“It definitely was stressful,” Novikov said. “It was literally 24/7 of reading the news, analyzing the news, talking to people, and strategic sessions in the middle of the night. The key to this—and I think we succeeded—was to be on top of the situation.”

The process brought near-disasters and surreal moments. Before Trump’s now-infamous July 25 call with Zelensky, Novikov said one member of Zelensky’s team urged him to offer Trump the opportunity to build a Trump Tower in Kyiv. A similar effort by Russian nationals during the 2016 campaign became a key focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian influence on that race.

“Imagine if that were also part of that call,” Novikov said of a Trump Tower Kyiv pitch. “Can you just imagine how that would have played out?”