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Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking at a rally in Sept, 2016 (John Locher / AP)

Felix Sater, a business associate of President Trump, reportedly promised in 2015 to build a Trump Tower in Moscow with the aid of Vladimir Putin, and said the real estate deal would help Trump win the 2016 election, reports The New York Times.

  • Sater, a Russian immigrant who was a broker for the Trump organization at the time, reportedly sent a series of emails to Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, "boasting" about his close ties Putin. In one email, Sater wrote, "Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process."
  • In another email Sater wrote, "I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected."
  • Why it matters: The emails provide tangible evidence that "from the earliest months of Mr. Trump's campaign, his associates viewed close ties with Moscow as a political advantage," writes the NYT. Those ties are now being closely investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Timing: On Sunday, The Washington Post reported on the existence of the emails between Sater and Cohen, but did not report on the content that was shared. On Monday, the Trump Organization turned the emails over to the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own probe into whether any of Trump's campaign officials were involved with Russia's interference in the election.

Their defense: "To be clear, the Trump Organization has never had any real estate holdings or interests in Russia," The Trump Organization said in a statement Monday. Cohen also issued a statement, saying Sater "has sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to 'salesmanship.' I ultimately determined that the proposal was not feasible and never agreed to make a trip to Russia."

Go deeper

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 3 hours ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP fights itself on shutdown politics

Reporters question Senate Minority Whip John Thune before the Republican Party's weekly lunch on Tuesday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to reach a deal with a bloc of 15 Senate Republicans threatening a government shutdown to force a fight over the Biden administration's vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The push to defund the mandates — by holding the short-term government funding bill hostageis largely symbolic, and highly controversial within the Republican Party. A shutdown as early as midnight Friday could trigger everything from national park closures to delays in receiving Social Security checks.