Felix Sater Is a Lean, Mean Trump-Russia Machine – Bloomberg
Among the many characters who have populated Trump’s checkered history in real estate, Sater is the guy with one of the diciest resumes. A career criminal with ties to both organized crime and federal law enforcement, he partnered with Trump for years on a series of high-profile and unsuccessful real estate deals, including the Trump Soho hotel and condominium in Manhattan.
On Monday, the New York Times and the Washington Post disclosed a series of emails involving Sater’s efforts in 2015 and 2016 to help the Trump Organization build a Trump Tower knock-off in Moscow. There’s is a little hitch that makes that noteworthy: Trump was also running for president at the time.
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in an email to Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in 2015. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
According to Bloomberg News, Cohen recently told a congressional committee investigating Trump’s ties to Russia that he debriefed Trump three times about the Moscow deal. But Cohen apparently had a different impression than Sater of the value of the deal, telling congressional investigators that it “was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.”
Members of TrumpWorld have spent months attempting to draw bright lines between themselves and Russia, with Trump himself claiming he had “nothing to do with Russia” and labeling anyone seeking to prove otherwise as part of a “witch hunt.” But a steady stream of recent email disclosures that detail what Trump and his minions were actually doing during the 2016 campaign has taken the wind out of those arguments.
Law enforcement and intelligence officials also have publicly stated that they believe that the Kremlin worked to tilt the 2016 election in the president’s favor, and Robert Mueller’s team at the Justice Department is examining whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin. As a result, the Trump family’s business and financial operations are facing more federal scrutiny than ever.
The business aspects of Mueller’s investigation are significant because they could establish whether or not the president or his campaign team were looking for financial quid pro quos in exchange for possibly colluding with the Kremlin. (A similar issue is dogging the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who met with Chinese and Russian financiers last year as he tried to bail out his family’s investment in a struggling skyscraper on Fifth Avenue.)
Trump’s partnership with Sater also presents lots of interesting questions. Sater, who migrated to the U.S. from Russia when he was a child, went on to serve prison time for assault as an adult. Federal authorities later prosecuted him for his role in a sprawling investment scam targeting senior citizens and Holocaust survivors and involving Russian and American organized crime members. He avoided prison time for that one by cooperating with law enforcement officials in their investigation and providing intelligence information — apparently gleaned from government and intelligence contacts he had in Moscow — to the U.S. government.
Sater later joined a real estate firm, the Bayrock Group, which did business from a suite of offices two floors beneath the Trump Organization’s headquarters in Trump Tower. Trump went on to partner with Bayrock from about 2002 to about 2010, essentially lending the company his name and his marketing mojo in exchange for lucrative payments and an equity stake in one of their joint projects, the Trump Soho.