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

For The Record  

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

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

Roger Stone Salutes

Roger Stone Salutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Program Highlights Include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15. Othman’s links to Bush are profound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Discussion

23 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
  12. One of the more interesting aspects about the whole #TrumpRussia story is how, when you look at Trump’s history with investments in Russia it’s almost entirely a history of Trump getting rejected by Kremlin. Rejections that included the bid to build Trump Tower Moscow that fizzled out in early 2016 following the failure of Trump Org attorney Michael Cohen to get a reply from Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov about getting approval for the project. It’s the kind of context that raises the question of whether or not the Russian government’s sudden friendliness (the meeting in Trump Tower) with the Trump campaign starting around June of 2016 was partly driven by the fact that the Kremlin had been rejecting Trump for years. It’s not hard to imagine that the Kremlin may have been sensitive to the fact that the they had repeatedly rejected the guy who might be president, including a rejection just earlier that year.

    So along those lines, it’s worth noting that two more Russian business proposals were just revealed: one from June of 2016 and one from October 2015.

    The inquiry in October 2015 was from Russian real estate developer Sergei Gordeev about a Trump-branded residential complex. But the offer was reportedly rebuffed because Trump Org was already partnering with IC Expert (a firm heading by a Sater associate) on a Trump Tower Moscow deal. The same deal that fizzled in early 2016.

    And, surprise!, the proposal from June 2016 was basically Felix Sater trying to rekindle that fizzled Trump Tower Moscow deal. Sater was apparently encouraging Trump Org attorney Michael Cohen to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, a government-hosted economic forum designed to showcase investment opportunities to the international business community and put these people in contact with Russian government officials. Sater was apparently suggesting that he could arrange for Cohen to meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, top financial leaders, and maybe even Putin. Sater also reportedly told Cohen that Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, could help arrange the discussions, which is interesting since the previous Trump Tower deal apparently fell through after Peskov ignored Cohen’s emails when Cohen reached out to him (at Sater’s recommendation) to get some assistance on getting approval for the Trump Tower Moscow project.

    Cohen didn’t take Sater up on his offer, but it’s worth noting that Sater reportedly provided Cohen with a formal invitation to the conference from the Russian leader of the event that included a letter signed by a conference officials designed to help Cohen get a visa from the Russian government. It’s notable because when you review all of the various antics involving Sater over the last couple of years it’s not actually clear that Sater has any meaningful contacts with the Russian government and wasn’t just hyping his connections. But it looks like he was able to at least get Cohen this invitation to this event which is the pretty much the only successful instance of Sater somehow using his famed Kremlin ties in this whole #TrumpRussia story. Which raises an interesting question about Sater and his ties to the Russian government: Did Sater actually still have meaningful Kremlin connections in recent years (after he was revealed to be an FBI and CIA informant in 2007-2008) or did Sater’s standing with the Kremlin only rise as Trump’s political prospects rose throughout the GOP primaries? Because don’t forget that Trump was looking like the probably GOP primary winner in June of 2016, which is quite different from how it looked in January of 2016 when Sater and Cohen apparently couldn’t even get an email returned from Putin’s spokesman.

    Also don’t forget about the alleged Russian government outreach efforts with the Trump campaign took place in June of 2016 too, so it would be interesting to learn the exact dates of Sater’s emails to Cohen about this. Rob Goldstone sent Donald Trump, Jr. the now notorious email saying the Russian government wants to help Trump on June 3rd, 2016, and the meetings with the Russian delegation in Trump Tower took place on June 9th. Also note the first reports of DNC server hacking happened on June 14th and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum took place from the June 16-18, 2016. So when exactly did Sater’s outreach to Cohen take place? It seems like a pretty relevant question if we’re supposed to assume that the Russian government was trying to invite a close Trump affiliate to a Russian government-hosted economic forum, ostensibly to get a Trump Tower Moscow deal worked out, at the same time some sort of Trump-Kremlin collusion deal involving hacked material was being negotiated out:

    The Washington Post

    Trump’s company had more contact with Russia during campaign, according to documents turned over to investigators

    By Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Adam Entous
    October 2, 2017

    Associates of President Trump and his company have turned over documents to federal investigators that reveal two previously unreported contacts from Russia during the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

    In one case, Trump’s personal attorney and a business associate exchanged emails weeks before the Republican National Convention about the lawyer possibly traveling to an economic conference in Russia that would be attended by top Russian financial and government leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

    In the other case, the same Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, received a proposal in late 2015 for a Moscow residential project from a company founded by a billionaire who once served in the upper house of the Russian parliament, these people said. The previously unreported inquiry marks the second proposal for a Trump-branded Moscow project that was delivered to the company during the presidential campaign and has since come to light.

    Cohen declined the invitation to the economic conference, citing the difficulty of attending so close to the GOP convention, according to people familiar with the matter. And Cohen rejected the Moscow building plan.

    Nonetheless, the information about the interactions has been provided to congressional committees as well as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as they investigate whether Trump associates coordinated with Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. election, according to people familiar with the inquiries who, like others cited in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the inquiry.

    Details of the communications were turned over by the Trump Organization in August to the White House, defense lawyers and government investigators and described to The Washington Post.

    Though there is no evidence that these Russia-related entreaties resulted in further action, the email communications about them show that Trump’s inner circle continued receiving requests from Russians deep into the presidential campaign.

    After WikiLeaks began to publish emails from the Democratic National Committee that were widely believed to have been hacked at the direction of Moscow, Trump said on several occasions that he had no financial ties to Russia. In July 2016, he tweeted, “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.”

    But the new disclosures add to an emerging picture in which Trump’s business and campaign were repeatedly contacted by Russians with interests in business and politics. Trump’s son, his son-in-law, his campaign chairman, low-level foreign policy advisers and, now, Cohen, one of his closest business confidants, all fielded such inquiries in the weeks before or after Trump accepted the nomination.

