Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #966 Dramatis Personae of the Russia-Gate Psy-Op

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Roger Stone Salutes

Roger Stone Salutes

Introduction: Developing information about the cast of characters in the “Russia-Gate” psy-op, we highlight the political allegiance of “Team Trump”–the operatives involved with Trump’s campaign and business dealings with Russia, as well as Robert Mueller, former FBI chief and a very special prosecutor indeed.

Although Trump certainly had links to Russian mob figures, they are by no means the prime movers in this drama.

Most importantly, we detail the political resumes and deep politics underlying the cast of characters in this drama, tracking the operational links back to Joe McCarthy and the red-baiting specialists from the first Cold War.

Joe McCarthy legal point man Roy Cohn is, to a considerable extent, the spider at the center of this web. Cohn:

  • Was Trump’s attorney for much of “The Donald’s” professional life.
  • Introduced Trump campaign manager and dirty tricks specialist Roger Stone to the seated President.
  • Was instrumental in arranging for a bribe which made “independent” Republican John Anderson the Presidential candidate for the Liberal Party in New York. This gambit gave Reagan a key victory in New York. Cohn and Stone’s associate in this operation was Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno–one of Cohn’s mob clients and among Donald Trump’s organized crime associates as well.
  • Was the point man for introducing Rupert Murdoch to Ronald Reagan and forging the right-wing media attack machine that dominates today, the most prominent element of which is Fox News.

Roger Stone is another figure who weaves throughout this concatenation. Stone:

  • Was Donald Trump’s campaign manager and later dirty tricks operative, who networked with WikiLeaks go-between for the Trump/Alt-right crew.
  • Was touting Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Johnson and Jill Stein were advocated for by Stone as participants in the debates between Hillary Clinton and Trump. (Johnson and Stein’s combined vote total helped Trump win in several key states.)
  • Worked with Roy Cohn to put “independent” Republican John Anderson the Presidential candidate for the Liberal Party in New York. This gambit gave Reagan a key victory in New York, as noted above.

The point man for the Trump business interests in their dealings with Russia is Felix Sater. A Russian-born immigrant, Sater is a professional criminal and a convicted felon with historical links to the Mafia. Beyond that, and more importantly, Sater is an FBI informant and a CIA contract agentAs the media firestorm around “Russia-gate” builds, it is important not to lose sight of Sater. ” . . . . He [Sater] also provided other purported national security services for a reported fee of $300,000. Stories abound as to what else Sater may or may not have done in the arena of national security. . . .” We wonder if helping the “Russia-Gate” op may have been one of those. 

Beyond Sater, other key players in this concatenation do not track back to “Kremlin/Putin/FSB/KGB.” Rob Goldstone–the publicist whose overture to Donald Trump, Jr. initiated the latest “Russia-gate journalistic feeding frenzy in the media, began his career a journalistic foot soldier for Rupert Murdoch, the very same Rupert Murdoch whose christening as a GOP/right-wing propagandist was initiated by Roy Cohn.

Goldstone contacted Donald Trump Jr., dangling the bait that there might be dirt on Hillary available if he met with some associates. Foremost among those is a Russian attorney, Natalie Veselnitskaya. Her apparent purpose in this meeting was not to offer up dirt on Hillary Clinton but to work toward easing a media lockdown on a documentary about the Magnitsky affair.

Spun in the West, the U.S. in particular, as a classic example of ham-fisted Russian corruption and violence, the Magnitsky affair was revealed in the film documentary to be an example of U.S. corruption, not Russian.

Crafted by Putin political opponent Andrei Nekrasov, the film revealed an unexpected dynamic: ” . . . . Nekrasov discovered that a woman working in Browder’s company was the actual whistleblower and that Magnitsky – rather than a crusading lawyer – was an accountant who was implicated in the scheme. . . .”

Attempting to lift the media blackout on Nekrasov’s film was Veselnitskaya’s goal, not disseminating dirt on Hillary Clinton.

CORRECTION: At a couple of points in the audio discussion of Goldstone, Veselnitskaya et al, Mr. Emory misspeaks, describing the participant in the meeting as “Donald Trump.” It was his son Donald Trump, Jr.

Program Highlights Include:

  • The financing of Joe McCarthy’s career by Nazi sympathizer Walter Harnischfeger, part of the German-American Fifth Column in this country which was at the forefront of the discussion in FTR #’s 918, 919.
  • McCarthy’s use of a postwar Nazi network headed by General Karl Wolff, SS chief Heinrich Himmler’s personal adjutant.
  • Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s role in covering up the BCCI scandal and the overlapping Operation Green Quest investigation pursuant to 9/11.

1. By way of review, we remind listeners that the point man for the Trump business interests in their dealings with Russia is Felix Sater. A Russian-born immigrant, Sater is a professional criminal and a convicted felon with historical links to the Mafia. Beyond that, and more importantly, Sater is an FBI informant and a CIA contract agent. ” . . . . He [Sater] also provided other purported national security services for a reported fee of $300,000. Stories abound as to what else Sater may or may not have done in the arena of national security. . . .” We wonder if helping the “Russia-Gate” op may have been one of those. 

  • The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston; Melville House [HC]; copyright 2016 by David Cay Johnston; ISBN 978-1-61219-632-9. p. 165.
    . . . . There is every indication that the extraordinarily lenient treatment resulted from Sater playing a get-out-of-jail free card. Shortly before his secret guilty plea, Sater became a freelance operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. One of his fellow stock swindlers, Salvatore Lauria, wrote a book about it. “The Scorpion and the Frog” is described on its cover as ‘the true story of one man’s fraudulent rise and fall in the Wall Street of the nineties.’ According to Lauria–and the court files that have been unsealed–Sater helped the CIA buy small missiles before they got to terrorists. He also provided other purported national security services for a reported fee of $300,000. Stories abound as to what else Sater may or may not have done in the arena of national security. . . .
  • Sater was active on behalf of the Trumps in the fall of 2015: “. . . . Sater worked on a plan for a Trump Tower in Moscow as recently as the fall of 2015, but he said that had come to a halt because of Trump’s presidential campaign. . . .”
  • Sater was initiating contact between the Russians and “Team Trump” in January of this year: “ . . . . Nevertheless, in late January, Sater and a Ukrainian lawmaker reportedly met with Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, at a New York hotel. According to the Times, they discussed a plan that involved the U.S. lifting sanctions against Russia, and Cohen said he hand-delivered the plan in a sealed envelope to then-national security advisor Michael Flynn. Cohen later denied delivering the envelope to anyone in the White House, according to the Washington Post. . . .”

2. Rob Goldstone–the publicist whose overture to Donald Trump, Jr. initiated the latest “Russia-gate journalistic feeding frenzy in the media, began his career a journalistic footsoldier for Rupert Murdoch, the very same Rupert Murdoch whose christening as a GOP/right-wing propagandist was initiated by Roy Cohn.

“Britain’s Gift to America: The New Sleazocracy” by Peter Jukes; The New York Times; 7/14/2017.

. . . . According to Mr. Goldstone’s account,he moved from local journalism to work for Rupert Murdoch’s best-selling British daily newspaper The Sun and other tabloids before turning to public relations for pop stars. . .

3. Trump dirty tricks operative and former campaign manager was introduced to Trump by Joe McCarthy legal point man and later Trump attorney Roy Cohn.

“Is Roger Stone Making Good on a 40-Year-Old-Grudge” by Michael D’Antonio; CNN; 5/20/2017.

. . . . In the middle of the Watergate scandal, Stone, who engaged in dirty tricks during Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign, was discovered to have hired a Republican operative to infiltrate the George McGovern campaign and was subsequently fired from his job. After the President’s resignation, Stone remained an ardent Nixon apologist and loyalist. He even had the man’s face tattooed on his back and devoted his life to ruthless, anything-goes politics (or political consulting, as you may know it). Stone’s motto was and continues to be: “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.” And anyone who has watched Trump closely over the years would think it was his personal slogan, too.

Stone was introduced to Trump in the 1980s by the notorious Roy Cohn. Then a Manhattan lawyer who represented several reputed mobsters, Cohn had become infamous in the 1950s as the chief inquisitor during Joe McCarthy’s “Red Scare” hearings in the United States Senate. After McCarthy’s inquisition was shut down, Cohn began a new life as a political and legal fixer. He became a mentor to Stone and Trump and taught both men how to manipulate the media and bully opponents. . . .

4. Goldstone contacted Donald Trump Jr., dangling the bait that there might be dirt on Hillary available if he met with some associates. Foremost among those is a Russian attorney, Natalie Veselnitskaya. Her apparent purpose in this meeting was not to offer up dirt on Hillary Clinton but to work toward easing a media lockdown on a documentary about the Magnitsky affair.

Spun in the West, the U.S. in particular, as a classic example of ham-fisted Russian corruption and violence, the Magnitsky affair was revealed in the film documentary to be an example of U.S. corruption, not Russian.

Crafted by Putin political opponent Andrei Nekrasov, the film revealed an unexpected dynamic: ” . . . . Nekrasov discovered that a woman working in Browder’s company was the actual whistleblower and that Magnitsky – rather than a crusading lawyer – was an accountant who was implicated in the scheme. . . .”

Attempting to lift the media blackout on Nekrasov’s film was Veselnitskaya’s goal, not disseminating dirt on Hillary Clinton.

“How Russia-Gate Met the Magnitsky Myth” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 7/13/2017.

 Near the center of the current furor over Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 is a documentary that almost no one in the West has been allowed to see, a film that flips the script on the story of the late Sergei Magnitsky and his employer, hedge-fund operator William Browder.

Donald Trump Jr., speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

The Russian lawyer, Natalie Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump Jr. and other advisers to Donald Trump Sr.’s campaign, represented a company that had run afoul of a U.S. investigation into money-laundering allegedly connected to the Magnitsky case and his death in a Russian prison in 2009. His death sparked a campaign spearheaded by Browder, who used his wealth and clout to lobby the U.S. Congress in 2012 to enact the Magnitsky Act to punish alleged human rights abusers in Russia. The law became what might be called the first shot in the New Cold War.

According to Browder’s narrative, companies ostensibly under his control had been hijacked by corrupt Russian officials in furtherance of a $230 million tax-fraud scheme; he then dispatched his “lawyer” Magnitsky to investigate and – after supposedly uncovering evidence of the fraud – Magnitsky blew the whistle only to be arrested by the same corrupt officials who then had him locked up in prison where he died of heart failure from physical abuse.

Despite Russian denials – and the “dog ate my homework” quality of Browder’s self-serving narrative – the dramatic tale became a cause celebre in the West. The story eventually attracted the attention of Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, a known critic of President Vladimir Putin. Nekrasov decided to produce a docu-drama that would present Browder’s narrative to a wider public. Nekrasov even said he hoped that he might recruit Browder as the narrator of the tale.

However, the project took an unexpected turn when Nekrasov’s research kept turning up contradictions to Browder’s storyline, which began to look more and more like a corporate cover story. Nekrasov discovered that a woman working in Browder’s company was the actual whistleblower and that Magnitsky – rather than a crusading lawyer – was an accountant who was implicated in the scheme.

So, the planned docudrama suddenly was transformed into a documentary with a dramatic reversal as Nekrasov struggles with what he knows will be a dangerous decision to confront Browder with what appear to be deceptions. In the film, you see Browder go from a friendly collaborator into an angry adversary who tries to bully Nekrasov into backing down.

Ultimately, Nekrasov completes his extraordinary film – entitled “The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes” – and it was set for a premiere at the European Parliament in Brussels in April 2016. However, at the last moment – faced with Browder’s legal threats – the parliamentarians pulled the plug. Nekrasov encountered similar resistance in the United States, a situation that, in part, brought Natalie Veselnitskaya into this controversy.

As a lawyer defending Prevezon, a real-estate company registered in Cyprus, on a money-laundering charge, she was dealing with U.S. prosecutors in New York City and, in that role, became an advocate for lifting the U.S. sanctions, The Washington Post reported.

That was when she turned to promoter Rob Goldstone to set up a meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. To secure the sit-down on June 9, 2016, Goldstone dangled the prospect that Veselnitskaya had some derogatory financial information from the Russian government about Russians supporting the Democratic National Committee.Trump Jr. jumped at the possibility and brought senior Trump campaign advisers, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, along.

By all accounts, Veselnitskaya had little or nothing to offer about the DNC and turned the conversation instead to the Magnitsky Act and Putin’s retaliatory measure to the sanctions, canceling a program in which American parents adopted Russian children. One source told me that Veselnitskaya also wanted to enhance her stature in Russia with the boast that she had taken a meeting at Trump Tower with Trump’s son.

But another goal of Veselnitskaya’s U.S. trip was to participate in an effort to give Americans a chance to see Nekrasov’s blacklisted documentary. She traveled to Washington in the days after her Trump Tower meeting and attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, according to The Washington Post.

There were hopes to show the documentary to members of Congress but the offer was rebuffed. Instead a room was rented at the Newseum near Capitol Hill. Browder’s lawyers. who had successfully intimidated the European Parliament, also tried to strong arm the Newseum, but its officials responded that they were only renting out a room and that they had allowed other controversial presentations in the past.

Their stand wasn’t exactly a profile in courage. “We’re not going to allow them not to show the film,” said Scott Williams, the chief operating officer of the Newseum. “We often have people renting for events that other people would love not to have happen.”

In an article about the controversy in June 2016, The New York Times added that “A screening at the Newseum is especially controversial because it could attract lawmakers or their aides.” Heaven forbid!

So, Nekrasov’s documentary got a one-time showing with Veselnitskaya reportedly in attendance and with a follow-up discussion moderated by journalist Seymour Hersh. However, except for that audience, the public of the United States and Europe has been essentially shielded from the documentary’s discoveries, all the better for the Magnitsky myth to retain its power as a seminal propaganda moment of the New Cold War. . . .

5. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Jill Stein were advocated for by Stone as participants in the debates between Hillary Clinton and Trump. (Johnson and Stein’s combined vote total helped Trump win in several key states.)

 “The Democratic Party’s Billion-Dollar Mistake” by Steve Phillips; The New York Times; 7/20/2017.

. . . . Although some Democratic voters (in particular, white working-class voters in Rust Belt states) probably did swing to the Republicans, the bigger problem was the large number of what I call “Obama-Johnstein” voters — people who supported Mr. Obama in 2012 but then voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, or Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, last year (according to the exit polls, 43 percent of them were nonwhite).

In Wisconsin, for example, the Democratic vote total dropped by nearly 235,000, while Mr. Trump got only about the same number of votes as Mr. Romney in 2012. The bigger surge in that state was for Mr. Johnson and Ms. Stein, who together won about 110,000 additional votes than the candidates of their respective parties had received in 2012. And in Michigan, which Mrs. Clinton lost by fewer than 11,000 votes, the Johnson-Stein parties’ total increased by about 202,000 votes over 2012. . . .

6a. Roger Stone was touting Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Johnson and Jill Stein were advocated for by Stone as participants in the debates between Hillary Clinton and Trump. (Johnson and Stein’s combined vote total helped Trump win in several key states.)

Stone then worked with Roy Cohn to put “independent” Republican John Anderson the Presidential candidate for the Liberal Party in New York. This gambit gave Reagan a key victory in New York, as noted above.

“The Gary Johnson Swindle and The Degradation of Third Party Politics” by Mark Ames; NSFWCorp; 11/6/2012.

. . . . The fact that Gary Johnson’s Libertarian Party was founded and funded by the Koch brothers (David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s VP in 1980 in order to make it easier for the Kochs to shovel more money into the party and the libertarian cause), and that Gary Johnson was a longtime loyal Republican — considering all of this, and what’s at stake in presidential elections, it would seem to me malpractice for a journalist to assume there isn’t a story, or several stories, to be found under the Gary Johnson rock. Stories that matter. And that are bizarre and fun and grotesque in their own right. . .

. . . . Exhibit A: Roger Stone, a self-described “GOP hitman” with a giant tattoo of Richard Nixon’s face etched across his back. Roger Stone —the skeeziest, meanest, most flamboyant and most Russian-nihilistic of any Republican dirty trickster working the field going back a few decades, the Satanic Zelig of Republican black ops, who’s had a hand in just about every major GOP election crime you’ve heard of, and lots more you haven’t heard of. Everyone seems to have forgotten already, but last spring, Roger Stone made a big public stink about how he’s fed up with the Republican Party and the two-party stranglehold, and joined Gary Johnson’s Libertarian Party campaign. Pro bono. Because democratic idealism and principles are what Roger Stone is all about. . . .

. . . . This episode comes from a rather candid interview Roger Stone gave to the Weekly Standard in a 2007, and in it he describes how the most effective election fraud trick of all is using a credible Third Party candidate to split the opposition’s vote. In 1980, Stone’s candidate was Ronald Reagan, and his enemy was incumbent president Jimmy Carter. The wild card in the 1980 election was a popular Illinois liberal Republican named John Anderson, who lost in the primaries against Reagan and decided to run against him and Carter anyway, given his popularity and disgust with both Reagan and Carter.

John Anderson’s biggest problem was getting his name on the ballots. Roger Stone realized that if Anderson could get on the New York state ballot, it could split the liberal vote and hand the electoral prize to Ronald Reagan. So Stone seeks help from a political operative so evil he makes Roger Stone look like a Mormon: Roy Cohn, Sen. McCarthy’s right-hand henchman during the Red-baiting hearings. Cohn brings a mobster named Fat Tony Solerno with him, and they ask Roger Stone what his problem is and how they might help.

Roger Stone’s problem was simple: He wanted to get “Mr. Clean” outsider John Anderson on the New York state ballot as a third party candidate to drain votes from Carter, but there wasn’t nearly enough time to make it happen. Most people were led to believe that Anderson would naturally split the Republican vote, but that wasn’t the case at all. Privately, polls showed that in tight state races, Anderson’s candidacy caused far more damage to Carter than to Reagan. . . .

