statements about the tapes. Furthermore, Mr. Rtskhiladze has never seen the tapes and cannot opine on whether they exist. [my emphasis]

Just a few paragraphs after claiming that Rtskhiladze does not know whether the tapes he assured Cohen he had suppressed existed or not, his attorney then claims that he knew the tapes did not exist.

The suggestion that Mr. Rtskhiladze tried to curry favor with Mr. Cohen, the Trump Organization and possibly President Trump himself by allegedly texting that he had “stopped the flow of tapes from Russia” — knowing all the while that the tapes did not exist — is an outrageous and sensation distortion of the communications between Mssrs. Cohen and Rtskhiladze.

Footnote 112 of the Mueller Report would  have the world believe that Mr. Rtskhiladze is at best a caricature of an idle gossip or, worse, an opportunist with deep ties to the Russian business community2 and privy to untoward conduct by President Trump that Mr. Rtskhiladze and others intended to use to embarrass then Candidate Trump, derail his campaign and/or manipulate him after assuming the elected office. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support these inferences and to suggest otherwise is defamatory. [my emphasis]

Footnote 2 in this passage references the other discussions of Rtskhiladze in the report, which show him telling Cohen he had ties to (among others) the Mayor of Moscow; Rtskhiladze doesn’t contest that he has the ties laid out on those sections.

I mean, Bolden is right: these texts do suggest that Rtskhiladze is either a gossip or, more likely, trying to capitalize on information he claimed to not only know about, but be able to affect.

But he’s not actually offering a less damning explanation for them.

What he has done, however, is to call far more attention to them, all in a way that purports to assail Mueller’s credibility, but instead raises even more questions about the relationship between him and Cohen.

Finally, Bolden issues a non-denial denial of having ties with Crocus.

In a similar vein, Mr. Rtskhiladze has not had contact or dealings with the Crocus Group in 14 years, although he considers Crocus a reputable and successful business group. It is inaccurately stated that Mr. Rtskhiladze had a licensing deal with the Crocus Group.

As I noted above, the report doesn’t claim that Rtskhiladze had a licensing deal, it said he was pursuing one. And there’s nothing about this non-denial denial that might suggest Rtskhiladze heard a rumor that — say — fellow Georgian-American Ike Kaveladze was bragging about some compromising tapes, and he made an effort to chase it down.

So one other possible purpose of Bolden’s efforts to impugn Mueller’s integrity all while bringing more publicity to the incident that he claims makes his client look bad is to try to diminish any ill-will the Agalarovs feel towards Rtskhiladze.

Ultimately, though, Rtskhiladze’s lawyer is making thoroughly contradictory claims about this incident rather than offering a less damning explanation of it.

Update: I engaged with the spokesperson for Rtskhiladze, and specifically mentioned the inconsistency between his claim that he didn’t know if the video existed and that he affirmatively did not know. She said that was a typo, and promised to write the most up-to-date statement, but did not send anything.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 


38 replies
  1. Marja Blanco says:

    Does the ‘no service’ header and depleted battery shown within the embedded image showing the phone text screen mean anything? To me that just doesn’t look right..but..i am old and cannot use a complicated smartphone gadget.

    • BeingThere says:

      Had similar thoughts. One interpretation is it was a burner phone just used for communication with Cohen. The no sim or cell service and low battery perhaps if powered up forensically to get photographs of messages (note these are photos not digital screen-shots).

  2. Bri2k says:

    Outstanding and fleshes out things I’ve heard from other sources. Thank goodness for your determination covering this, Ms Wheeler. I hope this story gets traction on the media at large.

  3. Sandwichman says:

    If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go to
    Why don’t you go where fashion sits?
    Putin on the Rtslchiladze

  4. PeterJ says:

    I think you’re misreading the part about Rtskhiladze allegedly knowing no tape actually existed. His lawyer seems to be saying that it is outrageous to suggest that he did actually have knowledge that no tape existed, at least at the time of the texts.

    However, previously the lawyer (nonsensically) explains that in claiming to have “stopped the flow of tapes,” Rtskhiladze was simply indicating to Cohen that there was nothing to the rumors of tapes from Russia.

