US-Russian Businessman Said to Be Source of Key Trump Dossier Claims
Sergei Millian claimed to have helped Trump recruit Russian investors.
— -- The source of the most salacious allegations in the uncorroborated dossier about President Trump and the Russians is a onetime Russian government translator, according to a person familiar with the raw intelligence provided to the FBI.
Sergei Millian, a naturalized American citizen who most recently headed a group called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, said he was in Moscow at the time the dossier accuses the billionaire American businessman of being involved with Russian prostitutes. Millian claims to have helped Trump recruit Russian investors, and he posted pictures of himself attending several black tie events during last week’s inauguration.
He is the man, the people familiar with the unredacted dossier tell ABC News, who may have unwittingly described Trump’s alleged tryst, during a conversation with someone who was secretly reporting to Christopher Steele.
Steele, a former British MI-6 intelligence officer, collected much of the information in a dossier funded by Trump’s political opponents that was provided to the FBI and circulated in media and intelligence circles for months before the 2016 election.
Millian did not answer questions put to him by ABC News over the weekend and again Tuesday.
While the published dossier never names Millian, a version provided to the FBI included Millian’s name as a source, according to someone who has seen the version given to the FBI.
Millian’s place in the long-running chatter about Trump’s purported ties to Russia has been reported in bits and pieces by various news outlets for months.
The assertion that he was the source of the document’s unsubstantiated (and refuted) claims about a Russian government videotape of Trump in a compromising position was first reported online Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal. The Journal quoted Millian saying in an email that the information in the dossier was “fake news (created by sick minds)” and was “an attempt to distract the future president from real work.”
Millian had said little publicly in recent weeks. But after news reports appeared alleging he was referenced as a source in the dossier, Millian appeared for an interview on Russian television to deny any role.
“This is just a blatant lie,” he told a Russian television talk show called 60 Minutes, according to a translation prepared for ABC news. He called it an attempt “to show our president [Trump] in a bad light, using my name.”
Asked directly if he had any salacious material about Trump that is described in the dossier, Millian said he did not.
“I don't have any information and I doubt it exists,” he said.
In July he told ABC News in an exclusive interview that he was well connected with both Trump and the Kremlin.
“I’m one of those very few people who have insider knowledge of Kremlin politics who has the ability to understand the Russian mentality and who has been able to successfully integrate in American society,” Millian said.
In recent weeks, Trump’s team has said that Millian is not who is says he is — that he never worked in any capacity with the Trump Organization and he had to be warned to stop describing himself as a Trump-approved broker. Millian for months granted interviews in Russian media making that claim. And he did so during his interview with ABC News in July 2016.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, told ABC News that he exchanged emails with Millian in order to tell him to stop exaggerating his ties to the Trump Organization. Cohen said he wrote Millian to say it had become clear “that you too are seeking media attention off of this false narrative of a Trump-Russia alliance” and to ask him to stop “attempting to inject yourself into this crazy, [Hillary] Clinton campaign lie.”
Millian told ABC News he met Trump in 2008 during a marketing meeting in Florida to help bring attention to the Trump Hollywood development. At the event he posed for a photo with Trump and, he said, was introduced to Cohen, who was then a senior attorney for the Trump Organization.
“Trump team, they realized that we have lots of connection with Russian investors. And they noticed that we bring a lot of investors from Russia,” Millian said in the July interview. “And they needed my assistance, yes, to sell properties and sell some of the assets to Russian investors.”
Millian said he signed an agreement “with his team so I can be his official broker.”
“So we did a lot of marketing for Trump. We presented his team with a proposal. It’s an 11-page proposal that we wrote. And some of the items were, in fact, implemented successfully in Russia,” he said.
Both Cohen and the developer of Trump Hollywood, the Related Group, told ABC News that they never had a signed agreement with Millian. “Related has no record of having paid Sergei Millian as a broker or otherwise,” the real estate company said in a statement to ABC News.
Millian told ABC News he was in Moscow during Trump’s 2013 visit but that he did not travel with Trump or meet with him there. “He worked with some of our advisers,” Millian said, adding that he believed Trump was interested in Russia for both business and pleasure.
“He likes Russia because he likes beautiful Russian ladies,” Millian said. “He likes talking to them, of course. And he likes to be able to make lot of money with Russians, yes, correct.”
Millian for years boasted in Russian media of his connections to Trump. In April 2016 he told one Russian newspaper that the two had a long-standing business relationship. “I think partnership is based on friendship, mutual respect and mutual understanding, and business is based on buyer-seller relationships,” he said.
Cohen told ABC News those claims were untrue.
“I’ve never met the guy,” Cohen said. “I have spoken to him twice. The first time, he was proposing to do something. He’s in real estate. I told him we have no interest. Second time he called me, I asked him not to call me anymore.”
The Russian-American Chamber of Commerce had listed the Trump Organization as one of its sponsors but removed the name during the summer of 2016. Millian ran the group from an office in Atlanta before moving to New York. The group’s tax records indicate it had only a modest income and operating budget.
In November, the British newspaper Financial Times wrote that Millian’s name surfaced on the FBI’s radar after he reportedly participated in a 2011 trip to Moscow for 50 American businessmen and offered to arrange future junkets. According to the newspaper, the FBI later asked Americans participating in the trip whether Russian intelligence tried to recruit them. One of the businessmen, the newspaper reported, said FBI agents told him they suspected that some of the people who organized the trips were spies.
Intelligence experts told ABC News that aspects of Millian’s background raised concerns for them. Paul Joyal, the managing director of National Strategies, told ABC News that the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce reminded him of a “classic Soviet front organization.”
“Front organization have been a platform for spotting and assessing potential intelligence recruitment and collection targets,” he said. “They commonly used sponsored trips as a means of making contact and sometimes developing or compromising intelligence targets of interests.”
Millian changed his name. Court records show that when he first arrived in the U.S., he went by the name Siarhei Kukuts and later Sergei Kukuts. On a 2009 resume for Sergei Kukuts posted online, he described himself as having worked in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an interpreter and translator.
Asked why he changed his name, Millian told ABC News he did so “in respect to my grandmother. Her last name, Millianovich.”
Millian told ABC News he was not working with Russian intelligence agencies. “I’m not involved,” he said.
Asked if he ever reported to Russian officials about his work in the U.S., he said only, “If I meet top people in the Russian government — they invite me, let’s say, to Kremlin for the reception, so of course I have a chance to talk to some presidential advisers and some of the top people.” He considered ridiculous, he said, the notion that he was a Russian spy.
“Of course not,” he said.
In recent months, Millian continued to work to support the Trump campaign. He told ABC News he donated money to the campaign, and he posted a photo online of a Trump “donor card,” though there is nothing in Federal Election Commission records to confirm a contribution. Millian appeared to have attended Trump’s inaugural events, posting photos on social media from the festivities in Washington, D.C.
Millian declined to talk with ABC News this week in a brief email exchange this week. But back in July, he said he was motivated to help what he thought would be a warming in the relations between a Trump administration and his birth country.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect recent comments by Sergei Millian.