    The documents also underscore the Trump company’s long-standing interest in doing business in Moscow.

    In a statement Monday, Cohen stressed that he did not attend the economic forum. “I did not accept this invitation,” he said. “I have never been to Russia.”

    Cohen has said he will cooperate with authorities.

    Alan Garten, general counsel for the Trump Organization, said in a statement that the newly disclosed Moscow proposal needed to be understood “in context.”

    “Like any other international real estate brand, it is not uncommon for third party developers to submit proposals for potential real estate projects all over the world,” he said, adding that only a “very small percentage of these proposals are ever pursued.”

    The June 2016 email to Cohen about the economic conference came from Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer and former Trump business associate. Sater encouraged Cohen to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, with Sater telling Cohen that he could be introduced to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, top financial leaders and perhaps Putin, according to people familiar with the correspondence. At one point, Sater told Cohen that Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, could help arrange the discussions, according to a person familiar with the exchange.

    Robert Wolf, an attorney for Sater, declined to comment.

    The correspondence included a formal invitation to the conference from the Russian leader of the event, according to people familiar with the Trump Organization documents. The invitation included a letter signed by a conference official designed to help Cohen get a visa from the Russian government.

    The St. Petersburg forum is a premiere government-hosted economic conference held annually under Putin’s auspices. Business leaders from Russia and other countries convene in what is designed to allow high-level conversation similar to the international business conference held each year in Davos, Switzerland, and at the same time to show off Russian investment opportunities. Following Russia’s incursion into Ukraine in 2014, the Obama administration actively discouraged American businesses from attending the event.

    Cohen, Sater and Trump had earlier in 2016 been working on a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The June 2016 email exchange did not directly address that Moscow tower plan, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

    But Sater was eager to rekindle interest in the project, which had been canceled five months earlier, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

    The project had begun in the fall of 2015, when Trump was competing for the GOP nomination. Trump signed a “letter of intent” in October 2015 to license his name to the Moscow developer working with Sater to construct what they hoped would be one of the tallest buildings in the world.

    In January 2016, Cohen emailed Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, saying the project had stalled and asking for assistance in pushing it forward. Cohen has said he received no response from Peskov and canceled the deal shortly thereafter.

    Peskov has said he received the email but did not reply. He said Sunday that he did not remember any discussions about Cohen attending the St. Petersburg economic forum. But he noted that the annual conference is designed to allow attendees to meet with government and business leaders.

    “My job [is] to assist in that!” he wrote in a text message.

    Cohen rebuffed the invitation, and the project was not restarted.

    Sater, who emigrated from Russia to the United States as a youngster, served time in jail as a young man following a bar fight and then was convicted in 1998 for his role in a Mafia-linked stock fraud. He has also been hailed for cooperating in the past with Justice Department probes in undisclosed national security matters.

    Sater has had a long relationship with Cohen, whom he knew in high school, and with Trump. A firm in which Sater played a principal role, Bayrock, partnered in building the Trump Soho tower in New York City. And Sater and Cohen met with a Ukrainian legislator in 2017 to discuss how to promote a Ukrainian peace plan to the new Trump White House team.

    The newly disclosed documents show publicly for the first time that, in addition to Sater’s efforts, the Trump Organization fielded another inquiry for a Moscow project during the presidential campaign.

    That proposal originated with Russian billionaire Sergei Gordeev, a Moscow real estate mogul who served through 2010 as a Russian legislator.

    The discussions about working with Gordeev took place via email between Cohen and an international financier he had worked with in the past, Giorgi Rtskhiladze, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

    A spokesman for Rtskhiladze, Melanie A. Bonvicino, confirmed the proposal for a Trump-branded residential development, saying a 13-page document with pictures was delivered in October 2015.

    But, Bonvicino said, Cohen informed Rtskhiladze in 2015 that the Trump company could not pursue the project because it was already committed to another developer in Russia — a reference to the proposal being guided by Sater.

    No letter of intent was ever signed, according to people familiar with the interaction. Cohen and Rtskhiladze “did not speak of the project again,” Bonvicino said.

    A spokeswoman for Gordeev’s company said he had no comment.

    Rtskhiladze has had a long-standing interest in working with Trump in the region and pursued a project to build a Trump Tower in Batumi, Georgia, overlooking the Black Sea. Trump traveled to Georgia in 2012 to promote the Batumi deal and was paid nearly $1 million in upfront cash, but the project was never built and was formally canceled by the Trump Organization in December as Trump prepared to take office.

    In an interview in 2016, Rtskhiladze told The Post he was encouraging Trump to build a tower in Moscow.

    “Everyone wants to build a magnificent tower,” Rtskhiladze said. “It’s challenging, but I think achievable, with that name.”

    ———-

    “Trump’s company had more contact with Russia during campaign, according to documents turned over to investigators” by Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Adam Entous; The Washington Post; 10/02/2017

    “The June 2016 email to Cohen about the economic conference came from Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer and former Trump business associate. Sater encouraged Cohen to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, with Sater telling Cohen that he could be introduced to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, top financial leaders and perhaps Putin, according to people familiar with the correspondence. At one point, Sater told Cohen that Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, could help arrange the discussions, according to a person familiar with the exchange

    So Sater makes one more attempt to make the Trump Tower Moscow deal happen. Once again by promising high-level Kremlin contacts. Contacts that never materialized, although in this case it’s hard to say what would have happened if Michael Cohen had taken him up on the offer. And Sater was actually able to provide a formal invitation from the head of the event. But it’s rather difficult to say how significant that is because, after all, Trump was basically the GOP nominee at that point. Moscow clearly had a reason to establishment positive relations with Team Trump, especially given the years of unsuccessful Trump attempts to make a development in Moscow happen include the rejected attempt from January of 2016, just 5 months earlier:


    The correspondence included a formal invitation to the conference from the Russian leader of the event, according to people familiar with the Trump Organization documents. The invitation included a letter signed by a conference official designed to help Cohen get a visa from the Russian government.

