Alexander Lebed is visiting the U.S. to attend Bill Clinton’s inauguration and to promote himself as a candidate who Americans won’t be afraid to work with, if he becomes president of Russia. His campaign last year fell short due to tense relations with Western leaders. He wants to fix that.
Before his trip, he arranged to meet with Donald Trump in New York.
Today, Trump greets Lebed in the lobby of Trump Tower and takes him to his office, where he shows his guest some prized possessions — like Shaquille O’Neal’s shoe — in the style of a five-year-old showing a new friend his or her favorite toys. Then he introduces Lebed to Howard Lorber, who’d been involved with Trump’s November trip to Moscow.
Talk turns to business, and Trump says he’s looking at Hotel Moskva and Rossiya Hotel in Moscow. Both hotels are controlled by the Russian government and located within a block or two from the Kremlin — the government’s Moscow headquarters and the president’s residence.
Lebed says Trump must be “a very confident person” to want to work at the center of the Russian government’s territory in Moscow. (Maybe it’s less about confidence and more about his decade-long relationship with the KGB.)
Before he goes, the men exchange phone numbers, and Trump gives Lebed a copy of The Art of the Deal. Lebed invites Trump to visit him in Moscow.
The meeting lasted no more than an hour and no reporters were allowed to follow the men after they left the lobby — except, maybe, Mark Singer, who has been following Trump around for some days or weeks for a feature in The New Yorker. It’s unclear if Singer was allowed in the meeting or if Trump gave him a version of the events afterward.
Lebed is a former Russian general and national security chief in the Boris Yeltsin administration. He was invited to Clinton’s inauguration by Republican Senator William Roth Jr. under pressure from an unnamed Delaware businessman. He never becomes president of Russia.