In 2000, Alexander Shustorovich, a Russian-American millionaire, tried to give $250,000 to the Republican party in support of then-Texas governor George W. Bush’s presidential campaign. The check bounced due to a clerical error, and once party officials looked into Shustorovich, they realized this was someone whose name they didn’t want (paywall) attached to them. They told him to keep his money.
Not long before, a potential uranium deal between Russia and the US had fallen through, after the Clinton administration sounded warning notes (paywall) over Shustorovich’s connections to the Russian government. (His company, Pleiades Group, would have been a middleman in the deal.) However, in 2017, the Trump Inaugural Committee decided to take $1 million from Shustorovich, according to a Federal Election Commission filing (pdf).
In 2012, Shustorovich, who was born in Moscow and moved to the US as a child, implied in an interview with Wired that he had good relations with Russian president Vladimir Putin and prime minister Dmitri Medvedev. He had earlier been engaged to Ksenia Sobchak, daughter of Putin’s earliest political benefactor. (Long rumored to be the Russian president’s goddaughter, Sobchak later turned against him.)
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why Shustorovich was deemed a suitable donor after the Republican party had previously said no to him.
The committee also took $1 million from Access Industries, which is owned by oligarch Len Blavatnik, an American citizen who was born in the USSR and made his fortune investing in commodities in post-Soviet Russia. In 2015, Oxford University came under heavy pressure to reject tens of millions of pounds donated by Blavatnik, over his alleged “corporate abuses” in Russia; it took the money.
Trump’s inauguration committee received $106 million in total—eclipsing the $53 million president Obama raised for his inauguration in 2009.
Correction (4/20/17): This article has been amended to more clearly reflect that Len Blavatnik does not have Russian citizenship.