    The St. Petersburg forum is a premiere government-hosted economic conference held annually under Putin’s auspices. Business leaders from Russia and other countries convene in what is designed to allow high-level conversation similar to the international business conference held each year in Davos, Switzerland, and at the same time to show off Russian investment opportunities. Following Russia’s incursion into Ukraine in 2014, the Obama administration actively discouraged American businesses from attending the event.

    Cohen, Sater and Trump had earlier in 2016 been working on a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The June 2016 email exchange did not directly address that Moscow tower plan, according to people familiar with the correspondence.

    But Sater was eager to rekindle interest in the project, which had been canceled five months earlier, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

    So, like so much of the #TrumpRussia case, we have new information, no new answers, but a whole lot of new questions. Questions that mostly revolve around Felix Sater.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 4, 2017, 2:39 pm
  13. Mystery solved. Specifically, the mystery of who Roger Stone’s intermediary was with Julian Assange during the 2016 election: New York political satirist and radio personality Randy Credico:

    CNN

    New York radio personality was Roger Stone’s WikiLeaks contact

    By Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, CNN

    Updated 9:20 AM ET, Thu November 30, 2017

    (CNN)President Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone was in contact with a New York radio personality who had conversations with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign season, according to sources familiar with the situation.

    The radio host, Randy Credico, is the individual Stone referred to as an intermediary between him and Assange. Stone initially declined to reveal his name to the House Intelligence Committee because he said they had an “off-the-record” conversation, though he insisted there was nothing untoward about their conversation. Stone later did privately disclose the identity of the individual to the panel.

    Credico received a subpoena this week to appear Dec. 15 before the House Intelligence Committee, something Credico’s attorney Martin Stolar says he “certainly” plans to comply with. Credico tweeted out a copy of the subpoena on Tuesday.

    “He’s had conversations with Julian Assange,” Stolar said of Credico, noting that Assange and Stone both were guests on his radio program. Stolar said his client also had separate conversations with Assange, but he declined to confirm that Credico was the go-between identified by Stone.

    In a Facebook post Thursday morning, Stone confirmed that Credico was his WikiLeaks contact. He defended Credico, saying he had initially declined to identify him because he was concerned the exposure would harm Credico’s career.

    “The Committee is wasting their time. He merely confirmed what Assange had said publicly,” Stone wrote. “Credico never said he knew or had any information as to source or content of the material Mr. Credico never said he confirmed this information with Mr. Assange himself. Mr. Stone knew Credico had his own sources within WikiLeaks and is credible. Credico turned out to be 100 % accurate.”

    Stone has vigorously denied that he colluded with Russia or had any advanced knowledge of the Russian hacking and WikiLeaks’ leaking of thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

    Credico is a radio personality and political satirist based in New York. He’s previously run for office in New York, including for mayor in 2013.

    On his radio show, Credico has had both Assange and Stone appear as guests, and he met with Assange in person earlier this year.

    In a NY1 interview earlier this week, Credico did not say whether he was Stone’s intermediary to Assange.

    “You believe that story? Let me just say this. I am not at liberty courtesy of my counsel to talk about Roger Stone or to talk about WikiLeaks or to talk about Julian Assange, because these are both guests that appear on my show,” Credico said. “And by talking to you about it, that could give them the tire iron to get me to talk.”

    Credico, who says he backed Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the election and supports liberal causes like legalizing marijuana, wouldn’t say whether he would answer the committee’s questions, citing First Amendment protections as a journalist.

    “I’m going to have to appear before them,” he said. “I’m not sure I’m going to talk to them.”

    During the 2016 presidential campaign, Stone appeared to predict on a few occasions that WikiLeaks would soon release damaging information about Hillary Clinton, including stating that it would be Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s “time in the barrel” ahead of the WikiLeaks’ release of Podesta’s emails.

    Stone has denied he had any prior knowledge of the Podesta email release, saying he was referring to his own research into Podesta.

    When he testified before the House Intelligence Committee in September, Stone denied any direct contact with Assange.

    “On June 12, 2016, WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange, announced that he was in possession of Clinton DNC emails. I learned this by reading it on Twitter,” Stone wrote in an opening statement.

    “I asked a journalist who I knew had interviewed Assange to independently confirm this report, and he subsequently did,” Stone wrote. “This journalist assured me that WikiLeaks would release this information in October and continued to assure me of this throughout the balance of August and all of September. This information proved to be correct.”

    After Stone’s closed-door hearing, he told reporters that he had answered all of the committee’s questions but one: the identity of his connection to Assange.

    At the time, Stone argued that his intermediary was a journalist, and his conversation was off-the-record.

    “I’m not going to burn somebody I spoke to off-the-record,” Stone said. “If he releases me, if he allows me to release it, I would be happy to give it to the committee. I’m actually going to try to do that.”

    But Reps. Mike Conaway of Texas and Adam Schiff of California, the Republican and Democrat leading the panel’s Russia probe, threatened to subpoena Stone for the identity of his intermediary.

    Ahead of the deadline set by Conaway and Schiff, Stone’s attorney said last month that the longtime Trump confidante had complied with the committee’s demands, though he did not elaborate any further.

    ———-

    “New York radio personality was Roger Stone’s WikiLeaks contact” by Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb; CNN; 11/30/2017

    “On his radio show, Credico has had both Assange and Stone appear as guests, and he met with Assange in person earlier this year.”

    And Credico as the middle-man has been confirmed by Roger Stone:


    In a Facebook post Thursday morning, Stone confirmed that Credico was his WikiLeaks contact. He defended Credico, saying he had initially declined to identify him because he was concerned the exposure would harm Credico’s career.”

    Although it’s worth noting that when Stone initially declined to identify Credico he denied that even when directly asked that by Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker if Credico was the middle-man back in March. Stone recently texted Lizza say, “A misguided effort to protect Credico who I felt had helped me on an off the record basis. Sorry.”

