Russian mobsters frequented and enjoyed the Trump casinos. Russians were heavy purchasers of units in the Trump Tower. So many Russians bought Trump apartments at his developments in Florida that the area became known as Little Moscow. The developers of two of his hotels were Russians with significant links to the Russian mob. The late leader of that mob in the United States, Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, was living at the Trump Towers. In various real estate deals, Trump, at the very least, had turned a blind eye to apparent Russian money laundering.

Though Trump had previously contemplated running for president, Putin had no idea whether that would come to pass. It was enough that Trump was a prominent figure and television star already sympathetic to Russia.

Rybolovlev’s purchase of the Florida mansion put about $74 million in Trump’s pocket. Trump suddenly had oxygen.

What had Trump done to earn such a favor? It may seem surprising, but the answer could be nothing. At least not then.