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

WFMU-FM is podcasting For The Record–You can subscribe to the podcast HERE.

You can subscribe to e-mail alerts from Spitfirelist.com HERE.

You can subscribe to RSS feed from Spitfirelist.com HERE.

You can subscribe to the comments made on programs and posts–an excellent source of information in, and of, itself HERE.

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

11 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
  5. Check out what Felix Sater is reportedly telling his family at this point: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is going to find enough evidence of a crime to send both Sater and Donald Trump to prison. He’s very very confident of this, reportedly:

    Raw Story

    Longtime Trump business partner ‘told family he knows he and POTUS are going to prison’: report

    David Edwards
    17 Aug 2017 at 08:31 ET

    Felix Sater, one of Donald Trump’s shadiest former business partners, is reportedly preparing for prison time — and he says the president will be joining him behind bars.

    Sources told The Spectator‘s Paul Wood that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s deep dive into Trump’s business practices may be yielding results.

    Trump recently made remarks that could point to a money laundering scheme, Wood reported.

    “I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?” the president said.

    Sater, who has a long history of legal troubles and is cooperating with law enforcement, was one of the major players responsible for selling Trump’s condos to the Russians.

    And according to Wood’s sources, Sater may have already flipped and given prosecutors the evidence they need to make a case against Trump.

    For several weeks there have been rumours that Sater is ready to rat again, agreeing to help Mueller. ‘He has told family and friends he knows he and POTUS are going to prison,’ someone talking to Mueller’s investigators informed me.

    Sater hinted in an interview earlier this month that he may be cooperating with both Mueller’s investigation and congressional probes of Trump.

    “In about the next 30 to 35 days, I will be the most colourful character you have ever talked about,” Sater told New York Magazine. “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.”

    ———-

    “Longtime Trump business partner ‘told family he knows he and POTUS are going to prison’: report” by David Edwards; Raw Story; 08/17/2017

    “For several weeks there have been rumours that Sater is ready to rat again, agreeing to help Mueller. ‘He has told family and friends he knows he and POTUS are going to prison,’ someone talking to Mueller’s investigators informed me.”

    That’s quite a tasty morsel of rumors. Is it true? Time will tell, but it’s worth noting another recent report that does potentially tangentially corroborate the above report: according to recently leaked emails, the Trump family is implicated in a $350 million fraud investigation…centered around the Trump SoHo project that Felix Sater owned and operated:

    Washington Journal

    Newly Leaked Emails Just Revealed Trump Family Implicated In $350 Million Fraud Investigation

    By Grant Stern
    Politics | Published on August 16, 2017

    It’s beginning to look like Special Counsel Mueller will catch President Trump and his three eldest children committing the first ever reality TV show assisted financial crime, all collaborating in a $350 million dollar bank fraud related to the Trump SoHo Condominium Hotel.

    The fraud-riddled Trump SoHo project ultimately failed and was foreclosed upon by lenders in 2014, but its legacy lives on in a byzantine web of lawsuits.

    We’ve obtained leaked copies of those emails related to a key lawsuit related to the Trump SoHo – which are embedded below – that outline the Trump family’s complicity in a major financial crime.

    They show that Donald Trump and his three eldest children participated in a cover up in order to keep borrowing massive construction loans on the hotel they pitched on NBC’s Apprentice from failing during the financial downturn. The Trump Organization earned $3 million dollars from the fraud just last year alone, even as the hotel’s fortunes have sunk post-election.

    Three weeks ago, Bloomberg News reported that Mueller is focusing on the lower Manhattan Trump Soho Hotel deal and Vanity Fair reported recently that new emails reveal the Trump family’s participation in a criminal enterprise there.

    Now, the newly leaked email chain also confirms a major German public television report (ZDF) on the Trump SoHo hotel.

    ZDF interviewed an American national financial fraud expert Professor William Black, who was told the sordid tale of the Trump SoHo frauds without being told the names of the participants.

    He concluded that based on their thorough reporting that the First Family participated in a business that was committing bank fraud in a pattern and a practice of illegal conduct which violated the federal racketeering laws known as the RICO Act.

    RICO Act cases are subject to enforcement in both civil lawsuits with tripled damages and criminal law, with jail and restitution to the victims as the penalty.

    Trump SoHo’s Developers Screwed Their Employees, So They Sued For Racketeering

    A lawsuit by Trump’s former development partners Bayrock, the company led by a mafia associate & Russian-emigre Felix Sater, has already exposed a direct tie between Donald Trump’s New York City development activities at Trump SoHo and Vladimir Putin’s money.

    Former Bayrock executive Jody Kriss sued his former employer and Sater – who was Trump’s business partner and longtime advisor – for operating a criminal enterprise (RICO), committing bank fraud and refusing to pay employee-related bonuses he had earned.

    Bank obligations forbid loans to known felons or the companies they operate.

    As both a manager and member of Bayrock’s limited liability company which borrowed the money, Felix Sater both owned and operated the Trump SoHo project.

    Anyone in the transaction who knew participated in the enterprise and hid that material fact from the bank if they knew about it, becomes the party to a criminal enterprise.

    In mid-December 2007, New York Times publicly revealed that Felix Sater had secretly entered financial felony plea deal in the late 1990s, and was also convicted of a felony assault against the mafia associate from a bar fight.

    Hiding a Sater’s involvement in Bayrock and the Trump SoHo project is a form of criminal bank fraud.

    Newly leaked emails from an attorney for one of the Bayrock partners named the Sapir Organization – documents an urgent “time sensitive and should not be pushed back” detail a meeting which all of the Trumps demanded with Sater and Bayrock on January 21st, 2008.

    Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka and sons Don Jr. and Eric collectively demanded and presumably attended the important meeting to chew out Bayrock about the project, and specifically Felix Sater about his felony past.

    Instead of informing banks and buyers about Sater’s criminal past, as was the Trump Organization’s obligation, the Trump family proceeded to keep the felony secret as Sater engaged in a scheme to hide his interests in the deal.

    We know because Sater wrote to Bayrock’s investors in Iceland (who laundered Putin’s money) complaining that his own company wanted to fire him over his felony convictions after meeting the Trumps.

    The Trumps Stood To Benefit Financially From Participating In A Criminal Enterprise

    Donald Trump had a lot to lose by removing his name from the SoHo project if the construction loans were canceled. Bloomberg reports:

    The hook at Bayrock, for Trump, was an 18 percent equity stake in what became the Trump Soho hotel, a steady stream of management fees on all Bayrock projects and the ability to plaster his name on properties without having to invest a single dollar of his own.

    So, instead of doing the right thing, the Trump family proceeded to squeeze their partner through Bayrock, Felix Sater, to take his financial stake in the deal. (email)
    [see image of email snippet]
    Sater’s after-action report was discovered in court in the form of a smoking gun email in Forbes that described the meeting with the Trump family in detail and cemented his involvement in a scheme to defraud using Trump SoHo.

    The email message completely revealed Trump’s future Senior Advisor describing in great detail the finer points of his scheme to defraud the banks to his project’s Icelandic equity investors from Stodir (aka FL Group), who themselves went bankrupt only 9 months later.

    Sater even intricately recounted the story of Bayrock’s General Counsel Julius Schwarz’s attempt to immediately force him out of Bayrock over the revelation of his felony conviction which he described as “damaging.”

    The Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act is America’s top anti-mafia federal law and the threshold for violating the law is merely participating in a business which engages in a pattern of illegal or fraudulent behavior.

    New York state also has a RICO law, which is not subject to the powers of the Presidential pardon and could be enforced by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, alongside any federal investigation.

    “The statute of limitations on RICO acts lasts for ten years from the last known act,” for RICO based upon bank fraud, according to lawyer Joshua Gold, who is licensed to practice in New York since 1999. “These emails are less than ten years old.”

    Even though Trump’s participation in the project dates back to far more than ten years ago — and was far more than just licensing the family’s brand name — only criminal acts like hiding his partner’s felony count, start the clock ticking on the ten years a prosecutor could call forth a criminal case on the matter.

    Hawking the Trump SoHo Hotel on NBC’s The Apprentice

    During Season 5 of NBC’s “The Apprentice” Donald Trump awarded a job at the Trump SoHo Hotel to winner Sean Yazbek in February 2006.

    Later, Donald Trump pitched the Trump SoHo Condo Hotel project on The Apprentice in early September 2007. He launched the boxy tower shortly thereafter according to the New York Daily News with “servers in masks pour champagne while Cirque du Soleil performed. The reigning Miss USA attended.”

    Trump’s development group borrowed $350 million of the $450 million cost of building Trump SoHo from banks, they apparently couldn’t swallow their pride, risk a very high profile foreclosure, and tell their bank lenders the truth and suffer the consequences.

    Trump SoHo Crashed And Never Recovered

    By the end of 2009, the New York Times reported that the condotel market had been dead as far back as 2007, which would’ve given Donald Trump, even more of an incentive to conceal material information that would cause his lenders to repossess his tower during the crash.

    Eventually, lenders did foreclose on the property and sold off the Trump SoHo condo after 2/3rds of the units remained unsold in 2014.

    The information about Trump and Sater defrauding banks has come to light only because attorneys Fred Oberlander and Richard Lerner refused to back down. They filed and are litigating two of the civil cases against the Trump SoHo’s developers.

    Federal judges and prosecutors threatened them with prosecution for revealing that Sater was given an illegally light sentence for his crime, in secret. The judges even issued an order that gagged them from telling Congress about the judges’ own misconduct, but the attorneys persisted and are pursuing a civil law claim against the developers of Trump SoHo.

    The attorney Richard Lerner has since written an extensive, fact-checked article about the harmful effects of secret sentencing in Law360 based on his wild experiences in the Trump SoHo case with Sater, who became an FBI informant against his mafia partners in the scheme.

    Conclusion

    Special Counsel Mueller will have his hands full unraveling all of the Russian money connections to the Trump SoHo project.

    It’s increasingly looking like there is substantive proof of criminal ties between the Trump family and Felix Sater, which may deliver the evidence of crime prosecutors seek to flip witnesses against larger targets.

    Even worse for the Trump family, the criminal liability triggered by their ill advised bank fraud cover up can be prosecuted in both federal court – where the President could pardon his children – and in state court, where he cannot pardon crimes.

    Theoretically, even Donald Trump’s children could turn into the state’s witnesses against their father, the President because he recklessly dragged them into the Trump SoHo bank fraud scheme and cover up of their shady real estate deal partners’ financial crimes.

    ———-

    “Newly Leaked Emails Just Revealed Trump Family Implicated In $350 Million Fraud Investigation” by Grant Stern; Washington Journal; 08/16/2017

    “We’ve obtained leaked copies of those emails related to a key lawsuit related to the Trump SoHo – which are embedded below – that outline the Trump family’s complicity in a major financial crime.”

    So there’s now leaked emails related to a lawsuit involving Trump SoHo. And what do those emails demonstrated? That Trump and his children participated in a cover up in order to keep the Trump SoHo construction loans flowing:


    They show that Donald Trump and his three eldest children participated in a cover up in order to keep borrowing massive construction loans on the hotel they pitched on NBC’s Apprentice from failing during the financial downturn. The Trump Organization earned $3 million dollars from the fraud just last year alone, even as the hotel’s fortunes have sunk post-election.

    And what was it that they were covering up? The presence of convicted felon Felix Sater as the owner and operator of Bayrock, the company that actually owned and operated Trump SoHo. That’s what they were covering up. Felix Sater:


    A lawsuit by Trump’s former development partners Bayrock, pp+, has already exposed a direct tie between Donald Trump’s New York City development activities at Trump SoHo and Vladimir Putin’s money.

    Former Bayrock executive Jody Kriss sued his former employer and Sater – who was Trump’s business partner and longtime advisor – for operating a criminal enterprise (RICO), committing bank fraud and refusing to pay employee-related bonuses he had earned.

    Bank obligations forbid loans to known felons or the companies they operate.

    As both a manager and member of Bayrock’s limited liability company which borrowed the money, Felix Sater both owned and operated the Trump SoHo project.

    Anyone in the transaction who knew participated in the enterprise and hid that material fact from the bank if they knew about it, becomes the party to a criminal enterprise.

    In mid-December 2007, New York Times publicly revealed that Felix Sater had secretly entered financial felony plea deal in the late 1990s, and was also convicted of a felony assault against the mafia associate from a bar fight.

    Hiding a Sater’s involvement in Bayrock and the Trump SoHo project is a form of criminal bank fraud.

    Newly leaked emails from an attorney for one of the Bayrock partners named the Sapir Organization – documents an urgent “time sensitive and should not be pushed back” detail a meeting which all of the Trumps demanded with Sater and Bayrock on January 21st, 2008.

    Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka and sons Don Jr. and Eric collectively demanded and presumably attended the important meeting to chew out Bayrock about the project, and specifically Felix Sater about his felony past.

    Instead of informing banks and buyers about Sater’s criminal past, as was the Trump Organization’s obligation, the Trump family proceeded to keep the felony secret as Sater engaged in a scheme to hide his interests in the deal.

    And how will all this get tied back to #TrumpRussia and Putin? Well, Bayrock’s investors include Iceland’s oligarchs were where laundering Putin’s money:


    We know because Sater wrote to Bayrock’s investors in Iceland (who laundered Putin’s money) complaining that his own company wanted to fire him over his felony convictions after meeting the Trumps.

    And adding to the drama is that this particular crime is a state-level crime, meaning Trump can’t just issue a bunch of presidential pardons:


    Even worse for the Trump family, the criminal liability triggered by their ill advised bank fraud cover up can be prosecuted in both federal court – where the President could pardon his children – and in state court, where he cannot pardon crimes.

    So if this is all true, it’s looking like the #TrumpRussia line of inquiry that will finally lead to the removal of Trump will be the crime of not reporting to investors the presence of convicted felon Felix Sater on the board of Bayrock and Trump SoHo. And Bayrock laundered some Russian oligarch money via some Icelandic investors. And that’s largely going to be it unless there’s a completely different angle that Mueller’s team is also pursuing that’s also going to yielding actionable leads.