    Also note that when Stone says he initially refused to identify Credico over concerns that the exposure would harm Credico’s career, that’s a career that ostensibly had Credico on the left-wing of the political spectrum:


    Credico, who says he backed Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the election and supports liberal causes like legalizing marijuana, wouldn’t say whether he would answer the committee’s questions, citing First Amendment protections as a journalist.

    But as Josh Marshall notes below, if you actually look at Credico’s career, it appears to involve quite a bit of trolling the Democrats:

    Talking Points Memo
    Editor’s Blog

    Roger Stone’s ‘Journalist’ Go-Between Emerges

    By Josh Marshall Published November 29, 2017 10:41 pm

    CNN reports tonight that the man who served as a go-between between Roger Stone and Julian Assange is named Randy Credico.

    I had never heard his name before. He has a radio show, which had both Stone and Assange on as guests. Credico is a comedian, radio host, left-wing activist, satirist and perennial candidate who runs as a Democrat but seems not infrequently to end up backing far right Republicans.

    Credico ran a primary challenge against Chuck Schumer in 2010 and then threatened to back far-right Republican Carl Paladino if he didn’t get on the ballot. He also ran for New York City Mayor in 2013. Notably, Stone was a key campaign strategist for Paladino at the time, effectively running his campaign through surrogates and proteges while officially running the campaign of third party candidate Kristin Davis, a retired Madam.

    Credico now says he supported Jill Stein. But in May 2016 Stone told another radio audience that Credico was starting a group called Sanders Supporters for Trump. He’s a colorful character. Here’s his congressional subpoena that he tweeted out yesterday, signed by Devin Nunes.

    ———-

    “Roger Stone’s ‘Journalist’ Go-Between Emerges” by Josh Marshall; Talking Points Memo; 11/29/2017

    Credico now says he supported Jill Stein. But in May 2016 Stone told another radio audience that Credico was starting a group called Sanders Supporters for Trump. He’s a colorful character. Here’s his congressional subpoena that he tweeted out yesterday, signed by Devin Nunes.”

    A Sanders Supporters for Trump group. That’s what Roger Stone claimed Credico was going to start back in May of 2016. If true, it’s quite a downfall for Credico given his background in political activism. In the following piece by Max Blumenthal, Credico is characterized is a comedian truth-teller who first gained prominence criticizing Ronald Reagan’s wars in Central American in the mid-80’s and has done quite a bit to bring attention to the Drug War’s impact on minority communities. He also claims he wouldn’t lift of finger to help Trump and described Jeff Sessions as the worst Attorney General he’s ever seen. Whoops:

    Alternet

    House Intel Committee to Subpoena Leftist Comedian and Civil Rights Activist Randy Credico in Russia Investigation
    The renowned activist says he is under suspicion for his contacts with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

    By Max Blumenthal
    November 27, 2017, 7:32 AM GMT

    The House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation has taken an unexpected turn, with investigators homing in on a New York City-based comedian, radio host and renowned civil rights activist named Randy Credico.

    Credico received a letter this month from the Committee ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, and Rep. Michael Conaway, the Republican leading the investigation. The lawmakers requested that Credico “participate in a voluntary, transcribed interview at the Committee’s offices” during the first half of December.

    Credico informed the House committee through his legal counsel that he would not submit to the voluntary interview. Soon after, his lawyer told him that the committee planned to issue a subpoena.

    Credico is among the unlikeliest characters to have surfaced as a player in the ongoing Russiagate drama. For over two decades, he split time as a comedy professional while waging a tireless crusade against the war on drugs. The former host of a radio show on the Pacifica affiliate WBAI, Credico came into the company of high profile dissidents. Today his friends include the transparency activist targeted for arrest and prosecution by the US government: Julian Assange.

    The Wikileaks founder was recently accused by CIA Director Mike Pompeo of overseeing a “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has suggested without evidence that Wikileaks collaborated with the Russian government to subvert the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor.

    This year, the Trump administration expanded the federal grand jury seeking the arrest of Assange to cover the Wikileaks release of thousands of documents on CIA hacking tools. However, there is no claim so far that grand jury covered the release by Wikileaks of the Democratic National Commitee’s emails in 2016. A United Nations working group ruled that Assange was being arbitrarily detained. It has been seven years since he lost his freedom, and has been confined to a series of small rooms ever since.

    According to Credico, he and Assange held “three meetings that were two to three hours each” at the Ecuadoran embassy in London where the online activist has received diplomatic asylum. They took place on September 6, and the 13th and 16th of November of this year. Credico said he traveled to London this November to attend the hearing of Stefania Maurizi, a correspondent from Italy’s La Repubblica who had filed a Freedom of Information request demanding the press’s right to access documents regarding his case. (He showed me a photograph of himself with Maurizi in London to prove his point).

    “I was just there to support [Assange] as a wing man,” Credico commented to me. “I don’t agree with him on everything — it’s the fact that he’s a journalist and a publisher and has not put anything out that’s false. I don’t know anything about technology and he didn’t give me any secrets.”

    The letter Credico received from the House Intelligence Committee did not specify what it suspected him of doing, stating only that his interview could cover anything within the parameters of “Russian cyber-activities against the 2016 US election, potential links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns, the US government’s response to these Russian active measures, and related leaks of classified information.”

    However, Credico is convinced that he is being used to undermine Assange. “This is about chilling Wikileaks and that starts with intimidating anyone who has met with Julian [Assange],” he stated.

    Satirist and civil rights crusader

    Credico first appeared in the national spotlight in 1984 when he trashed Reagan’s Central American proxy wars during a comedy set on the Tonight Show. A look of severe discomfort could be seen on Johnny Carson’s face when Credico likened Reagan’s neoconservative UN ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick to Eva Braun. Though he was never invited back on the show, the comic’s uncanny impersonations and incendiary political satire won him the admiration of peers like Larry David, Barry Crimmins and Jack Black.