. . . . Stone, who going back to his class elections in high school has been a proponent of recruiting patsy candidates to split the other guy’s support, remembers suggesting to Cohn that if they could figure out a way to make John Anderson the Liberal party nominee in New York, with Jimmy Carter picking up the Democratic nod, Reagan might win the state in a three-way race. “Roy says, ‘Let me look into it.'” Cohn then told [Fat Tony Salerno], “‘You need to go visit this lawyer’–a lawyer who shall remain nameless–‘and see what his number is.’ I said, ‘Roy, I don’t understand.’ Roy says, ‘How much cash he wants, dumbf–.'” Stone balked when he found out the guy wanted $125,000 in cash to grease the skids, and Cohn wanted to know what the problem was. Stone told him he didn’t have $125,000, and Cohn said, “That’s not the problem. How does he want it?” Cohn sent Stone on an errand a few days later. “There’s a suitcase,” Stone says. “I don’t look in the suitcase . . . I don’t even know what was in the suitcase . . . I take the suitcase to the law office. I drop it off. Two days later, they have a convention. Liberals decide they’re endorsing John Anderson for president. It’s a three-way race now in New York State. Reagan wins with 46 percent of the vote. I paid his law firm. Legal fees. I don’t know what he did for the money, but whatever it was, the Liberal party reached its right conclusion out of a matter of principle.” I ask him how he feels about this in retrospect. He seems to feel pretty good–now that certain statutes of limitations are up[…] “Reagan got the electoral votes in New York State, we saved the country,” Stone says with characteristic understatement. “[More] Carter would’ve been an unmitigated disaster.” . . . .

6b. Tony Salerno–the Cohn mob client whose talents were drawn upon by Roger Stone in the positioning of John Anderson–is a Trump crony as well.

 . . . Trump bought his Manhattan ready-mix [concrete] from a company called S & A Concrete. Mafia chieftains Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano secretly owned the firm. S & A charged the inflated prices that the LeFrak and Resnik families complained about, LeFrak to both laws enforcement and The New York TimesAs [reporter Wayne] Barrett noted, by choosing to build with ready-mix concrete rather than other materials, Trump put himself ‘at the mercy of a legion of concrete racketeers.’ But having an ally in Roy Cohn mitigated Trump’s concerns. With Cohn as his fixer, Trump had no worries that the Mafia bosses would have the unions stop work on Trump Tower; Salerno and Castellano were Cohn’s clients. Indeed, when the cement workers struck in summer 1982, the concrete continued to flow at Trump Tower. . . .

7. It was Roy Cohn who introduced Rupert Murdoch to Ronald Reagan and thus initiated the forging of the right-wing Republican media Amen Chorus that dominates today. The Murdoch journalistic empire was the breeding ground for Rob Goldstone.

“How Roy Cohn Helped Rupert Murdoch” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 1/28/2015.

Rupert Murdoch, the global media mogul who is now a kingmaker in American politics, was brought into those power circles by the infamous lawyer/activist Roy Cohn who arranged Murdoch’s first Oval Office meeting with President Ronald Reagan in 1983, according to documents released by Reagan’s presidential library.

“I had one interest when Tom [Bolan] and I first brought Rupert Murdoch and Governor Reagan together and that was that at least one major publisher in this country would become and remain pro-Reagan,” Cohn wrote in a Jan. 27, 1983 letter to senior White House aides Edwin Meese, James Baker and Michael Deaver. “Mr. Murdoch has performed to the limit up through and including today.” . . .

8. Eventually, the rehabilitated SS general Karl Wolff began feeding information to “Frenchy” Grombach, a former military intelligence agent who formed a network of operatives who fed information to the CIA, among others. As indicated here, one of Grombach’s major sources in his efforts was Wolff. Among the primary recipients of Grombach’s and Wolff’s information was Senator Joseph McCarthy, who utilized dirt given him by the network to smear his opponents. Among those who were trashed during the McCarthy period were people involved with Safehaven.

Blowback; Christopher Simpson; Collier [Macmillan] {SC}; Copyright 1988 by Christopher Simpson; ISBN 0-02-044995-X; pp. 236-237.

 . . . One of Grombach’s most important assets, according to U.S. naval intelligence records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, was SS General Karl Wolff, a major war criminal who had gone into the arms trade in Europe after the war. . . . Grombach worked simultaneously under contract to the Department of State and the CIA. The ex-military intelligence man succeeded in creating ‘one of the most unusual organizations in the history of the federal government,’ according to CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick. ‘It was developed completely outside of the normal governmental structure, [but it] used all of the normal cover and communications facilities normally operated by intelligence organizations, and yet never was under any control from Washington.’ By the early 1950s the U.S. government was bankrolling Grombach’s underground activities at more than $1 million annually, Kirkpatrick has said. . . .

. . . Grombach banked on his close connections with Senators Joseph McCarthy, William Jenner, and other members of the extreme Republican right to propel him to national power. . . .Grombach’s outfit effectively became the foreign espionage agency for the far right, often serving as the overseas complement to McCarthy’s generally warm relations with J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI at home . . . . U.S. government contracts bankrolling a network of former Nazis and collaborators gave him much of the ammunition he needed to do the job. Grombach used his networks primarily to gather dirt. This was the American agent’s specialty, his true passion: political dirt, sexual dirt, any kind of compromising information at all. ‘He got into a lot of garbage pails,’ as Kirkpatrick puts it, ‘and issued ‘dirty linen’ ‘reports on Americans. ‘Grombach collected scandal, cataloged it, and used it carefully, just as he had done during the earlier McCormack investigation. He leaked smears to his political allies in Congress and the press when it suited his purposes to do so. Grombach and congressional ‘internal security’ investigators bartered these dossiers with one another almost as though they were boys trading baseball cards. . . .

9. Next, we recap some of the deep political connections of Joe McCarthy (this text was read into the record in AFA #2.) Note that McCarthy’s backing traces to the same German-American pro-Nazi Fifth Column that we analyzed in FTR #’s 918, 919 and 929.

The Nightmare Decade: The Life and Times of Senator Joe McCarthy by Fred Cook; Random House [HC]; Copyright 1971 by Fred Cook; ISBN 0-394-46270-X; pp. 132-133.

. . . . Why did he [McCarthy] rage in defense of the Nazi murderers of American soldiers?

The answer lies in the influence exerted by some of McCarthy’s ultraconservative, even pro-Nazi, backers in Wisconsin. McCarthy had been bankrolled in his political campaigns by such leaders of Wisconsin’s powerful German-American community as Frank Seusenbrenner and Walter Harnischfeger. Seusenbrenner was the president of the Kimberly Clark Paper Company and president of the board of the University of Wisconsin; Harnischfeger was president of the Harnischfeger Company, of Milwaukee, makers of traveling cranes, overhead machinery–and prefabricated houses. Both men were known as being fiercely pro-German.

McCarthy showed not the slightest repugnance for Harnischfeger’s passionate ultrarightism and admiration for Hitler. Before the war, one of the manufacturer’s nephews attending the University of Wisconsin had shocked fellow students by displaying an autographed copy of Mein Kampf, and flaunting a watch-chain swastika. During the war, Harnischfeger had advocated a negotiated peace with Germany, and as soon as the war ended, he played a leading role in organizing a German relief society. The Harnischfeger Corporation w one of eight Midwestern concerns holding war contracts that were ordered by the President’s Fair Employment Practices Commission to stop discriminating against workers because of race or religion. The commission charged on April 12, 1942, that these firms had refused to employ Jews or Negroes and had advertised for only Gentile, white Protestant help.

After 1945, Harnischfeger made several trips to Germany. He criticized the dismantling of German factories, denounced the war-crimes trials, and urged the restoration of Germany’s colonies. After Joe McCarthy became a Senator, he inserted Harnischfeger’s pronouncements in the Congressional Record; and Upton Close, the profascist radio commentator, parroted the views to his radio audience.

McCarthy’s 1947 financial troubles, stemming from his stock market reverses and his heavy overload of loans from the Appleton State Bank, appear to have been cured by this Wisconsin angel. “I have made complete arrangements with Walter Harnischfeger to put up sufficient collateral to cure both our ulcers,” McCarthy finally wrote to his harried banker friend, Matt Schuh. At the time of the 1948 Presidential election, McCarthy had listened to the returns in Harnischfeger’s home. The industrialist’s interest in prefabricated housing was believed in Washington to have been one of the reasons that McCarthy had so interested himself in the issue.

In terms of the Malmedy investigation, Anderson and May described the McCarthy-Harnischfeger axis in these terms: “Ten days after the Malmedy investigation was begun, a young man named Tom Korb worked for six weeks, carried on the books as McCarthy’s administrative assistant.” He stayed long enough to help Joe write a speech on the Malmedy Massacre, delivered on July 26, 1949, and then he went back to his job as a lawyer and corporation official in Milwaukee. His employer: the Harnischfeger Corporation.” . . . .

10. Bush also recently selected Robert Mueller, a member of his father’s Justice Department, to be FBI director. Reprising information from FTR #310:

 “S.F. Prosecutor Mueller Picked to Lead FBI, Mend Its Image” by Zachary Coile and Bob Egelko; San Francisco Chronicle; 7/6/2001; pp. A1-A12.

President Bush tapped Robert S. Mueller III, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, as the new director of the FBI yesterday, seeking a no-nonsense manager to repair the image of an agency accused of botching several recent high-profile cases.

Mueller, a 56-year-old veteran federal prosecutor who helped put Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega behind bars, was nominated to succeed Louis Freeh. Freeh, who led the department through eight turbulent years under President Bill Clinton, retired last month.

Mueller was picked for the 10-year FBI director’s term after proving himself as acting deputy attorney general during Bush’s presidential transition. His nomination requires Senate confirmation.

11a. On April 4, Treasury Secretary O’Neill met with powerful Islamist Republicans whose spheres of interest overlap those of the institutions and individuals targeted on March 20, 2002. Reprising information from FTR #356:

(“O’Neill Met Muslim Activists Tied to Charities” by Glenn R. Simpson [with Roger Thurow]; Wall Street Journal; 4/18/2002; p. A4.)

11b. A principal figure in the group that interceded on behalf of the (alleged) Al Qaeda/Al Taqwa-connected targets of the Operation Green Quest raids was Talat Othman, a close business and political associate of President Bush.

Among the Muslim leaders attending [the meeting with O’Neill] was Talat Othman, a longtime associate and supporter of President Bush’s family, who gave a benediction at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in August 2000 . . . But he also serves [with Barzinji] on the board of Amana Mutual Funds Trust, an investment firm founded by M. Yacqub Mirza, the Northern Virginia businessman who set up most of the entities targeted by the Treasury and whose tax records were sought in the raid. . . . (Idem.)

12. As Mr. Emory hypothesized in FTR#353, the Norquist/GOP/Islamist links are part of the Republican Party’s ethnic outreach program. Again, one should note that these elements are directly connected to Al Qaeda and exemplify the Saudi/petroleum/GOP/Bush structural economic and political relationships at the core of the corruption of investigations into Al Qaeda and 9/11.

. . . .The case also highlights conflicts between the Bush administration’s domestic political goals and its war on terror. GOP officials began courting the U.S. Muslim community intensely in the late 1990’s, seeking to add that ethnic bloc to the party’s political base. . .  (Idem.)

13. The Amana organization (on the board of which Othman serves) has numerous areas of overlap with organizations described as being implicated in terrorism and the milieu of Al Queda.

. . . Two nonprofits affiliated with Mr. Mirza and named in the search warrant, the SAAR Foundation Inc. and the Heritage Education Trust Inc., held large blocks of shares in Amana’s mutual funds in 1997, according to SEC records. The SEC documents and other records detailing connections between Mr. Othman and the Islamic Institute [on the board of which Mr. Othman serves] and the raided groups were compiled by the National Security News Service, a Washington based nonprofit research group. . . (Idem.)

14. Further details have emerged about the links between Al Taqwa and the GOP/Bush administration.

. . . .Mr. Othman also is on the board of Mr. Saffuri’s [and Norquist’s] Islamic Institute, the GOP-leaning group that received $20,000.00 from the Safa Trust, one of the raid’s targets. The president of the Safa Trust, Jamal Barzinji, is a former business associate of Switzerland based investor Youssef Nada, whose assets were frozen last fall after the Treasury designated him a person suspected of giving aid to terrorists. [Italics are Mr. Emory’s.] (Idem.)

15. Othman’s links to Bush are profound.

. . . Mr. Othman has ties to the Bush family going back to the 1980’s, when he served with George W. Bush on the board of a Texas petroleum firm, Harken Oil & Gas Inc. Mr. Othman has visited the White House during the administrations of both President Bush and his father George H.W. Bush. . . .(Idem.)

16. Next, the program reviews other areas of intersection between the labyrinthine network attacked in the 3/20 raids, the Al Taqwa milieu, and the Republican Party. A recent Wall Street Journal article described some of the organizations targeted in the raids:

“Funds Under Terror Probe Flowed From Offshore” by Glenn R. Simpson [with Michael M. Phillips]; Wall Street Journal; 3/22/2002; p. A4.

. . . . These include Al-Taqwa Management, a recently liquidated Swiss company the U.S. government believes acted as a banker for Osama bin Laden’s al Queda terrorist network . . . Two people affiliated with the companies and charities are linked by records to entities already designated as terrorist by the U.S. government. Hisham Al-Talib, who served as an officer of SAAR, the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Safa Trust Inc., another Mirza charity, during the 1970’s was an officer of firms run by Youssef M. Nada, records show. Mr. Nada is a Switzerland-based businessman whose assets have been frozen by the U.S. for alleged involvement in terrorist financing, and is alleged by U.S. officials to be a key figure in the Taqwa network. . .Jamal Barzinji, an officer of[Emphasis added.]

Mr. Mirza’s company Mar-Jac and other entities, also was involved with Mr. Nada’s companies in the 1970’s, according to bank documents from Liechtenstein. A message was left yesterday for Mr. Barzinji at his address in Herndon. Mr. Barzinji and Mr. Talib live across the street from each other. A third business associate of Mr. Nada, Ali Ghaleb Himmat (who also has been designated by the Treasury as aiding terrorism), is listed as an official of the Geneva branch of another charity operated by Mr. Mirza, the International Islamic Charitable Organization. . . .

17. Further detailing the background of Othman, the broadcast highlights the connections between people associated with the Nugan Hand Bank and Othman.

. . . .Harken Energy was formed in 1973 by two oilmen who would benefit from a successful covert effort to destabilize Australia’s Labor Party government (which had attempted to shut out foreign oil exploration). A decade later, Harken was sold to a new investment group headed by New York attorney Alan G. Quasha, a partner in the firm of Quasha, Wessely & Schneider. …William Quasha [Alan’s father] had also given legal advice to two top officials of the notorious Nugan Hand Bank in Australia, a CIA operation. After the sale of Harken Energy in 1983, Alan Quasha became a director and chairman of the board. Under Quasha, Harken suddenly absorbed Junior’s struggling Spectrum 7 in 1986. (“Bush Family Value$: The Bush Clan’s Family Business” by Stephen Pizzo; Mother Jones; September/October 1992; accessed at www.motherjones.com/news_wire/bushboys.html .) (For more about Nugan Hand, see AFA#’s 4, 25, 30.)

18. Othman also has links to Gaith Pharoan of the BCCI and, through him, to James R. Bath and the Bin Ladens.

. . . . Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh, in turn, was a business associate of BCCI front man Gaith Pharoan; he bought a chunk of Harken’s stock and placed his representative, Talat Othman, on Harken Energy’s board of directors. . . . (Idem.)

 

Discussion

4 comments for “FTR #966 Dramatis Personae of the Russia-Gate Psy-Op”

  1. Regarding Bill Browder and how he fits into all this, Mark Ames wrote a piece in Pando Daily back in May of 2015 that not only covers Browder, but how he fits into a larger collection of figures around the Legatum Institute, billionaire-financed neocon think tank that has spent a great deal of time trying to convince Western policy-makers that Putin’s Russian is waging an information warfare campaign that presents an existential threat. As Ames points out, the individual taking the lead in pushing this, Peter Pomerantsev, is quite close to Browder. And as Ames also points out, the billionaires behind the Legatum Institute, the Chandler brothers, were massive beneficiaries of the initial state privatizations programs in Russia in the 90’s and have a history of making gobs of money by investing in developing countries, then making a lot of noise about “anti-corruption” and “good corporate governance”, and then selling their assets to foreign investors. It’s a network of people that include Michael Weiss – a major proponent of a war in Syria – along with Pierre Omidyar, and the National Endowment for Democracy.

    So, yeah, this piece by Ames is even more important today than it was when it was initially printed:

    Pando Daily

    Neocons 2.0: The problem with Peter Pomerantsev

    By Mark Ames,
    written on May 17, 2015

    “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.” —White House official, 2004

    In his opening statement last month before a US Congressional Committee hearing titled "Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information," the Russian-born British author Peter Pomerantsev served his Republican-led audience a piping hot serving of neocon alarmism.

    Quoting “the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Philip M. Breedlove,” Pomerantsev described Russia’s 2014 takeover of Crimea as “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare.” To which Pomernatsev added his own chilling warning:

    “To put it differently, Russia has launched an information war against the West – and we are losing.”

    The hearing was put on by Orange County neoconservative Republican Ed Royce; the purpose of the hearings was to drum up fear about Russia’s “unprecedented” information war on the West — a propaganda battle which obviously exists, but whose dimensions and dangers are being cynically exaggerated — and then convert that fear into budget money for US propaganda and NGOs to subvert Kremlin power.

    What made Pomerantsev’s lobbying appearance with the neocons so disturbing to me is that he’s not the sort of crude, arrogant meat-head I normally identify with homo neoconius. Pomerantsev’s book, "Nothing is True and Everything is Possible", is the most talked-about Russia book in recent memory. His many articles on the Kremlin’s “avant-garde” “information war” and its “political technologists” have been hits in the thinking-man’s press: Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books.