    So now you know why Trump always claims to never have any idea who Felix Sater is…Sater is the guy that apparently could end Trump’s presidency, but only as long as it can be proven Trump really knew him.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 22, 2017, 7:22 pm
  6. Here’s a teaser relating to the recent stories indicating that the #TrumpRussia investigation is going to be focused on Donald Trump’s relationship to Felix Sater and the possibility that Trump committed fraud back when he partnered with Sater’s Bayrock Group when developing Trump SoHo: Talking Points Memo has been doing some more digging into Felix Sater’s past and his history with Trump and came across a finding that’s going to make it a lot harder for Trump to claim he never knew Sater or Sater’s criminal background. It turns out that the developer of the Trump Phoenix Plaza filed a lawsuit in 2007 that revealed the 1998 fraud convictions for Sater. And that lawsuit ended up getting retroactively sealed in Arizona even after it was make public, in keeping with the US government’s pattern of keeping Sater’s past convictions a secret.

    TPM also talked with Frederick Oberlander, the lawyer of form Bayrock executive Jody Kriss who sued Bayrock and Sater for hiding Sater’s criminal past in a separate lawsuit that is at the center of the speculation that Sater’s involvement with Bayrock to lead to fraud charges against Trump. Trump also claimed to know nothing about Sater in that lawsuit but the way Oberlander sees it there’s no way Trump couldn’t have know about Sater’s past. And as we previously saw, the statute of limitations on Trump’s liability is a decade from the last criminal act, and the newly discovered emails that appear to demonstrate knowledge and concern of Sater’s criminal past and implicate not just Trump but also his children are from January 2018. So Trump is still potentially criminally liable for covering up Sater’s criminal past while Trump, but that window of liability is closing fast.

    Oberlander also asserts that the US government’s treatment of Sater has nothing to do with anti-terrorism operations Sater was involved in but instead government fears that it will be discovered that his sentence for the 1998 pump and dump scheme was illegally lenient. Oberlander doesn’t explain why the government would have given such an illegally light sentence but that’s his take on the situation.

    So there’s an ongoing mystery as to what exactly Sater did for the US government and why his convictions were so light and so secret. And that leads us to the teaser: the judge who sentenced Sater cases just told TPM that Forbes reporter Richard Behard, the reporter who uncovered the bizarre nuclear power plant angle to the Ukrainian ‘peace plan’ fiasco, has moved to unseal documents related to the sentencing. And Glasser is expecting a report on that “soon”. So we might be a bout to learn a lot more about Sater’s past work with the US government just as the clock ticking on Trump’s legal liability for fraudulently covering up Sater’s criminal past:

    Talking Points Memo
    Muckraker

    How Could Donald Trump Have Not Known About Felix Sater’s Dark Past?

    By Sam Thielman
    Published August 25, 2017 10:23 am

    Donald Trump never seems to remember he allowed two men convicted of securities fraud to sell his name to real estate developers on three different projects.

    Trump’s selective memory is just another confounding aspect of his long-standing relationship with one of his primary finance partners through the Bayrock Group, Felix Sater. His efforts to distance himself from Sater stretch back a decade, even as Sater claims that he continued to work on Trump projects until as recently as late 2015. Even after Trump took office, Sater was involved with floating a purported plan for a Russia-friendly foreign policy toward Ukraine to the administration by way of his childhood friend, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

    In December 2007, Trump was shocked! to discover that Sater had a fraud conviction, he told the New York Times.

    “We never knew that,” he said.

    But he should have known, and he should have known Sater wasn’t the only one.

    TPM has learned that in January 2007, the developer of the Trump Phoenix Plaza filed a lawsuit revealing 1998 fraud convictions for Sater and his confederate in a pump-and-dump scheme, a man named Sal Lauria, who had published a book detailing the scheme in 2003.

    The suit was retroactively sealed in Arizona after having been made publicly available. The exact date of its filing—January 11, 2007—has not been reported. Perhaps it’s possible that Trump, who had worked with Sater for years at that point, was completely in the dark until the hasty sealing, but that seems unlikely.

    The strangest thing about Sater’s 1998 fraud conviction is that few people beyond Sater’s immediate circle of business associates—Trump, Cohen, Lauria, the rest of Bayrock—would have had occasion to know about it. Any investor performing due diligence on Sater and Lauria would not have learned of the conviction. It stayed under seal for more than a decade, even after the Times outed Sater as a convict, forcing him to leave Bayrock; even after the cooperation agreement became a major point of contention in a subsequent lawsuit.

    The veil drawn across the fraud case was so total that Trump even performed an encore of his who’s-that-guy routine years after the Times interviewed him about Sater: In a 2013 deposition for a suit in which Trump’s Fort Lauderdale development—also a Bayrock project—was accused of fraud, Trump claimed that he wouldn’t know Sater if the two men were sitting in the same room.

    By that time, another lawsuit had been pending for years alleging that Sater’s failure to disclose his fraud conviction was itself a fraud. Filed in 2010, the lawsuit alleged that Sater had defrauded Bayrock investors, dating back to 2007, before the Times article. It was filed by one of Bayrock’s own finance directors, Jody Kriss, represented by a lawyer named Frederick Oberlander.

    In court papers filed during the Kriss suit, Oberlander addressed Sater’s fraud conviction and the cooperation agreement that kept it secret; for that, he was referred for criminal contempt. The vigor of the court’s pursuit of Oberlander surprised many; reporter and legal blogger Dan Wise memorably referred to it as “Javert-like.”

    Oberlander was not deterred: Though he no longer represents Kriss, he saw Sater as emblematic of a larger problem, and filed a second suit on behalf of the estate of Ernest and Judit Gottdiener, an elderly couple, since deceased, who had been among the victims in the original securities fraud. Sater, Oberlander said, owed them restitution, and for some reason neither he nor his associate Sal Lauria had been required to pay it. A third conspirator, Gennady Klotsman, was required to pay $40m all by himself, but because Sater and Lauria’s sentences were kept secret, Oberlander contends, their victims were never informed that they wouldn’t get their money back.

    The question of why and how, exactly, the government forgave Sater and Lauria’s debts to their victims remains unanswered. Boz Tchividjian, a criminal law professor at Liberty University, was horrified at the notion that the government might use stolen property to negotiate with cooperating criminals. “Restitution is money that belongs to the victims,” he said. “The defendant has no rightful claim to stolen property.”

    “National security” is a phrase that often crops up in defense of Sater. A federal prosecutor argued in court that Sater’s cooperation was so extensive it stretched all the way to Al Qaeda, a claim Sater repeated to TPM. Sater took part in “ten years of constant undercover work and arrests and indictments as well as convictions, some very extensive,” the prosecutor told the government in a court hearing transcript posted by Wise.

    Oberlander has a more prosaic explanation, involving no terrorists: Sater was sentenced in secret and never had to return the money his firm had stolen; Oberlander argues, too, that the fact of Sater’s sealed conviction constitutes fraud all by itself. “My assumption here is that they were very concerned that they had given Sater an illegal sentence and were very concerned that if the fact of his conviction and cooperation got public, then there would be a whole lot of shit,” he told TPM.

    Oberlander believes, too, that Trump knew about Sater’s convictions and stayed involved; indeed, it’s difficult to understand how he couldn’t have known. Thanks to Oberlander, it also became clear that Sater’s sentencing was kept secret—that did not come until 2009, to the annoyance even of the judge in the case, Leo I. Glasser, who said at the time that keeping Sater in limbo for 11 years since his conviction was in itself a kind of sentence.

    “Fred Oberlander is a complete nut job and anything he says comes from a place of very deep dementia,” Sater told TPM. Sater said his entire sentence was a $25,000 fine, and that the mild sentence “should be enough [for you] to understand what the Judge thought of my national security assistance to this country.”

    The judge who sentenced Sater, Leo I. Glasser, declined to provide any information that hadn’t already been reported, directing TPM to Google, but he did assure TPM that more information was forthcoming, likely in a report responding to Forbes’ Richard Behar, who has moved to unseal documents related to the sentencing. “There are proceedings, there’s one in progress now, and the motion has been made to unseal all that information,” Glasser told TPM by phone on Wednesday.

    “A report I think has been made and is under seal, but I believe it will be unsealed soon,” he said. “I really can’t speak to you about it.”

    Both Sater’s lawyer and Oberlander’s lawyer, Richard Lerner, expressed skepticism that any information was forthcoming related to the cooperation agreement that allowed Sater to move freely in the world of high finance on behalf of the president.

    ———-

    “How Could Donald Trump Have Not Known About Felix Sater’s Dark Past?” by Sam Thielman; Talking Points Memo; 08/25/2017

    “In court papers filed during the Kriss suit, Oberlander addressed Sater’s fraud conviction and the cooperation agreement that kept it secret; for that, he was referred for criminal contempt. The vigor of the court’s pursuit of Oberlander surprised many; reporter and legal blogger Dan Wise memorably referred to it as “Javert-like.””

    There’s definitely something under that rock! Perhaps something scandalous, although it’s not impossible that there’s a real national security aspect to it all. Presumably it’s a mess of scandal and real national security stuff but we’ll see! Perhaps see soon if judge Glasser’s prediction is correct:


    The judge who sentenced Sater, Leo I. Glasser, declined to provide any information that hadn’t already been reported, directing TPM to Google, but he did assure TPM that more information was forthcoming, likely in a report responding to Forbes’ Richard Behar, who has moved to unseal documents related to the sentencing. “There are proceedings, there’s one in progress now, and the motion has been made to unseal all that information,” Glasser told TPM by phone on Wednesday.

    “A report I think has been made and is under seal, but I believe it will be unsealed soon,” he said. “I really can’t speak to you about it.”

    Both Sater’s lawyer and Oberlander’s lawyer, Richard Lerner, expressed skepticism that any information was forthcoming related to the cooperation agreement that allowed Sater to move freely in the world of high finance on behalf of the president.

    “A report I think has been made and is under seal, but I believe it will be unsealed soon…I really can’t speak to you about it.”

    And there’s our teaser. The ticking time-bomb of an administration might have a new ticking time-bomb. And for all we know some sort of blockbuster report on Sater’s past could happen right before Trump’s criminal liability expires, or perhaps right after. We’ll see about that too. It’s quite a teaser.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 25, 2017, 3:11 pm
  7. Here’s a new round of twists in the story of Felix Sater and his role in the Trump organizations ties to Russia: So remember the mystery that recently emerged over the Trump Tower Moscow deal that Sater claimed he started working on in the fall of 2015 but he insisted wasn’t the same Trump Tower deal that Aras Agalarov was reportedly working on with Trump from 2013 to mid-2015 ? Well, we just learned a bit more about the deal Sater was reportedly working on, although we still aren’t told who the unnamed investors were (investors Sater insists weren’t the Agalarovs but he won’t say anything else about them). First, we learned that long-time Trump Org. lawyer Michael Cohen was also involved with the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations along with Sater. This is after we learned that Cohen and Sater knew each other since childhood and were both involved in the bizarre story of the Ukraine ‘peace plan’ and nuclear plant deal with a far-right Ukrainian politician. So if Cohen and Sater worked on the Trump Tower Moscow deal together two that represents a second significant secret deal involving Cohen and Sater.

    But we also learned another tantalizing tidbit about Sater’s potential ties to the Kremlin, or at least the ties he claimed to have, which is particularly tantalizing when you consider the growing volume of evidence of Sater’s long-standing working relationship with the FBI and CIA: Sater reportedly urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the Trump Tower proposal and suggested that he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump:

    The Washington Post

    Trump’s business sought deal on a Trump Tower in Moscow while he ran for president

    By Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman
    August 27 at 10:47 PM

    While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers.

    As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested that he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.

    The developer, Felix Sater, predicted in a November 2015 email that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating — both one of the biggest residential projects in real estate history and Donald Trump’s election as president, according to two of the people with knowledge of the exchange.

    Sater wrote to Trump Organization Executive Vice President Michael Cohen “something to the effect of, ‘Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?’” said one person briefed on the email exchange. Sater emigrated from what was then the Soviet Union when he was 6 and grew up in Brooklyn.

    Trump never went to Moscow as Sater proposed. And although investors and Trump’s company signed a letter of intent, they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned at the end of January 2016, just before the presidential primaries began, several people familiar with the proposal said.

    Nevertheless, the details of the deal, which have not previously been disclosed, provide evidence that Trump’s business was actively pursuing significant commercial interests in Russia at the same time he was campaigning to be president — and in a position to determine U.S.-Russia relations. The new details from the emails, which are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigators soon, also point to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid.

    White House officials declined to comment for this report. Cohen, a longtime Trump legal adviser, declined to comment, but his attorney, Stephen Ryan, said his client “has been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with both the House and Senate intelligence committees, including providing them with documents and information and answering any questions they may have about the Moscow building proposal.”

    In recent months, contacts between high-ranking and lower- level Trump aides and Russians have emerged. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. senator and campaign adviser, twice met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

    Donald Trump Jr. organized a June 2016 meeting with campaign aide Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer after the president’s eldest son was promised that the lawyer would bring damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help the campaign.

    Internal emails also show campaign adviser George Papadopoulos repeatedly sought to organize meetings with campaign officials, including Trump, and Putin or other Russians. His efforts were rebuffed.

    The negotiations for the Moscow project ended before Trump’s business ties to Russia had become a major issue in the campaign. Trump denied having any business connections to Russia in July 2016, tweeting, “for the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia” and then insisting at a news conference the following day, “I have nothing to do with Russia.”

    Discussions about the Moscow project began in earnest in September 2015, according to people briefed on the deal. An unidentified investor planned to build the project and, under a licensing agreement, put Trump’s name on it. Cohen acted as a lead negotiator for the Trump Organization. It is unclear how involved or aware Trump was of the negotiations.

    As the talks progressed, Trump voiced numerous supportive comments about Putin, setting himself apart from his Republican rivals for the nomination.

    By the end of 2015, Putin began offering praise in return.

    “He says that he wants to move to another, closer level of relations. Can we really not welcome that? Of course, we welcome that,” Putin told reporters during his annual end-of-the year news conference. He called Trump a “colorful and talented” person. Trump said afterward that the compliment was an “honor.”

    Though Putin’s comments came shortly after Sater suggested that the Russian president would speak favorably about Trump, there is no indication that the two are connected.

    There is no public record that Trump has ever spoken about the effort to build a Trump Tower in 2015 and 2016.

