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Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump has heatedly denied campaign connections to Russia. But congressional investigators are looking into claims by one of his closest business associates that he briefed the candidate three times on a frantic effort to get a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Why it matters: A Republican close to the White House tells Axios' Jonathan Swan: "It gives Mueller all the excuse he needs to open a full-blown investigation into Cohen. And it's worth noting that Cohen's financial affairs are inextricably intertwined with the president's."

The two key stories:

  • WashPost: "A top executive from Donald Trump's real estate company emailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin's personal spokesman ... last year to ask for help advancing a stalled Trump Tower development project in Moscow ... The request came in a mid-January 2016 email from Michael Cohen, one of Trump's closest business advisers.''
  • ''Cohen said that he discussed the deal three times with Trump and that Trump signed a letter of intent with the company on Oct. 28, 2015. ... [H]e said that the project was abandoned 'for business reasons' when government permission was not secured."
  • N.Y. Times: "A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency."
  • "The associate, Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which ... he predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would highlight Mr. Trump's savvy negotiating skills and be a political boon to his candidacy. 'Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.'"

Go deeper

Reddit traders look to pummel Wall Street's old guard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Reddit traders are taking on Wall Street pros at their own game with this basic mantra: Stocks will always go up.

Why it matters: Their trades — egged on in Reddit threads — have played a role in historic market activity in recent days.

The week the Trump show ended

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Donald Trump was eclipsed in media attention last week by President Biden for the first time since Trump took office, according to viewership data on the internet, on social media and on cable news.

Why it matters: After Trump crowded out nearly every other news figure and topic for five years, momentum of the new administration took hold last week and the former president retreated, partly by choice and partly by being forced off the big platforms.

Pay TV's bleak post-pandemic outlook

Data: eMarketer; Chart: Axios Visuals

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the Pay-TV industry, and with the near-term future of live sports in question, there are no signs of it getting better in 2021.

Why it matters: The fraught Pay-TV landscape is forcing some smaller, niche cable channels out of business altogether.