    His insights into the strategic thinking behind the Kremlin’s “information wars” are often sharp and illuminating; and yet there’s always been something glaringly absent in Pomerantsev’s writings. Not so much what he puts in, but all that he leaves out. Glaring omissions of context, that had me start to question if Pomernatsev wasn’t manipulating the reader by poaching the rhetoric of leftist critical analysis, and putting it to use for very different, neocon purposes . . . as if Pomerantsev has been aping the very sort of “avant-garde” Kremlin political technologies he’s been scaring the Ed Royces of the world with.

    And then of course there’s the larger nagging question—what the Hell is a presumed journalist/writer like Pomerantsev, who claims to have been most influenced by literary figures like Christopher Isherwood, doing lobbying the US and UK governments to pass bills upping psychological warfare budgets and imposing sanctions on foreign countries? Where does the independent critical analysis stop, and the manipulative lobbying begin?

    * * * *

    The term “political technologist” (?????????????) first appeared in the Russian press in 1996, to describe Boris Yeltsin’s team of American and Russian political spin doctors who stage-managed his campaign to steal the Russian presidential elections that year.

    The political technologists were given a seemingly-impossible task: make Yeltsin’s pre-ordained election victory look just plausible enough to be hailed by the West as a triumph for democracy, while domestically, imposing on Russians a sense of overwhelming fatalism so complete that they wouldn’t rise up again in arms as they had in 1993.

    The reason this looked near-impossible on paper was that Yeltsin went into the election campaign with a rating hovering between 3%-5%, reflecting what must be the single most disastrous presidency of the 20th century: Under Yeltsin, Russia’s economy collapsed some 60%, the male life expectancy plummeted from 68 years to 56, millions were reduced to living on subsistence farming for the first time since Stalin as wages went unpaid for years at a time. Russia was on its way to going extinct—but about 3-5% of the population (plus or minus 3%) was making out like bandits. Probably because they actually were bandits.

    Enter the “political technologists”—Americans led by Dick Morris’ former partner Richard Dresner, and Russians at advertising behemoth Video International, led by Mikhail Lesin and former KGB spy Mikhail Margelov — who took credit for pulling off a credible stolen election for Boris Yeltsin. Time magazine wound up crediting the Americans with “Rescuing Boris,” which was turned into a B-movie, “Spinning Boris,” directed by “Turner & Hootch”‘s Roger Spottiswoode.

    The way Dresner and the Americans told it, it was the Americans who first introduced focus groups into the campaign; who invented fake pro-Yeltsin crowds at rallies, rustled out of government-owned factories and coerced into attending pro-democracy Yeltsin rallies; and it was good ol’ USA advisers who took credit for convincing Team Yeltsin to take total control over the Russian media and convert the only cultural unifying medium into a kind of virtual reality apparatus, deployed to brainwash the public into fearing a victory by Yeltsin’s opponent—the cowardly, dumb-as-nails Communist Party leader, Gennady Zyuganov—who, if Russia’s 1996 TV media onslaught was to be believed, would plunge the country into a bloody civil war, leading to GULAGs, cattle wagons, and family members hanging from lamp posts. Every fantastical historical nightmare was exploited and exaggerated to frighten the public into a different mindset, and a totally distorted grasp of reality.

    This required taking full control of Russia’s television networks, radio, and media, which until 1996 had been relatively free and chaotic in editorial interests. Key to this was how Yeltsin co-opted the once-independent national network NTV, owned by oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky, which had been a fierce critic of Yeltsin’s slaughter in Chechnya. That problem was solved by Yeltsin promising to give Gusinsky valuable banking and national TV licenses and other properities; Gusinsky agreed, and he put NTV at Yeltsin’s service, and seconded NTV’s top executive to lead Yeltsin’s TV campaign coverage.

    As Dresner had advised it in a memo to the Yeltsin Team:

    “It was ludicrous to control the two major nationwide television stations and not have them bend to your will.”

    “…Wherever an event is held, care should be taken to notify the state-run TV and radio stations to explain directly the event’s significance and how we want it covered.”

    In the end, Yeltsin won by old school fraud — in Chechnya, for example, where Yeltsin’s war had killed 40,000 people and displaced half the population, elections showed 1,000,000 Chechens voted (even though less than half a million adults remained in Chechnya at the time of voting), and that 70% of them voted for Yeltsin, their exterminator. That helped deliver the numbers that the West needed to see—enough for the New York Times to declare it "A Victory for Russian Democracy"—parroting the laughably cheerful assessment of President Clinton and his team.

    But the more important task of creating domestic acceptance through a new post-Soviet brand of sophisticated, virtual reality propaganda, beamed onto a bewildered Russian viewing public, is what helped ensure that Yeltsin’s stolen election wasn’t followed by unrest. The public was inundated with 24/7 alarmist propaganda about impending bloodbaths should Yeltsin lose; they had no idea that the man they voted for had essentially died from yet another series of massive heart attacks between rounds one and two of voting.

    What surprised even Dick Morris’ spin-doctor buddies was how effective they were in fooling the raw Russian public into believing that their crude propaganda efforts, distorting reality to falsely portray opposition candidate Zyuganov as a genocidaire-in-waiting, was not propaganda at all. In the late Soviet times, most Russians knew that the far cruder Soviet propaganda was propaganda—but this was something new, the ability to wildly distort reality, paint your political opponent as the greatest monster in history, and have it accepted as news because it looked much more modern than the crude old Soviet propaganda productions.

    As Time magazine wrote:

    “What really caused surprise was the public’s reaction to the biased reporting. “We focus-grouped the issue several times,” says Shumate. The results were contained in a June 7 wrap-up memo on TV coverage. Only 28% of respondents said the media were very biased in Yeltsin’s favor–a group that consisted mostly of Zyuganov’s partisans. Twenty-nine percent said the media were “somewhat biased,” but they broke in Yeltsin’s favor. Amazingly, 27% said they thought the media were biased against Yeltsin.

    The Russian media was never the same again. After the elections, a Petersburg journalist denounced the aftermath in an article, “The Virtual Reality of the Elections.” A general sense of unreality and nihilism spread throughout the creative class in the aftermath of Yeltsin’s victory. Falsifying reality and staging politics became the new avant-garde, attracting figures like Vladislav Surkov—the “political technologist” behind Vladimir Putin’s curtain.

    The most popular comical novel of the late 1990s/early 2000s, Viktor Pelevin’s “Generation ‘P’”, tells the story of a second-rate poet who goes from selling vodka in a Moscow kiosk in the early 1990s, to working as an advertising copywriter and “political technologist” in the belly of Russia’s PR industry beast. Pelevin’s book, released in 1999, describes a world in which all Russian politics and consumer reality is created on Silicon Graphics workstations in secret TV studios, all with the aim of increasing advertising revenues.

    In one scene, the protagonist is taken to the main studio where 3-D holograms of Russia’s Duma deputies are churned out according to scripts, and presented to the public as functioning democracy. His ad agency boss explains how this virtual reality democracy works:

    “[T]hat’s what we call the Duma 3-Ds. Dynamic video bas-relief — the appearance is rendered always at the same angle. It’s the same technology, but it cuts the work down by two orders of magnitude. There’s two types – stiffs and semi-stiffs. See the way he moves his hands and head? That means he’s a stiff. And that one over there, sleeping across his newspaper — he’s a semi-stiff. They’re much smaller — you can squeeze one of them on to a hard disk.”

    “But it’s such a massive scam.”

    “Aagh, no . . . please, not that. By his very nature every politician is just a television broadcast. Even if we do sit a live human being in front of the camera, his speeches are going to be written by a team of speechwriters, his jackets are going to be chosen by a group of stylists, and his decisions are going to be taken by the Interbank Committee. And what if he suddenly has a stroke — are we supposed to set up the whole shebang all over again?”

    Even the notoriously drunken buffoon Yeltsin is a computer graphics invention, using an old studio actor who’d done Shakespeare on stage, hooked up to wires and force-fed cheap vodka so that he’d be authentically drunk during filming:

    “Listen, why do we show him pissed if he’s only virtual?”

    “Improves the ratings.”

    “This improves his ratings?”

    “Not his rating. What kind of rating can an electromagnetic wave have? The channel’s ratings. Never tried to figure out why it’s forty thousand a minute during prime time news?”

    * * * *

    Which brings me back now to Pomerantsev’s book, “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible,” and his thesis driven home in articles and in the halls of US-UK government power: That Putin’s brand of totalitarianism represents something absolutely new, innovative and uniquely threatening — an avant-garde totalitarianism for which we in the West are nearly helpless against; a totalitarianism constructed entirely out of virtual reality, political technologies, and distorted realities, beamed through televisions and the Internet, brainwashing the Russian public and anyone else who crosses their information-beams in ways so sophisticated and disruptive, everything we hold dear is doomed to collapse before it.

    I wish I was exaggerating his thesis, but there you have it.

    Pomerantsev’s book is purportedly an inside look at how the Kremlin propaganda machinery functions, from a British repat who purports to have spent a decade working inside the state propaganda apparatus. But his book is oddly vague on details — just one of its problems. I’d never heard of Pomerantsev while working there; he claims (and I’m sure it’s true) that he spent a few years working for the quasi-western TNT network, where one of my own best friends worked as a top producer for several years. I asked recently him if he or his TNT contacts remembered Pomerantsev there because I’d never heard of him in my years in Moscow; he hadn’t either. I don’t doubt he was there; but there is a vague, foggy, masked quality to his writing and to his approach to most things, including his intimate vignettes in his book: people without last names or recognizable faces, characters whose canned descriptions seem lifted from writers’ workshop classes rather than from experience. Much of his book reads as an intimate personal “memoir” of his life in the 2000s, and yet it’s peopled with Russian caricatures from the 1990s: mobsters, whores, suicidal runway models, hedonistic New Russians, even a scrappy World Bank do-gooder from western Europe. It’s hard to believe anyone would paint a World Bank or IMF representative as the scrappy underdog in Russia, unless perhaps that painter has a personal stake in painting them that way. Which, it turns out, Pomerantsev does: He is listed as “Senior Fellow” at a neoliberal think-tank called the Legatum Institute, founded by a highly secretive billionaire vulture capitalist notorious for always remaining in the shadows.

    This is what makes Pomerantsev a particularly complicated and interesting character-study for me. Because on the one hand, his book’s thesis — Kremlin political technologists manipulating a virtual reality via television on a vast new scale — has a lot of truth to it, and is worth studying. But the other part of the thesis, that this is something completely new and invented by Putin, is so patently false it makes a mockery of his own reader. It isn’t just that Kremlin reality-distortion and political technology began under Yeltsin with the full backing and advice of the West; it’s that our own governments are guilty of this as well, as anyone who remembers the fake WMD scare to invade Iraq can tell you.

    You might forgive Pomerantsev’s omissions if he wasn’t so perceptive and intelligent, or if he was an obvious old-school neocon meat-head, from whom one expects nothing at all. His descriptions of Kremlin propaganda, and the “political technologists”’ mastery of stage-managing a virtual reality designed to keep Putin in power and project a sense of stability, are important for anyone interested in politics and perception-management. His descriptions of avant-garde art connoisseur-turned-Putin political technologist Vladislav Surkov, “the political technologist of all Rus,” is even brilliant at times:

    “Surkov has directed Russian society like one great reality show. He claps once and a new political party appears. He claps again and creates Nashi, the Russian equivalent of the Hitler Youth [!] . . . As deputy head of the administration he would meet once a week with the heads of the television channels in his Kremlin office, instructing them on whom to attack and whom to defend, who is allowed on TV and who is banned, how the President is to be presented, and the very language and categories the country thinks and feels in.”

    And yet what strikes me about this is how deeply rooted this is in the western-backed Yeltsin era, and how similar this reads to Pelevin’s comic novel about the late Yeltsin-era political technologists:

    “Have you seen Starship Troopers? Where the star-ship troopers fight the bugs?”

    “Yeah.”

    “It’s the same thing. Only instead of the troopers we have farmers or small businessmen, instead of machine-guns we have bread and salt, and instead of the bugs we have Zyuganov or Lebed. Then we match them up, paste in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour or the Baikonur launch-pad in the background, copy it to Betacam and put it out on air.”

    Pomerantsev doesn’t provide this sort of broader context, it turns out, because that would get in the way of where he wants to lead us — to alarmist conclusions, and a familiar old neocon agenda, which he peddles hard and crude at the end of his book, where he portrays Putin’s Russia as a direct existential threat to everything westerners cherish.

    The real giveaway for me, which got me looking into who Pomerantsev works for, was his choice of heroes in the scary Kremlin information wars: western investors, and western global financial institutions. People like billionaire vulture capitalist Bill Browder, the bloodless grandson of former US Communist Party leader Earl Browder, who served as Putin’s most loyal attack dog while he was raking in his billions, but then transformed himself into the Andrei Sakharov of vulture capitalism as soon as Putin’s KGB tossed Browder out of their circle and decided to keep his share of the take for themselves.

    Pomerantsev is so close to Browder, we learn from his book, that he even serves as one of Browder’s lobbyists before the British parliament to push through an anti-Kremlin sanctions bill, the Magnitsky Act, bankrolled by Browder’s ill-begotten stash.

    I don’t have enough room here to give you a full picture of Bill Browder. But here are a few things to keep in mind:

    * In a 1997 New York Times profile, Browder, who at the time aligned his investments with Yukos oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, defended the way Yukos stripped investors into one of its subsidiaries to enrich the Yukos parent company. Browder crowed: “When a company does terrible things to the subsidiary, I would rather be on the side with the power.”
    * In 2003, Browder backed Putin’s authoritarian power and his decision to arrest Khodorkovsky, saying, “A nice, well-run authoritarian regime is better than an oligarchic mafia regime — and those are the choices on offer.”
    * The day after Khodorkovsky’s arrest, Browder scoffed: “People will forget in six months that Khodorkovsky is still sitting in jail.”
    * When Putin put Khodorkovsky on trial 2005, Browder attacked the jailed oligarch for the same asset-stripping Browder supported and profited from, telling the BBC: “Mr Khodorkovsky is no martyr. He has left in his wake aggrieved investors too numerous to count and is widely credited with masterminding much of the financial trickery that plagued the Russian capital markets throughout the 1990s.”
    * That same year, Browder told the New York Times, “Putin cares about foreign investors; he just doesn’t care about them enough to allow one oligarch to use his ill-gotten gains to hijack the state for his own economic purposes.”

    That’s the Bill Browder I remember. And ever since his KGB pals decided they’d had enough of him and chased him out to London a very rich vulture capitalist, Browder has styled himself as the Mother Theresa of global vulture capitalism—and he’s thrown untold millions into promoting that public relations/lobbying effort, whose goal is to use human rights abuses he once covered for and profited from as a cudgel to force the Kremlin to become investor-friendly to vulture capitalists like Bill Browder again. To do that, he’s exploited to the hilt the truly horrific murder of one of his lawyers, Sergei Magnitsky, at the hands of Russia’s brutal police. Magnitsky’s death appears to be the first Russian death Browder ever cared about in his 15 years of milking the country dry during the tragically deadly 1990s and beyond.

    That’s the Browder I and every other journalist who worked in Russia I know remembers him. Contrast that with how Peter Pomerantsev—who admits to lobbying for Browder’s bill—describes him:

    “As I wait for William Browder to come in for his interview in Meet the Russians, I look at the newspaper cuttings that are all over the walls of his office on Golden Square: ‘One Man’s Crusade against the Kremlin,’ ‘The Man who Took on Vladimir Putin.’ Browder used to be one of the President’s more vocal supporters, back when he was the largest foreign investor in Russia. He’d come to the country in the 1990s, when most in Western finance said it was crazy to even try. He proved them all wrong. Then in 2006 he pissed off the wrong people in Russia and was banned from the country. . . .

    “We arrive at Parliament. Browder is having a meeting with a member of Parliament in a corner office of Portcullis House overlooking the Thames. . . .

    “A little later I’m invited back to Parliament for a presentation, ‘Why Europe needs a Magnitsky Act.’ The US version of the act is Browder’s greatest achievement.”

    And then Pomerantsev introduces us to Browder’s exiled American lawyer, who scares Pomerantsev (and presumably the gullible reader) with his dire prediction about Russian state television laying waste to Western civilization like the barbarian hordes at the gates — specifically, the gates of upper-class London neighborhoods:

    “We used to have this self-centered idea that Western democracies were the end point of evolution, and we’re dealing from a position of strength, and people are becoming like us. It’s not that way. Because if you think this thing we have here isn’t fragile you are kidding yourself. This,” and here Jamison takes a breath and waves his hand around to denote Maida Vale, London, the whole of Western civilization, “this is fragile.”

    It’s as though Pomerantsev absorbed all the cheesy, schlocky Russian cultural melodrama he wrote about with so much contempt — although this "we didn’t listen!" schlock could also have been lifted from any Hollywood B-movie disaster flick, from Soylent Green to The Day After Tomorrow:

    Jason Evans: What do you think’s going to happen to us?

    Jack Hall: What do you mean?

    Jason Evans: I mean “us”? Civilization? Everyone?

    What I couldn’t believe was that Pomerantsev went from putting that into the mouth of an understandably upset former business partner of the murdered lawyer, into Pomerantsev’s own voice a few pages later:

    For if one part of the system is all about wild performance, another is about slow, patient co-optation. And the Kremlin has been co-opting the West for years.

    …The Kremlin is the great corporate reider inside globalization, convinced that it can see through all of the old ways of the slow West to play at something more subversive. The twenty-first century’s geopolitical avant-garde.

    This was the point in Pomerantsev’s book where I threw it against the wall, because I really don’t like being played like this—and I decided to finally find out who Pomerantsev works for, and why the Hell he went through so much trouble to say something so crude and stupid.

    And here, I’m afraid, is where things get really bad, in an awfully familiar way.