    Trump’s interests in building in Moscow, however, are long-standing. He had attempted to build a Trump property for three decades, starting with a failed effort in 1987 to partner with the Soviet government on a hotel project.

    “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” he said in a 2007 court deposition.

    “We will be in Moscow at some point,” he promised in the deposition.

    Sater was involved in at least one of those previous efforts. In 2005, the Trump Organization gave his development company, the Bayrock Group, an exclusive one-year deal to attempt to build a Moscow Trump Tower. Sater located a site for the project — an abandoned pencil factory — and worked closely with Trump on the deal, which did not come to fruition.

    In an unrelated court case in 2008, Sater said in a deposition that he would personally provide Trump “verbal updates” on the deal.

    “When I’d come back, pop my head into Mr. Trump’s office and tell him, you know, ‘Moving forward on the Moscow deal.’ And he would say, ‘All right,’?” Sater said.

    In the same testimony, Sater described traveling with Trump’s children, including joining Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. on a trip to Moscow at their father’s request.

    “They were on their way by themselves, and he was all concerned,” Sater said. “He asked if I wouldn’t mind joining them and looking after them while they were in Moscow.”

    Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, told The Washington Post last year that Sater happened to be in Moscow at the same time as Trump’s two adult children. “There was no accompanying them to Moscow,” he said.

    Trump has repeatedly tried to distance himself from Sater, who served time in jail after assaulting a man with the stem of a broken margarita glass during a 1991 bar fight and then pleaded guilty in 1998 to his role in an organized- crime-linked stock fraud. Sater’s sentencing was delayed for years while he cooperated with the federal government on a series of criminal and national security-related investigations, federal officials have said.

    During that time, Sater worked as an executive with Bayrock, whose offices were in Trump Tower, and brokered deals to license Trump’s name for developments in multiple U.S. and foreign cities. In 2010, Trump allowed Sater to briefly work out of Trump Organization office space and use a business card that identified him as a “senior adviser to Donald Trump.”

    Still, when asked about Sater in 2013 court deposition, Trump said: “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.” He added that he had spoken with Sater “not many” times.

    ———-

    “Trump’s business sought deal on a Trump Tower in Moscow while he ran for president” by Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman; The Washington Post; 08/27/2017

    “Discussions about the Moscow project began in earnest in September 2015, according to people briefed on the deal. An unidentified investor planned to build the project and, under a licensing agreement, put Trump’s name on it. Cohen acted as a lead negotiator for the Trump Organization. It is unclear how involved or aware Trump was of the negotiations.”

    Michale Cohen acted as lead negotiator for the Trump Organization in a deal with childhood acquitaince Felix Sater. And this was all being done in secret as Trump was running for president. Part of what makes this revelation so significant is that one of the big questions swirling around Trump’s behavior as a candidate was the motivation for hiring so many staffers with Russian ties (like Carter Page) and his frequent kind words about Russia how it would be better for the US and Russia to normalize relations. The explanations for such behavior typically ranged from “Trump is Putin’s puppet” to “Trump just wants better relations with Russia because it’s a political winner and actually better policy”. But learning about a secret Trump Tower deal certainly adds a new context for the Trump team’s apparent Russian crush: Trump wanted that deal and Felix Sater was apparently hinting at the prospect of warm Kremlin ties:


    As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested that he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.

    The developer, Felix Sater, predicted in a November 2015 email that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating — both one of the biggest residential projects in real estate history and Donald Trump’s election as president, according to two of the people with knowledge of the exchange.

    Sater wrote to Trump Organization Executive Vice President Michael Cohen “something to the effect of, ‘Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?’” said one person briefed on the email exchange. Sater emigrated from what was then the Soviet Union when he was 6 and grew up in Brooklyn.

    And here’s another interesting tidbit: Remember how we got reports that the Trump Tower Moscow deal that Trump was previously trying to working out with the Agalarovs but was apparently abandoned in 2015 shortly before the secret Sater deal was started. And remember how it was reported that the Agalarovs got as far as picking out the property and signing a letter of intent and Sater insisted that he wasn’t working with Agalarov at all and it was a completely different deal? Well, now we learn that the Sater deal apparently managed to get a letter of intent too:


    Trump never went to Moscow as Sater proposed. And although investors and Trump’s company signed a letter of intent, they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned at the end of January 2016, just before the presidential primaries began, several people familiar with the proposal said.

    Also of note is that the new information contradicts some of Sater’s earlier comments regarding why the deal he was working on ultimately imploded. We’re now being told that the deal didn’t happen because lacked the land and permits to proceed. But as Talking Points Memo points out, Sater told them in an earlier interview that the project was abandoned because Trump was running for President (the same explanation Agalarov gave for killing his version of the Trump Tower Moscow deal that was killed in mid-2015). So given the widespread suspicions that Trump is a pawn of the Kremin, it would be really interesting to get an answer to the question of whether or not the Trump Tower Moscow was simply abandoned for political expediency or ultimately rejected by Russian authorities:

    Talking Points Memo
    Muckraker

    Old Pals Cohen, Sater Teamed Up During Campaign To Pursue Trump Moscow Deal

    By Sam Thielman Published August 28, 2017 12:01 pm

    The Washington Post on Sunday night added new details to the strange story of President Donald Trump’s never-to-be-erected Moscow tower, a project that, as TPM reported earlier this month, Trump’s associate Felix Sater was pursuing on his behalf at least six months into the 2016 campaign. The new details stem from emails the Trump Organization’s lawyers have reviewed and plan to provide to congressional investigators, according to the Post.

    Most importantly, the Post confirmed that longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen “acted as a lead negotiator” on the potential Moscow project.

    The newspaper cited “emails, which are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigators soon” between Cohen and Sater. Though the news outlet did not say which congressional committee looking into Russia’s election interference had asked for the correspondence, the House Intelligence Committee is has reportedly subpoenaed “personal documents and business records” from Cohen.

    Cohen and Sater have worked regularly with Trump since the turn of the century, but TPM exclusively reported in July that the two men had known each other since at least their teenage years. For his part, Trump has repeatedly maintained that he doesn’t know Sater well—a claim that beggars belief given the real estate projects the two have been involved with.

    The Post’s story has other details that expand on and, in one case, contradict Sater’s statements to TPM over the course of several interviews.

    Sater told TPM that a Moscow deal “didn’t go through because [Trump] became President,” while emails between Sater and Cohen were apparently enthusiastic about the prospect that both might come to pass at once. A “person briefed on the email exchange” paraphrased one upbeat email from Sater to the Post: “Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?”

    Sater wanted Trump to travel to Moscow to help push the deal forward, the Post reported, but the now-President never followed through:

    Trump never went to Moscow as Sater proposed. And although investors and Trump’s company signed a letter of intent, they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned at the end of January 2016, just before the presidential primaries began, several people familiar with the proposal said.

    Vitally, Sater maintained in a sworn deposition in 2008 that he was in regular contact with Trump, according to the Post. That tracks with Sater’s claims to TPM of a very friendly relationship with the President. Sater said in the deposition that he informally visited Trump in his office to give him updates on Russian real estate deals—something that flies in the face of Trump’s continued insistence that he was barely familiar with Sater.

    Even accounting for these new details, a number of questions remain. Who was the developer for the proposed Trump project in Moscow? TPM asked Sater this directly in July, and while he denied that the partner was Aras Agalarov, who Trump had partnered with to bring Miss Universe to Moscow in 2013, he wouldn’t elaborate further.

    “[The developers were a] couple of people I’d like to continue working with, and that’s why I don’t want their names in the newspaper,” he replied. “People say, ‘I care about you and love you but why do I need my name in the press?’”

    It’s also an open question how much Cohen knew about Sater’s criminal history. When Sater went to work for the Trump Organization in “2000, 2001,” by his recollection, he’d already had been convicted of a $40 million stock fraud scheme involving another childhood friend, Gennady Klotsman. While the three men grew up in the same area of South Brooklyn/Western Long Island and appear to have run in the same circles, there’s no evidence Cohen knew Klotsman. Sater’s conviction was sealed as he struck a deal to become a secret government cooperator; Andrew Weissman, brought on to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe earlier this year amid as a “witness-flipping expert” amid much fanfare, personally signed Sater’s cooperation agreement.

    What is clear is that Cohen was deep at work negotiating the president’s business interests through someone convicted of defrauding investors of $40 million even while working as one of the most public faces of Trump’s presidential bid.

    ———-

    “Old Pals Cohen, Sater Teamed Up During Campaign To Pursue Trump Moscow Deal” by Sam Thielman; Talking Points Memo; 08/28/2017

    Sater told TPM that a Moscow deal “didn’t go through because [Trump] became President,” while emails between Sater and Cohen were apparently enthusiastic about the prospect that both might come to pass at once. A “person briefed on the email exchange” paraphrased one upbeat email from Sater to the Post: “Can you believe two guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?””

    So did Trump’s political campaign suddenly change their mind about the going through with the deal because it looked like Trump might secure the nomination or did the project simply fail to get the land permits? It’s a pretty big open question. Along with the question of who the mystery investors:


    Even accounting for these new details, a number of questions remain. Who was the developer for the proposed Trump project in Moscow? TPM asked Sater this directly in July, and while he denied that the partner was Aras Agalarov, who Trump had partnered with to bring Miss Universe to Moscow in 2013, he wouldn’t elaborate further.

    “[The developers were a] couple of people I’d like to continue working with, and that’s why I don’t want their names in the newspaper,” he replied. “People say, ‘I care about you and love you but why do I need my name in the press?’”

    And let’s keep in mind in all this that a number of figures involved with the notorious June 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafor, and a collection of Russian lawyers are tied to the Agalarov. Rob Goldstone is Emin Agalarov’s talent agent and Ike Kaveladze reportedly attended the meeting as a representative of Emin and Aras Agalarov. And in Goldstone’s opening email to Don Jr. he floated the prospect of Kremlin help for Trump. So if it turns out Sater and Agalarov were indeed both working on essentially the same Trump Tower Moscow project that means we have two figures involved with this Trump Tower Moscow project, Sater and
    Goldstone (presumably acting as an Agalarov representative), offering a channel to the Kremlin.

    And yet everything we’re learning about Sater as his history gets exposed points towards him being a creature of the FBI and CIA. And even more bizarrely is that Trump had to know about Sater’s history with US authorities, and yet Sater is still one of the key contacts in the former Soviety Union and apparently promising Trump closer ties to the Kremlin. As Sater recently told New York Magazine, “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.” It’s one instance where he might actually be telling to the truth.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 28, 2017, 10:51 am
  8. Following up on the new reports about Michael Cohen, a Trump attorney and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, and his role as negotiator in the deal with Felix Sater to develop Trump Tower Moscow that was being negotiated in the fall of 2015 and before being abandoned in January 2016 and Sater’s hints that he could get Vladimir Putin to “say great things” about Trump. We now have a new report that adds some additional details. Michael Cohen apparently did directly reach out to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top press aide, in order to get Kremlin assistance in on the Trump Tower Moscow deal, and this was done at Felix Sater’s recommendation. We are also learning the name of the investment company that was supposed to partner with Trump on the deal, although we don’t know the name of the people behind it: I.C. Expert Investment Co.

    Cohen said he never received an response from Peskov and the deal was apparently abandoned a couple weeks later. And this is all the story Cohen is submitting to Congress, representing the most direct interaction documented yet between a top Trump aide and the Russian government. So the most direct interaction documented yet between a top Trump aide and the Russian government appears to have been an unreturned email that was sent at the behest of Felix Sater. Obviously there could be a lot more than meets the eye here since we’re largely relying on what Michael Cohen and Felix Sater tell us at this point but thus far it’s looking like Sater is the figure who played a key role as a Trump-Kremlin middle-man:

    The Washington Post

    Top Trump Organization executive asked Putin aide for help on business deal

    By Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger
    August 28, 2017 at 2:16 PM

    A top executive from Donald Trump’s real estate company emailed Vladimir Putin’s personal spokesman during the U.S. presidential campaign last year to ask for help advancing a stalled Trump Tower development project in Moscow, according to documents submitted to Congress Monday.

    Michael Cohen, a Trump attorney and executive vice president for the Trump Organization, sent the email in January 2016 to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top press aide.

    “Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower – Moscow project in Moscow City,” Cohen wrote Peskov, according to a person familiar with the email. “Without getting into lengthy specifics the communication between our two sides has stalled.”

    “As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon,” Cohen wrote.

    Cohen’s email marks the most direct interaction yet documented of a top Trump aide and a similarly senior member of Putin’s government.

    The email shows the Trump business official directly seeking Kremlin assistance in advancing Trump’s business interests, in the same months when Trump was distinguishing himself on the campaign trail with his warm rhetoric about Putin.

    In a statement Cohen submitted to congressional investigators, he said he wrote the email at the recommendation of Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who was serving as a broker on the deal.

    In the statement, obtained by The Washington Post, Cohen said Sater suggested the outreach because a massive Trump development in Moscow would require Russian government approval. He said he did not recall receiving a response from Peskov and the project was abandoned two weeks later.

    Cohen has been one of Trump’s closest aides for more than a decade. He did not take a formal role in the campaign however sometimes spoke to reporters on Trump’s behalf and appeared on television as a surrogate while Trump was running.

    “It should come as no surprise that, over four decades, the Trump Organization has received and reviewed countless real estate development opportunities, both domestic and international,” Cohen said in a statement to the Post. “The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected.”

    He said he abandoned the project because he lost confidence the Moscow developer would be able to obtain land, financing and government approvals to complete the project. “It was a building proposal that did not succeed and nothing more,” he said.

    Cohen told congressional investigators that the deal was envisioned as a licensing project, in which Trump would have been paid for the use of his name by a Moscow-based developer called I.C. Expert Investment Co. Cohen said that Trump signed a letter of intent with the company on Oct. 28, 2015 and began to solicit designs from architects and discuss financing.

    However, he said government permission was not forthcoming and the project was abandoned “for business reasons.”

    “The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign,” Cohen wrote in his statement to congressional investigators. “The decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it were unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign.”

    Cohen told congressional investigators that Sater “constantly” pushed him to travel to Moscow as part of the negotiations, but that he declined to do so. He claimed Sater, who has attempted to broker Trump deals for more than a decade, was “prone to ‘salesmanship,’” and, as a result, he did not routinely apprise others in the company about their interactions and never considered asking Trump to go to Moscow, as Sater had requested.