    During the 1990s, Credico became outraged about the disproportionate toll the war on drugs was taking on the poor and people of color. He launched a furious crusade against New York State’s draconian Rockefeller Laws, howling outside courthouses across the city about the evils of mass incarceration, cops he branded “slave catchers” and proceedings he denounced as “modern-day slave auctions.” When he wasn’t screaming in the streets, he was behind prison walls, befriending inmates and working the phones to get reporters interested in their cases.

    The New Yorker’s Jennifer Gonnerman estimated that Credico had “generated more than a hundred news stories, largely by inviting reporters to his events and introducing them to the families of inmates.” Crediting him for helping force the New York legislature to rewrite the Rockefeller drug laws in 2004, Gonnerman branded Credico, “The Man Who Screamed So Loud the Drug Laws Changed.”

    Credico’s efforts to expose the drug war’s injustices culminated in Tulia, Texas, where a corrupt undercover narcotics officer had railroaded some 10 percent of the town’s African American population into lengthy jail sentences for drug crimes they did not commit. Credico’s agitation resulted in a wave of national media attention and in 2003, the full acquittal of the 38 prisoners with sentences up to 90 years. His efforts were honored by the NAACP and became the subject of several documentaries, including “60 Spins Around the Sun,” an award winning biographical chronicle financed by Jack Black.

    In 2009, Credico quit his job as the director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice and launched a long-shot senate campaign against Chuck Schumer, slamming the omnipotent Democratic senator for his role in mandatory minimum sentencing and pro-death penalty legislation. “You have to take a look at his record,” Credico said of Schumer at the time. “And that’s a really racist position as far as I am concerned. Yes, it is about race.”

    In the end, Credico won one percent of the vote. But he soldiered on, running for mayor in 2013, then the governor’s office a year later. All along, he was dogged by drug and alcohol addiction, which he has been public about. His penchant for drunken late-night tirades began to alienate his allies and even led him to contemplate suicide. An intervention in 2014 by his friend, the comedian Crimmins, pulled Credico back from from the brink and helped him kick his self-destructive habits.

    Meetings with Assange, conspiratorial rumors

    Credico’s sobriety coincided with intensive advocacy for the community of national security whistleblowers that emerged after 9/11 to expose secret government torture, assassination and mass surveillance programs. In August 2015, he hosted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for an interview on “Live on the Fly, his former show at the Pacifica radio affiliate, WBAI. Several interviews followed over the coming months, including a series, “Assange: Countdown to Freedom,” that featured high-profile whistleblowers like Thomas Drake and Jesslyn Raddack advocating for Assange’s release.

    “I had to build an audience at a moribund station and I got 65 percent of the traffic,” Credico remarked. “I had a popular international show because it was tweeted out by Wikileaks and Anonymous Scandinavia and I got a huge international following.”

    The relationship with Assange eventually developed into a series of meetings at the Ecuadoran embassy in London. These encounters fueled online rumors accusing Credico of serving as a courier between the notoriously Machiavellian former Trump campaign advisor, Roger Stone, and Assange.

    This September, Stone testified before the House Intelligence Committee, which sought to scrutinize his claim to have communicated with the hacker known as Guccifer 2.0, his contacts with Wikileaks, and a tweet that seemed to suggest he had advance knowledge of the release of the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Before the committee, Stone angrily denied having colluded with the Russian government and claimed that all of his contacts with Assange were conducted through “an intermediary.”

    For his part, Credico freely acknowledged that Stone had been a guest on his WBAI show and the two had cooperated on a few oddball political initiatives over the years. But he contended that “Roger Stone is just a whipping post for the committee but the one they’re after is Assange because they want to quiet him.”

    “They’re looking for a way to do in Assange,” Credico emphasized, “and I’m the only American in the press that has visited him outside of a reporter from the New Yorker, and he’s not going to talk to anyone else.”

    Credico also insisted that despite his well-known dislike for Hillary Clinton, he would not have lifted a finger to help the Trump campaign: “I hate Trump. He’s got ethnic cleansing going on with the deportation of Haitians and Latin Americans and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions is the worst nightmare I’ve ever seen.”

    Asked if he would comply with the House Intelligence Committee, Credico sounded a defiant tone. “I’m a journalist with a radio show and there’s nothing [the committee] can elicit out of me because I’m covered by the First Amendment. And everything I’ve talked to Assange about has been on the show, and everything else is in my fuc king notes. Would any journalist give them their notes?”

    ———-

    “House Intel Committee to Subpoena Leftist Comedian and Civil Rights Activist Randy Credico in Russia Investigation” by Max Blumenthal; Alternet; 11/27/2017

    Credico first appeared in the national spotlight in 1984 when he trashed Reagan’s Central American proxy wars during a comedy set on the Tonight Show. A look of severe discomfort could be seen on Johnny Carson’s face when Credico likened Reagan’s neoconservative UN ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick to Eva Braun. Though he was never invited back on the show, the comic’s uncanny impersonations and incendiary political satire won him the admiration of peers like Larry David, Barry Crimmins and Jack Black.”

    So Credico first appears in the national spotlight in 1984 trashing Reagan’s Central American proxy wars on the Tonight Show. And spends the next couple of decades crusading against the abuses of the Drug War. He sounds like a reasonable left-wing activist so far:


    During the 1990s, Credico became outraged about the disproportionate toll the war on drugs was taking on the poor and people of color. He launched a furious crusade against New York State’s draconian Rockefeller Laws, howling outside courthouses across the city about the evils of mass incarceration, cops he branded “slave catchers” and proceedings he denounced as “modern-day slave auctions.” When he wasn’t screaming in the streets, he was behind prison walls, befriending inmates and working the phones to get reporters interested in their cases.

