Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian government representatives was set up by Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, who was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, at a time when it was still part of the Soviet Union. This is not the first time in which Donald Trump and Baku have been scandalously intertwined; Trump was building a phony hotel there while he was running for president. While there is no evidence that Agalarov himself was connected to the hotel in his hometown, the Trump-Baku scandal stands out as stunning.
Shortly after taking office, Donald Trump abandoned a bizarre hotel project in Baku which never made any sense to begin with, according to The New Yorker. It was built in an industrial part of town where a hotel wouldn’t be needed. The roads being built to the hotel didn’t even lead to it. And now it turns out the entire hotel project appears to have been little more than an excuse to illegally launder money coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
The Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku project was spearheaded by Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who repeatedly visited the property and posted photos of herself touring it, even though as best anyone can tell the hotel was never going to open or do any business. It appears in hindsight that Ivanka had merely been doing all of this in order to create the outward appearance that the hotel was a legitimate project.
As it turns out, the hotel deal had been struck with Ziya Mammadov, the corrupt Transportation Minister of Azerbaijan, who has a history of arranging shady real estate projects as money laundering fronts. Mammadov and his family have deep financial connections to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, making it almost certain that the Trumps were knowingly and illegally doing business with Iran. It also seems likely that Trump shuttered the project upon taking office in the hope it wouldn’t be investigated.