    ———-

    “Top Trump Organization executive asked Putin aide for help on business deal” by Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger; The Washington Post; 08/28/2017

    “Cohen told congressional investigators that the deal was envisioned as a licensing project, in which Trump would have been paid for the use of his name by a Moscow-based developer called I.C. Expert Investment Co. Cohen said that Trump signed a letter of intent with the company on Oct. 28, 2015 and began to solicit designs from architects and discuss financing.”

    Well, it’ll be interesting to see who’s hiding under the I.C. Expert Investment Co rock. More friends of Felix Sater? The Agalarovs? Only time will tell, unless it doesn’t and remains a mystery. But with Sater brokering a secret deal between Trump and Moscow during the campaign and his status as a long-time informant of the FBI and CIA, you have to wonder who else Sater may have been talking about this secret negotiation with:


    In a statement Cohen submitted to congressional investigators, he said he wrote the email at the recommendation of Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who was serving as a broker on the deal.

    In the statement, obtained by The Washington Post, Cohen said Sater suggested the outreach because a massive Trump development in Moscow would require Russian government approval. He said he did not recall receiving a response from Peskov and the project was abandoned two weeks later.

    Because at this point, if we we’re looking at all the ‘sides’ Sater could have been playing for, we have:
    1. Team Trump, as Trump’s long-time business partner.
    2. The Russian mafia, given Sater’s family relationship with Semion Mogilevich.
    3. The FBI, as a long-time informant.
    4. The CIA, as a long-time informant.
    5. The Kremlin, as a long-time businessman with Russian mafia ties.
    6. Working for himself with no particular allegiance.

    Those are just readily apparent conflicts of interest that we have to factor into an assessment of a figure of Sater and there’s presumably more that we don’t know about. And this is the guy who appears to have been leading the secret Trump Tower Moscow negotiations and kept pushing Michael Cohen to reach out to the Kremlin.

    The clearer a picture we get of what happened between the Trump campaign and Russia the more opaque the situation gets in many respects. It’s the Fog of Felix Sater, and it continues to thicken.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 28, 2017, 1:20 pm
  9. Now that the Trump Tower Moscow deal pushed by Felix Sater and pursued by Michael Cohen in the fall of 2015 has become the latest source of interest in the #TrumpRussia investigation one of the big questions is to what extent did a FBI and CIA informant with Russian mafia ties like Felix Sater actually have a working relationship with the Kremlin. Sater was clearly bragging in his emails to Cohen that he had some high level Kremlin contacts. But the fact that the Trump Tower Moscow project never actually got Kremlin approval suggests otherwise, along with the reports that Michael Cohen contacted the Kremlin’s top spokesperson about the project at Sater’s recommendation but reportedly never heard back.

    So what are people looking at to assess Sater’s Kremlin ties? that Sater somehow arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin’s chair during a tour of the Kremlin in 2006:

    Business Insider

    Former Trump adviser says in email that he ‘arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin’s private chair’ during a trip to Moscow

    Mark Abadi
    08/28/2017

    A former adviser to Donald Trump said in 2015 that he once arranged for Ivanka Trump to sit in Vladimir Putin’s chair in the Russian president’s office in the Kremlin.

    The claim came in an email from Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman who urged the Trump Organization to pursue a real-estate deal in Moscow that he said could help Trump, then a presidential candidate, win the election.

    The first line of the email, which was obtained by The New York Times and published on Monday, alludes to a trip to Moscow that two of Trump’s children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., took in 2006.

    “I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin,” Sater wrote to President Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in November 2015.

    The boast was followed by an assurance that Sater could get Putin to “buy in” to the real-estate deal and that it would help Trump’s candidacy.

    Ivanka Trump said she had no involvement in discussions about the deal, according to the Times. She also did not confirm or deny whether she sat in Putin’s chair, only saying that she has “never met President Vladimir Putin.”

    She said that during the 2006 trip, she took “a brief tour of Red Square and the Kremlin,” the Times reported.

    But the possibility of a trip to Putin’s office would suggest a much closer relationship to Moscow than the Trumps have previously suggested. And it would provide a new lead for Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in the US presidential election.

    “Sitting at Putin’s desk is certainly not on the regular Kremlin tours,” Daniel Treisman, a UCLA political science professor and expert on Russian politics, told Business Insider in an email. “If true, this would show that Ivanka’s guide inside the Kremlin had the highest security clearances and was personally trusted by Putin.”

    “It would be bizarre for him to take her into the president’s personal office — presumably while the president was absent — unless Putin and his security service advisors knew about it and viewed the relationship with the Trumps as worth developing.”

    ———-

    “Former Trump adviser says in email that he ‘arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin’s private chair’ during a trip to Moscow” by Mark Abadi; Business Insider; 08/28/2017

    “The first line of the email, which was obtained by The New York Times and published on Monday, alludes to a trip to Moscow that two of Trump’s children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., took in 2006.”

    Putin’s private chair at the Kremlin. That was the Sater’s opening selling point when pitching the Trump Tower Moscow project to Cohen. Sater is so tight with Kremlin that he managed to get Ivanka the best seat on the house during their 2006 trip to Moscow!


    “I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin,” Sater wrote to President Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in November 2015.

    The boast was followed by an assurance that Sater could get Putin to “buy in” to the real-estate deal and that it would help Trump’s candidacy.

    And managing to get such an up close tour is seen as a sign that either Sater or Trump or both were important people in the eyes of the Kremlin:


    But the possibility of a trip to Putin’s office would suggest a much closer relationship to Moscow than the Trumps have previously suggested. And it would provide a new lead for Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in the US presidential election.

    “Sitting at Putin’s desk is certainly not on the regular Kremlin tours,” Daniel Treisman, a UCLA political science professor and expert on Russian politics, told Business Insider in an email. “If true, this would show that Ivanka’s guide inside the Kremlin had the highest security clearances and was personally trusted by Putin.”

    “It would be bizarre for him to take her into the president’s personal office — presumably while the president was absent — unless Putin and his security service advisors knew about it and viewed the relationship with the Trumps as worth developing.”

    And while it’s certainly plausible that the Trump family would be seen in a favorable light in the eyes of the Kremlin given the popularity of Trump’s US properties with Russia’s oligarchs (and probably his willingness to ‘look the other way’ as a property developer), it’s also worth recalling an article written by Bloomberg reporter Leonid Bershidsky a while back about the informal “level” system in Russian that framed then businessman Donald Trump as being not on Vladimir Putin’s “level” and too relatively unimportant to warrant a direct conversation (Rex Tillerson as the head of Exxon would have been on Putin’s “level”). But it’s certainly not inconceivable that the Trump kids would have been “high level” enough to have received a special tour or that Sater would have had the kinds of Kremlin connections that might have allowed him to arrange for such a treat.

    And yet when we look at this new set of emails between Michael Cohen and Felix Sater and their efforts to explore this Trump Tower Moscow deal the overall picture that emerges in one of a couple of people who were simply not very “high level” enough to get the job done. Because not only did the deal apparently never get the Kremlin’s backing but when Michael Cohen emailed Dmity Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, at Sater’s recommendation for the purpose of getting the Kremlin’s backing for the Tower, not only did they never hear back but apparently they didn’t even use Peskov’s email address. Instead, Cohen sent the email reaching out to the Kremlin to a general Kremlin inbox for press inquiries:

    The New York Times

    Trump Associate Boasted That Moscow Business Deal ‘Will Get Donald Elected’

    By MATT APUZZO and MAGGIE HABERMAN
    AUG. 28, 2017

    WASHINGTON — A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.

    The associate, Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Mr. Putin. He predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would highlight Mr. Trump’s savvy negotiating skills and be a political boon to his candidacy.

    “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

    The emails show that, from the earliest months of Mr. Trump’s campaign, some of his associates viewed close ties with Moscow as a political advantage. Those ties are now under investigation by the Justice Department and multiple congressional committees.

    American intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election to try to help Mr. Trump. Investigators want to know whether anyone on Mr. Trump’s team was part of that process.

    Mr. Sater, a Russian immigrant, said he had lined up financing for the Trump Tower deal with VTB Bank, a Russian bank that was under American sanctions for involvement in Moscow’s efforts to undermine democracy in Ukraine. In another email, Mr. Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Moscow.

    “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Mr. Sater wrote.

    Mr. Sater said he was eager to show video clips to his Russian contacts of instances of Mr. Trump speaking glowingly about Russia, and said he would arrange for Mr. Putin to praise Mr. Trump’s business acumen.

    “If he says it we own this election,” Mr. Sater wrote. “Americas most difficult adversary agreeing that Donald is a good guy to negotiate.”

    There is no evidence in the emails that Mr. Sater delivered on his promises, and one email suggests that Mr. Sater overstated his Russian ties. In January 2016, Mr. Cohen wrote to Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, asking for help restarting the Trump Tower project, which had stalled. But Mr. Cohen did not appear to have Mr. Peskov’s direct email, and instead wrote to a general inbox for press inquiries.

    The project never got government permits or financing, and died weeks later.

    “To be clear, the Trump Organization has never had any real estate holdings or interests in Russia,” the Trump Organization said Monday in a statement. Mr. Trump, however signed a nonbinding “letter of intent” for the project in 2015. Mr. Cohen said he discussed the project with Mr. Trump three times.

    The Trump Organization on Monday turned over emails to the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election and whether anyone in Mr. Trump’s campaign was involved. Some of the emails were obtained by The Times.

    The emails obtained by The Times do not include any responses from Mr. Cohen to Mr. Sater’s messages.

    In a statement on Monday that was also provided to Congress, Mr. Cohen suggested that he viewed Mr. Sater’s comments as puffery. “He has sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to ‘salesmanship,’” the statement said. “I ultimately determined that the proposal was not feasible and never agreed to make a trip to Russia.”

    The emails obtained by The Times make no mention of Russian efforts to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign or the hacking of Democrats’ emails. Mr. Trump, who began praising Mr. Putin years before the presidential campaign, has said there was no collusion with Russian officials. Previously released emails, however, revealed that his campaign was willing to receive damaging information about Mrs. Clinton from Russian sources.

    Mr. Sater said it would be “pretty cool to get a USA President elected” and said he desired to be the ambassador to the Bahamas. “That my friend is the home run I want out of this,” he wrote.

    Mr. Sater — a former F.B.I. informant who is famous for having once smashed a martini glass stem into another man’s face — has maintained a relationship with Mr. Cohen over the years. The two men have spent decades operating in the world of New York commercial real estate, where the sources of funding can be murky.

    Through his lawyer, Mr. Sater declined on Monday to address why he thought the deal would be a political win for Mr. Trump. He said he brought the project to Mr. Cohen in late 2015, but that he was not working for the Trump Organization and “would not have been compensated” by them.

    “During the course of our communications over several months, I routinely expressed my enthusiasm regarding what a tremendous opportunity this was for the Trump Organization,” Mr. Sater said.

    Mr. Sater was a broker for the Trump Organization for several years, typically paid to deliver real estate deals. A company he worked for, Bayrock, played a role in financing the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York. Mr. Sater and Mr. Cohen even worked together on a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia that they sought to get in front of Mr. Trump’s national security adviser earlier this year.

    As a broker for the Trump Organization, Mr. Sater had an incentive to overstate his business-making acumen. He presents himself in his emails as so influential in Russia that he helped arrange a 2006 trip that Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, took to Moscow.

    “I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin,” he said.

    Ms. Trump said she had no involvement in the discussions about the Moscow deal other than to recommend possible architects. In a statement, she said that during the 2006 trip she took “a brief tour of Red Square and the Kremlin” as a tourist. She said it is possible she sat in Mr. Putin’s chair during that tour but she did not recall it. She said she has not seen or spoken to Mr. Sater since 2010. “I have never met President Vladimir Putin,” she said.

    The Times reported earlier this year on the plan for a Trump Tower in Moscow, which never materialized. On Sunday, The Washington Post reported the existence of the correspondence between Mr. Sater and Mr. Cohen, but not its content.

    ———-

    “Trump Associate Boasted That Moscow Business Deal ‘Will Get Donald Elected’” by MATT APUZZO and MAGGIE HABERMAN; The New York Times; 08/28/2017

    “There is no evidence in the emails that Mr. Sater delivered on his promises, and one email suggests that Mr. Sater overstated his Russian ties. In January 2016, Mr. Cohen wrote to Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, asking for help restarting the Trump Tower project, which had stalled. But Mr. Cohen did not appear to have Mr. Peskov’s direct email, and instead wrote to a general inbox for press inquiries.”

    Sater couldn’t even give Cohen a non-public Peskov email? Sad!


    Mr. Sater, a Russian immigrant, said he had lined up financing for the Trump Tower deal with VTB Bank, a Russian bank that was under American sanctions for involvement in Moscow’s efforts to undermine democracy in Ukraine. In another email, Mr. Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Moscow.

    “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Mr. Sater wrote.

    Mr. Sater said he was eager to show video clips to his Russian contacts of instances of Mr. Trump speaking glowingly about Russia, and said he would arrange for Mr. Putin to praise Mr. Trump’s business acumen.

    “If he says it we own this election,” Mr. Sater wrote. “Americas most difficult adversary agreeing that Donald is a good guy to negotiate.”

    The project never got government permits or financing, and died weeks later.

    “If he says it we own this election…Americas most difficult adversary agreeing that Donald is a good guy to negotiate.”

    And that was Sater’s sales to pitch Cohen: Trump Tower Moscow isn’t just a great investment that Sater could make happen with his Kremlin contacts but it would also be a political coup. Putin would tell the world during the ribbon cutting ceremony that Trump was a great man he could do business and American voters would lap it up. Which of course never happened.

    So whether or not Sater had any pull with the Kremlin back in 2006 he didn’t appear to still have it in 2016. And there’s perhaps one very obvious reason for that: Sater’s criminal background and history of working as an FBI and CIA informant wasn’t publicly available in 2006, but it sure was after the New York Times reported on Sater’s work with the CIA back in 2007. And that’s going to be something rather critical to keep in mind as Felix Sater continues to move close and closer to the #TrumpRussia investigation: whatever ties Sater managed to cultivate with Kremlin over the course of his life were probably changed significantly after it became public in 2007 that he had a history of working with the FBI and CIA. While most reports about Sater largely ignore this chapter in his history, it’s hard to imagine the Kremlin making the save oversight.

