The Trumps needed Russian money at the time. In 2004, Trump filed for bankruptcy with respect to the Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, which affected three casinos in Atlantic City and one in Indiana. While the bankruptcy allowed Trump to get out from an estimated $1.8 billion in debt, the traditional lenders became reluctant to lend to him. Indeed, in a 2010 US Federal lawsuit, it was alleged that much of the money that financed the Trump SoHo luxury hotel development in Manhattan, which broke ground in 2006, came from a shadowy Iceland-based corporate entity, with the backing money having been “mostly Russian.” In the same lawsuit, it was also alleged that if traditional lenders were reluctant to get involved with Trump, the Russians had no such compunctions.
Since at least 2005, another Russian-born individual in the US became Trump’s agent in Russia. The individual in question is Felix Sater, a man of dubious reputation, with convictions for a first-degree assault and for fraud in the US, with alleged Russian mafia connection, and with childhood and business connection to Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Sater’s name is consistently mentioned alongside Cohen’s, as well as in the context of the Trump Organization’s projects – which explains why he would become one of the main persons of interest in the Mueller investigation.