The Miss Universe judges may have thought they were calling the shots, but Donald Trump apparently had the most sway in picking winners. A lengthy New Yorker story by Jeffrey Toobin recounts how Trump, when he owned the pageant from 1996 to 2015, would talk to contestants himself during rehearsals, then relay his preferences to the president of the Miss Universe Organization, who was following at a discreet distance. “He made comments about every girl: ‘I’ve been to that country.’ ‘We’re building a Trump Tower there,'" says Adwoa Yamoah, who was Miss Canada in 2012. "It was clear the countries that he liked did well. He’d whisper to Paula (Shugart) about the girls, and she’d write it down. He basically told us he picked nine of the top 15.” Toobin makes the case that Trump picked women from nations in which he had business interests.
That gets him to a key part of the story—the decision to stage the pageant in Moscow in 2013. Trump worked with Russian real estate magnate Aras Agalarov and his son, Emin, to arrange the deal, and Toobin writes that the relationships Trump struck at the time are now all tangled up in the Russia investigation. Emin's publicist, for example, played a role in arranging the controversial meeting between Russians and Donald Trump Jr. Robert Mueller is now looking closely at that meeting, and at the elder Trump's seemingly misleading public statements about it afterward. "For decades, in Trump’s business dealings, he never paid a price for his salesman’s hype, which repeatedly edged into falsehood," writes Toobin. But the Mueller investigation has the potential to bring a "moment of reckoning." Read the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)