    Might Sater have arranged for a special Kremlin tour for the Trump kids in 2006 and even scored Putin’s chair for Ivanka? It sounds like it. Might he have been able to do that again after it become public that he worked with the FBI and CIA? That seems like much more of an open question. Let’s not forget that the ‘pro-Russian’ Ukrainian politician who was negotiating that “peace deal” proposal, Andreii Artemenko, was in fact affiliated with some of the most anti-Russian political parties in Ukraine. So that will be something to watch for: signs that Sater still had Kremlin ‘juice’ in recent years after all his ‘juice’ with the FBI and CIA was publicly disclosed. Are there any signs at all or is it all just Sater’s puffery at this point?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 29, 2017, 12:49 pm
  10. Here’s some more on the scheme to build Trump Tower Moscow that pursued by Felix Sater and Michael Cohen back in later 2015/early 2016: We now have reports on the figures behind IC Expert, the Russian property firm that the Trump Organization was supposed to team up with to build Trump Tower Moscow. The chairman of IC Expert is a Andrei Rozov. Rozov and Sater both knew each other going back to at least 2008 (note that Sater left Bayrock that year) when they both served on the executive board of Mirax Group, a Moscow real estate company that ran into hard times during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. And as we’ll see, Mirax Group was headed by another Russian property developer billionaire, Sergei Polonsky, who was convicted of defrauding investors in July in an unrelated luxury residential housing project that was never finished after the financial crisis/housing crisis sent Mirax into a financial crunch. While Polonsky’s conviction ultimately was dropped immediately after he received it due to the statute of limitations expiring, Polonsky still had to spend 5 years fighting the case and two years in custody after he was extradited back to Russia from Cambodia back in May of 2015, suggesting that Polonsky is not exactly on the best terms with the Kremlin in recent years. And while at this point there’s no indication that Polonsky was involved with the Trump Tower Moscow bid, Sater history with Mirax and Polonsky gives us a sense of who Sater has been closest to in the Russian oligarchy.

    So it appears that the Trump Organization’s partner in the Trump Tower Moscow project, IC Expert, was a firm headed by one of Felix Sater’s associates from Mirax, Andrei Rozov, who first met Sater when they both worked on a firm owned by Sergei Polonsky who has been experiencing a 5-year long fall from grace that included extradition from Cambodia and the last two years in custody:

    Bloomberg Politics

    Trump’s Would-Be Moscow Partner Faces Homebuyers’ Ire

    * Stranded suburban Muscovites complain of construction delays
    * Lawyer says Trump Tower Moscow not connected to campaign

    By Alexander Sazonov, David Voreacos, and Irina Reznik
    September 1, 2017, 6:58 AM CDT

    Demonstrators plan to gather Saturday beneath a thicket of concrete apartment towers rising from the mud in the unfashionable eastern outskirts of Moscow. Their families are supposed to be living inside, but are among the owners of some 5,000 units they say the developer failed to complete on time. Some have appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Youtube. “Help us get our homes,” chanted one group who identified themselves as “deceived investors” in a recent video shot before tower blocks resembling a ghost town.

    The sprawling development, called Novokosino-2, is the most significant project to date of a Russian property firm called IC Expert. The firm was to be the partner in a separate venture: Donald Trump’s failed bid during the 2016 presidential campaign to launch “Trump Tower Moscow,” according to a statement given to congressional investigators this week and a person familiar with the effort. Trump’s plans were revealed this week in correspondence from Trump’s longtime business lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, in answering inquiries from investigators looking into Trump’s connections with Russia. As a candidate, Trump said he had “nothing to do with Russia.”

    Trump and the company behind the suburban housing development would seem an odd pair. Novokosino-2, the Russian firm’s signature project, with its towers cast in beige and brown, is built among car dealerships and shopping malls in gritty sprawl. It is miles away, geographically, economically and aesthetically, from the proposed site of the abortive Trump Tower development. That was to be built in the glitzy Moscow City district, home to Russia’s tallest skyscrapers, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this week, noting that he had first heard of the plans only because of an email Cohen sent to a general Kremlin address in early 2016. The Trump Organization wanted its tower to reach higher than any of the others.

    Board Service

    The never-completed tower deal isn’t the only tie between the firms. The Russian developer’s chairman survived the wreckage of one of the country’s biggest real-estate collapses in 2008-9 amid the financial crisis, as did the broker who put the deal together for Trump.

    IC Expert’s chairman is a Russian businessman named Andrei Rozov. In 2008, Rozov served on the executive board of a Moscow real estate company called Mirax Group alongside a Russian-born U.S. citizen named Felix Sater, according to multiple Russian press reports at the time about the board appointments. The reports cited a Mirax press release.

    Sater, who served as an FBI informant in the prosecution of reputed mobsters on Wall Street after pleading guilty to racketeering in 1998, is a longtime Trump business associate. He brokered the Trump Tower Moscow deal with IC Expert, according to the written statement Cohen gave congressional investigators this week. Rozov himself signed a Oct. 28, 2015 letter of intent for IC Expert on the deal, according to the person familiar with it. Donald Trump’s was the signature for the other side, Cohen told investigators.

    Cohen said he pulled the plug on the deal in February 2016 after he didn’t get any response to the email he had addressed to Peskov seeking Kremlin assistance in pushing the project forward.

    Reached by phone at IC Expert’s office, a company official declined this week to discuss any possible business IC Expert may have had with Trump and said Rozov has been unreachable since news of the deal was made public.

    Compared To Trump

    Mirax, where Rozov and Sater served together on the executive board, was headed by a Russian billionaire and property developer named Sergei Polonsky. At the height of his wealth, Polonsky’s larger-than-life persona and braggadocio often drew comparisons to Trump in the media.

    Mirax ran into debt troubles after the 2008-9 financial crisis, as Polonsky tried to build Europe’s tallest skyscraper in the heart of Moscow. In July, he was convicted of fraud by a Moscow court, but he was released because the statute of limitations had expired.

    Novokosino-2, the housing project for Rozov’s current company, IC Expert, was drawing controversy in local news reports even as the Trump Organization was signing its deal to develop and build the Moscow tower with the firm. “People started protesting back in 2015 but we see nothing is happening, the promises aren’t being fulfilled,” said Anton Goryainov, one of the protest organizers.

    The IC Expert official confirmed there had been construction delays but said the firm was working to finish the remaining apartments.

    Though the original completion date was 2015, much of the area still resembles a construction site. Ground hasn’t yet been broken on a school and kindergarten that were to be part of the project, though officials promise those for next year, according to a report in July on the local television station.

    Political Partner

    Buyers remain skeptical. “Some people have been practically living at the construction site, they were given keys to unfinished buildings,” said Yevgeny Kuts when reached by phone this week. He’s been renting an apartment for his family while they wait for the apartment they bought in the complex that was originally promised in 2015. “Tens of thousands of people have been deceived,” he says.

    IC Expert’s construction partner on the housing project also is headed by a man who has long drawn comparisons to Trump in the press. The Moscow-based building firm is called the Avanti Stroi Group, and its website says it’s owned by “entrepreneur, statesman and philanthropist Umar Dzhabrialov.” Dzhabrialov, 59, is the chairman of the Russian-Qatar Business Council, ran unsuccessfully for the Russian presidency in 2000 and later held a seat in the upper house of parliament. He first drew notoriety in the West two decades ago following the murder of his American business partner in Moscow’s Radisson Hotel, an Oklahoman named Paul Tatum.

    In Moscow this week, Dzhabrailov was at another hotel, the Four Seasons, just off Red Square. Police detained him late on Tuesday after he allegedly fired a handgun into the ceiling in his room, according to Russian news agencies. Police encountered no resistance from Dzhabrailov or any of his numerous bodyguards, according to TASS, the state-owned Russian news service. He has been charged with “hooliganism.” In an interview with Russia’s REN-TV this week, he said he regretted the incident.

    ’Not Related in Any Way’

    Cohen, the lawyer for the Trump Organization, told investigators his decision to drop Trump Tower Moscow was made from “solely a business standpoint” and had nothing to do with Trump’s campaign. “I did not ask or brief Mr. Trump, or any of his family, before I made the decision to terminate further work on the proposal,” Cohen said in the two-page statement. “The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.”

    Cohen, at Sater’s behest, sent an email in mid-January 2016 to Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, “since the proposal would require approvals within the Russian government that had not been issued,” according to the Cohen statement. “Those permissions were never provided,” Cohen said. His email was addressed to Peskov and sent to a general account at his office for press inquiries.

    Peskov confirmed the Kremlin received the email seeking help with a building but said it never responded.

    The Washington Post and the New York Times reported this week on details of emails from Sater to Cohen about the project in late 2015, after Trump had launched his bid for the White House. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in an email, the Times reported. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process,” he wrote in an apparent reference to the real estate project.

    Sater’s project with IC Expert was separate from earlier efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, including one that dated to 2013, when Trump visited the Russian capital for a Miss Universe pageant. Russian developer Aras Agalarov paid $20 million to bring the beauty spectacle there. About a third of that sum went to Trump in the form of a licensing fee, according to Forbes magazine.

    Trump also discussed plans for a Moscow tower with Agalarov, but they were shelved months later as the market cooled, Agalarov has said. The beauty pageant is one of several Russia-linked Trump deals that are under investigation by Robert Mueller, the U.S. Special counsel investigating possible ties between the campaign and Russia, Bloomberg reported in July.

    ———-

    “Trump’s Would-Be Moscow Partner Faces Homebuyers’ Ire” by Alexander Sazonov, David Voreacos, and Irina Reznik; Bloomberg Politics; 09/01/2017

    “The sprawling development, called Novokosino-2, is the most significant project to date of a Russian property firm called IC Expert. The firm was to be the partner in a separate venture: Donald Trump’s failed bid during the 2016 presidential campaign to launch “Trump Tower Moscow,” according to a statement given to congressional investigators this week and a person familiar with the effort. Trump’s plans were revealed this week in correspondence from Trump’s longtime business lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, in answering inquiries from investigators looking into Trump’s connections with Russia. As a candidate, Trump said he had “nothing to do with Russia.””

    First, note that Novokosino-2, the signature residential development project of IC Expert that’s also worrying buyers because it appears to be far behind schedule isn’t the same residential development project that got Sergei Polonsky convicted of fraud. The project Polonsky was charged with embezzlement over was the Kutuzovskaya Mile residential complex. It just happens to be the case that IC Expert’s chairman, Andrei Rozov, has a history of being involved with firms that fall far behind their projects and raise embezzlement concerns.

    And it was Rozov who was was serving alongside Felix Sater back in 2008 on the board of Mirax, the firm owned by now-disgraced billionaire Sergei Polonsky who was recently convicted of fraud in Russian courts over an residential development project that was went awry due to the 2008-2009 financial/housing crisis:


    Board Service

    The never-completed tower deal isn’t the only tie between the firms. The Russian developer’s chairman survived the wreckage of one of the country’s biggest real-estate collapses in 2008-9 amid the financial crisis, as did the broker who put the deal together for Trump.

    IC Expert’s chairman is a Russian businessman named Andrei Rozov. In 2008, Rozov served on the executive board of a Moscow real estate company called Mirax Group alongside a Russian-born U.S. citizen named Felix Sater, according to multiple Russian press reports at the time about the board appointments. The reports cited a Mirax press release.

    Sater, who served as an FBI informant in the prosecution of reputed mobsters on Wall Street after pleading guilty to racketeering in 1998, is a longtime Trump business associate. He brokered the Trump Tower Moscow deal with IC Expert, according to the written statement Cohen gave congressional investigators this week. Rozov himself signed a Oct. 28, 2015 letter of intent for IC Expert on the deal, according to the person familiar with it. Donald Trump’s was the signature for the other side, Cohen told investigators.

    Cohen said he pulled the plug on the deal in February 2016 after he didn’t get any response to the email he had addressed to Peskov seeking Kremlin assistance in pushing the project forward.

    And according to this piece in a Ukrainian publication, LB.ua, Sater initial met Polonsky in 2000:

    LB.ua

    Trump’s Kremlin connections

    Donald Trump nominated by the Republican Party for US president has been turning his election campaign towards the Kremlin. He lashes out at Obama’s administration over its anti-Russian policy, slathers Vladimir Putin with praise, suggests revision of funding for NATO. The US tycoon is a vocal opponent of NATO troops deployment in Poland and the Baltics. And his team’s initiative to ditch support for Ukraine with lethal arms from the Republicans’ platform shows for sure that Donald Trump is hardly guided by the interests of the US nation.

    Oleksandr Demchenko , journalist
    27 July 2016, 09:32

    The art of the deal

    It started back in 1988. Last Soviet Secretary-General Mikhail Gorbachev was seeking to build relations with the White House and turn US public opinion into his favour. In the meantime, Soviet apparatchiks were looking for US businessmen who could not only invest in the country’s economy but literally re-build two large Russian cities (Moscow and Leningrad) to the Western mould. It was back then that Donald Trump emerged on the Russian political arena for the first time.

    Trump and Russian mafia

    In 2004, when lawsuits came spilling out on Donald Trump because of his bankruptcy, he was in a rush to find a “sponsor” to save his business. Russian oligarchs helped him out. A shell company, Bayrock Group, was set up for money transfers. It was chaired by Tofik Arifov and Felix Sater. Both had links to the Russian underworld.

    Tofik Arifov is a former employee of the Soviet Vneshtorg (foreign trade representative office). Having direct connections to crime rings, he was involved in carving up the Russian aluminum market in the 1990s. He was indirectly involved in creating the notorious offshore company Trans World Group (TWG) which was soon authorized by the Russian government to export aluminum and import alumina without paying duties. Arifov made regular use of criminal “aluminum” cooperatives to launder money received from the sale of weapons and drugs.