    Underscores a key difficulty facing those investigating these matters: it’s hard to distinguish the many bullshitters overselling their influence from actual nefarious influencers.

      • punaise says:

        Urine: the money, urine: the money;
        You’ve got a lot of what it takes to get along!
        Urine: the money, that Skyy tasted funny,
        Old Man – Deep Russian – you are through, you done us wrong.

        • Kick the darkness says:

          Ohhh, I had to google it. Gold Diggers of 2016, going both with and towards the flow.

          Kieth Schiller
          Guards outside the door
          $15000 a month
          Deserves much more

          Trump says he’ll catch a shower
          Then fly away
          Kompromat inside?
          It’s hard to say.

  5. DMZ says:

    I’m an American and I lived in Thailand for 2 years from mid 2013 to mid 2015.
    This was the time period that the Ruble went from $1=35 rubles to $1=70 rubles.
    (When Obama put the Sanctions on Russia because of Crimea.)

    Many Russians started “flowing” into Thailand.
    I had the chance to speak to many, many Russians that knew some English and some Russians that were pretty decent at speaking English.

    My two cents : It’s what you intuitively think it means. And, it was duplicitous.
    Whether Rtslchiladze knew or didn’t know about the Factual Existence, is beside the point.
    It was multiple things :
    a) a veiled threat to Trump via Cohen
    b) a heads up (the flip side of the threat)
    c) “you owe me one” (whichever the case, I tried to help)

    The grammar and the wording of his Text Messages mirror exactly the way the Russians butcher the English language.

  6. Zinsky says:

    God, I hope those Russian pee tapes are real and Fat Donnie is captured in full cinematic glory with his orange, bobby-pinned hair and phony, vivid white dentures, grinning as the Russian whores soil and cavort on the bed President Obama slept in! That would drive the final stake through this vile motherf*ckers heart, since he and FauxNews have spent endless hours repeating “the tapes don’t exist” ad nauseum!

  7. viget says:

    Who is the man in the white shirt in this photo? I had been trying for hours to figure this out yesterday, and couldn’t definitively pin him down. I think it is Timur Beniaminov, but I can’t find a photo of him on google, or much info at all really. It’s definitely not Roman Beniaminov (I assume his brother, cousin?)

  8. viget says:

    @Emptywheel —

    A major piece of the puzzle came into focus for me this AM due to none other than John Solomon’s latest at The Hill (I know, I know, but bear with me here.)

    Solomon reports that Ukrainian law enforcement anti-corruption officials and diplomatic corps officials had a meeting in January 2016 with the FBI/DOJ and NSC officials about Manafort’s activities wrt the Party of Regions campaigns (the stuff that was in the Manafort indictment). FBI had been investigating Manafort, but in 2014 closed the case for unclear reasons. This meeting was likely instigated by the intelligence that Steele was passing to Bruce Ohr in December 2015/January 2016, and we know that that intelligence was coming from none other than Oleg Deripaska.

    The report makes clear that Chrisopher Steele and Oleg Deripaska were talking about Manafort, and that Steele thought Deripaska was about to drop a dime on Manafort, because of the money owed to him by Manafort.

    However, this all changed in August. When the FBI and Ohr approached Deripaska then, suddenly he didn’t want to talk, and dismissed any possible Russian-Manafort ties to help Trump win the election. Interesting timing given what we know now about polling data, and the Russia-Turkey meeting in St. Petersburg in Aug 2016, where Deripaska and Prigozhin were both present.

    So, given all the above, that puts the dossier in a whole new light. If Steele really thought Deripaska was going to roll on Manafort, it makes sense that Deripaska was a likely source for his dossier. And if Deripaska was in cahoots with Putin the whole time, this would have been an amazing conduit for disinformation to throw the FBI off the trail of the election meddling (or at least delay their discovery of the plan). It wouldn’t have surprised me if Sater was in on the deal too in those early days, trying to focus the FBI on the Trump Tower plan and distract them from the real election interference with Manfort et al.

