The pageant and the presidents attempts to get close to Putin have become a focus of the investigation into Trumps links to Russian interference in the US election
Sitting in a makeshift studio overlooking the Moscow river on a crisp day in November 2013, Donald Trump pouted, stared down the lens of a television camera and said something he would come to regret.
Asked by an interviewer whether he had a relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, the brash New York businessman could not resist boasting. I do have a relationship with him, Trump said.
Russias strongman had done a very brilliant job, Trump told MSNBCs Thomas Roberts, before declaring that Putin had bested Barack Obama. Hes done an amazing job hes put himself really at the forefront of the world as a leader in a short period of time.
Trump, a teetotaler, seemed intoxicated by the buzz surrounding the glitzy event that had brought him back to Moscow: that years instalment of the Miss Universe contest that he then owned.
Four years later, he is struggling to shake off the hangover.
The 2013 pageant has become a focal point for the simultaneous investigations, led by special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees, into whether associates of Trump colluded with Russian officials to help them win the 2016 US presidential election.
Investigators are examining closely efforts apparently made by the Russian government to pass Trumps team damaging information on Hillary Clinton, using Trumps politically connected Miss Universe business partners as couriers.
They are also looking into the $20m fee that Trump collected for putting on the pageant from those same business partners along with extraordinary allegations about Trumps private conduct behind closed doors at the Ritz-Carlton hotel during his 2013 stay in Moscow.
The Guardian has learned of additional, previously unreported, connections between Trumps business partners on the pageant and Russias government. The ties are likely to attract further scrutiny by investigators who are already biting at the heels of Trump associates.
A full accounting of Trumps actions in the Russian capital as that autumn turned to winter may be critical to resolving a controversy that has already consumed the first eight months of his presidency.
Our committees investigation will not be complete unless we fully understand who President Trump met with when he was over in Russia for Miss Universe, and what follow-up contacts occurred, Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said in an interview.
Trumps attorney, John Dowd, declined to answer when asked whether the presidents team accepts that the Miss Universe contest is a legitimate area of inquiry for investigators. Fake news, Dowd said in an email.