    The New Yorker’s Jennifer Gonnerman estimated that Credico had “generated more than a hundred news stories, largely by inviting reporters to his events and introducing them to the families of inmates.” Crediting him for helping force the New York legislature to rewrite the Rockefeller drug laws in 2004, Gonnerman branded Credico, “The Man Who Screamed So Loud the Drug Laws Changed.”

    Credico’s efforts to expose the drug war’s injustices culminated in Tulia, Texas, where a corrupt undercover narcotics officer had railroaded some 10 percent of the town’s African American population into lengthy jail sentences for drug crimes they did not commit. Credico’s agitation resulted in a wave of national media attention and in 2003, the full acquittal of the 38 prisoners with sentences up to 90 years. His efforts were honored by the NAACP and became the subject of several documentaries, including “60 Spins Around the Sun,” an award winning biographical chronicle financed by Jack Black.

    In 2009, Credico quit his job as the director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice and launched a long-shot senate campaign against Chuck Schumer, slamming the omnipotent Democratic senator for his role in mandatory minimum sentencing and pro-death penalty legislation. “You have to take a look at his record,” Credico said of Schumer at the time. “And that’s a really racist position as far as I am concerned. Yes, it is about race.”

    But then, in 2014, appears to Credico finally kicks his drug and alcohol addictions, an period of his life that appears to coincide with his associations with Julian Assange and other national security whistle-blowers:


    In the end, Credico won one percent of the vote. But he soldiered on, running for mayor in 2013, then the governor’s office a year later. All along, he was dogged by drug and alcohol addiction, which he has been public about. His penchant for drunken late-night tirades began to alienate his allies and even led him to contemplate suicide. An intervention in 2014 by his friend, the comedian Crimmins, pulled Credico back from from the brink and helped him kick his self-destructive habits.

    Meetings with Assange, conspiratorial rumors

    Credico’s sobriety coincided with intensive advocacy for the community of national security whistleblowers that emerged after 9/11 to expose secret government torture, assassination and mass surveillance programs. In August 2015, he hosted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for an interview on “Live on the Fly, his former show at the Pacifica radio affiliate, WBAI. Several interviews followed over the coming months, including a series, “Assange: Countdown to Freedom,” that featured high-profile whistleblowers like Thomas Drake and Jesslyn Raddack advocating for Assange’s release.

    “I had to build an audience at a moribund station and I got 65 percent of the traffic,” Credico remarked. “I had a popular international show because it was tweeted out by Wikileaks and Anonymous Scandinavia and I got a huge international following.”

    The relationship with Assange eventually developed into a series of meetings at the Ecuadoran embassy in London. These encounters fueled online rumors accusing Credico of serving as a courier between the notoriously Machiavellian former Trump campaign advisor, Roger Stone, and Assange.

    And Credico also acknowledges that he and Stone have “cooperated on a few oddball political initiatives over the years,” (does this include “Sanders Supporters for Trump?”) and describes Stone as just “a whipping post” for Congress to go after Assange. Which is about the nicest spin you could lend to Stone given the role he played in the 2016 election dirty tricks operations. But Credico assures us that he hates Trump and wouldn’t want to lift a finger to help him:

    For his part, Credico freely acknowledged that Stone had been a guest on his WBAI show and the two had cooperated on a few oddball political initiatives over the years. But he contended that “Roger Stone is just a whipping post for the committee but the one they’re after is Assange because they want to quiet him.”

    “They’re looking for a way to do in Assange,” Credico emphasized, “and I’m the only American in the press that has visited him outside of a reporter from the New Yorker, and he’s not going to talk to anyone else.”

    Credico also insisted that despite his well-known dislike for Hillary Clinton, he would not have lifted a finger to help the Trump campaign: “I hate Trump. He’s got ethnic cleansing going on with the deportation of Haitians and Latin Americans and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions is the worst nightmare I’ve ever seen.”

    It’s quite a story arc: Credico spends decades fighting the good fight while drunk and high. Then he sobers up and start palling around with Julian Assange and Roger Stone and end up assisting a dirty-tricks campaign that helps Donald Trump become President and Jeff Sessions the Attorney General. Sobriety isn’t always a walk in the park.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 4, 2017, 4:27 pm
  14. There’s a new twist to the #TrumpRussia investigation that relates to both the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting initiated by Rob Goldstone’s “The Russian Government wants to help you” email and potentially also the January 2016 outreach efforts by Trump Org attorney Michael Cohen and Felix Sater to get the Kremlin’s help in getting approval for a Trump Tower Moscow project:

    First, recall that the Trump Tower Moscow initiative culminated in an email sent by Michael Cohen in January of 2016 to Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov asking for assistance in getting that project approved. Also recall that the email was never responded to according to reports. And while it’s unclear from the reports when exactly in January this email was sent, there is one article that describes it as “mid-January”. So in mid-January we have the Trump Org attorney writing an email to the Kremlin.

    With that “mid-January” apparently failed outreach effort by Michael Cohen in mind, let’s take a look at this new report about thread of emails between the Trump team and Russian figures that started up right around this same time and eventually involved Rob Goldstone.

    In this case, the emails were about a proposal by an executive at the “VK” website. VK is short for Vkontakte, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook. And it turns out that in January of 2016 an executive at VK, Konstantin Sidorkov, reached out to Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump campaign’s social media director Dan Scavino with a proposal: Why not have the Trump campaign set up a web page on VK as a means of reaching-out to the Russian-American vote? The way Sidorkov put it, such a move would be big news in Russia. And as the following article also notes, while VK doesn’t have much of a presence in the US, it is particularly popular with white nationalist and people who read sites like InfoWars and Brietbart.

    But before Mr. Sidorkov sent his proposal, it was none other than Rob Goldstone who initiated the whole thing. The dates when this started aren’t entirely clear, but according to the following article, Scavino wrote back to Rob Goldstone on January 19th, 2016, saying, “Please feel free to send me whatever you have…Thank you so much for looking out for Mr. Trump and his presidential campaign.”