    In 2000s, he managed to dissociate himself from criminal institutions and join the ranks of Russian “businessmen”. However in September 2010 Arifov was unlucky. In the course of a special operation, the Turkish police stopped the Savarona yacht once owned by Turkey’s founder Ataturk. They found prostitutes onboard. It turned out that the girls were smuggled from Turkey via Russian and Ukrainian model agencies. Tofik Arifov was among the suspected organizers of the brothel. He managed to escape punishment. Telman Ismailov, one of the owners of the Cherkizovskiy market, who was on the yacht during the operation, was less lucky. After the Turkish incident, the Kremlin launched a massive campaign to destroy Cherkizon (Cherkizovskiy market). After Islmailov’s career came to an end, all the vendors from the Cherkizovskiy market moved to the biggest wholesale market Sadovod owned by Putin’s close friend, Ilgam Ragimov.

    Felix Sater’s success story is also quite impressive. In 1993, the son of a Russian crime boss, Felix Sater, ended up in a prison over a brawl in a US bar. Police spotted him again when he was trying to buy Russian missile rockets from a Central Asian country. In 1998, he was suspected of creating a fraudulent scheme at the stock exchange through which he stole around 40m dollars. In 2000, Sater met a Moscow developer and Mirax Group owner, Sergey Polonskiy. Polonskiy is in custody now, and his case has been sent to court. He is suspected of construction fraud and especially gross embezzlement. Board member Felix Sater managed to avoid prosecution.

    Donald Trump’s connections with the Russian mafia were exposed in 2013 when the billionaire had to testify in the case on the sale of housing in Trump SoHo. The complainants said they were lured by Trump’s name when they bought apartments there. However they were unaware that only 10 per cent of all apartments had been sold. This was the case of Bayrock Group headed by same Arifov and Sater.

    ———-

    “Trump’s Kremlin connections” by Oleksandr Demchenko; LB.ua; 07/27/2016

    “Felix Sater’s success story is also quite impressive. In 1993, the son of a Russian crime boss, Felix Sater, ended up in a prison over a brawl in a US bar. Police spotted him again when he was trying to buy Russian missile rockets from a Central Asian country. In 1998, he was suspected of creating a fraudulent scheme at the stock exchange through which he stole around 40m dollars. In 2000, Sater met a Moscow developer and Mirax Group owner, Sergey Polonskiy. Polonskiy is in custody now, and his case has been sent to court. He is suspected of construction fraud and especially gross embezzlement. Board member Felix Sater managed to avoid prosecution.”

    And while it appears that Sater and Rozov appear to have dodged a bullet in avoiding prosecution as board members of Mirax, not all of the other Mirax board members escaped that fate:

    The Moscow Times

    Convicted Russian Real Estate Tycoon Polonsky Walks Free From Court

    July 13, 2017 — 14:25
    — Update: Jul. 14 2017 — 07:40

    Sergei Polonsky, the founder and former major shareholder in the once mighty property corporation Mirax Group, was found guilty of major fraud on Wednesday, but walked free from court, the Kommersant newspaper reported.

    The court found Polonsky guilty on two cases of major fraud and embezzlement, deciding he should face five years in prison.

    However the court unexpectedly ruled the crime constituted a business dispute and Polonsky would only face punishment for the “non-fulfillment of contractual obligations.”

    The judge ruled that too much time had passed since the crime was committed for the court’s decision to be implemented.

    In addition, the court convicted his business partners, Alexander Paperno and Alexei Pronyakin, and shortened their sentences to three and two years in prison, respectively. The other top managers of Mirax Group escaped persecution.

    The 44-year old Polonsky, a St. Petersburg native, has long had a reputation for outrageous behavior and remarks. In 2011, Forbes Russia named him one of the nine most unusual businessmen in Russia.

    The criminal case against Polonsky began in June 2013 when he was charged with embezzlement, having reportedly defrauded clients and investors of 2.5 billion rubles ($42 million).

    The stolen money concerned investors in two luxury apartment building projects in prime Moscow areas.

    In August 2013, an international warrant was issued for Polonsky’s arrest while he was residing on an island in Cambodia.

    Since Russia did not have an extradition agreement with the south-east Asian country, the Prosecutor General’s Office spent two years trying to bring Polonsky back to Russia to face justice.

    After his extradition in spring 2015, Polonsky was placed in Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina prison where he awaited his trial — and also managed to get married.

    ———-

    “Convicted Russian Real Estate Tycoon Polonsky Walks Free From Court”; The Moscow Times; 07/13/2017

    “In addition, the court convicted his business partners, Alexander Paperno and Alexei Pronyakin, and shortened their sentences to three and two years in prison, respectively. The other top managers of Mirax Group escaped persecution.”

    And also note that the particular embezzlement charges against Polansky specifically relate to payments the firm was taking in 2007-2008, which presumably overlaps with Sater’s and Rozov’s time on Mirax’s executive board:

    The Moscow Times

    Polonsky Charged in Absentia With $180M Embezzlement

    By The Moscow Times
    June 17, 2013 — 14:09

    Property tycoon Sergei Polonsky has been charged with embezzling 5.7 billion rubles ($180 million), Vedomosti reported, citing the Interior Ministry.

    He failed to appear before investigators at the ministry on Friday.

    Polonsky, founder and main shareholder of construction company Potok, formerly Mirax Group, is accused of stealing the money from stakeholders in the Kutuzovskaya Mile residential development project in western Moscow, in which his company was an investor.

    Polonsky denies the charges, said one of his lawyers.

    In 2007 and 2008 Polonsky’s companies sold apartments in the ongoing Kutuzovskaya Mile project. A subsidiary of Potok drew up sale agreements that bore no relation to the actual project, collected the money, and was then artificially bankrupted, investigators claim.

    Polonsky was brought into the Kutuzovskaya Mile project in 2005. His company originally planned to construct 921,000 square meters of living space, investing $1.6 billion. In 2009 the project, still incomplete, was frozen, after which Polonsky’s contract was annulled.

    Polonsky’s whereabouts are unknown. A notoriously pugnacious former billionaire, he was arrested in Cambodia on new year’s eve 2012 after allegedly assaulting local sailors. He spent months in a Cambodian jail, before reportedly being released on condition that he not leave the country.

    The authorities might put out an international warrant for Polonsky’s arrest, said a source in the Interior Ministry.

    ———-
    “Polonsky Charged in Absentia With $180M Embezzlement” by The Moscow Times; The Moscow Times; 06/17/2013

    “In 2007 and 2008 Polonsky’s companies sold apartments in the ongoing Kutuzovskaya Mile project. A subsidiary of Potok drew up sale agreements that bore no relation to the actual project, collected the money, and was then artificially bankrupted, investigators claim.”

    It will be interesting to see what more emerges regarding Sater’s time at Mirax (renamed Potak) and how many other Mirax executives from that time escaped prosecution. If Sater joined the board in 2008 and the fraudulent sales took place in 2007-2008, it’s possible he joined Mirax after many of the fraudulent actions actually happened.

    So that’s the overview of IC Experts, a firm that couldn’t even get the Kremlin to return its inquiry, assuming that’s really the case. While there are many possible scenarios that could have resulted in the Trump Tower Moscow project never even getting a reply from the Kremlin, the fact that IC Expert was headed up by a guy who was sitting on the board of Mirax in 2008 might have had something to do with it. Of course, the fact that Sater has been revealed to be an FBI and CIA informant might have had something to do with it too.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 1, 2017, 3:18 pm
  11. McClatchy has a rather interesting update on Felix Sater that relates to both Sater’s criminal history and also the bizarre Ukrainian ‘peace plan’ concocted with Ukrainian MP Andreii Artemenko: It turns out that multiple people involved with the Sater during his days at White Rock Partners back in the 90’s are working in the same suite as Sater in his Long Island, NY, office. White Rock Partners was the firm Sater controlled with Salvator Lauria and Gene Klotsman that became intertwined with the Italian mafia and was busted by federal investigators for scamming investors with pump and dump schemes and it was Lauria and Klotsman who ended up with with Sater as FBI and CIA informants.

    So Sater’s company in this suite is Regency Capital Inc. The other firm sharing the suite is Advance Capital, and Regency and Advance Capital both share a three year lease that started in May of 2016. Advance Capital’s chairman, Gary Levi, is described as a longtime Sater associate and the company’s vice president of business development is Salvatore Morreale, cousin of Sater’s Salvatore Lauria. Another figure at Advance Capital, vice president of underwriting Kalsom Kam, is also the registered agent for Global Habitat Solutions, Inc.. And the CEO of Global Habitat Solutions is Sater. So Sater appears to have a number of significant ongoing relationship with his old crew. The same crew with the oddly close working relationship with the FBI and CIA.

    And here’s the part that ties into the Ukrainian ‘peace plan’: It turns out the figure who arranged the contact between Sater and Ukrainian PM Andreii Artemenko was Michael Cohen’s brother’s father-in-law, Alexander Oronov. Oronov died in March of this year, and while a business associate who knew Oronov well told McClatchy that he died of cancer and his death wasn’t mysterious, Artemenko claims Oronov was killed for knowing too much. And none other than Salvatore Lauria made a post of Oronov’s obituary saying, “My best to the family. We will never forget Alex, never, never, never.”

    So Sater’s Regency Capital shares a suite with a company headed by a long-time associate and Salvator Lauria’s cousin as the vice president of business development. And Lauria himself indicated some sort of deep personal relationship to Michael Cohen’s brother’s father-in-low, Alexander Oronov, who was apparently the guy who arranged the contact between Sater and Artemenko:

    McClatchy

    Russian émigré in Trump saga still surrounded by fellow financial fraudsters

    By Kevin G. Hall, Ben Wieder and Gabrielle Paluch
    September 07, 2017 5:00 AM

    PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y.

    A cast of convicts and disgraced businessmen, including a Russian émigré central to the probes into possible Trump campaign collusion with Moscow, has reassembled in a nondescript office here across from a commuter train station.

    The office is rented by the engaging but elusive émigré, Felix Sater. He’s been front-page news of late for emails, now in the hands of congressional and federal investigators, detailing how he and Trump Organization attorney Michael D. Cohen sought a real-estate deal in Moscow during the presidential campaign. Sater, who had been involved in previous ventures with Donald Trump’s company, wrote a 2015 email to Cohen saying, “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.”

    That bombshell late last month helped place Sater, who once described himself as “a very interesting guy,” at the heart of the ongoing Trump investigations.

    And now a new McClatchy investigation reveals that Sater is again associated with some of the individuals with whom he was implicated in FBI probes of stock manipulation on Wall Street on behalf of Russian and Italian mobsters in the late 1990s. Several of the people who were convicted or faced regulatory sanctions in those probes have been working in the same suite as Sater on Haven Avenue in this affluent Long Island, N.Y., suburb.

    The new information raises questions about Sater’s activities while he and Cohen were working on the potential Moscow deal, whom he was doing business with, and whether Cohen was aware of these connections.

    The relationship between Cohen and Sater continued after the Moscow project: A year later, in January 2017, they drafted, with a Ukrainian politician, a Ukraine-Russia peace plan and delivered it to Trump’s then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

    The building directory lists two companies in Suite 205, Advance Capital, and Regency Capital Inc., which share a three-year lease that began in May 2016. The suite is upstairs from the greasy spoon Haven Diner, overlooking a Long Island Railroad station.

    School kids attend language classes at the Japanese Culture Center, and an eyelash extension salon is located a few doors away. Suite 205 is the only unmarked one on the floor. There’s a video surveillance system out front and above the right side of the door is a mezuzah, a prayer symbol often affixed outside Jewish homes and businesses.

    “They’re in and out, they travel a lot,” said an employee of a neighboring business who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.

    Old friends

    Advance Capital’s chairman, Gary Levi, is described by several who know both men as a longtime Sater associate. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Levi in 2003 with helping the publicly traded fashion company Candie’s, Inc., inflate its income statement to dupe investors. He consented to a cease-and-desist order and paid a $25,000 civil penalty.

    The SEC said that Levi worked directly with Candie’s Chief Financial Officer Gary H. Klein, who a year later was barred by regulators from accounting work with publicly traded companies. (Klein was arrested in 2004 in West Harrison, N.Y., for sending explicit sadomasochistic AOL chat messages to what he thought was a 14-year-old girl. Florida lists him on its directory of registered sex offenders.)

    Levi isn’t the only Advance Capital executive with a checkered past. The company’s vice president of business development is Salvatore Morreale, cousin of Sater’s co-conspirator in the stock fraud case, Salvatore Lauria.

    Lauria and Sater were both arrested, their exploits chronicled in the 2003 book The Scorpion and the Frog.

    In the book, Morreale is simply referred to a “Cousin Sal”; a family tree on Lauria’s wife’s Facebook page indicates they are indeed cousins. Morreale was indicted in November 1998 in a separate investigation that alleged he helped launder money through stock manipulation, working in tandem with White Rock Partners, an investment firm where the two men worked, and its successor company, State Street Securities.

    A Nov. 20, 1998 sealed complaint from federal prosecutors outlines allegations against Salvatore Morreale, an associate at the time of Felix Sater and his business partner Salvatore Lauria.

    Lauria, Sater and a Russian named Gennady “Gene” Klotsman were central figures in White Rock Partners. Klotsman reportedly is imprisoned in Russia for a spectacular diamond heist.

    Morreale pleaded guilty in 1999 to multiple conspiracy charges, according to court documents and his records on Broker Check, run by the Financial Industry Regulation Authority, a self-regulating body for Wall Street.

    Morreale and Levi did not respond to requests for comment.

    Mystery deepens

    Soon after McClatchy began asking questions about Advance Capital in late August, its website suddenly disappeared, replaced by a Go Daddy ad for domain names. Before it was taken down, the website boasted to potential customers that it offered “an alternative to conventional business loans.” It’s unclear whether the business is still operating.

    Court documents in New York show the company made the equivalent of loans by taking small stakes in companies through cash advances, getting a percentage of a company’s credit-card daily billing revenues until reaching an agreed-upon payoff amount.

    The company appears to operate in a lightly regulated space; it’s technically not considered a lender by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

    Morreale’s presence at a Sater-linked company suggests that, at the very least, Sater continues to work in close proximity to his former circle. Persons familiar with operations say Sater keeps a desk at Advance Capital. A person familiar with the operation said the men sometimes met at Sater’s nearby home in Sands Point.

    McClatchy reporters twice visited Sater’s Sands Point home last month and were directed to send questions to his lawyer Robert S. Wolf, who then declined comment. Both Sater and his lawyer were sent a long list of detailed question. Sater asked that questions be sent to Wolf, but added a jab.