    Obviously, this all changed in early August after Deripaska blew them all off. I wonder if this is when Steele and Ohr decided to switch tacks, perhaps by funneling info through Ohr to the FBI through Agent Pientka.

    What I’m getting at, is what if Steele in August and September realized that he had been had and released the disinformation to make the public aware of the serious allegations (and to throw the Russians off). What if there were 2 dossiers, the real one being the info Ohr passed on to the Bureau?

    • Rayne says:

      Or what if the original Steele dossier, replete with disinfo created from a mix of truth and falsehoods, was intended to filter back to Manafort and Trump in order to keep them on task to deliver? Only the subjects would know what was true and what wasn’t, but they’d have reason to stay focused.

      Now makes McConnell’s role more suspicious — what if he was comped with a Rusal plant in KY to make sure the dossier only existed as a means to threaten Manafort and Trump? What if his pressure on Obama to stay quiet about Russia was part of that process?

      I’ll probably get blown out of the water on this but the dossier existed for some reason(s) — not just because it was requested but as sources built it. Muddying the waters doesn’t seem adequate.

      ADDER: Could be why Page kept up the refrain, “Dodgy dossier” — he was deployed to innoculate everyone else including Congress against it except for those who understood the tacit threats in it. Even if viget’s 2nd dossier is correct, the innoculation would still be critical.

      • viget says:

        Certainly could be, Rayne.

        I guess that begs the question, to go further down the rabbit hole, had Deripaska (not the Russians writ large, but Deripaska’s network including Ukranian oligarchs) compromised Steele in some way? Was Steele in on this too? I sure hope not, God save us if he was.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      viget and Rayne, This is the most thoughtful consideration of the dossier I have seen yet. You have given me something to ruminate on over lunch.

      Is there anything anywhere that addresses Steele’s history with Deripaska ? It would be a real gut punch to my hopes to think that he might be compromised. I’m not naive enough to think that intelligence types don’t operate in a pretty grey area.

        • viget says:

          Good, I was hoping you’d say that. I am not criticizing Steele, he clearly was getting some bad info from a source that played him.

          My only remaining question, given the new info (to me) that I relayed above is why leak the dossier then and ruin your FBI relationship? Was it to alert Congress and the public to the imminent threats? That goes double if you knew (or at least suspected) that it included false info.

          • bmaz says:

            That I don’t know. My guess is he said “here is what I have, it is raw, but it is disturbing”. But who knows? Certainly I do not. He does seem to have been genuinely really alarmed, but beyond that is a great question.

          • Rayne says:

            Why ‘leak’ the dossier — share it with U.S. law enforcement? Because on the face of it, regardless of how much disinfo it contained, there was something very wrong going on, so bad it wasn’t clear law enforcement was engaged.

            And it was already known that Russia had attempted to hack both the Pentagon and the White House in 2015 that the public knew about. Imagine what else the intelligence community knew with certainty.

            • viget says:

              Of course Rayne, I get that part. I’m talking about why go to reporters in August/September/October to get them to publish stories on the dossier, after he had already been providing info to the FBI through Gaeta, and then later Agent Pientka. Didn’t the FBI already have the most important info? So “giving” them the dossier (actually McCain giving the dossier) was probably not as important, as the FBI would have already known this stuff. Not to mention, so did Harry Reid.

    • BeingThere says:

      Prior to the summer 2016 and Trump being nominated, Deripaska was out for getting repaid by Manafort. His cooperation with the FBI is to those goals. After the nomination and Trump’s signalling on policy change (Ukraine policy in GOP convention and the earlier adoptions/sanctions meetings) Deripaska (et al) would now be working to get sanctions lifted (and repaid debts), so his FBI cooperation goes against that if trump is exposed and doesn’t get elected.
      So if Steele observes that too (maybe via Orh that Deripaska is drying up, and that Manafort is working the ropes), that indicates the Russian game has changed and could be a factor towards distributing his reports?
      (Team Russia has to quickly double down on the opportunity, stopping tapes leaking, fake ads, election result hacking, cover-ups, etc at least until election day is over)

