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‘Putin’s Rabbi’ visited Trump Tower in 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar in the Jewish Museum in Moscow, Thursday, June 13, 2013. Chabad Lubavitch false messiah Mendel Menachem Scheernson in the painting behind them. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

By Geoff Earle
April 19, 2019 Anno Domini

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report sketches out yet another effort to arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Russia‘s Vladimir Putin – this time from a man touting a connection to the Chief Rabbi of Russia.

The Trump-Putin meeting never occurred, but Rabbi Berel Lazar, known as ‘Putin’s Rabbi,’ did attend a Trump Tower meeting in 2016 with the man who pitched it.

The outreach is described in a footnote to Mueller’s report, which details among other things a successful effort involving Russians to meet top Trump officials with a promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton, the cultivation of foreign policy advisor George Papadapoulos by a Maltese professor and his associate, parallel efforts to arrange Trump-Putin meeting, and a Russian ‘active measures’ social media campaign that won retweets from Trump aides.

The report says the contact involved Sam Clovis, the Iowa political figure who co-chaired Trump’s campaign. In addition to fielding Russia pitches from Papadopoulos, Clovis got one from a David Klein, described as a ‘distant relative’ of then-Trump Organization lawyer Jason Greenblatt.

Trump later named Greenblatt his Middle East negotiator.

Klein emailed Clovis ‘about a potential Campaign meeting with Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia,’ according to the report. Before contacting Clovis, Lazar had gone to the rabbi – and according to Mueller discussed the Trump-Putin meeting.

‘The email stated that Klein had contacted Lazar in February about a possible Trump-Putin meeting and that Lazar was ‘a very close confidante of Putin,’ according to the report, which cites an interview with Klein as well as the email as sources of information.

Lazar is indeed considered close to the Russian president, and as the Times of Israel recently noted, he is sometimes referred to as ‘Putin’s Rabbi.’ He is a member of the Chabad Hassidic sect.

However as with the entreaties by Papadopoulos, who met in London during the campaign with a Maltese professor who offered dirt on Hillary Clinton and who according to the Mueller report was connected to a former member of a Russian troll farm, nothing appears to have come of the offer.

However, the rabbi did visit Trump Tower during the campaign. It was not immediately clear if topic of a Trump-Putin meeting came up.

‘The investigation did not find evidence that Clovis responded to Klein’s email or that any further contacts of significance came out of Klein’s subsequent meeting with Greenblatt and Rabbi Lazar at Trump Tower,’ according to the report, which cites an apparent interview with Klein.

The New York Times in 2017 reported on the rabbi as one of multiple Trump contacts with Russia ties. However the story did not mention a proposed Trump-Putin meeting, as revealed by Mueller.

The report said Lazar met with Jason Greenblatt during the summer of 2016. Greenblatt told the paper the men did not discuss broader United States-Russia relations. He said the meeting was ‘probably less than useful.’

Rabbi Lazar told the paper the men spoke about anti-Semitism in Russia, Russian society, and Russian Jews in Israel. He did not mention the proposed meeting. He said he never discussed his meeting with Putin, who he sees about twice a year.

MOSCOW, RUSSIAA – JANUARY 26, 2017: Alexander Boroda, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar (L-R) at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre. Alexander Astafyev/Russian Government Press Office/TASS (Photo by Alexander AstafyevTASS via Getty Images)

The Times said PR exec Joshua Nass confirmed arranging the meeting, although the Mueller report does not mention Nass. reached out to Lazar, who is observing Passover, which began Friday night in Russia. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The detail was just one element of efforts to try to bring Putin and Trump together.

According to the report, Papadopolis wrote Trump campaign chair Cory Lewandowski in June 2016 to say Clovis was ‘running point’ on a Russia visit.

He wrote to ask ‘if Mr. Trump is interested in visiting Russia at some point.’

 He even wrote Lewandowski on his last day as campaign manager, stating that the ‘Russian ministry of foreign affairs’ had contacted him and ‘asked whether, if Mr. Trump could not travel to Russia, a campaign representative such as Papadopoulos could attend meetings.’

He said he was ‘willing to make the trip off the record if it’s in the interest of Mr. Trump and the campaign to meet specific people.’

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