A Russian who offered to put Donald Trump in touch with Vladimir Putin during real estate negotiations in Moscow was not the former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov, as Michael Cohen believed him to be throughout their communications, but a former government official with the same name, according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
The 400-page report, released on Thursday morning, was primarily focused on contacts between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, and on the question of whether Trump obstructed justice. But it also shed new light on a curious interaction between Trump’s business and politically connected Russians regarding discussions to build a high-end tower bearing Trump’s name in Moscow.
In June 2018, BuzzFeed News reported that in November 2015, just weeks after Trump and the Russian developer Andrey Rozov signed a nonbinding letter of intent for the project, Ivanka Trump received an unsolicited email from a woman introducing herself as the wife of Dmitry Klokov, which she forwarded to Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen. Four sources with knowledge of the matter told BuzzFeed News that, in at least one phone conversation and several emails, Klokov then told Cohen he could arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.
The article described Klokov as a former Olympic weightlifter. The Mueller report says that was Cohen’s understanding throughout their communications. It includes a line from the introductory email that Klokov’s wife wrote to Ivanka Trump: “If you ask anyone who knows Russian to google my husband Dmitry Klokov, you’ll see who he is close to and that he has done Putin’s political campaigns.” Cohen told the special counsel’s office that he had conducted an internet search himself and concluded that it was Klokov the athlete. A Google search for “Dmitry Klokov” turns up over a dozen pages of links about the weightlifter, who won a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics.
But it now appears that Cohen was — unbeknownst to him — speaking with an entirely different Dmitry Klokov. Mueller’s investigation “established that the email address used to communicate with Cohen belongs to a different Dmitry Klokov,” one who was in fact a communications director for a large Russian electricity company who had previously worked for Russia’s energy minister.
Cohen and his lawyer did not respond to a detailed request for comment. The special counsel’s office declined to answer questions about the matter, including about when it established that Klokov was not the weightlifter. Prior to the publication of the article, BuzzFeed News asked that office about Klokov the weightlifter, but it also declined to answer then.
Contacted by BuzzFeed News prior to the June 2018 article’s publication, the weightlifter Klokov said that he did not “send any emails” to Cohen: “I’m weightlifter, not a political.” He later posted on Instagram that he had “never communicated with anyone in the Trump organization, including Trump’s family or legal representatives, and specifically the Mr. Cohen who is in the news story.”
“I was very proud to be a part of many Russian national weightlifting teams, but I do not have any inside connections to the Russian government,” Klokov wrote. “No part of the story of my involvement with these people is true.”
According to the special counsel’s report, the Klokov who spoke to Cohen described himself in emails as a “trusted person” who could offer “synergy on a government level.” He suggested that he could facilitate a meeting in Russia between Trump and “our person of interest,” which the Mueller report characterizes as a reference to Putin. Klokov claimed that the meeting could have “phenomenal” impact “in a business dimension,” and that there was “no bigger warranty in any project than [the] consent of the person of interest.”
A man who appears to be the Dmitry Klokov referenced in Mueller’s report did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. A spokesperson for the Federal Grid Company of Unified Energy System, where Mueller’s report says Klokov worked at the time he spoke to Cohen, also has not returned a request for comment.
Klokov the weightlifter did not return a request for comment on Thursday either.
Jason Leopold is a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He is a 2018 Pulitzer finalist for international reporting, recipient of the IRE 2016 FOI award and a 2016 Newseum Institute National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame inductee.