    * * * *

    Peter Pomerantsev describes himself today as “senior fellow at the Legatum Institute.” You may not have heard of the Legatum Institute; I hadn’t either, except for Legatum’s partnership with First Look Media billionaire Pierre Omidyar in a gruesome microfinance investment in India a few years back, SKS Microfinance. Omidyar and Legatum co-invested in Unitus Equity, which then invested in SKS Microfinance ostensibly to help the world’s poorest people in rural India. Instead, a few wealthy insiders cashed out to the tune of mega-millions for themselves, while ruthless SKS debt collectors bullied hundreds of rural Indian villagers into committing suicide by drowning, drinking jars of pesticide, and other horrific means. I knewOmidyar’s role in that well, and his callous response to the mass-suicides (“take[s] such setbacks in stride,” according to New York magazine’s account). But I hadn’t known anything about Omidyar’s partner-in-crime, Legatum.

    Legatum turns out to be a project of the most secretive billionaire vulture capital investor you’ve (and I’d) never heard of: Christopher Chandler, a New Zealander who, along with his billionaire brother Richard Chandler, ran one of the world’s most successful vulture capital funds—Sovereign Global/Sovereign Asset Management. That family of funds, based in the offshore haven of Monaco, operated until 2004, when the Chandler brothers, Richard and Chris, divided their billions into two separate funds.

    Brother Christopher Chandler took his billions to Dubai, where he launched Legatum Capital, and, in 2007, the Legatum Institute, where Peter Pomerantsev serves as a Senior Fellow. The Legatum Institute’s motto, displayed proudly on its homepage, reads:

    “Prosperity Through Revitalising Capitalism and Democracy.”

    A motto like could be read a lot of ways, but when its source is one of the world’s most secretive high-risk billionaire bankers, it’s downright creepy.

    So secretive, that I only just recently learned that the Chandler brothers were the largest foreign portfolio investors in Russia throughout the 1990s into the first half of the 2000s, including the largest foreign investors in natural gas behemoth Gazprom. I frankly had no idea. And I’d be more embarrassed about not having heard of them, except for the fact that almost no other journalist or even banker I talked to for this article had heard of them either, excepting one from the financial press, who described the Chandlers as notoriously “difficult sources” and “contemptuous of scribblers.” Not exactly the sorts of people you’d expect to selflessly push for transparency and human rights in countries where their once-lucrative investments went sour.

    From what I’ve learned, the Chandlers make buckets of fast money by buying into totally depressed and corrupt emerging markets when everyone else is too afraid to, driving up the price of their assets by making a lot of noise about corporate governance and corruption, and then selling out when those investments tick up during what look like to outsiders as principled battles over corporate governance issues. In other words, a form of extreme green-mailing.

    The Chandler brothers reportedly were the single biggest foreign beneficiaries of one of the greatest privatization scams in history: Russia’s voucher program in the early 1990s, when each Russian citizen was given a voucher that represented a share in a state concern to be privatized . . . and most naive Russians were fooled or coerced into dumping their vouchers for next to nothing, snapped up by clever vulture capitalists and factory directors from the inside. Institutional Investor magazine described how the Chandlers benefited by snapping up Russians’ vouchers and converting them into stakes in some of the largest and most lucrative companies in the world:

    By the end of 1994, the Chandlers had snapped up enough vouchers to buy a 4 percent stake in Unified Energy Systems, Russia’s largest electric utility; 11 percent of Mosenergo, the Moscow electricity distributor; 5 percent stakes in each of the three main production arms of Yukos Oil Co.; a 15 percent stake in Novolipetsk Metallurgical Kombinat, the country’s biggest steelmaker; and a small, undisclosed stake in Gazprom, the world’s No. 1 gas producer. The metric they used in each case was simple: The book value of assets vastly exceeded the companies’ market capitalizations. With more than $194 million invested at the time, the brothers say they were the largest foreign portfolio investors in Russia.

    The article on the Chandlers has an illustration of two respectable, gray-haired brothers in fine tailored bankers’ suits, sweating in fear before an angry Russian barbarian aiming an AK at them to keep them out of a shareholder’s meeting—the perfect cover to Pomerantsev’s book, if he’d been honest enough…

    Their most public battle in Russia came in the late 1990s, when they lost a battle for control of Russia’s largest steelworks to Vladimir Lisin, now one of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs. At the time, Lisin accused the Chandlers’ secretive “Cambridge Capital” fund—one of many offshoots of their secretive Sovereign Global group—of being “speculative buyers . . . with no commitment to the long-term recovery of Novolipetsk, or the ailing Russian steel industry.”

    The Chandlers’ method is fairly simple: Buy a chunk of a company in a corrupt, dysfunctional market, get on the board, make a big stink about corporate corruption, drive the price up, then cash out. This is what they did in South Korea in 2003, when they bought a stake in SK Corp—owner of the largest oil refinery and telecoms—fought a bloody boardroom battle leveraging real corruption to their personal gain, then cashed out with hundreds millions more in their Monaco accounts.

    What the Chandlers did to cash out big in South Korea is what Pomernatsev is doing today with Russia: Talking a big disingenuous game about corporate governance, ethics, fighting corruption and so on . . . without in any way being the least bit forthright about his own agenda and how his people stand to profit from a seemingly principled struggled.

    Here is how a South Korean economist, Won Kang, described what happened with the Chandlers’ Sovereign Asset play for SK Corp:

    “Sovereign failed for two reasons: after all the rhetoric about good corporate governance, it could not design a specific roadmap to enhance SK Corp’s corporate value; after the rhetoric about transparency in management, Sovereign itself was not transparent. It refused to open up about its asset size and its ownership structure, thus triggering uncertainty and apprehension among minority shareholders, including foreign investors.”

    Putin’s Russia is a harder place for vulture capitalists like the Chandlers and Browders to swoop in, extract a few quick hundred millions, and disappear with to Monaco or Dubai. Putin’s cronies don’t need them; they replaced them and pocketed the money for themselves. Therefore, Russia is a threat to western civilization.

    ***

    In 2007, Chris Chandler, the billionaire behind Dubai’s Legatum Capital, launched the Legatum Institute, and staffed it with senior Bush Administration neocons. Legatum’s first leadership team was led by two former senior members of the Bush Administration’s National Security Council: William Inboden (who specialized in “counter-radicalization”) and Michael Magan, who also served as Special Assistant to President Bush. After Obama came to power, Legatum was headed by uber-neocon Jeffrey Gedmin, former director of the old CIA front Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (né “Radio Liberation from Bolshevism”), and one of the original signatories to the neocon heavyweight “Project for the New American Century” alongside Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of the Iraq war gang.

    Nowadays, Legatum tries to be a bit more discreet about its White House national security/neocon connections, although Anne Applebaum’s blinding presence on the Legatum staff alongside Pomerantsev somehow slipped through.

    Which brings me to the real heart of Pomerantsev’s work and agenda, the familiar, sleazy lobbying work he does, bridging the interests of global vulture capitalists like his boss Christopher Chandler with the interests of neocon regime-change groups like the National Endowment for Democracy, and more familiar neocon pro-war lobbyists like Michael Weiss.

    In a 2013 white paper for the Legatum Institute, Pomerantsev explicitly called on Western governments to invest in anti-corruption NGOs, and leverage their moral and political advantages through anti-corruption NGOs in order to subvert Putin’s rule:

    “Ultimately, international networks of anti-corruption NGOs could play a similar role to that of human rights campaigners played in the 1970s and ‘80s.

    “The debate about ‘corruption’ in Russia is not, therefore, just about slipping bribes or the odd bit of nepotism. It is a struggle to establish genuine democratic capitalism and to defy postmodern dictatorship. Instead of helping, the West is making things worse.”

    By “democratic capitalism,” of course, he means “investment opportunities for my boss’s other Legatum— Legatum Capital.”

    Last year, Pomernatsev co-authored another one of these slick Legatum white papers with an up-and-coming neocon from the late George W. Bush era, Michael Weiss. Together, Pomerantsev and Weiss summed up the threat Russia’s avant-garde political technologies pose to world order, warning:

    “the struggle against disinformation, strategic corruption and the need to reinvigorate the global case for liberal democracy are not merely Russia-specific issues: today’s Kremlin might perhaps be best viewed as an avant-garde of malevolent globalization.”

    That Pomerantsev would team up with a neocon as compromised as Michael Weiss is enough to call into question the value of everything he’s written. During the late Bush years, Weiss worked for the neocon organ of Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard; afterwards, Weiss headed up a neocon PR project, "Just Journalism," which policed the English-language press for any journalism critical of Israel in the wake of its brutal war on Gaza in 2008-9. Then, as Syria descended into civil war, Weiss became one of the leading neocon warmongers pushing for America to invade Syria. Perhaps most troubling of all when it comes to Pomerantsev’s credibility — Weiss played a lead role in promoting the career of one of the most notorious academic frauds of our time, Elizabeth O’Bagy, the fake Syria “expert” whom Weiss teamed up with to argue for war in Syria. Apparently after O’Bagy was exposed as a fraud with no Syria credentials, Weiss skulked away, only to reappear with a new co-author—Peter Pomeranstev—and a new beat: Putin’s Russia. Despite having zero Russia background and expertise, Weiss has successfully reemerged lately as a Russia expert on various TV news programs — the Elizabeth O’Bagy of Putin critics — and Pomerantsev’s role in this partnership appears to be laundering Weiss’ credentials.

    [The War Nerd wrote this excellent article on Elizabeth O’Bagy‘s strange & sleazy story.]

    Last November, Weiss and Pomerantsev presented their white paper on Russia to the National Endowment for Democracy, the notorious Cold War arm of the US empire set up by Reagan’s CIA director Bill Casey. The event was moderated by the chief of another “color revolution” neocon outfit, Freedom House.

    And just last month, Pomerantsev was in Washington lobbying — what else? — Congress on behalf of his billionaire vulture fund boss and the neocons they’re aligned with. You can see on Legatum’s website how proud Master Chandler must be of his shaggy-haired neocon’s lobbying abilities.

    It just goes on and on and on — not just the neocon connections, but this specific subspecies of neocon: shaggy, scruffy-faced, Brooklyn hipster neocons. . . .

    And at the very end of Pomerantsev’s book, in his acknowledgements, he thanks Ben Judah for giving him the final edit read-through.

    Really? Ben Judah? Can’t the neocon veal pen try a little harder? This is just insulting. Judah, for those who don’t know, got busted last year forging what had been his biggest scoop ever for Politico magazine: Judah alleged, falsely, that Putin had secretly proposed to Poland’s president in 2008 to carve up Ukraine together. The Polish president whom Putin supposedly offered half of Ukraine to is now dead, so he couldn’t deny it. The point of Judah’s article was to “prove” that Putin had all along intended to invade and carve up Ukraine, rather than Putin reacting to the 2014 US-backed overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych. (Judah also took to the New York Times calling on the US to "arm Ukraine".)

    Welp, wouldnchaknow it, Judah’s source for his Big Scoop was none other than the husband of Legatum Institute’s Anne Applebaum. His name is Radislow Sikorski, and he’s the looniest of Poland’s neocons. Nothing about Judah’s scoop made sense—why would Putin offer such an inane plan to a NATO enemy? But the best lies aren’t the most complicated lies, they’re the lies people want to believe. And everyone wanted to believe Judah’s story—except Polish journalists, who saw through it. They did what journalists do and questioned Sikorski for more details. Sikorski stuttered and stammered and admitted he’d made it all up, and apologized. So did most media that ran Judah’s false story. Sikorski even disowned Judah and Politico. But you won’t find a retraction on Judah’s story. It’s still there, proud as a peacock.

    This is the same guy whom Pomerantsev thanks for editing his book.

    All of which leads to some unsettling insights. Well, one, actually: The neocons have adapted.

    ———-

    “Neocons 2.0: The problem with Peter Pomerantsev” by Mark Ames; Pando Daily; 05/17/2017

    “The real giveaway for me, which got me looking into who Pomerantsev works for, was his choice of heroes in the scary Kremlin information wars: western investors, and western global financial institutions. People like billionaire vulture capitalist Bill Browder, the bloodless grandson of former US Communist Party leader Earl Browder, who served as Putin’s most loyal attack dog while he was raking in his billions, but then transformed himself into the Andrei Sakharov of vulture capitalism as soon as Putin’s KGB tossed Browder out of their circle and decided to keep his share of the take for themselves.

    Yep, Pomerantsev and Browder are quite tight. So tight that he lobbied for Browder’s Magnitsky Act before the British parliament. And as Ames describes it, the overarching goal of Browder doesn’t remotely appear to be “anti-corruption” or “good governance”, but Browder was more than happy to be the beneficiary of corruption and bad governance before he was chased out of Russia. Instead, the overarching goal appears to be to force the Kremlin to open up to foreign vulture capitalists like Browder again. Like it was before:


    Pomerantsev is so close to Browder, we learn from his book, that he even serves as one of Browder’s lobbyists before the British parliament to push through an anti-Kremlin sanctions bill, the Magnitsky Act, bankrolled by Browder’s ill-begotten stash.

    I don’t have enough room here to give you a full picture of Bill Browder. But here are a few things to keep in mind:

    * In a 1997 New York Times profile, Browder, who at the time aligned his investments with Yukos oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, defended the way Yukos stripped investors into one of its subsidiaries to enrich the Yukos parent company. Browder crowed: “When a company does terrible things to the subsidiary, I would rather be on the side with the power.”
    * In 2003, Browder backed Putin’s authoritarian power and his decision to arrest Khodorkovsky, saying, “A nice, well-run authoritarian regime is better than an oligarchic mafia regime — and those are the choices on offer.”
    * The day after Khodorkovsky’s arrest, Browder scoffed: “People will forget in six months that Khodorkovsky is still sitting in jail.”
    * When Putin put Khodorkovsky on trial 2005, Browder attacked the jailed oligarch for the same asset-stripping Browder supported and profited from, telling the BBC: “Mr Khodorkovsky is no martyr. He has left in his wake aggrieved investors too numerous to count and is widely credited with masterminding much of the financial trickery that plagued the Russian capital markets throughout the 1990s.”
    * That same year, Browder told the New York Times, “Putin cares about foreign investors; he just doesn’t care about them enough to allow one oligarch to use his ill-gotten gains to hijack the state for his own economic purposes.”

    That’s the Bill Browder I remember. And ever since his KGB pals decided they’d had enough of him and chased him out to London a very rich vulture capitalist, Browder has styled himself as the Mother Theresa of global vulture capitalism—and he’s thrown untold millions into promoting that public relations/lobbying effort, whose goal is to use human rights abuses he once covered for and profited from as a cudgel to force the Kremlin to become investor-friendly to vulture capitalists like Bill Browder again. To do that, he’s exploited to the hilt the truly horrific murder of one of his lawyers, Sergei Magnitsky, at the hands of Russia’s brutal police. Magnitsky’s death appears to be the first Russian death Browder ever cared about in his 15 years of milking the country dry during the tragically deadly 1990s and beyond.

    “That’s the Bill Browder I remember. And ever since his KGB pals decided they’d had enough of him and chased him out to London a very rich vulture capitalist, Browder has styled himself as the Mother Theresa of global vulture capitalism—and he’s thrown untold millions into promoting that public relations/lobbying effort, whose goal is to use human rights abuses he once covered for and profited from as a cudgel to force the Kremlin to become investor-friendly to vulture capitalists like Bill Browder again

    But the way Pomerantsev puts it, Browder’s struggle against the Kremlin is part of an existential struggle to deal with rising Russia that threatens the existence of the “fragile” West:


    That’s the Browder I and every other journalist who worked in Russia I know remembers him. Contrast that with how Peter Pomerantsev—who admits to lobbying for Browder’s bill—describes him:

    “As I wait for William Browder to come in for his interview in Meet the Russians, I look at the newspaper cuttings that are all over the walls of his office on Golden Square: ‘One Man’s Crusade against the Kremlin,’ ‘The Man who Took on Vladimir Putin.’ Browder used to be one of the President’s more vocal supporters, back when he was the largest foreign investor in Russia. He’d come to the country in the 1990s, when most in Western finance said it was crazy to even try. He proved them all wrong. Then in 2006 he pissed off the wrong people in Russia and was banned from the country. . . .

    “We arrive at Parliament. Browder is having a meeting with a member of Parliament in a corner office of Portcullis House overlooking the Thames. . . .

    “A little later I’m invited back to Parliament for a presentation, ‘Why Europe needs a Magnitsky Act.’ The US version of the act is Browder’s greatest achievement.”

    And then Pomerantsev introduces us to Browder’s exiled American lawyer, who scares Pomerantsev (and presumably the gullible reader) with his dire prediction about Russian state television laying waste to Western civilization like the barbarian hordes at the gates — specifically, the gates of upper-class London neighborhoods:

    “We used to have this self-centered idea that Western democracies were the end point of evolution, and we’re dealing from a position of strength, and people are becoming like us. It’s not that way. Because if you think this thing we have here isn’t fragile you are kidding yourself. This,” and here Jamison takes a breath and waves his hand around to denote Maida Vale, London, the whole of Western civilization, “this is fragile.”

    It’s as though Pomerantsev absorbed all the cheesy, schlocky Russian cultural melodrama he wrote about with so much contempt — although this "we didn’t listen!" schlock could also have been lifted from any Hollywood B-movie disaster flick, from Soylent Green to The Day After Tomorrow:

    Jason Evans: What do you think’s going to happen to us?

    Jack Hall: What do you mean?

    Jason Evans: I mean “us”? Civilization? Everyone?

    What I couldn’t believe was that Pomerantsev went from putting that into the mouth of an understandably upset former business partner of the murdered lawyer, into Pomerantsev’s own voice a few pages later:

    For if one part of the system is all about wild performance, another is about slow, patient co-optation. And the Kremlin has been co-opting the West for years.

    …The Kremlin is the great corporate reider inside globalization, convinced that it can see through all of the old ways of the slow West to play at something more subversive. The twenty-first century’s geopolitical avant-garde.

    This was the point in Pomerantsev’s book where I threw it against the wall, because I really don’t like being played like this—and I decided to finally find out who Pomerantsev works for, and why the Hell he went through so much trouble to say something so crude and stupid.