    So we have a “mid-January” Michael Cohen/Felix Sater outreach effort to the Kremlin for Trump Tower Moscow right around the same time we have a “mid-January” outreach effort from Goldstone to the Trump team.

    It’s unclear what the Trump team did with this offer, but this line of inquiry didn’t stop there. We also learn that Goldstone wrote to Scavino again on Jun 29th, less than three weeks after the notorious June 9th Trump Tower meeting. And in that email Goldstone indicates that this VK web page topic came up during that meeting and Paul Manafort indicated he was in favor of the idea. Interestingly, Ike Kaveladze, a U.S.-based representative for the Agalarovs who attended the Trump Tower meeting, asserts that the topic of a VK page did not come up at all.

    Also don’t forget that “Guccifer 2.0” had already started dumping hacked documents on June 15th of 2016, one day after the initial news reports of the DNC hack. So less than three weeks after the June 9th Trump Tower meeting, and two weeks after “Guccifer 2.0” emerges, we have Goldstone back in contact with the Trump campaign trying to encourage the Trump campaign to set up a VK page.

    Finally, on November 5th, 2016, days before the election, we have one last push for Sidorkov to get the Trump team to put up a VK page. That appears to be the end of this particular #TrumpRussia thread.

    So was Goldstone’s January 2016 outreach to the Trump team a kind of informal Kremlin response to the Cohen/Sater outreach to the Kremlin that same month? It seems possible, although without knowing the exact dates of these events it’s hard to say. But one thing becomes increasingly clear: If the Kremlin really was behind the DNC hacking campaign and subsequent distribution of that material, avoiding obvious connections and a digital paper-trail between the Trump campaign and people who behave like Kremlin operatives definitely was not part of the plan. Which, of course, raises questions about what that plan actually was since leaving Russian fingerprints all over the hacking operation and then encouraging the Trump campaign to leave its own fingerprints all over the various Russian outreach efforts seems like an odd plan. Unless the plan was to create a giant scandal involving the GOP candidate openly colluding with Russian hackers and alleged Kremlin operatives, in which case, mission accomplished:

    The Washington Post

    Russian social media executive sought to help Trump campaign in 2016, emails show

    By Rosalind S. Helderman, Anton Troianovski and Tom Hamburger
    December 7, 2017 at 10:21 PM

    An executive at a leading Russian social media company made several overtures to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 — including days before the November election — urging the candidate to create a page on the website to appeal to Russian Americans and Russians.

    The executive at Vkontakte, or VK, Russia’s equivalent to Facebook, emailed Donald Trump Jr. and social media director Dan Scavino in January and again in November of last year, offering to help promote Trump’s campaign to its nearly 100 million users, according to people familiar with the messages.

    It will be the top news in Russia,” Konstantin Sidorkov, who serves as VK’s director of partnership marketing, wrote on Nov. 5, 2016.

    While Scavino expressed interest in learning more at one point, it is unclear whether the campaign pursued the idea. An attorney for Trump Jr. said his client forwarded a pitch about the concept to Scavino early in the year and could not recall any further discussion about it.

    Scavino, now the White House social media director, did not respond to requests for comment. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment.

    The emails, which were read to The Washington Post and confirmed by people with knowledge of their contents, show a new point of direct contact between an influential Russian and advisers to Trump during the 2016 race. Investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and several congressional committees are scrutinizing those contacts as part of their examinations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign.

    During the time that VK was contacting the Trump operation, Russia was engaged in an influence campaign through social media to bolster Trump, U.S. intelligence officials have said.

    In an email, Sidorkov said his job at the company in 2016 was to encourage celebrities to use the social media platform, an effort that sometimes took “some promotion and explanation,” given that many Western celebrities were unfamiliar with the company.

    He said it was “pretty absurd” to believe that a VK page, if opened, could have influenced the U.S. election, given that the site is not very popular in the United States. He said he had received no response to his notes from Trump aides.

    “I was sending tens of similar email daily to lots of people everywhere,” he wrote.

    The site, whose name translates as “in contact,” is Russia’s most popular social network and owned by publicly traded Russian Internet giant Mail.Ru Group.

    Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, described VK as a “hugely popular social media platform and an excellent tool to connect with Russian expats and Russian-speaking audiences.”

    While mainly used by Russian-speaking users, the site has also become known in Europe — and increasingly in the United States — as a platform embraced by white-nationalist groups, according to groups that track their activity. Far-right politicians in Germany and other countries have VK profiles, Albright said. The website also directed substantial amounts of traffic to Breitbart News and Infowars, a popular conservative conspiracy site, during the 2016 campaign, he said.

    The overture with VK was brokered by Rob Goldstone, a British music promoter who asked Trump Jr. last year to meet with a Russian lawyer who he said had compromising information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

    In early 2016, Goldstone sent an email to Trump Jr. to discuss the idea of setting up a page for Trump on VK, according to people familiar with his message. Robert Gage, an attorney for Goldstone, declined to comment.

    Alan S. Futerfas, an attorney for Trump Jr., confirmed that his client had received the email from Goldstone. Futerfas said that was the last discussion about VK that Trump Jr. could recall.

    “Goldstone wrote to Donald Trump Jr. early in the year, and he forwarded the information to Dan Scavino,” he said. “He did nothing more with the information and had no recollection of or involvement in any further discussion about the matter.”

    At the time, Scavino responded to the idea enthusiastically.

    “Please feel free to send me whatever you have,” Scavino wrote to Goldstone on Jan. 19. “Thank you so much for looking out for Mr. Trump and his presidential campaign.”

    A few days later, Sidorkov emailed Scavino, Trump Jr. and Donald Trump’s longtime assistant Rhona Graff.

    “Nice to meet you and your team,” Sidorkov wrote, attaching information about VK and its social media reach.

    Sidorkov joined VK as a partner relations manager in July 2014, according to his LinkedIn profile.

