By Rosalind S. Helderman
WASHINGTON - The White House on Friday released a letter from two tax attorneys for President Donald Trump claiming that Trump’s only income from Russian sources in the last 10 years came from fees for hosting the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013, his sale of a Palm Beach mansion to a Russian businessman in 2008 and his company’s routine sales of condo units and golf games to Russians.
The attorneys said their analysis came from a review of Trump’s tax returns for the last 10 years. However, they did not release the returns or provide any documents to support their claims.
The letter, from lawyers Sheri A. Dillon and William F. Nelson, also asserted that Trump holds no debt from Russian lenders and holds no equity in Russian entities. They explained that because of the way that Trump operates his businesses, his corporate income and debt would be disclosed on his personal tax returns.
Trump has come under increasing scrutiny over his possible ties to Russia - which he has denied - and is now facing a firestorm over his decision to fire former FBI director James B. Comey. Comey had been leading an investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election and exploring whether any Trump associates had participated.
On Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said he believed Congress should investigate Trump’s business ties for possible Russian connections, including perhaps requesting Trump’s tax returns. Breaking with past precedent for U.S. presidents, Trump has refused to release his returns publicly.
Trump and his aides have been promising for several days that they would send a certified letter from Trump’s attorneys to Graham showing that the president has no business ties with Russia. “Certified” refers to the class of mail used to send the document, but does not offer any outside assurance that the contents of the document are accurate. Experts have also said that only some forms of income and debt would be reflected on a tax return.
“I just sent a letter from Lindsey O. Graham from one of the most prestigious law firms in the country that I have nothing to do with Russia,” Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt on Thursday.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump had “charged a leading law firm” to send a letter to Graham showing that “he has no connections to Russia.”
The letter released Friday is dated March 8 and addressed to Trump. A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a question about why the letter was written in early March and why it was not released publicly for more than two months.