Felix Sater has returned to the orbit of the Trump-Russia investigation. According to a pair of bombshell news stories on Monday, the linkage between Donald Trump and Moscow has grown tighter than ever, with Sater positioned squarely in the middle of both stories.
The first article, published by The Washington Post, details how Sater in early 2016 recommended to Trump’s lawyer, Michael “Says Who?” Cohen, that he connect with Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, in order to smooth the way for a “Trump Tower Moscow” project requiring the consent of the Kremlin. Cohen apparently made contact with Peskov in January, 2016:
“Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower - Moscow project in Moscow City,” Cohen wrote Peskov, according to a person familiar with the email. “Without getting into lengthy specifics. the communication between our two sides has stalled.”
“As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon,” Cohen wrote.
As the article notes, the email between Cohen as Peskov is the most direct link so far between the Trump Organization and the Kremlin, augmenting the now-epic saga that Trump conspired with the Russians to hijack the 2016 election. The link between Sater and Cohen was confirmed by Cohen, who told congressional investigators that the idea for the email exchange was Sater's.
But the latest story from The New York Times indicates that the Cohen/Sater connection went beyond the "Trump Tower Moscow" deal -- bleeding into Trump's presidential campaign. Emails sent by Sater to Cohen in November 2015 show that Sater bragged about how he and "Putin's team" could make Trump the "president of the USA."
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.” [...]
In another email, Mr. Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting in Moscow. “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Mr. Sater wrote. [...]
Mr. Sater presented himself as so influential in Russia that he helped arrange a 2006 trip that Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, took to Moscow. “I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin,” he said.
Cohen told the Times that the meeting in Moscow never materialized, and the emails don't say whether Sater convinced Moscow to help the Trump campaign. However, evidence elsewhere proves otherwise.
By way of further background, we first learned about Sater's connection to Trump back in February of this year. (True scholars of Trumpology, to be fair, have known about Sater longer than that.) At the time, we discovered that Sater along with Cohen had approached short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn with what The New York Times has described as a peace plan designed to end the crisis in Ukraine. Flynn apparently rejected the plan, which would have significantly undermined Ukrainian sovereignty on terms highly favorable to the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin. Cohen and Sater were joined in the deal by an ambitious politician named Andrii Artemenko, who apparently fancies himself as a Ukrainian version of Trump.
Cohen confirmed to the Times that he did in fact deliver an envelope to Flynn’s office at the White House. But then, in keeping with the whiplash messaging of Trump and his team, Cohen denied to NBC News ever having met with Flynn, though he did confirm that he met with Artemenko. Additionally, Cohen confirmed that he knew Sater on a first-name basis, telling NBC, “I’ve known Felix for years.”
According to a June, 2017 article for Bloomberg by Trump biographer Timothy L. O’Brien, the Russian-born Sater -- who came to the United States as a child in the 1970s -- is a “career criminal” with ties to organized crime in both countries. O’Brien’s article hints that Sater could become a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of what The Washington Post has described as “suspicious financial activities” involving “Russian operatives” and Trump’s inner circle.
Sater, we learn, was involved in what’s called a “pump and dump” Wall Street scam, in which Russian and American mobsters artificially boosted the value of junk stocks and then sold the commodities at ridiculously inflated prices. In the end, it was a $40 million swindle, with unsuspecting investors being screwed out of piles of cash.
Sater served prison time, O’Brien reported, for stabbing another stockbroker in the face with a broken martini glass during a 1993 bar fight. His victim apparently required more than 100 stitches to repair his Tyrion Lannister-style lacerations. Sater also pleaded guilty on charges of stock manipulation for the pump-and-dump plot, and he ended up becoming an informant for the FBI and the CIA in the late ’90s, helping the intelligence community track down loose U.S.-made Stinger missiles. (In a bizarre plot twist, Sater’s Justice Department supervisor was future Attorney General Loretta Lynch, then the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn.) All this went down after Sater went into hiding in Moscow, turned himself in to American authorities and bragged openly about his supposed ties to the KGB.
Around the same time, Donald Trump “was enduring a long stretch in the financial wilderness,” as O’Brien put it. Trump’s infamous Atlantic City casino investments had crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. He barely avoided personal bankruptcy, although several of his business ventures went bust. Trump linked up with Sater and a real estate investment group called Bayrock, which made a variety of deals from 2002 to 2011 with various members of the Trump family, including Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump as well as their dad. Bayrock was founded, O’Brien reported, with a considerable infusion of Russian cash. This background lends additional context to Eric Trump’s famous remark about the family business: “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”
Through Bayrock, the Trump family was able to bring in Russian investment capital at a point when most American banks refused to give the Trumps the time of day. Much if not all of this capital, according to O’Brien, was laundered cash from unknown sources, funneled through easily pliable overseas banks. O’Brien also reported that a former Bayrock employee named Jody Kriss sued the firm — again, a company directly linked to Trump and two of his kids — alleging, among other things, that it was involved in money laundering. That lawsuit eventually morphed into a racketeering case.
Trump seemed to welcome the money, regardless of how it was attained. Bloomberg quoted the future president in a 2007 deposition: “It’s ridiculous that I wouldn’t be investing in Russia. Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”
In his sworn testimony, Trump added that officials from Bayrock visited his office at Trump Tower to talk about deals with Russia. More recently, however, Trump has contradicted that testimony and denied having ever done business with Russians of any stripe. Trump also claimed he barely knows Sater, despite being photographed with him (see the top of the Bloomberg item). Furthermore, Sater and Bayrock leased offices in Trump Tower — two floors below Trump’s own office.
So it seems that everyone, including Cohen, Donald Jr., Ivanka and probably Eric, knows Sater -- except Donald Trump himself. In the Bloomberg article, Jody Kriss (the former Bayrock employee) noted that Trump is closely involved in all his own deals: “Donald was always in charge. Donald had to agree to every term of every deal and had to sign off on everything.” Kriss also said that Sater and Trump met in Trump’s office “on a constant basis.”
With the addition of both the Times and The Washington Post stories, it's more obvious than ever that Sater is at the center of the conspiracy, with Cohen not too far behind. Combined, these stories also serve as significant debunkings of Trump's ongoing excuse that he has no relationships with Russia. Of course, Trump is lying. Badly. (Thanks to Ladson F. Howell, Jr. and Gary Christmas.)
UPDATE: There's a Trump tweet for every story. From 2013:
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