    “I can see from your questions that your story will be mostly wrong and completely off base,” he wrote. When pressed to help correct what might have been incorrect, neither Sater or Wolf initially responded.

    On Thursday, Wolf confirmed a relationship between Sater’s businesses and a Port Washington-based attorney, Arnie Herz, who had filed trademark paperwork on behalf of Advance Capital in April 2016.

    * Herz has registered numerous Sater-related businesses, including Regency Capital Associates LLC in 2016, the business in the same suite as Advance Capital.

    * Moreover, Herz registered several businesses tied to the Khrapunovs, a family accused by the government in their home nation of Kazakhstan of theft and money laundering, including via Trump-themed properties, a focus of an earlier McClatchy investigation into Sater. McClatchy also found that Sater assisted in efforts to get work visas for at least one person at a U.S. company funded by the fugitive family.

    Wolf declined to provide further comment.

    Kalsom Kam is another link between Sater and Advance Capital.

    Kam registered Advanced Capital Associates, LLC, in New York in February 2016 and was listed as vice president of underwriting at the company earlier this year. He is also the registered agent for Global Habitat Solutions, Inc., which lists Sater as its chief executive officer.

    When McClatchy reached Kam on his cellphone he abruptly hung up and did not return subsequent voice messages requesting comment.

    There’s yet another factor that links Sater to his former associates. This March — about a year after the Sater-Cohen efforts to build a tower in Moscow apparently fell apart — Lauria left a tribute to Alexander Oronov, another Russian emigre, on the website Legacy.com.

    Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko said Oronov had been an intermediary, who connected Artemenko to Sater and Cohen ; the three in late January drafted a secret peace plan for Ukraine and neighboring Russia without input from the State Department, and Cohen delivered it to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn shortly before Flynn was fired as national security adviser for not being truthful about his own Russia ties.

    Oronov, who founded the Baryshevskaya Grain Company in Ukraine, died suddenly in early March. Artemenko took to Facebook to suggest Oronov died because he knew too much, though a business associate who knew Oronov well said he died of cancer, and his death was not a mystery.

    “My best to the family. We will never forget Alex, never, never, never,” said the message left in Lauria’s name.

    Oronov was also father-in-law to Cohen’s brother Bryan. Multiple news reports earlier this year said the Cohen brothers and Oronov had invested together in Delaware-registered International Ethanol of Ukraine.

    Cohen did not answer McClatchy’s questions about whether Sater represented himself or his firm Regency Capital (he lists himself as an “adviser” there in federal campaign finance filings) in his pursuit of a Trump-themed project in Moscow. Sater also did not answer that question, sent to his personal email. The Trump Organization, through its chief lawyer Alan Garten, declined to answer questions about Sater and pointed to an earlier statement.

    ———-

    “Russian émigré in Trump saga still surrounded by fellow financial fraudsters” by Kevin G. Hall, Ben Wieder and Gabrielle Paluch; McClatchy; 09/07/2017

    “And now a new McClatchy investigation reveals that Sater is again associated with some of the individuals with whom he was implicated in FBI probes of stock manipulation on Wall Street on behalf of Russian and Italian mobsters in the late 1990s. Several of the people who were convicted or faced regulatory sanctions in those probes have been working in the same suite as Sater on Haven Avenue in this affluent Long Island, N.Y., suburb.”

    Sater’s 90’s band appears to have reunited. Except for Klotsman who is in prison in Russia:


    Lauria, Sater and a Russian named Gennady “Gene” Klotsman were central figures in White Rock Partners. Klotsman reportedly is imprisoned in Russia for a spectacular diamond heist.

    And and one of the major figures in that band, Salvator Lauria, appears to be well acquainted with the guy who is not only Michael Cohen’s brother’s father-in-law but also the guy apparently arranged the meetings with Andreii Artemenko.


    There’s yet another factor that links Sater to his former associates. This March — about a year after the Sater-Cohen efforts to build a tower in Moscow apparently fell apart — Lauria left a tribute to Alexander Oronov, another Russian emigre, on the website Legacy.com.

    Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko said Oronov had been an intermediary, who connected Artemenko to Sater and Cohen ; the three in late January drafted a secret peace plan for Ukraine and neighboring Russia without input from the State Department, and Cohen delivered it to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn shortly before Flynn was fired as national security adviser for not being truthful about his own Russia ties.

    Oronov, who founded the Baryshevskaya Grain Company in Ukraine, died suddenly in early March. Artemenko took to Facebook to suggest Oronov died because he knew too much, though a business associate who knew Oronov well said he died of cancer, and his death was not a mystery.

    “My best to the family. We will never forget Alex, never, never, never,” said the message left in Lauria’s name.

    Oronov was also father-in-law to Cohen’s brother Bryan. Multiple news reports earlier this year said the Cohen brothers and Oronov had invested together in Delaware-registered International Ethanol of Ukraine.

    And let’s recall that, contrary the widespread characterization of Artemenko as a ‘pro-Russian’ Ukraine politican, Artemenko’s history and party affiliations appears to align him with the extreme anti-Russian far-right wing of Ukrainian politics who wanted to push a ‘peace plan’ that would make himself president and was going to temporarily lease, not give, Crimea to Russia. That’s part of why it’s going to be very interesting to learn more about Alexander Oronov’s relationship to the Ukrainian political scene. What other MP’s might he know? And, more specifically, was Michael Cohen’s family relations and businesses in Ukraine (don’t forget Cohen’s wife is Ukrainian too) a potential conduit to the Ukrainian anti-Russian far-right.

    So here’s a look at another figure close to both Oronov and Artemenko who Cohen also has past dealings with in the Ukrainian ethanol sector: Viktor Topolov, one of the wealthiest people in Ukraine who was appointed the former coal minister under the Yushchenko government in 2005. Topolov was co-owner of Oronov’s ethanol company that Cohen tried to raise funds for. And as the following BuzzFeed article describes, Topolov also has connections to the Ukrainian and Russian mafia. The kind of deep connections that resulted in him getting targeted by Semion Mogilevich’s hitman, Leonid Roytman (So odds are his Ukrainian mob ties a little stronger than his Russian mob ties these days). And Andreii Artemenko is described as one of Topolov’s close associates going back for years:

    BuzzFeed

    Michael Cohen Pitched Investors For A Powerful Ukrainian Oligarch’s Company

    The oligarch has been investigated for money laundering and the FBI has tied three of his employees to the Russian mob. When he and his partner wanted to build an ethanol factory, their company sought help from Michael Cohen, now the president’s personal attorney.

    By Anthony Cormier (BuzzFeed News Reporter) Chris McDaniel (BuzzFeed News Reporter) John Templon (BuzzFeed News Reporter) Tanya Kozyreva (BuzzFeed Contributor)

    Posted on June 9, 2017, at 4:46 a.m.

    Before he became President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen worked on behalf of a company controlled by another wealthy and well-connected man: Viktor Topolov, a politician whose associates are members of the Russian and Ukrainian underworld.

    The leader of Ukraine’s coal ministry and a personal friend of that country’s president, Topolov had been a board member at a state-run bank, the top executive at a construction company, and the president of a professional football club. But beyond his official titles, Topolov has also been investigated twice for money laundering and embezzlement, and the FBI has said his associates are “well known” members of the Russian mafia.

    Back in 2006, he co-owned an ethanol company with his longtime business partner, Alex Oronov. The two men wanted to build a factory in Ukraine, so Oronov tapped his son-in-law, Bryan Cohen, along with his brother, Michael Cohen, to pitch the deal to American investors from Morgan Stanley. Both Cohen brothers today insist they knew nothing about Topolov when they tried to raise money for his company.

    In October 2006, the Cohens gathered the bankers in a Kiev conference room with other consultants, analysts and engineers. None of the Americans bit. The factory was eventually funded with the help of a multimillion-dollar loan, but no ethanol was ever produced.

    Topolov was a powerful ally, with access to Ukrainian banks and politicians. He also ran a conglomerate, Kyiv-Donbas, that employed three executives the FBI described as members of a violent Russian organized-crime network.

    One was a mob enforcer who admitted taking part in at least 20 murders, and who was closely associated with Semion Mogilevich, a powerful boss in Russian organized crime. The other two were twin brothers who the FBI said are well-known in Russia’s criminal underworld, and who are believed to have ordered a hit on another gangster.

    A Ukrainian court document shows that Topolov was questioned as part of a money laundering scheme, and a prosecutor said that he ignored subpoenas and lied about his role in a money laundering and fraud investigation in the late 1990s.

    The normally loquacious Michael Cohen initially declined to answer detailed questions, aside from a curt text message: “You are wrong almost 100%.” When later told that business documents list him as a director of a US company tied to the deal, and that multiple people recall seeing him at the investors meeting with Topolov in October 2006, Cohen insisted he played only a small role in raising money for the ethanol factory.

    He said that meeting was the only time he was with Topolov, and that he didn’t know how Oronov, who died earlier this year, and his partner first met. “Neither Bryan nor I know, have a relationship with, or invited Viktor Topolov to the meeting in Kiev,” Cohen said. “Your attempt to concoct a scenario between this individual and me is ludicrous.”

    Asked if he should have known on whose behalf he was working, Cohen did not answer directly: “Everybody sort of brought somebody to the table. How he got there, I don’t know.”

    Cohen said he and his brother were in charge of attracting American investors. One of the financial firms that sent representatives was Morgan Stanley, which declined to comment on the matter. Cohen said the representatives expressed reservations about Ukraine’s political instability and declined to invest, and that once they walked away, so did he and his brother.

    Topolov’s involvement in the ethanol deal, which has not been fully reported before, sheds further light on Michael Cohen’s connections to Russian and Ukrainian business interests.

    In the past, BuzzFeed News has reported that Cohen ran a casino boat with help from a lawyer close to a Meyer Lansky associate and two Ukrainians whose associate was tied to the Russian mob. In a separate incident, court documents show that Cohen could not account for $350,000 that was deposited into a trust account he managed, during an episode that swept in a mysterious Russian businessman, his young girlfriend, a Moscow-born taxi baron, and a professional hockey player threatened by the mafia.

    Last week, Cohen became part of the investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. After Cohen initially declined to turn over documents, congressional investigators issued a subpoena to him and others seeking records about their interactions with people connected to the Russian government. Cohen has said he will cooperate with the subpoena. There is no indication that the ethanol plant is part of that investigation.

    ABOVE THE LAW

    By the time of his meeting with the Cohens, Topolov was one of the richest men in Ukraine.

    Authorities say his wealth came in part from criminal activity. Detectives investigated him in 2001 for money laundering, following his time as the leader of the CSKA Kiev football club. Law officers say there was evidence Topolov transferred phony player contracts to shell companies and directed CSKA Kiev to pay them. He was never charged, but the detective who worked the case — Oleksiy Donsky, who now holds a top position in the Ukrainian general prosecutor’s office — said officials developed information that Topolov had lied to investigators. They tried to question him further, but by then Topolov had been elected to parliament and “would throw a subpoena in the face of my investigator.” Donsky says Topolov appeared to have been tipped off before a raid of his apartment.

    “Here, the MPs are above the law,” Donsky told BuzzFeed News, speaking in Ukrainian. “If they don’t want to come to an interrogation, they don’t come. Therefore, we were not able to do it.”

    Topolov left CSKA Kiev and was replaced in 1999 by a close associate, Andrii Artemenko, who spent two years in custody for his alleged role in the embezzlement scheme before his case was dismissed following political pressure by top lawmakers. Artemenko attracted international attention earlier this year, when it emerged that he personally had handed Cohen a controversial peace plan for Ukraine. As a result, the country’s top prosecutor opened a treason investigation into Artemenko in February.

    Reached through his American lobbyist, Dale Armstrong, Artemenko did not comment.

    In the late 1990s, Topolov was also in charge of a construction company, Kyiv-Donbas. At least three of the company’s employees have documented ties to the Russian mob, including a hulking hitman named Leonid Roytman who served as vice president of the company, and whom the FBI has linked to the gang led by Mogilevich, a Russian who is one of the most wanted men in the world.

    Roytman, now living in America, cuts a menacing figure, with a large, square head, dark eyes and few smiles. When he visited BuzzFeed News for an interview, he showed the Kyiv-Donbas business card he still carries listing him as a vice president, but said his real job was to protect board members from rival gangs.

    “I was part of a criminal organization that backed Viktor Topolov,” Roytman said, speaking through a Russian translator.

    “We were personal security,” he said. “We would meet with other criminal organizations, like in shootouts.” He added, “It was a semi-legal, semi-official business.”

    Topolov said he was not a party to such activities. “I can tell you there were no instances where Leonid Roytman or any other persons … were involved in anything violent or shootouts that had anything to do with me,” Topolov said. “No matter who saw me, even if they fought and argued, I was never involved in any altercations with anyone.”

    Twin brothers Slava and Alex Konstantinovsky, known as the “Brothers Karamazov,” were also employees of Kyiv-Donbas and are said by the FBI to be Russian mafia lieutenants suspected of organizing an attempted hit on one of the most notorious and feared members of the Russian criminal underworld.

    One of the brothers, Slava Konstantinovsky, told BuzzFeed News that Kyiv-Donbas was a completely legitimate business, and challenged the FBI to arrest him if they had evidence of his mob ties. He dismissed claims made by Roytman.

    “How could he make security for me? He can’t protect anyone,” Konstantinovsky said. “He can’t even protect himself.”

    But in an interview in 2012 with Forbes Ukraine, Topolov acknowledged that he kept his business off the books to protect himself.

    “As Rockefeller said, ‘I can report for every million I made, except for the first one,’” Topolov told the magazine. “We’re no Rockefellers and no mafiosos, either, but we can’t discuss it quite yet. It was the early ’90s. I can openly say that the only people who had any power in our country at that point were criminals.”

    THE END OF THE VENTURE

    With no American investors to fund the ethanol plant, Topolov went to another source: Ukreximbank, the import-export bank on whose board he served. KoronAgro, the company that he and Oronov founded, borrowed tens of millions of dollars. The plan was to open the plant by 2008, produce 100,000 tons of ethanol per year and, if the venture was successful, build more plants across the country.

    But the operation fell apart. The facility never opened and KoronAgro ultimately filed for bankruptcy protection. A Ukrainian court ordered Topolov’s company to repay $50 million to the bank.