    And then Ames spends the rest of the piece describing the toxic mix of neocons and vulture capitalists behind the Legatum Institute, started by the Chandler brothers and staffed by hard core neocons:


    In 2007, Chris Chandler, the billionaire behind Dubai’s Legatum Capital, launched the Legatum Institute, and staffed it with senior Bush Administration neocons. Legatum’s first leadership team was led by two former senior members of the Bush Administration’s National Security Council: William Inboden (who specialized in “counter-radicalization”) and Michael Magan, who also served as Special Assistant to President Bush. After Obama came to power, Legatum was headed by uber-neocon Jeffrey Gedmin, former director of the old CIA front Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (né “Radio Liberation from Bolshevism”), and one of the original signatories to the neocon heavyweight “Project for the New American Century” alongside Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of the Iraq war gang.

    The Chandler brothers reportedly were the single biggest foreign beneficiaries of one of the greatest privatization scams in history: Russia’s voucher program in the early 1990s, when each Russian citizen was given a voucher that represented a share in a state concern to be privatized . . . and most naive Russians were fooled or coerced into dumping their vouchers for next to nothing, snapped up by clever vulture capitalists and factory directors from the inside. Institutional Investor magazine described how the Chandlers benefited by snapping up Russians’ vouchers and converting them into stakes in some of the largest and most lucrative companies in the world:

    By the end of 1994, the Chandlers had snapped up enough vouchers to buy a 4 percent stake in Unified Energy Systems, Russia’s largest electric utility; 11 percent of Mosenergo, the Moscow electricity distributor; 5 percent stakes in each of the three main production arms of Yukos Oil Co.; a 15 percent stake in Novolipetsk Metallurgical Kombinat, the country’s biggest steelmaker; and a small, undisclosed stake in Gazprom, the world’s No. 1 gas producer. The metric they used in each case was simple: The book value of assets vastly exceeded the companies’ market capitalizations. With more than $194 million invested at the time, the brothers say they were the largest foreign portfolio investors in Russia.

    The Chandlers’ method is fairly simple: Buy a chunk of a company in a corrupt, dysfunctional market, get on the board, make a big stink about corporate corruption, drive the price up, then cash out. This is what they did in South Korea in 2003, when they bought a stake in SK Corp—owner of the largest oil refinery and telecoms—fought a bloody boardroom battle leveraging real corruption to their personal gain, then cashed out with hundreds millions more in their Monaco accounts.

    What the Chandlers did to cash out big in South Korea is what Pomernatsev is doing today with Russia: Talking a big disingenuous game about corporate governance, ethics, fighting corruption and so on . . . without in any way being the least bit forthright about his own agenda and how his people stand to profit from a seemingly principled struggled.

    “What the Chandlers did to cash out big in South Korea is what Pomernatsev is doing today with Russia: Talking a big disingenuous game about corporate governance, ethics, fighting corruption and so on . . . without in any way being the least bit forthright about his own agenda and how his people stand to profit from a seemingly principled struggled.”

    And that appears to be a major driving force in what we’re seeing today as Russia continues to be cast as the greatest threat in the world: Making a big deal about corporate governance, ethics, and fighting corruption – coupled now with Pomerantsev’s depicting of Russian as an information warfare global hegemon – so the foreign billionaires who made their fortunes by flouting corporate governance, ignoring ethics, and profiting from corruption can be allowed back into Russia’s markets. Rinse and repeat.

    So that’s all some pretty critical context now that Browder is being touted as an anti-corruption crusader.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 28, 2017, 3:05 pm
  2. Felix Sater just did another interview with Talking Points Memo where he largely projects a “woe is me, why does everyone treat me like a mobster?” sentiment and discusses a number of his his past associations with both the mafia and the US national security state.

    Sater says the last deal he working on for the Trump Organization was in October 2015 for a deal to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow. And as the article notes, that sounds like a similar proposition to the one Trump himself tied to broker with the Agalarovs (recall Aras and Emin Agalarov’s association with the now-notorious meeting arranged by Don Jr. and Rob Goldstone) back in 2013. Sater says his 2015 work didn’t involve the Agalarovs and he’s never worked with them, but he also refused to say who he was actually working with on that deal so it will be interesting to see if that information dribbles out at some point.

    Sater also claims that his national security work for the US actually involved providing the coordinates of Osama bin Laden’s training camp when it was hit in a cruise missile strike.

    So Sater is feeling chatty about his background and ties to the Trump organization. But it’s a highly selective chattiness:

    Talking Points Memo
    Muckraker

    Stinger Missiles And Shady Deals: Ex-Biz Partner To Trump Has A Tall Tale To Tell

    By Sam Thielman
    Published August 1, 2017 6:00 am

    In December 2015, an Associated Press reporter asked Donald Trump why he had appointed Felix Sater, a man who’d been convicted for stock fraud, his senior advisor. “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it,” Trump told the AP. “I’m not that familiar with him.”

    The feeling is not mutual.

    “My last Moscow deal [for the Trump Organization] was in October of 2015,” Sater recalled. “It didn’t go through because obviously he became President.” Sater had told the New York Times that he was working on the deal that fall, but over the course of several conversations with TPM, he gave a slightly more detailed timeline. “Once the campaign was really going-going, it was obvious there were going to be no deals internationally,” Sater said. “We were still working on it, doing something with it, November-December.”

    That deal was for “The Trump Tower, to develop in Moscow.” It was a similar proposition to the one Trump himself tried to broker with the Agalarovs, a family of vastly wealthy Russian oligarchs who brought Miss Universe 2013 to Moscow and were behind the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting between the President’s oldest son and an attorney said to work for the Russian government.

    Sater said he never worked with the Agalarovs on a Moscow deal for Trump: “I don’t work with them and I’ve never worked with them.” When asked who he was working with, Sater chuckled. “A couple of people I’d like to continue working with, and that’s why I don’t want their names in the newspaper. People say, ‘I care about you and love you but why do I need my name in the press?’”

    The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple requests for comment from TPM. But to understand Trump and the type of people his real estate empire did business, it’s worth trying to understand Sater, the Russian-American émigré whose connections span not only the worlds of Russian and Italian organized crime—which Sater said are in part a result of not being able to find legitimate work after two criminal convictions—but the FBI and, now, the presidency.

    South Brooklyn tough

    After high school, Sater went to Pace University, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge—but now he was on the Manhattan side. When he graduated he worked for prestigious financial outfits like Bear Stearns and Gruntal & Co. In 1991, Sater got into a bar fight with a fellow Wall Streeter that ended with Sater stabbing the other man in the face with a margarita glass. The injured man needed 110 stitches and suffered nerve damage; Sater went to prison for a year, which he described as “the worst time in my life.”

    “Yes, I got into a bar fight. Yes, the instance at which I hit the man with the margarita glass…” he broke off. “I didn’t break it and try to carve my initials into his face. It was a bar fight. That’s all it was. I made the mistake of going to court, lost, went to jail over it, got involved in a dirty, scammy Wall Street deal [with former Gruntal colleague Salvatore Lauria]. I did.”

    As far as Sater is concerned, he’d done his time. But like most people who have been to prison, his punishment seems not to have ended. “Everybody’s making it sound like I’m Tony Soprano,” he sighed.

    Sater and Lauria gained control in 1993 of White Rock Partners, a business that would go on to become intertwined with the Italian mafia because, Sater said, he owed his lawyer: “When I came out, I was released on appeal bond, I couldn’t do anything I needed to pay my lawyer $100,000 to keep me out on appeal.” His only professional skill was bond trading, but he was legally barred from doing that at a legitimate business—so he started another kind of business. “I’m not some poor little lamb,” he admitted.

    Indeed not: The firm, which was renamed State Street Capital, would go on to steal some $40 million. Court documents accuse State Street of targeting “little old ladies;” Bloomberg reported in June that a number of the victims were also Holocaust survivors. Sater denied knowing this about the people his firm fleeced.

    “I gave them the coordinates”

    A strange thing happened after Sater’s second arrest, however: He did not go to prison. Instead, in 1998 he signed an FBI cooperation agreement that was approved by Andrew Weissmann, who is now part of the legal team investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election under Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Sater appears to have forfeited not his share of the $40 million, but a $25,000 fine and a house in the Hamptons.

    Sater had been in Russia working for AT&T when he heard that the FBI was looking for him, according to a heavily redacted court transcript—which refers to Sater as “Felix Slater”— obtained by legal reporter Daniel Wise. No one had been prosecuted in the State Street scam by 1998, but with Sater’s help 20 people “at various levels of that operation, ranging from the brokers to the people who were transferring money” were prosecuted, according to the documents. The government described Sater’s cooperation as “exemplary.”

    The FBI’s glowing testimonial isn’t a patch on claims made by Lauria in his book, which he later disavowed as a work of fiction. Lauria and co-writer David S. Barry wrote that Sater had tried and failed to purchase black-market Stinger missiles in Afghanistan.

    Sater makes impressive claims, too: TPM asked him if he’d returned his share of the State Street money. He said, “Because of national security issues I can’t discuss anything other than one part of it: You understand that I was given a $25,000 fine, and it’s not because of Vinnie Boombatz from Brooklyn?”

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Sater noted, had publicly defended him in her confirmation hearing, and she had used the phrase “national security.”

    “When she was talking about national security, she wasn’t talking about Stinger missiles,” he said. “She was talking about our country’s biggest enemy who killed over 3,000 people. How ‘bout the first time Bill Clinton bombed his camps, I provided the coordinates?

    Sater appeared to be referring to Operation Infinite Reach, a cruise missile launch based on CIA intelligence against Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan—where Sater had sought the missiles—and Sudan. Sater wouldn’t say more.

    Sater told the Los Angeles Times he spent the late ’90’s “hunting bin Laden”; the Stinger missile episode was also attributed to the CIA in Lauria’s book. The CIA declined comment, but a source familiar with the intelligence community’s use of civilian assets told TPM that claim is wildly unlikely: Anyone considered for work directly with the CIA would almost certainly be immediately be disqualified by the criminal record Sater deplores and has tried to escape.

    It’s theoretically possible for Sater to have provided information that was communicated to the CIA by the FBI, the source said. It’s even possible that the information was correct: The August 20, 1998 Al Qaeda meeting was “not much of a secret,” Steve Coll writes in his book about the CIA in Afghanistan, “Ghost Wars.” But if Sater told the agency more, the fact that it came through the FBI and not the CIA’s own sources might have limited its use within the intelligence community. The FBI’s national press office declined to comment to TPM.

    “The biggest, scummiest gangster”

    Sater’s two arrests often have been presented as exhibit A in the case against the President’s 15-year association with the man, but Trump has been defensive of the relationship even while distancing himself from it.

    When pressed in 2013 by the BBC’s John Sweeney about whether he should have cut ties with Bayrock because of its association with Sater, Trump told Sweeney, “John, maybe you’re thick but when you have a signed contract, you can’t in this country just break it.” He added, “Sometimes we’ll sign a deal and the partner isn’t as good as we’d like.” In a deposition that same year, Trump denied knowing what Sater looked like.

    That halfhearted defense is more than Sater usually gets. Like many ex-cons, he is understanding of people who pretend not to know him: He said his involvement in Bayrock was kept secret because of his “bad past.”

    The Bayrock Group is the subject of much legal scrutiny. One suit filed by Bayrock’s former CFO Jody Kriss flatly describes Bayrock as a money laundering operation; it also alleges that the firm defrauded investors by not revealing Sater’s felony convictions. That’s what eats at Sater. He doesn’t understand why the past can’t be past. Re-opening those wounds, he said, is the worst sin of all. “The biggest, scummiest gangster I’ve met is Jody Kriss,” he told TPM on several occasions. Kriss, he said, wanted to out him for testifying against mobsters.

    Kriss is frank: “Felix Sater is a fuc king liar,” he told TPM. “You can’t believe anything he says.”

    Sater’s way of thanking people who have helped him is not to tell reporters their names. He told TPM a mentor had helped him find work in real estate, outside the Wall Street world where he’d been barred from working. Like his Russian connections, Sater wouldn’t name this man, who he described as “a serious real estate guy.”

    “He doesn’t need my name; he helps me. The last thing he needs is [to be tarred with] my brush,” Sater said. “He liked me, he loved me, he taught me the business.

    The other serious real estate guy in his Rolodex—the President—has gone from being his employer to being the most powerful man in the world. Sater has approached the Trump administration since the election, but that has been through Michael Cohen, another man with deep ties to the former Soviet bloc and New York real estate, who Sater has known since the pair’s teenage years.

    What’s it like to know the President personally? “That and a token will get me a ride on the subway,” Sater said ruefully. “If it was in Russia, he’d give me a billion dollar contract and I’d be wealthy.”

    ———-

    “Stinger Missiles And Shady Deals: Ex-Biz Partner To Trump Has A Tall Tale To Tell” by Sam Thielman; Talking Points Memo; 08/01/2017

    “That deal was for “The Trump Tower, to develop in Moscow.” It was a similar proposition to the one Trump himself tried to broker with the Agalarovs, a family of vastly wealthy Russian oligarchs who brought Miss Universe 2013 to Moscow and were behind the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting between the President’s oldest son and an attorney said to work for the Russian government.”

    Yep, Sater’s ‘Trump Tower Moscow’ deal he was working on in the fall of 2015 was awful similar to the 2013 deal Trump was trying to work out with the Agalarovs, but Sater says is actually unnamed mystery people that he was working with:


    Sater said he never worked with the Agalarovs on a Moscow deal for Trump: “I don’t work with them and I’ve never worked with them.” When asked who he was working with, Sater chuckled. “A couple of people I’d like to continue working with, and that’s why I don’t want their names in the newspaper. People say, ‘I care about you and love you but why do I need my name in the press?’”

    So if we trust Sater’s word, he’s never worked with the Agalarovs. Of course, such denials say nothing about whether or not he’s an acquaintance of the Agalarovs. And, of course, there’s no reason to actually take Sater at his word on such matters. But that’s his official stance on the matter at this point.

    And regarding the role he played in providing the coordinates for Osama bin laden’s training camp…


    Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Sater noted, had publicly defended him in her confirmation hearing, and she had used the phrase “national security.”

    “When she was talking about national security, she wasn’t talking about Stinger missiles,” he said. “She was talking about our country’s biggest enemy who killed over 3,000 people. How ‘bout the first time Bill Clinton bombed his camps, I provided the coordinates?

    Sater appeared to be referring to Operation Infinite Reach, a cruise missile launch based on CIA intelligence against Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan—where Sater had sought the missiles—and Sudan. Sater wouldn’t say more.

    Sater told the Los Angeles Times he spent the late ’90’s “hunting bin Laden”; the Stinger missile episode was also attributed to the CIA in Lauria’s book. The CIA declined comment, but a source familiar with the intelligence community’s use of civilian assets told TPM that claim is wildly unlikely: Anyone considered for work directly with the CIA would almost certainly be immediately be disqualified by the criminal record Sater deplores and has tried to escape.

    It’s theoretically possible for Sater to have provided information that was communicated to the CIA by the FBI, the source said. It’s even possible that the information was correct: The August 20, 1998 Al Qaeda meeting was “not much of a secret,” Steve Coll writes in his book about the CIA in Afghanistan, “Ghost Wars.” But if Sater told the agency more, the fact that it came through the FBI and not the CIA’s own sources might have limited its use within the intelligence community. The FBI’s national press office declined to comment to TPM.

    …it’s worth noting that, in the book The Scorpion and the Frog: High Crimes and High Times, co-authored by Sater’s former business partner Salvatore Lauria who also become an FBI and CIA informant, their work purchasing stinger missiles on behalf of the CIA collapsed at one point when one of the members of Sater’s mobster-informant crew, Gene Klotsman, decided to inflate 10-fold the price of the stinger missiles they were selling back to the CIA, prompting the FBI to drop their assistance and once again threaten to send them to jail over their Wall Street crimes. But then 9/11 happened, and it was their work providing Osama bin Laden’s cell phone number to the CIA in 1998 and FBI interest in that work that helped get them off the hook.

    So if that all is true (and Sater’s lawyer said the book had a fictitious account of the stinger-deal), perhaps the bin Laden’s cellphone provided the coordinates for that training camp missile strike?

    The Daily Beast

    Felix Sater: The Crook Behind the Trump-Russia ‘Peace’ Plan
    Sater is one of the most notorious and shady characters in the American president’s past, including his very recent past.

    Michael Daly, Michael Weiss
    02.24.17 7:00 AM ET

    Felix Sater is an immigrant who did prison time for stabbing a man in the face with the broken stem of a margarita glass, and he would surely qualify for the label “bad hombre” were he from Mexico instead of Russia.

    It was only by becoming a federal informant that Sater avoided a possible 20-year term for a $40 million fraud in which the feds figure many of the victims were elderly.

    Sater’s father also became an informant after being convicted of joining a Mafia soldier shaking down small businesses in Brooklyn for nearly a decade.

    None of that stopped Donald Trump from having extensive business dealings with Sater that included the high-rise Trump SoHo New York hotels and condos. Then, after Sater’s rap sheet was widely publicized, Trump said he hardly knew the man.

    “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,” Trump says in court papers from a 2013 law suit.

    Yet, even as the Trump administration was preparing plans to ramp up deportations, the president’s longtime personal attorney sat down for coffee in a Manhattan hotel with this Russian immigrant.

    According to The New York Times, Trump attorney Michael Cohen and Sater were party to some amateur diplomacy aimed at settling the Russian war on Ukraine with a plan to push Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko out of office.

    Cohen insisted to The Daily Beast that the Times account was wrong and that he had not been involved in the peace plan. He declined to comment on whether he was troubled by Sater’s criminal background and organized crime ties.

    “I will not respond to this question as I am not knowledgeable of all aspects to his past,” Cohen told The Daily Beast via email.

    Cohen did acknowledge sitting down briefly with Sater at a Manhattan hotel last month.