  9. harpie says:

    o/t…but interesting, from yesterday:
    FBI to discuss Florida election hacking [added:in 2016] with Scott, DeSantis
    04/25/2019 07:04 PM EDT

    The FBI will meet with Sen. Rick Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis [Then Rep of Fla-6] in the next few weeks to discuss the agency’s suspicion that Russians had hacked at least one county in Florida during the 2016 presidential election. […] The brief mention of the hacking [in the Mueller report] was a surprise to both state and local election officials in Florida. [hahahaha]
    When incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, made a similar assertion last year, Scott assailed him on the campaign trail, demanding proof and calling the comment “irresponsible.” Scott, a Republican and governor at the time, unseated Nelson in November.

    When Trump tweeted his endorsement for DeSantis, Marcy wrote:

    Reminder that Ron DeSantis is probably the Republican who, in 2016, can most obviously be shown to have benefitted from RU hack.

    and linked to this 8/28/2017 post:
    Adding this from the above post:
    [quote] Among the documents stolen from the DCCC that Nevins published are five documents on the DCCC’s recruitment of DeSantis’ opponent, George Pappas. So effectively, DeSantis is trying to cut short the investigation into a crime from which he directly benefitted. [end quote]

    • harpie says:

      More: “Florida political journalist Aaron Nevins obtained a huge chunk of documents from Guccifer 2.0.”

  10. Molly Pitcher says:

    And viget and Rayne, I added some more background information on The Hill on the “THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF KEEPS INSTRUCTING HIS NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIALS NOT TO PROTECT THE COUNTRY” post at April 26, 1:59pm.

    • viget says:

      Saw that. Not saying that John Solomon isn’t a hack, he certainly is, but he has good sources. Much like Chuck Ross, he probably doesn’t realize that by giving us these inside glimpses into the genesis of the investigations, he is actually strengthening the case for there’s something there, given what we now know from Mueller’s report and prior reporting at this blog and other trusted media outlets.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        Well, my feeling about reporters like that is that as long as you have a clear historical understanding of their work, you know how many salt grains to take them with.

  11. lawtalkinguy says:

    “As I read it, the entire point of including this reference is not to substantiate the existence of a pee tape. Rather, it’s to explain why Trump may have believed in the existence of one.”

    If Trump believes there might be a pee tape, there is definitely a pee tape. There was almost certainly cameras in the room when he was in Moscow. If he did not have hookers pee on the bed when he was there, he would know there was no pee tape. The fact that he thinks there could be a pee tape means he did have hookers pee on the bed.

    Ergo, the tape is real.

    • Reader 21 says:

      @lawtalkinguy—agree with nearly all you said, with one caveat—those weren’t “hookers”, given what we know if Individual-1 (and what we know of Putin’s KGB’s kompromat-style)—they were underaged, trafficked girls. It’s bad—of that we can be sure. And given what we know about VLP (Vlad The Poisoner)’s seeking the points of maximum leverage and Dotard’s own proclivities (ie, Epstein friendship, own comments re Paris Hilton (12 @ time) and about Ivanka—I’d bet almost anything. Sub “hookers” for scared, preteen Russian girls, and you’ve got it.

      Sources, all primary text: Epstein-related court filings (search “Maria”); Dotard – Stern interviews); Litvinenko deathbed testimony (dead victim exception to the Hearsay Rule) re Putin.

      • DMZ says:

        I agree 1,000%.
        If Trump knew for Sure there was No Way any tapes existed, he would Not have reacted so Negatively when Clapper and Comey went to see him in January of 2017, right before the Inauguration.

        Occam’s Razor says: The Tapes are Real and they absolutely still Exist.

        Occam’s Razor also says : The Tapes will show Trump with Underage Russian girls about 12 or 13 years old.

        I was at a club in Manhattan back in the 90s when Trump popped in.
        He’s obnoxious and Disgusting.
        Given his friendship with Epstein, I would say he engaged in Pedophile behavior.

  12. Reader 21 says:

    Argh should be VTP (Vlad The Poisoner) above, my bad. Apparently Michael Cohen’s not the only one who can fat-finger it.

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