    The plant, or what is left of it, is still standing in Zolotonosha, a small central Ukrainian town about two hours outside Kiev. Topolov said he still hopes to complete it one day. A fence surrounds the property, and two guards watch the facility. People in the town regularly loot the plant, stealing equipment and selling it on the black market, according to those who live nearby.

    After a short stint in parliament, Topolov returned to the business world, where he now builds banks and sells them off at great profit.

    Michael Cohen, meanwhile, went on to a lucrative career with the Trump Organization. He has become known as one of the president’s fiercest defenders. Following the election, Cohen became a national fundraiser for the Republican National Committee, and has partnered with powerhouse law firm Squire Patton Boggs, working out of the company’s offices in Manhattan.

    Bryan Cohen became a chief administrative officer at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York City.

    As for the executives with differing accounts of how Topolov’s business operated, Slava Konstantinovsky, now a member of Ukraine’s parliament, insists that Topolov’s business was legitimate, and that Roytman was a “liar” and an “idiot.” There may be a reason for the invective: Roytman served seven years in a US prison for trying to have two people killed. The intended victims were the Konstantinovsky brothers, his colleagues at the company led by Topolov.

    ———-

    “Michael Cohen Pitched Investors For A Powerful Ukrainian Oligarch’s Company” By Anthony Cormier, Chris McDaniel, John Templon, Tanya Kozyreva; BuzzFeed; 06/09/2017

    “By the time of his meeting with the Cohens, Topolov was one of the richest men in Ukraine.”

    And not only was he really, rich, but Topolov is describe as “a personal friend” of Ukraine’s president”. And co-owner of Alex Oronov’s ethanol company that Michael Cohen and his brother Bryan pitched to American investors:


    The leader of Ukraine’s coal ministry and a personal friend of that country’s president, Topolov had been a board member at a state-run bank, the top executive at a construction company, and the president of a professional football club. But beyond his official titles, Topolov has also been investigated twice for money laundering and embezzlement, and the FBI has said his associates are “well known” members of the Russian mafia.

    Back in 2006, he co-owned an ethanol company with his longtime business partner, Alex Oronov. The two men wanted to build a factory in Ukraine, so Oronov tapped his son-in-law, Bryan Cohen, along with his brother, Michael Cohen, to pitch the deal to American investors from Morgan Stanley. Both Cohen brothers today insist they knew nothing about Topolov when they tried to raise money for his company.

    Keep in mind that it’s not entirely clear which of Ukrainian president Topolov is a personal friend of: Viktor Yushchenko, who appointed Topolov coal minister, or the current president Petro Poroshenko. But since Poroshenko and Yushchenko are political allies the broader point is that Topolov appears to be politically allied with the current anti-Russian government in Kiev.

    And Topolov also described as a close associate with Andreii Artemenko:


    Authorities say his wealth came in part from criminal activity. Detectives investigated him in 2001 for money laundering, following his time as the leader of the CSKA Kiev football club. Law officers say there was evidence Topolov transferred phony player contracts to shell companies and directed CSKA Kiev to pay them. He was never charged, but the detective who worked the case — Oleksiy Donsky, who now holds a top position in the Ukrainian general prosecutor’s office — said officials developed information that Topolov had lied to investigators. They tried to question him further, but by then Topolov had been elected to parliament and “would throw a subpoena in the face of my investigator.” Donsky says Topolov appeared to have been tipped off before a raid of his apartment.

    “Here, the MPs are above the law,” Donsky told BuzzFeed News, speaking in Ukrainian. “If they don’t want to come to an interrogation, they don’t come. Therefore, we were not able to do it.”

    Topolov left CSKA Kiev and was replaced in 1999 by a close associate, Andrii Artemenko, who spent two years in custody for his alleged role in the embezzlement scheme before his case was dismissed following political pressure by top lawmakers. Artemenko attracted international attention earlier this year, when it emerged that he personally had handed Cohen a controversial peace plan for Ukraine. As a result, the country’s top prosecutor opened a treason investigation into Artemenko in February.

    Reached through his American lobbyist, Dale Armstrong, Artemenko did not comment.

    And, of course, there’s Topolov’s ties to the Ukrainian and Russian mafia. Ties that presumably became strained somewhat after the Ukrainian civil war broke out. Especially his ties to the Mogilevich gang:


    In the late 1990s, Topolov was also in charge of a construction company, Kyiv-Donbas. At least three of the company’s employees have documented ties to the Russian mob, including a hulking hitman named Leonid Roytman who served as vice president of the company, and whom the FBI has linked to the gang led by Mogilevich, a Russian who is one of the most wanted men in the world.

    Roytman, now living in America, cuts a menacing figure, with a large, square head, dark eyes and few smiles. When he visited BuzzFeed News for an interview, he showed the Kyiv-Donbas business card he still carries listing him as a vice president, but said his real job was to protect board members from rival gangs.

    “I was part of a criminal organization that backed Viktor Topolov,” Roytman said, speaking through a Russian translator.

    “We were personal security,” he said. “We would meet with other criminal organizations, like in shootouts.” He added, “It was a semi-legal, semi-official business.”

    Topolov said he was not a party to such activities. “I can tell you there were no instances where Leonid Roytman or any other persons … were involved in anything violent or shootouts that had anything to do with me,” Topolov said. “No matter who saw me, even if they fought and argued, I was never involved in any altercations with anyone.”

    But in an interview in 2012 with Forbes Ukraine, Topolov acknowledged that he kept his business off the books to protect himself.

    “As Rockefeller said, ‘I can report for every million I made, except for the first one,’” Topolov told the magazine. “We’re no Rockefellers and no mafiosos, either, but we can’t discuss it quite yet. It was the early ’90s. I can openly say that the only people who had any power in our country at that point were criminals.”

    And note how two employees of Topolov, the “Brothers Karamazov”, were on Roytman’s hit list, and one of them, Slava Konstantinovsky, is now a Ukrainian MP:


    Twin brothers Slava and Alex Konstantinovsky, known as the “Brothers Karamazov,” were also employees of Kyiv-Donbas and are said by the FBI to be Russian mafia lieutenants suspected of organizing an attempted hit on one of the most notorious and feared members of the Russian criminal underworld.

    One of the brothers, Slava Konstantinovsky, told BuzzFeed News that Kyiv-Donbas was a completely legitimate business, and challenged the FBI to arrest him if they had evidence of his mob ties. He dismissed claims made by Roytman.

    “How could he make security for me? He can’t protect anyone,” Konstantinovsky said. “He can’t even protect himself.”

    As for the executives with differing accounts of how Topolov’s business operated, Slava Konstantinovsky, now a member of Ukraine’s parliament, insists that Topolov’s business was legitimate, and that Roytman was a “liar” and an “idiot.” There may be a reason for the invective: Roytman served seven years in a US prison for trying to have two people killed. The intended victims were the Konstantinovsky brothers, his colleagues at the company led by Topolov.

    So to get a better idea of where Topolov and his network lie on Ukraine’s political spectrum (specifically, the pro-or-anti-Russian sides of Ukraine’s political spectrum) it’s worth what type of MP is Slava Konstantinovsky. Well, as this report from September of 2014, demonstrates, Slava Konstantinovsky is the kind of MP that not only personally financed the “volunteer batallions” that were fighting the seperatists in the East but he also joined them himself:

    The New York Times

    For Many, a Nation That Seems Less Free From Moscow’s Dominance Than Ever

    By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
    SEPT. 22, 2014

    KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainians have been promised sweeping change in the seven months since their collective anger chased the last president out of his mansion.

    The low-grade war against Russia and its proxies in the east would be brought to a close, with Ukraine kept whole. A new chapter in political and economic relations would be opened with Europe. A concerted effort to reform the government would begin by fighting pervasive corruption.

    Last week, President Petro O. Poroshenko brought measures addressing each of these issues to Parliament on the same day.

    The first two passed. The third failed. Mr. Poroshenko tried to present the occasion as a historic victory for Ukraine, leading the Parliament in a rousing version of “Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet,” the national anthem. He said the moment was Ukraine’s most important since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

    But there is a sense both here and abroad that Ukraine is less independent from Moscow than ever. “Capitulation” is the word of choice among politicians critical of the government and independent analysts.

    Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian leader, they say, got everything he wanted by attacking Ukraine overtly in Crimea and covertly in the southeast.

    The vague cease-fire terms in the southeast are likely to only freeze the conflict. It could leave Russia’s thuggish proxies running the area and create a permanent geographic Taser that Moscow could use to zap Ukraine at will, leaving it unstable and less than sovereign.

    The association agreement with the European Union — described by its advocates as the catalyst for broad reform — has been delayed until the beginning of 2016 because of Russian objections, leaving its fate uncertain.

    “One cannot achieve peace by surrendering to the aggressor’s demands,” Oleh Tyahnybok, the head of the nationalist Svoboda Party, wrote in a blog post on Sunday. “No matter how much Putin threatens us with a full-scale aggression, we must not make concessions.”

    On Monday, both sides were supposedly strengthening the shaky cease-fire by drawing their forces even farther apart. The truce has held since Sept. 5, albeit with constant artillery or tank barrages.

    Under a new memorandum announced Saturday in Minsk, Belarus, where the cease-fire talks have been held, military formations would be frozen as they were on Friday and heavy weapons pulled back 15 kilometers, or about nine miles, from that line.

    Andrei Lysenko, the Ukrainian military spokesman, said Monday that both sides were pulling artillery back from the front lines in Donbass, as the southeast region is called. Mr. Lysenko said the pro-Russian militants were not withdrawing heavy weaponry as quickly as the Ukrainians.

    Mr. Poroshenko has repeatedly defended the cease-fire as necessary in the face of a Russian military juggernaut that bolstered the separatist forces and left at least 3,000 Ukrainians dead by United Nations count.

    In a rare televised news conference with Ukrainian reporters after he returned from the United States, the president said the death toll among Ukrainian soldiers and civilians had dropped markedly because of the truce.

    “We cannot win the war in Donbass with military means; Russia won’t allow us to do that,” Mr. Poroshenko said on Sunday. The more Ukrainian soldiers who are deployed, “the more Russian soldiers will show up.”

    The latest updates to the current visual survey of the continuing dispute, with maps and satellite imagery showing rebel and military movement.

    Russia still controls 350 kilometers, or about 217 miles, of the border and acts with impunity. It has sent repeated trucks across that it says carry humanitarian aid without any inspections on the Ukrainian side.

    Under the cease-fire protocol, Ukraine passed a temporary law on self-rule for the separatist regions. The law granted significant autonomy for three years, including electing local councils on Dec. 7, which in turn can establish a police force and courts. It preserves Russian as an official language and grants the regions the right to deepen ties with Russia.

    Although the temporary law addressed the “special status” for the Donbass region, Mr. Poroshenko has repeatedly denied that the region was given excessive independence. On Sunday, he even said that “the law’s name and meaning are very different.”

    It did not help matters that the “special status” law was passed without public debate, in a secret session of the Rada, or Parliament. A separate measure granted amnesty to separatist leaders not involved in war crimes.

    Opposition leaders, Western diplomats and other analysts all worry that the terms of the cease-fire protocol and the temporary law are too vague. It is not clear, for example, how the elections in coming months will be organized. Basic questions have not been answered, such as who will run government functions such as health services and education.

    What is clear is that Ukraine, teetering toward bankruptcy, must foot the estimated $8 billion bill for reconstruction.

    The government argues that the Ukrainian military was just outgunned.

    But many Ukrainians believe that the military was plagued by corruption like much of the government. Recent press reports suggested that the military was selling heavy equipment to volunteer battalions.

    Slava Konstantinovsky has a shaved head, a wrestler’s build and a scrapbook of pictures showing him squiring Ukrainian beauties around in a Rolls-Royce. Among other things, he owns some of the most expensive restaurants in Kiev. But this summer he paid the costs for 15 volunteers and joined the fight himself.

    “In fact, we don’t have an army, because for years army commanders at all levels were stealing from it,” said Mr. Konstantinovsky, who is running for Parliament. “The humiliating cease-fire is a result of Ukraine not having an army.”

    ———–

    “For Many, a Nation That Seems Less Free From Moscow’s Dominance Than Ever” by NEIL MacFARQUHAR; The New York Times; 09/22/2014

    “Konstantinovsky has a shaved head, a wrestler’s build and a scrapbook of pictures showing him squiring Ukrainian beauties around in a Rolls-Royce. Among other things, he owns some of the most expensive restaurants in Kiev. But this summer he paid the costs for 15 volunteers and joined the fight himself.”

    And that gives us a pretty good idea of the politics of Slava Konstantinovsky: He paid for 15 volunteers in a militia, probably a far-right neo-Nazi militia given the close ties of Andreii Artemenko to the far-right neo-Nazi Pravy Sektor/Right Sector militia. And this is one of the “Brothers Karamazov” and Viktor Topolov’s employee at a company who were also apparently a mob hitman and who was himself targeted by one of Mogilevich’s hitmen.

    So to summarize this all, we’ve thus far learned that:
    1. Felix Sater’s Regency Capital shares a suite with a company that employs Salvatore Lauria’s cousin.
    2. Lauria appears to have known Ukrainian oligarch Alex Oronov, who died in March.
    3. Oronov is an associate of Andreii Artemenko and appears to be the person who introduced Sater to Artemenko.
    4. Oronov is a long-time partner and associate of Viktor Topolov and they co-owned the ethanol company Michael Cohen tried to attract investors for.
    5. Topolov was appointed coal minister under Vikor Yushchenko.
    6. Topolov also had Ukrainian and Russia mob ties, including employeeing the “Brothers Karamzov”, charged with being mafia hitmen.
    7. Mogilevich hitman Leonic Roytman apparently tied to kill both Topolov and the Brothers Karamazov.
    8. One of the Brothers, Slava Konstantinovsky, became a Ukrainian MP. And then financed and joined one of the “volunteer” battalions fighting the separatists in the East.

    So as we can see, Sater and Cohen are clearly a significantly link between the Trump Organization and the former Soviet Union. But as we can also see, the more we learn about those links, the more it appears that Cohen’s ties to Ukraine in particular is specifically to the anti-Russian faction of Ukraine’s oligarchy. It’s quite a twist.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 9, 2017, 1:37 pm

Post a comment