    “I was asked to meet him for a quick coffee and agreed,” Cohen told The Daily Beast. “When asked, I was unaware who was going to be joining the meeting and never agreed to or worked on any diplomatic plan for Ukraine.”

    The person who joined the meeting was Andrii Artemenko, a rich Ukrainian member of parliament of dubious reputation in his home country. Artemenko claims to have material evidence of Poroshenko’s corruption so compelling as to force the Ukrainian president from office.

    The Times stands by its account, saying that Cohen had told the paper that he delivered a copy of the plan to the office of then-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn shortly before Flynn was fired. The plan is said by the Times to involve Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine and a referendum on the fate of occupied Crimea: namely, whether or not the peninsula, which Russian forces seized almost bloodlessly in 2014, would be “leased to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years.” Artemenko reportedly insists that their peace proposal was met with approval among senior aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Sater did not respond to a request for an interview with The Daily Beast before this article was posted. He was quoted elsewhere denying that he had been engaged in actual diplomacy. He did tell Fox News that the effort is just his latest contribution to his adopted land.

    “What could be wrong in helping stop a war and trying to achieve peace?” he said. “I have done so much for my country and thought that promoting peace was a good thing.”

    Sater is certainly experienced in promoting things, principally himself. And what he has done for his country—two big Mafia cases for the FBI, a failed effort to buy Stinger missiles in Afghanistan on the black market for the CIA, and supposedly obtaining Osama bin Laden’s cellphone number—seems to have been undertaken largely to escape punishment for what he has admitted in court having done to this country.

    Much about Trump’s presidency, and the cast of characters it has assembled, challenges even the most imaginative Hollywood screenwriting, but Sater’s backstory is an especially remarkable example. Having emigrated to Brighton Beach from the Soviet Union when he was 8 years old, he might have been the archetype of the self-made immigrant Trump has nothing but admiration for, provided of course they’re from certain non-Muslim countries.

    In his early twenties, Sater had a three-year stint as a successful broker on Wall Street before he slashed that man’s face open in El Rio Grande, a Manhattan bar, causing the victim a wound which required 110 stitches and earning the perpetrator a felony conviction for assault.

    Sater served 15 months at Edgecombe Correctional Facility. He was released on parole, prison records seen by The Daily Best show, in September 1995. A month later, his investment firm, White Rock Partners, changed its name to State Street Capital Markets.

    Sater mostly escaped public notice until 1998, when the manager at a Manhattan Mini Storage in SoHo opened a cubicle Sater had rented under a false female name (the account was in arrears) and made an interesting discovery. In addition to a 12-gauge shotgun and two 9-millimeter pistols were a box and gym bag containing documents that led the FBI to a massive “pump-and-dump” stock fraud, racketeering, and international money laundering scheme, the architects of which were later shown to be Sater and two of his longtime business colleagues, Gennady “Gene” Klotsman and Salvatore Lauria. Both were with Sater at El Rio Grande the day he turned a margarita glass into a weapon. By the time the evidence was uncovered in SoHo, Sater and Klotsman had gone to Russia; Lauria had also skipped town. They returned and were arrested.

    According to a 1998 indictment of Sater filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York, Sater violated the terms of his agreement with the National Association of Securities Dealers, which instructed him to restrict his activities at White Rock “largely to clerical duties, for which he would receive a minimal salary. In fact, [Sater] received substantial compensation greatly exceeding his agreed-upon salary, and he took part in activities at White Rock and State Street, including the handling of securities and account statement.”

    As Sater and his co-defendants would later admit when pleading guilty, White Rock and State Street made money by lying about the worth and ownership of securities, encouraging brokerage firms to peddle the artificially inflated stocks, then laundering the proceeds through various off-shore accounts. All told, they stole about $40 million, much of it from elderly investors, including Holocaust survivors.

    Moreover, their illicit activities involved four different Italian mafia crime families, as a subsequent grand jury indictment in 2000 stated. Specifically, from March 1993 to October 1996, Frank Coppa Sr., a captain in the Bonnano crime family; Eugene Lombardo, an associate of that family; Daniel Perisco, an associate of the Colombo family; Joseph Polito Sr., an associate of the Gambino family, Ernest “Butch” Montevecchi, a soldier in the Genovese family among others, “devised, implemented and oversaw fraudulent schemes to manipulate the price of securities” of four different companies and “fraudulently induc[ed] investors to buy and hold these securities,” according to the indictment, also filed in the Eastern District of New York.

    Sater, Klotsman, and Lauria, who had already pleaded guilty to the 1998 complaint, were listed as unindicted co-conspirators in this later case, which clearly netted much bigger fish for the feds based on an accidental haul at the Mini Storage. They all turned on their former mob accomplices, as did Sater’s father, Mikhail Sater, also known as Michael Sheferofsky.

    The father was indicted in 2000 on two counts by then-U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch. Sheferofsky’s accomplice in that case was Butch Montevecchi, who also figured in the younger Sater’s case. Both men pleaded guilty to extorting “restaurants, food stores, and a medical clinic” in the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn through intimidation and violence from December of 1990 to January of 1999. The father got off with three years’ probation in exchange for cooperation that included wearing a wire in a case against a group of Polish immigrants perpetrating major Medicaid fraud in Greenpoint in Brooklyn.

    U.S. Attorney Lynch seemed to make ample use of the Saters, who were a unique father and son team, both working as informants with the same Mafia henchmen, but different FBI handlers on different cases. In a letter addressed to U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch during her confirmation hearing to become Barack Obama’s attorney general, she wrote that as a decade-long informant Felix Sater provided “information crucial to national security and the conviction of over 20 individuals, including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra.”

    If the reference to “national security” seems a bit out of place in characterizing a domestic crackdown on organized crime, then that might be because of what Sater, Klotsman, and Lauria allegedly got up to when they were overseas.

    As recounted in The Scorpion and the Frog: High Crimes and High Times, a 2003 book Lauria later co-authored with former Associated Press journalist David Barry, the three associates became spies for the CIA, tasked with offering U.S. taxpayer money to buy Stinger anti-aircraft missiles that had gone missing from the covert U.S. campaign to oust the Soviets in Afghanistan. Those missiles, it was feared, were destined for Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda. The idea, according to the book, was to give the Russian government the funds to purchase 10 Stingers on the black market in Afghanistan, and then turn them over to the Sater, Klotsman, and Lauria, who would then relinquish them to their Langley handlers.

    “I think it was Felix who made the deal to buy 10 Stingers and originally the total sale price was going to be $350,000,” Barry told The Daily Beast. “So $35,000 per Stinger, which is about what somebody would have to pay for one of those things back then.”

    The quid pro quo with the U.S. government was purportedly as follows: In exchange for helping to secure the very weapon that helped defeat the Red Army in Afghanistan and thus hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sater, Klotsman, and Lauria would buy a “get-out-of-jail-free” card for their Wall Street malfeasance.

    Lauria has since repudiated his own book, whose publication he tried to have stopped, calling it a work of fiction. Barry insists, however, that based on his independent corroborative spadework, featuring court documents, interviews and open source material, the story of espionage-for-freedom is true.

    “The Russians would go to Afghanistan to handle this because that’s where the missiles were—without tipping off bin Laden that the Stingers were ultimately going to the CIA,” says Barry. They supposedly photographed the serial number of one or more of the Stingers “so that the person they were dealing with in the Agency would be able to verify it.”

    Barry said that while the CIA was eager to exploit any and all contacts, even among those connected to the New York underworld, the FBI, which had embarked on a similar and more notorious collaboration with Boston mobster Whitey Bulger, wasn’t as keen. “The feds still wanted to nail them all.”

    What eventually scuppered the arrangement, Barry added, was Klotsman’s greed. The other Russian-American multiplied the buy price tenfold, now asking for $350,000 per missile for a total of $3.5 million for all 10. “The FBI at that point, according to what Sal told me, said, ‘Fu ck this, we’re not making deals with mob-connected Wall Street gangsters.’ They had no interest in the Agency’s making a deal.”

    Sater, whom Barry variously described as a “bad guy” and “tough son of a bitch,” returned to the U.S. first, without the ‘Get out of Jail card,’ still facing the possibility of long prison terms. Then came the 9/11 attacks.

    “Until the tragedy of September 11, the matter of my sentencing was a big weight hanging over my head,” Lauria says in the “as told to” book that Barry wrote. “It was very likely that I would do serious time; the question was how much. But a few days after September 11, I got a call from [Sater], telling me that the information we had provided about Osama bin Laden was now being actively pursued, and our situation had improved. Three days before the attack on the World Trade Center, the Taliban or al Qaeda had assassinated the man we had hoped would be our contact, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the man who had become the Northern Alliance leader.”

    The book continues, “[Sater] had gotten a call from a boss of a new section in the FBI who wanted to talk to him about the whole Stinger deal. We had done a careful job of putting it together… We had provided the actual serial numbers of the Stingers, which had been available in ’98, and we had passed on what we thought was an active cell phone number for bin Laden.”

    The book goes on, “To our way of thinking at the time, we had provided a way to reach bin Laden that should have been important to the U.S. government. [Klotsman] had fouled the deal by raising our asking price for the Stingers from $300,000 to $3 million. Now the information was deemed important, even though the Stinger deal had not gone through. [Sater], for all his other faults, was a very patriotic guy and a diehard Republican, and he was anxious to help the country any way he could—particularly if it served his purposes.”

    Sater’s lawyer, Robert Wolf, would later describe the book’s version of the failed Stinger deal as “fabricated” and insist that neither Klotsman nor the FBI were involved. Wolf would also say that fairness required noting that Sater had received high praise from the feds for gathering intelligence on nuclear weapons as well as terrorism and helping to make important criminal cases as he worked to escape punishment for his own crimes. One reason he was so successful in the criminal cases was that he was at the center of the scheme.

    By 2002, Sater had reinvented himself yet again, this time as a managing director of a real-estate development firm called the Bayrock Group, founded by the Kazakhstan-born Tevfik Ari. His co-defendant and fellow FBI and CIA informant, Lauria, eventually joined him there.

    Bayrock’s offices are, conveniently, in Trump Tower, which is how Sater’s checkered path intersected with the current U.S. president. Court papers say that Sater and Trump first met in 2003 through a leasing agent for the tower. Trump professes when asked about Sater in a sworn deposition not to “know him well at all.”

    As for Sater, he had coffee the other day with the president’s personal lawyer and discussed a peace plan for Ukraine. He was apparently not among the immigrants Trump had in mind when he spoke to a gathering of CEOs on Thursday about his deportation efforts.

    “We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country at a rate no one has seen before,” Trump said.

    ———-

    “Felix Sater: The Crook Behind the Trump-Russia ‘Peace’ Plan” by Michael Daly, Michael Weiss; The Daily Beast; 02/24/2017

    “As recounted in The Scorpion and the Frog: High Crimes and High Times, a 2003 book Lauria later co-authored with former Associated Press journalist David Barry, the three associates became spies for the CIA, tasked with offering U.S. taxpayer money to buy Stinger anti-aircraft missiles that had gone missing from the covert U.S. campaign to oust the Soviets in Afghanistan. Those missiles, it was feared, were destined for Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda. The idea, according to the book, was to give the Russian government the funds to purchase 10 Stingers on the black market in Afghanistan, and then turn them over to the Sater, Klotsman, and Lauria, who would then relinquish them to their Langley handlers.”

    And according to that book, the stinger missile plan almost went according to plan. Until one of Sater’s partners got greedy:


    “I think it was Felix who made the deal to buy 10 Stingers and originally the total sale price was going to be $350,000,” Barry told The Daily Beast. “So $35,000 per Stinger, which is about what somebody would have to pay for one of those things back then.”

    The quid pro quo with the U.S. government was purportedly as follows: In exchange for helping to secure the very weapon that helped defeat the Red Army in Afghanistan and thus hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union, Sater, Klotsman, and Lauria would buy a “get-out-of-jail-free” card for their Wall Street malfeasance.

    What eventually scuppered the arrangement, Barry added, was Klotsman’s greed. The other Russian-American multiplied the buy price tenfold, now asking for $350,000 per missile for a total of $3.5 million for all 10. “The FBI at that point, according to what Sal told me, said, ‘Fu ck this, we’re not making deals with mob-connected Wall Street gangsters.’ They had no interest in the Agency’s making a deal.”

    But then, facing a renewed legal threat from the FBI, 9/11 happened and all of that work on the stinger missile swap and turning over what they thought was bin Laden’s active cell phone number was enough to put them back in the FBI’s good graces:


    Sater, whom Barry variously described as a “bad guy” and “tough son of a bitch,” returned to the U.S. first, without the ‘Get out of Jail card,’ still facing the possibility of long prison terms. Then came the 9/11 attacks.

    “Until the tragedy of September 11, the matter of my sentencing was a big weight hanging over my head,” Lauria says in the “as told to” book that Barry wrote. “It was very likely that I would do serious time; the question was how much. But a few days after September 11, I got a call from [Sater], telling me that the information we had provided about Osama bin Laden was now being actively pursued, and our situation had improved. Three days before the attack on the World Trade Center, the Taliban or al Qaeda had assassinated the man we had hoped would be our contact, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the man who had become the Northern Alliance leader.”

    The book continues, “[Sater] had gotten a call from a boss of a new section in the FBI who wanted to talk to him about the whole Stinger deal. We had done a careful job of putting it together… We had provided the actual serial numbers of the Stingers, which had been available in ’98, and we had passed on what we thought was an active cell phone number for bin Laden.”

    “We had provided the actual serial numbers of the Stingers, which had been available in ’98, and we had passed on what we thought was an active cell phone number for bin Laden.”

    So who knows how much of that all is true, but it’s pretty clear from the interviews that Sater is giving that he would indeed like his story told. Or rather, he wants a story told, and he’s giving interviews so we’ll see what else Sater decides to divulge in future interviews.

    But note one area of ‘Sater’s story’ that is blatantly wrong that he appears to have no interest in correcting: the story about Ukrainian ‘peace plan’ concocted by the allegedly ‘pro-Russian’ Andreii Artemenko. And yet Artemenko is about as far from a pro-Russian politician as one can get. But that hasn’t changed the fact that he’s been widely reported as being ‘pro-Russian’ and putting forth a Kremlin-packed peace plan. And here’s Felix Sater, giving interviews, trying to explain how his story is so misunderstood, with this massive opportunity to point out Aremenko’s Radical Party and Right Sector ties, and no mention of it.

    So despite the legal peril the investigation into the Trump team’s alleged collusion with Russia creates for Sater’s long-time business partner Donald Trump, and it would appear that Sater and Trump attorney Michael Cohen would rather the world believes that Artemenko is a ‘pro-Russian’ politician than acknowledge his far-right anti-Russian ties. It’s a reminder that the heavily redacted history of Felix Sater includes a lot of self-imposed significant redactions about some very recent and relevant history.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 1, 2017, 2:20 pm
  3. Felix Sater’s recent chattiness is once again display in a new interview in New York Magazine. It covers a lot of the same history that many of the other pieces on Sater covers, but there’s a some new interesting tid-bits, especially about Robert Armao, the third person who apparently sat in on the meetings between Sater and Ukrainian far-right politician Andrey Artemenko. According to Armao, he was the one who initiated contact with Sater back in August of 2016 and “over the next few months, he would ask Armao to act as his intermediary on a number of matters”. So it apparently wasn’t just shady nuclear plant deals that Armao and Sater were working together on.

    Sater also makes a rather ominous boast near the end of the interview. It was made back in June (the interview was done bit by bit over several months): “In about the next 30 to 35 days, I will be the most colorful character you have ever talked about. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it now, before it happens. And believe me, it ain’t anything as small as whether or not they’re gonna call me to the Senate committee.” And as the article notes, Sater’s boast was made before the revelation of the meeting between the Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and the figures offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

    And the article also notes how Sater’s claims to have been working on a Trump Tower Moscow in the fall of 2015 are awfully similar the Trump Tower Moscow deal that Aras Agalarov was working out and that apparently was only scuttled due to Trump’s presidential bid according to Aras’s son Emin (recall that Sater recently claimed to TPM that his work on Trump Tower Moscow had nothing to do with the Agalarov’s but he also wouldn’t reveal his partner).

    So while there hasn’t been any clear Sater connection to that meeting that’s been publicly discovered yet, we still have the following tantalizing pieces of info:

    1. The ties of the Agalarovs to many of the figures in that Trump Tower meeting.

    2. The fact Sater claims to have worked in the fall of 2015 on basically the same deal that Agalarov was partnering with Trump on and that deal with Agalarov was only scuttered after Trump announced his campaign, which happened in the summer of 2015 (this is what Emin said back in March).

    and

    3. Sater boasted back in June, before the story of that Trump Tower meeting meeting went public, about how he was about to be part of something big that would hit in the next 30 days.

    4. The now notorious Trump Tower meeting had a seemingly ever-expanding guest list as the story unfolded, until it eventually settled at eight people from the ‘Russian government’ delegation.

    Given all that, might Sater be a still-undisclosed 9th member of the ‘Russian government’ delegation? We may never ever find out, but Sater appeared to be very confident back in June that something big was about to hit about him over the following months and he seemed almost excited to talk about it:

    New York Magazine

    The Original Russia Connection

    Felix Sater has cut deals with the FBI, Russian oligarchs, and Donald Trump. He’s also quite a talker.

    By Andrew Rice
    August 3, 2017 10:50 am

    On June 19 in a courtroom in Downtown Brooklyn, a federal judge took up the enigmatic case of an individual known as John Doe. According to the heavily redacted court record, Doe was an expert money launderer, convicted in connection with a stock swindle almost 20 years ago. But many other facts about his strange and sordid case remained obscured. The courtroom was filled with investigative journalists from numerous outlets along with lawyers petitioning to unseal documents related to the prosecution. “This case,” argued John Langford, a First Amendment specialist from Yale Law School who represented a Forbes editor, implicates an “integrity interest of the highest order.” The public had a right to know more about Doe’s history, Langford argued, especially in light of “the relationship between the defendant in this case and the president of the United States.”

    John Doe’s real name, everyone in the courtroom knew, was Felix Sater. Born in Moscow and raised in Brooklyn, Sater was Donald Trump’s original conduit to Russia. As a real-estate deal-maker, he was the moving force behind the Trump Soho tower, which was built by developers from the former Soviet Union a decade ago. Long before Donald Trump Jr. sat down to talk about kompromat with a group of Kremlin-connected Russians, Sater squired him and Ivanka around on their first business trip to Moscow. And long before their father struck up a bizarrely chummy relationship with Vladimir Putin, Sater was the one who introduced the future president to a byzantine world of oligarchs and mysterious money.

    Sater was a canny operator and a colorful bullshitter, and there were always many rumors about his background: that he was a spy, that he was an FBI informant, that he was tied to organized crime. Like a lot of aspects of the stranger-than-fiction era of President Trump, these stories were both conspiratorial on their face and, it turns out, verifiably true. Langford read aloud from the transcript of a 2011 court hearing, only recently disclosed, in which the Justice Department acknowledged Sater’s assistance in investigations of the Mafia, the Russian mob, Al Qaeda, and unspecified “foreign governments.” A prosecutor once called Sater, in another secret proceeding, “the key to open a hundred different doors.” Many were wondering now whether he could unlock the truth about Trump and Russia.

    In the universe of what the president has called, with telling self-centrism, his “satellite” associates, Sater spins in an unmapped orbit. The president has said under oath that he “really wouldn’t know what he looked like” if they were in the same room. (For the record, Sater is 51 years old and olive-complexioned, with heavy-lidded eyes.) Yet their paths have intersected frequently over the years. Most recently, in February, the Times reported that Sater had attempted to broker a pro-Russian peace deal in Ukraine, handing a proposal to Michael Cohen, the president’s personal attorney, to pass to Michael Flynn, who was then still the national-security adviser. Both Cohen and Flynn are now reported to be under scrutiny by the FBI, in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s election interference and Trump’s campaign.

    If there really is a sinister explanation for the mutual affinity between Trump and Putin, it almost certainly traces back to money. The emissaries who met with Don Jr., promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton, came through the family’s business relationship with property developer Aras Agalarov, who had been trying to build a Trump tower in Moscow. Both congressional investigators and the special counsel are reportedly zeroing in on the finances of Trump and associates, looking for suspicious inflows. On July 20, Bloomberg News reported that the special counsel had taken over a preexisting money-­laundering investigation launched by ousted U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and was said to be examining, among other things, the development of the Trump Soho.

    As a convicted racketeer with murky ties to the Mafia, law enforcement, intelligence agencies (both friendly and hostile), various foreign oligarchs, and the current president of the United States, Sater has become an obsession of the many investigators — professional and amateur — searching for Trump’s Russia connection. Since the election, especially in the more feverish precincts of the internet, he has been the subject of constant speculation, which has at times been contradictory. Was he the missing link to the Kremlin? (“Trump, Russia, and a Shadowy Business Partnership,” read the headline of a recent column by Trump biographer Tim O’Brien.) Or could he be Mueller’s inside man? (“Will a Mob-Connected Hustler Be the First Person to Spill the Beans to the FBI on Trump’s Russian Ties?” asked a story on the lefty site Alternet.) Could he be playing both sides?

    At least one clue to the answer, Sater’s pursuers suspect, may be found in the records of his closed criminal case — which just so happened to have been overseen by one of the top prosecutors working on Mueller’s investigation. Judge Pamela Chen listened as the various attorneys advocating for disclosure made impassioned arguments, drawing on Supreme Court precedents, the Pentagon Papers, and even the possibility of “fraud by President Trump.” But when it came time for federal prosecutors to make the case for continued confidentiality, citing concerns for Sater’s safety and the possible disclosure of sensitive details about government operations, Chen closed the courtroom to the public.

    The key documents in Sater’s case remain sealed. His lips, however, are another matter.

    *****

    For an international man of mystery, Sater can be quite talkative. Over the past few months, I’ve reached out to him regularly by phone and email, and every once in a while, he has responded. He would vent about how he was “tired of being kicked in the balls” over long-ago offenses, by reporters investigating his ties to Trump. Then he asked what I wanted to know.

    “What do you do for a living?” I asked.

    “I am the epitome of the word ‘the deal guy,’ ” Sater replied.

    People who know Sater told me he shares some character traits with Trump, a man for whom he professes unabashed affection. He tends to talk grandiosely, if not always entirely truthfully; he can play the coarse outer-borough wiseguy or the charming raconteur. Most of all, like the man he orbits, he has a transactional view of the universe — anything can be brokered. “I work on deals,” Sater told me. “Deals in real estate, liquid natural gas, medicine. I am currently working on bringing a — don’t laugh, do not laugh — a cure for cancer using stable isotopes.” He said he found the technology through a former real-estate partner, who had met a scientist, who was now testing it.

    “I own a significant piece of it for doing the work,” Sater said. “I’ll find investors, and eventually, God willing, we will be able to deliver the cure for cancer. But as my lawyer, Robert Wolf, says, ‘Felix, if you announce that you’ve found the cure for cancer, tomorrow’s papers are going to be, ‘Trump’s Gangster-Related Ex-Partner Looking to Steal Money from Medicaid.’ That’ll be the headline for the cure for cancer.”

    Sater said a lot of things like that, maybe just to be playful. He would joke sardonically about the latest additions to his Google search results, which yielded story after story about his entrepreneurial ventures, live and defunct, the two dozen or so lawsuits relating to various personal and business disputes, his curious presence at Trump Tower (the Federal Election Commission recorded a $120 purchase of campaign merchandise there on July 21, 2016, the day before WikiLeaks started releasing hacked Democratic Party emails) and even the Orthodox religious movement he belongs to, which was the subject of a breathless Politico exposé headlined “The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin.” “It was like, my rabbi from Chabad flying back and forth and smuggling secret messages in his ass or something,” Sater said. He scornfully dismissed the whole notion that he might be some kind of middleman between Trump and Russia. Then he would confide just enough about himself to keep the conversation interesting.

    When I asked Sater how he first met Trump, he replied, “No comment on anything related to the president of the United States.” He savored a delicious pause. “But back in ’96, I rented the penthouse suite of 40 Wall Street,” a Trump-owned skyscraper. (A contemporary court record confirms he had an office there.) A few years later, Sater started doing deals to license Trump’s name for real-estate projects.

    “How did I get to Donald?” Sater asked. “I walked in his door and told him, ‘I’m gonna be the biggest developer in New York, and you want to be my partner.’ ”

    In reality, Sater’s route to Trump’s office was anything but direct. His family emigrated from the Soviet Union when he was 7. He grew up on Surf Avenue in Coney Island. As a boy, he said, he used to sell the Forward on the boardwalk. His father, Mikhail — “a big strapping fellow,” Sater said, who was once a boxer — worked as a cabdriver. At some point, the elder Sater got involved in organized crime, running a long-term extortion racket in Brighton Beach with a Genovese-family soldier. (He would end up pleading guilty to extortion charges in 2000.)

    After a few years of college, Felix Sater found his way to Wall Street in the late 1980s. Brokerage houses then had retail operations that sold stocks over the phone, and Sater started out as a cold-caller. He worked his way up through several firms, including Gruntal, a freewheeling brokerage that did a lot of business with Michael Milken. (One of Sater’s colleagues there was Steve Cohen, the hedge-fund billionaire who recently dodged insider-trading charges.) A friend, Sal Lauria, later wrote in a Wall Street crime memoir, The Scorpion and the Frog, that Sater was a sly salesman and a sharp dresser who would routinely spend thousands of dollars on designer suits. They frequented nightclubs and celebrity parties. At one such event, Lauria wrote, they encountered Trump, who sent a bodyguard over to obtain the phone numbers of their wives.

    They laughed off that advance, but Lauria wrote that Sater could be “a hothead” when provoked. One night in 1991, when Sater was in his mid-20s, they were out at a bar in midtown when Sater got into a drunken argument over a woman and ended up slashing another man’s face with a broken margarita glass. He was convicted of assault, served a year in prison, and was barred from selling securities.

    Sater moved over to the shady side of Wall Street, establishing a firm called White Rock, which engaged in illegal pump-and-dump schemes. The firm would secretly acquire blocks of penny stocks; then, its brokers would hype them to suckers over the phone. Sater and Lauria had personal ties to mobsters, and the firm received protection from Mikhail Sater’s associate in the Genovese family. Using an alias, “Paul Stewart,” Felix Sater laundered fraud proceeds through a labyrinthine network of Caribbean shell companies, Israeli and Swiss bank accounts, and contacts in New York’s Diamond District. He moved in the same bucket-shop demimonde as Jordan Belfort, the crooked trader portrayed in The Wolf of Wall Street.

    “Jordan was a stone-cold little bitch, and everybody knew it,” said Sater, who claims that Belfort was actually nothing special as a salesman. “Jordan picked up 90 percent of it from everybody else and turned it into his own movie. I have had 27 producers approach me already to sell my life’s work, and I’m sitting here going, ‘Why?’ So in the first two minutes of the movie some director could show me doing coke out of a hooker’s ass?” (Through a representative, Belfort said he had no recollection of Sater.)

    In the mid-1990s, the Mafia’s involvement in stock manipulation caught the attention of law enforcement. Feeling the heat, Sater decided to get out of the illegal business, starting a seemingly legitimate investment company in his penthouse office at 40 Wall Street. He explored opportunities back in Russia, which was going through its chaotic post-­Communist privatization process. He and his partners moved to Moscow, where they presented themselves as New York bankers. “We were dealing with ex-KGB generals and with the elite of Russian society,” Lauria wrote.

    One night, Sater told me, he went to dinner with a contact that he assumes was affiliated with the GRU, the Russian military-intelligence agency, where he was introduced to another American doing business in Moscow, Milton Blane. “There’s like eight people there,” Sater said, “and he’s sizing me up all dinner long. As I went to take a piss, he followed me into the bathroom and said, ‘Can I have your phone number? I’d like to get together and talk to you.’ ” Blane, who died last year, was an arms dealer. According to a government disclosure made 13 years ago in response to a Freedom of Information Act query, Blane had a contract with the Defense Department to procure “foreign military material for U.S. intelligence purposes.” Sater says the U.S. wanted “a peek” at a high-tech Soviet radar system. “Blane sat down with me and said, ‘The country needs you,’ ” Sater said.

    This was the beginning of what Sater claims were many years of involvement with intelligence agencies. He says he developed contacts at secret Russian military installations known as closed cities. “I was working for the U.S. government, risking my life in Russia,” Sater said. “Picture what they would have done if they were to have caught me in closed military cities — a little Jewish boy who gave up his passport and now was trying to buy the highest secret shit on behalf of the Americans. You think anybody would ever find me again?”

    Meanwhile, back in New York, the FBI was looking for Sater. The bureau’s investigation into the Mafia and Wall Street had caught a break when someone neglected to pay the rent for a locker at a Manhattan Mini Storage facility on Spring Street. The management opened it up, found three guns, and called the police. The locker also held a cache of papers stuffed into a box and a gym bag: financial records that documented Sater’s money-laundering activities. The FBI launched an investigation called Operation Street Cleaner, targeting Sater and his co-conspirators.

    At first, Lauria wrote, they hoped that Sater’s spying might earn them a “free ride” for their financial crimes. In addition to the radar system, Sater has publicly claimed that he provided intelligence on some Stinger missiles floating around Afghanistan, as well a phone number for Osama bin Laden. The FBI was not satisfied, however, so the fugitives returned to the U.S., where they pleaded guilty and became government witnesses. (Andrew Weissmann, the supervising prosecutor who approved Sater’s cooperation agreement in December 1998, would go on to become a top deputy to Mueller on the Russia investigation.) In 2000, Operation Street Cleaner culminated in the arrests of 19 people, including several alleged mobsters, who were charged with cheating investors out of $40 million.

    Sater would continue to work with the FBI for years afterward in the hope of reducing his eventual sentence. Sater provided assistance “of an extraordinary depth and breadth,” a prosecutor later said in a closed hearing, on matters that ran “a gamut that is seldom seen.” After the September 11 attacks, as the FBI and CIA scrambled to respond to the threat of terrorism and Islamist insurgency, intelligence about black-market arms dealing suddenly became extremely valuable. Loretta Lynch, who oversaw Sater’s case as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, later testified during her confirmation process to become Attorney General that Sater’s work for the FBI and other agencies involved “providing information crucial to national security.”

    Sater was skilled at deciphering financial fraud, and as is often the case, the same things that made him a successful criminal — his ingratiating charm, his street smarts, his ability to see all the angles — made him a very useful government asset. He engaged in undercover work, making “surreptitious recordings,” according to an unsealed court-hearing transcript. “He was always looking for the next big person to get connected to,” said a former law-enforcement officer who worked on Sater’s case.

    *****

    So long as Sater continued to assist the FBI, the bureau left him free to do business. He kept up his wealthy lifestyle with his family, living on a beachfront lane in the moneyed enclave of Sands Point on the Long Island Sound — the model for East Egg in The Great Gatsby. He was finished on Wall Street, but real estate is far less regulated. Sometime around 2000, Sater got to know a neighbor, Tevfik Arif, an oleaginous former Soviet official from Kazakhstan. Arif and his family made money in the chromium business after the fall of communism, and had interests in hotels and construction in Turkey. He and Sater went into business together, calling their firm the Bayrock Group.

    Bayrock leased office space on the 24th floor of Trump Tower, one floor below the headquarters of the Trump Organization. At this time, it wasn’t too difficult for a company without a reputation to approach Trump, whose business career was in a relative lull between his 1990s crash and his big comeback with The Apprentice. The Bayrock office was staffed with an assortment of eye-catching women, many of them from Eastern Europe. One attracted the attention of a Trump Organization leasing agent, who started paying calls to the office. He provided an introduction to Trump’s development team, a former Bayrock executive says. Soon Sater was in the boss’s office. In a 2008 deposition taken in connection with Trump’s unsuccessful libel lawsuit against his biographer O’Brien, Sater testified that the companies interacted “on a constant basis” and that he frequently popped in to visit Trump himself for “real-estate conversations.”

    Sater says he convinced Trump to license his name to Bayrock developments in Florida and Arizona. Such deals, a major component of Trump’s business over the past two decades, allowed him to avoid issues of creditworthiness, which posed a problem because of his previous defaults, while capitalizing on his primary asset, his celebrity. Trump described the licensing business as “really risk-free.” If a project succeeded, he could bray triumphantly and collect fees, and if it failed, he could walk away, disclaiming responsibility. For Sater, the partnership offered an opportunity to leverage Trump’s name. In the deposition, he called this his “Trump card,” and he said he played it at every possible opportunity. “My competitive advantage is, anybody can come in and build a tower,” Sater said. “I can build a Trump tower, because of my relationship with Trump.”

    When asked about Sater in his own deposition, Trump swore that “nobody knows anything about this guy.” Sater’s federal case was still secret, and he had taken to spelling his name “Satter” to avoid incriminating search results. But even a cursory background check would have revealed his earlier assault conviction and a 1998 Businessweek article about his involvement in stock fraud headlined “The Case of the Gym Bag That Squealed.” Sal ­Lauria, despite his lack of real-estate experience, also went to work for Bayrock as an independent contractor.

    Sater played the role of the jet-setting deal-maker, entertaining lavishly, traveling constantly, jumping on a helicopter to Cannes when he felt the traffic from a nearby airport was moving too slowly. Joshua Bernstein, one of Sater’s subordinates, later asserted under oath that he and Lauria would often joke about being “white-collar criminals” and claimed that Sater had threatened to kill him, once on the day of the office Christmas party while wielding a pair of scissors. “He would say things like that regularly throughout the firm,” Bernstein testified. Another Bayrock associate in Arizona claimed in a lawsuit, later settled and sealed, that Sater once threatened to torture him and leave him dead in a car trunk. (Sater vehemently denies threatening either man and says the lawsuit allegations were financially motivated.)

    In 2005, Sater and Trump embarked on their most ambitious joint project: the Trump Soho. The site of the development — a parking lot on Spring Street — happened to be directly across the street from the storage facility that had been Sater’s previous undoing. Trump took a very active interest, handling negotiations over construction contracts and promoting the building on The Apprentice. Trump received a 15 percent ownership stake in return for contributing his name and expertise, as well as a potential cut of development fees and an ongoing deal to manage the hotel. Another 3 percent of the building was allotted to Trump’s children Ivanka and Don Jr., who were just beginning to involve themselves in the family company. They worked closely with Bayrock, particularly Don, who played a deal-making role, traveling with Sater to explore other prospective projects.

    Sater also tried to take the Trump brand abroad. Bayrock proposed deals in Ukraine, Poland, and Turkey. In Moscow, Sater identified a site for a high-rise Trump tower. He later testified that Donald Trump personally asked him to chaperone Don and Ivanka when they traveled to the Russian capital to explore the opportunity.

    In September 2007, Trump, Arif, and Sater unveiled Trump Soho. The real-estate bubble was about to burst, but Bayrock was inflated, at least temporarily, by a group of people with even worse market timing: Icelandic bankers. Lauria managed to broker a deal with the FL Group, an investment group run by a long-haired “Viking raider.” The Icelandic fund agreed to invest $50 million in Bayrock, offering Arif and Sater a potentially lucrative payout. In December 2007, though, the Times reporter Charles Bagli published a scoop, revealing many details of Sater’s criminal history. Bayrock’s partners were upset; Sater complained in a leaked email that Trump was treating the scandal as “an opportunity to try and get development fees for himself.” Sater was quickly and quietly forced out of the company.

    When the market crashed, Bayrock did, too, and none of the foreign projects came to fruition. Condo sales at the Trump Soho dried up, although Ivanka and Don Jr. continued to boast, falsely, that a majority of the building’s units had been sold. In August 2010, a group of Trump Soho buyers sued, claiming the building’s marketing was “fraudulent.” (Trump and his co-defendants agreed to settle with the buyers, refunding nearly $3 million.) That September, Arif was arrested on human-trafficking charges in Turkey after police broke up an alleged sex party he was holding on a yacht attended by Russian prostitutes and business associates, including a Kazakh billionaire whom Bayrock once listed as a financial backer. (Arif was later acquitted at trial.)

    Sater, meanwhile, dropped out of public view. As Bayrock was imploding, he formed a new company called Swiss Capital, also on the 24th floor of Trump Tower. He shifted his activities to Europe, working on coal and oil deals in Kazakhstan, hotel projects in France and Switzerland. He spent an extended period in London, pursuing developments with Sergei Polonsky, a flamboyant builder from St. Petersburg who — like all of Russia’s new billionaires — maintained warm relations with Vladimir Putin. But Polonsky soon went bust and ran afoul of the Russian state. He was later arrested at his Cambodian island retreat, deported home, and convicted of embezzlement.

    *****

    This whole time, Sater had been working on the side with the FBI. He has claimed that he was “building Trump Towers by day and hunting bin Laden by night.” When his Orthodox synagogue, Chabad of Port Washington, named him its Man of the Year, the congregation’s rabbi gave a speech recounting how Sater had told him many things about his past, few of which he really believed, until one day he was invited to a private event at a federal building in New York. “I get there, and to my amazement I see dozens of U.S. intelligence officers from all the various three-letter intelligence agencies,” the rabbi said. “They’re taking turns, standing up one after the other, offering praise for Felix, praising him as an American hero for his work and his assistance at the highest levels of this country’s national-security interest.”

    Sater’s decade of undercover work finally ended in October 2009, when he was sentenced for his securities fraud at a secret proceeding in Brooklyn. (He was given no jail time and a $25,000 fine.) Around the same time, Sater paid a visit to Trump Tower. “I stopped up to say hello to Donald, and he says, ‘You gotta come here,’ ” Sater told me. Though the Trump Organization has contended it never formally employed Sater, he had business cards that identified him as a “senior advisor” to Trump. “Donald wanted me to bring deals to him,” Sater said. “Because he saw how many I put on the table at Bayrock.”

    He said Trump’s willingness to take him on, even after discovering his criminal past, was indicative of his character. “I know you’re gonna be able to spin it as ‘He doesn’t care and will do business even with gangsters,’ ” Sater said to me. “Wouldn’t it also show extreme flexibility, the ability not to hold a grudge, the ability to think outside the box, and it’s okay to be enemies one day and friends the next?”

    None of the real-estate deals Sater was trying to drum up for Trump materialized, and he drifted away from the company within a year. Since then, Trump’s memory of Sater has grown foggier. “I never really understood who owned Bayrock,” he testified in 2011. Two years later, he abruptly cut off a BBC television interview when Sater’s name came up. In 2015, in response to questions from the Associated Press, Trump replied, “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it.” In legal proceedings related to Bayrock’s failed ventures, Trump has contended he had little personal involvement in any of his licensing projects. “In general, [you] go into a deal, you think a partner is going to be good,” Trump said in a 2013 deposition. “It happens with politics. It happens with everything. You vote for people, they turn out to be no good.”

    Sater continued to move in New York real-estate circles, though he tried to keep a lower profile. He was part of an insular Russian-American business community, and during the oil and gas boom earlier this decade, he was well positioned to act as a middleman between New York developers and Russian oligarchs who were trying to reinvest their fortunes in property. “He had access to high-net-worth individuals in Russia and the U.S.,” said a business associate of Sater’s. Sater has claimed he was working on a Trump-branded real-estate deal with a Russian real-estate developer in Moscow as late as 2015. (Agalarov signed a letter of intent to build a Trump tower in Moscow around the same time, but Sater denied this was the same project.)

    One person whom Sater dealt with extensively was a Swiss-based investor named Ilyas Khrapunov, whose family was involved in banking and politics in Kazakhstan. Starting in 2011, with Sater’s assistance, Khrapunov and his family members invested in, among other things, a shopping mall outside Cincinnati, a residential complex in Syracuse, an apartment building on West 52nd Street, and three condos in the Trump Soho. According to a lawsuit filed by the firm of David Boies, which is coordinating a global asset-recovery effort on the behalf of a Kazakh bank, the money for Khrapunov’s real-estate investments came from billions looted from the bank and a municipal government. In July, the Financial Times reported that Sater was assisting in a money-laundering investigation of the Khrapunovs, in which it said the FBI has taken an interest. (The paper’s sources said Sater was “being paid handsomely for his assistance.”) U.S. laws, which exempt real-estate transactions from certain anti-money-laundering regulations, have long made if possible for American developers to profit from the proceeds of crime and political corruption. The FBI is reported to be looking into whether Trump and other figures close to him might have engaged in such behavior, but money-laundering investigations are notoriously arduous, and proving intentional wrongdoing is especially difficult when the money comes from criminal activity in a foreign country.

    *****

    Despite his protests, Sater seemed to revel, just a bit, in all the speculation swirling around him. Last August, in the middle of the presidential campaign, Sater was introduced, via a mutual friend, to a veteran political fixer named Robert Armao. “I looked him up,” Armao told me, “and I said, ‘This is an interesting man.’” They met for a meal, where Sater regaled him with tales about Trump, and predicted he would win the presidency, for sure. Armao was impressed. “Felix Sater knows everybody, everywhere,” he said.

    Armao, once a political aide to Nelson Rockefeller, has represented foreign leaders as a communications adviser and does business in the energy industry. Sater told him he coveted the “wonderful Rolodex” he had built over decades. Over the next few months, he would ask Armao to act as his intermediary on a number of matters, including enlisting Armao’s assistance in brokering an energy deal to refurbish Ukraine’s aging nuclear reactors.

    They met again for breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel, a block south of Trump Tower, on October 7, the day the Obama administration issued its first urgent warning about Russian election interference, WikiLeaks published the first batch of John Podesta’s emails, and Trump’s vulgar Access Hollywood tape appeared. This time, Sater brought along a friend: Andrii Artemenko, a Ukrainian opposition politician. The nuclear deal appeared to be just the beginning of their plans, which would end up entangling the White House. “I think they had visions of kingmaking, and making Artemenko president of Ukraine,” Armao said. “Then you’d really be in business.”

    “Artemenko is a politician who, like every politician, wants to become president,” Sater said. “So he came to me.” Though they started off talking about nuclear reactors, and averting another Chernobyl, Trump’s election appeared to open up an even more ambitious opportunity. “I got friendly with Artemenko over that deal, and he said, ‘Look, it’s killing me, we’ve got people dying every day between all the bombings and killings.’ I mean they’re killing kids over there. ‘There’s a new administration coming in, you got access to the administration. I know how to end the war in eastern Ukraine.’

    “He goes, that’s the idea, let’s end the war. Let’s get peace going. Peace sounds good, right? How does the word peace not work?”

    In January, Artemenko returned to the United States to attend Trump’s inauguration, bringing with him a Putin-friendly peace proposal, which called for a referendum to approve Russia’s occupation of Crimea in return for the end of hostilities in eastern Ukraine. (The plan also called for deploying propaganda to undermine Ukraine’s current president, a Putin adversary.) “I think it sounds like a good idea,” Sater said. “Politically, it would be an opportunity to break the situation that is currently going on with Russia. ’Cause I am a very firm believer that Vlad the Terrible — no matter how poised he is and how well he controlled himself in the Oliver Stone interview — that crazy fuc ker has got 10,000 nuclear warheads pointed at us. Not a good guy to get into a pissing match with.

    “So I figured, hey, things could work out all around, and probably give Donald, who wants to get on better relations with Putin, an opportunity to break this logjam. So I picked up the phone, and called Michael Cohen.”

    Cohen, one of Trump’s personal attorneys, had known Sater since they were teenagers. He met Artemenko and Sater at a hotel on Park Avenue, and they gave him a sealed envelope containing the plan. The New York Times reported that Cohen said he had hand-delivered the envelope to Flynn at the White House. (Cohen later denounced the Times story as “fake news.”) After it was exposed, the peace initiative was scuttled and Trump’s opponents seized on fresh evidence that — preposterous as it might seem — Sater still had enough pull with the president to dabble in diplomacy. “A Big Shoe Just Dropped,” wrote the liberal blogger Josh Marshall, who has continued to enthusiastically delve into Sater’s role in what he calls the “Trump-Russia money channel.”

    Since then, shoe after shoe has clunked to the floor, in a cacophonous cascade of ever-more-damaging disclosures. “I know there is a huge movement to find the there there,” Sater said in June. “I got it. But unfortunately, I’m not going to be the one.” He said he would be happy to be summoned to speak to Mueller or congressional investigators. “God bless them if they do,” he said. “We could talk about bin Laden and Al Qaeda and cyber-crime convictions and operations of over fuc king 12 years, no problem.”

    He couldn’t resist telling me, though, that something big was brewing. “In about the next 30 to 35 days,” he told me, “I will be the most colorful character you have ever talked about. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it now, before it happens. And believe me, it ain’t anything as small as whether or not they’re gonna call me to the Senate committee.”

    This was before the news of Don Jr.’s fateful Trump Tower meeting came out. Still, it was already clear that Mueller was shifting his attention toward Trump’s family business, and many were wondering if Sater, who sang so beautifully for the FBI before, might have another big number to perform. Lately, something about Mueller’s investigation seems to have truly alarmed the president. Rattled by its focus on his finances, the president has sent signals that he might fire the special counsel and has openly discussed issuing preemptive pardons. The extremity of Trump’s reaction has only heightened suspicions he has something truly damning to hide. And if anyone outside the president’s immediate orbit knows what that is, one could imagine it would be Sater.

    Sater laughed off such theories. “The next three years of hearings about Trump and Russia will yield absolutely nothing. I know the man, they didn’t collude,” he said. “Did a bunch of meetings happen? Absolutely. The people on the Trump team who had any access to the Russians wanted to be first in and be the guys that ran the whole détente thing. Michael Flynn wanted to be the détente guy, and then [Paul] Manafort, I’m sure, wanted to be the détente guy. Shit, I wanted to be the détente guy, why not? But was it really a conspiracy between Putin and Donald to get him elected? A little bit of a stretch.”

    “When was the last time you talked to the president of the United States?” I asked.

    For once, the deal guy had nothing to offer.

    ———-

    “The Original Russia Connection” by Andrew Rice; New York Magazine; 08/03/2017

    “He couldn’t resist telling me, though, that something big was brewing. “In about the next 30 to 35 days,” he told me, “I will be the most colorful character you have ever talked about. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it now, before it happens. And believe me, it ain’t anything as small as whether or not they’re gonna call me to the Senate committee.””

    That was the boast from back in June, which was more than 35 days agao and there hasn’t been anything wildly huge involving Sater. Is there some big Sater-related bombshell yet to hit the news?

    Or perhaps the big news is going to be about Robert Armao?


    Despite his protests, Sater seemed to revel, just a bit, in all the speculation swirling around him. Last August, in the middle of the presidential campaign, Sater was introduced, via a mutual friend, to a veteran political fixer named Robert Armao. “I looked him up,” Armao told me, “and I said, ‘This is an interesting man.’” They met for a meal, where Sater regaled him with tales about Trump, and predicted he would win the presidency, for sure. Armao was impressed. “Felix Sater knows everybody, everywhere,” he said.

    Armao, once a political aide to Nelson Rockefeller, has represented foreign leaders as a communications adviser and does business in the energy industry. Sater told him he coveted the “wonderful Rolodex” he had built over decades. Over the next few months, he would ask Armao to act as his intermediary on a number of matters, including enlisting Armao’s assistance in brokering an energy deal to refurbish Ukraine’s aging nuclear reactors.

    They met again for breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel, a block south of Trump Tower, on October 7, the day the Obama administration issued its first urgent warning about Russian election interference, WikiLeaks published the first batch of John Podesta’s emails, and Trump’s vulgar Access Hollywood tape appeared. This time, Sater brought along a friend: Andrii Artemenko, a Ukrainian opposition politician. The nuclear deal appeared to be just the beginning of their plans, which would end up entangling the White House. “I think they had visions of kingmaking, and making Artemenko president of Ukraine,” Armao said. “Then you’d really be in business.”

    “Armao, once a political aide to Nelson Rockefeller, has represented foreign leaders as a communications adviser and does business in the energy industry. Sater told him he coveted the “wonderful Rolodex” he had built over decades. Over the next few months, he would ask Armao to act as his intermediary on a number of matters, including enlisting Armao’s assistance in brokering an energy deal to refurbish Ukraine’s aging nuclear reactors.”

    Armao was acting as a Sater intermediary on a number of matters in the fall of 2016. Might that be the source of whatever Sater was hinting at?

    Or was Sater just BS-ing as usual about the ‘big’ story that was about to drop? Who knows, but note again how Sater claims he was working on a Trump-branded deal with an unnaemd developer in Moscow in late 2015:


    Sater continued to move in New York real-estate circles, though he tried to keep a lower profile. He was part of an insular Russian-American business community, and during the oil and gas boom earlier this decade, he was well positioned to act as a middleman between New York developers and Russian oligarchs who were trying to reinvest their fortunes in property. “He had access to high-net-worth individuals in Russia and the U.S.,” said a business associate of Sater’s. Sater has claimed he was working on a Trump-branded real-estate deal with a Russian real-estate developer in Moscow as late as 2015. (Agalarov signed a letter of intent to build a Trump tower in Moscow around the same time, but Sater denied this was the same project.)

    And recall that Sater recently told Talking Points Memo that the deal he was working on in October of 2015 was “Trump Tower Moscow”. And, again, here’s what Emin Agalarov said about the Trump Tower Moscow deal that Aras Agalarov was working on with Trump: their “Trump Tower Moscow” deal “was sidelined” when Trump made his presidential bid:

    Forbes

    Exclusive: Powerful Russian Partner Boasts Of Ongoing Access To Trump Family

    Noah Kirsch, Forbes Staff
    Mar 20, 2017 @ 07:45 AM

    “I have nothing to do with Russia,” Donald Trump bellowed to thousands of frenzied supporters at a Tampa, Florida rally last October. The truth, it seems, is a bit more complicated.

    In an exclusive interview with Forbes, Emin Agalarov—a Russian pop singer, real estate mogul and son of one of the country’s richest people—described an ongoing relationship with the Trump family, including post-election contact with the president himself.

    Among Agalarov’s most striking claims: that he and his billionaire developer father, Aras, had plans to build a Trump Tower in Russia that would now likely be under construction had Trump not run for office; that he has maintained contact with the Trump family since the election and has exchanged messages with Donald Trump Jr. as recently as January; and that President Trump himself sent a handwritten note to the Agalarovs in November after they congratulated him on his victory.

    “Now that he ran and was elected, he does not forget his friends,” Agalarov says.

    The Agalarovs’ ties to Trump stretch back roughly five years, when they expressed interest in bringing Trump’s Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. After a visit to the Miss USA competition in Las Vegas, at Trump’s invitation, they signed an agreement, eventually paying an estimated $7 million in licensing fees to host Miss Universe at one of their properties.

    But the Agalarovs had their eyes set on a bigger target: a licensing partnership with the Trump Organization. “We thought that building a Trump Tower next to an Agalarov tower—having the two big names—could be a really cool project to execute,” Emin Agalarov recalls. He says that he and his father selected a parcel of land and signed a letter of intent with their counterparts in New York, but before negotiations could further develop Trump launched his campaign and the deal was sidelined. “He ran for president, so we dropped the idea,” Agalarov says. “But if he hadn’t run we would probably be in the construction phase today.”

    On Monday morning, following this article’s initial publication, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization replied to an earlier request for comment. “The Trump Organization does not [have], and has never had, any properties in Russia, and the press’ fascination with this narrative is both misleading and fabricated,” she said.

    ———-

    “Exclusive: Powerful Russian Partner Boasts Of Ongoing Access To Trump Family” by Noah Kirsch; Forbes; 03/20/2017

    “But the Agalarovs had their eyes set on a bigger target: a licensing partnership with the Trump Organization. “We thought that building a Trump Tower next to an Agalarov tower—having the two big names—could be a really cool project to execute,” Emin Agalarov recalls. He says that he and his father selected a parcel of land and signed a letter of intent with their counterparts in New York, but before negotiations could further develop Trump launched his campaign and the deal was sidelined. “He ran for president, so we dropped the idea,” Agalarov says. “But if he hadn’t run we would probably be in the construction phase today.”

    So the Agalarovs got all the way to the point of selecting a parcel of land and signing a letter of intent, then Trump announces his presidential run in the summer of 2015, the deal gets “sidelined”, and apparently Felix Sater starts working on his own “Trump Tower Moscow” deal in October of 2015. But one that definitely didn’t involve the Agalarovs.

    That’s their story at this point and they’re sticking to it. Until they inevitably change it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 3, 2017, 3:55 pm
  4. @Pterrafractyl–

    Notice that there is not ONE WORD about Sater’s work for the CIA in either of these articles, although his meeting with the arms dealer occurs in that general context.

    It would not surprise me if CIA contract agent Sater did indeed posture himself as a Russian government agent, in order to help remove Trump in favor of Pence (with John Kelly already implementing a White House staff agenda that is not unlike declaring martial law in the White House).

    That will also cement the “Russia interfered with our democracy” meme.

    “Our democracy” had its brains blown all over the back of limousine in Dallas, Texas on 11/22/1963.

    The U.S.S.R. didn’t do it, although the latest spin coming out of Langley reprises that propaganda theme, and Russia didn’t interfere with “our democracy” either.

    “Our democracy” went by the boards, with generous assists from the media, the government agencies who conduct covert operations on the American political landscape, and the average dumb s*t American citizen, who pays no attention to anything that isn’t on their smart phone.

    Sitting on their “apps” might be a good way of putting it.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | August 4, 2017, 1:15 pm

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