    He had apparently crossed paths with Trump at least once before, at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Sidorkov posted photographs from the ­after-party on his VK page, including one in which Trump posed with a thumbs up next to Olivia Culpo, the previous year’s winner, and musician Nick Jonas.

    Sidorkov said he was 18 and working for a radio station during the event and had not met Trump personally but rather taken pictures while standing in a crowd.

    Sidorkov — a young, jet-setting tech executive who documents his frequent travels on Instagram and other sites — posted a photograph this July posing next to Vladimir Putin. The Russian president had just participated in a Q-and-A session with schoolchildren and VK users.

    In June 2016, Goldstone again contacted Trump Jr., urging him to meet with Russian lawyer ­Natalia Veselnitskaya, who he said would share information that was part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. Goldstone represented a Russian pop star, Emin Agalarov, whose father, Aras, is a Russian developer who helped bring Trump’s Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013.

    Asked whether he had any further contact with Goldstone, Trump Jr. responded: “Casual. ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ Emin’s going to be in town performing, something like that.”

    The newly disclosed emails show that Goldstone was in contact with the campaign about two weeks after visiting Trump Tower.

    I’m following up on an email [from] a while back of something I had mentioned to Don and Paul Manafort during a meeting recently,” Goldstone wrote to Scavino on June 29. Goldstone wrote that his client, Emin Agalarov, and a “contact” at VK wanted to create a “Vote Trump 2016” promotion.

    “At the time, Paul had said he would welcome it, and so I had the VK folks mock up a basic sample page, which I am resending for your approval now,” Goldstone wrote. “It would merely require Mr. Trump to drop in a short message to Russian-American voters or a generic message, depending on your choice, and the page can be up and running very quickly.”

    He indicated that he was copying Sidorkov, “a good friend,” on his note, “as he would oversee the promotion of the page.” Excerpts of the email were first reported by CNN.

    Ike Kaveladze, a U.S.-based representative for the Agalarovs, attended the Trump Tower meeting but said the VK page idea was not discussed, according to his attorney Scott Balber.

    “It absolutely did not come up,” he said. Balber, who also represents the Agalarovs, added that he had no reason to believe his clients “knew anything about this.”

    The VK proposal was not mentioned in notes taken by Manafort during the meeting, which have been turned over to Congress, according to a person who has seen them. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, declined to comment.

    On Nov. 5, Sidorkov renewed his pitch to the Trump team, writing that “all Russian speakers,” including in the United States, Russia and former Soviet states, were interested in getting Russian language news about Trump.

    “We will help you with the page promotion to … our audience, 100 million users,” he wrote to Scavino, Trump Jr. and Graff.

    On Election Day, Sidorkov reposted the November 2013 photograph of Trump at the Miss Universe after-party on Instagram.

    “Who would have thought,” he wrote..

    ———-

    “Russian social media executive sought to help Trump campaign in 2016, emails show” by Rosalind S. Helderman, Anton Troianovski and Tom Hamburger; The Washington Post; 12/07/2017

    “The executive at Vkontakte, or VK, Russia’s equivalent to Facebook, emailed Donald Trump Jr. and social media director Dan Scavino in January and again in November of last year, offering to help promote Trump’s campaign to its nearly 100 million users, according to people familiar with the messages.”

    An offer to help promote Trump’s campaign. On the Russian version of Facebook. It’s not obvious why the Trump team would have found this offer particularly appealing. But the Trump team was apparently interested anyway. Or at least were interested in conveying interest:


    It will be the top news in Russia,” Konstantin Sidorkov, who serves as VK’s director of partnership marketing, wrote on Nov. 5, 2016.

    While Scavino expressed interest in learning more at one point, it is unclear whether the campaign pursued the idea. An attorney for Trump Jr. said his client forwarded a pitch about the concept to Scavino early in the year and could not recall any further discussion about it.

    But there was one aspect of the campaign that may have been helped by putting up a Trump VK page: VK is popular with the far-right and white nationalists:


    While mainly used by Russian-speaking users, the site has also become known in Europe — and increasingly in the United States — as a platform embraced by white-nationalist groups, according to groups that track their activity. Far-right politicians in Germany and other countries have VK profiles, Albright said. The website also directed substantial amounts of traffic to Breitbart News and Infowars, a popular conservative conspiracy site, during the 2016 campaign, he said

    And it was none other than Rob Goldstone who initiated this, first writing to Trump Jr. in mid-January 2016, who forwarded the proposal to Trump social media director Dan Scavino. And it was Scavino who wrote back to Goldstone on January 19th with an open invite for Sidorkov to set Scavino “whatever you have”:


    The overture with VK was brokered by Rob Goldstone, a British music promoter who asked Trump Jr. last year to meet with a Russian lawyer who he said had compromising information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

    In early 2016, Goldstone sent an email to Trump Jr. to discuss the idea of setting up a page for Trump on VK, according to people familiar with his message. Robert Gage, an attorney for Goldstone, declined to comment.

    Alan S. Futerfas, an attorney for Trump Jr., confirmed that his client had received the email from Goldstone. Futerfas said that was the last discussion about VK that Trump Jr. could recall.

    “Goldstone wrote to Donald Trump Jr. early in the year, and he forwarded the information to Dan Scavino,” he said. “He did nothing more with the information and had no recollection of or involvement in any further discussion about the matter.”

    At the time, Scavino responded to the idea enthusiastically.

    “Please feel free to send me whatever you have,” Scavino wrote to Goldstone on Jan. 19. “Thank you so much for looking out for Mr. Trump and his presidential campaign.”

    A few days later, Sidorkov emailed Scavino, Trump Jr. and Donald Trump’s longtime assistant Rhona Graff.

    “Nice to meet you and your team,” Sidorkov wrote, attaching information about VK and its social media reach.

    And the VK Trump campaign page proposal pops up again. Thanks to Rob Goldstone. Just a few weeks after the Trump Tower meeting. And while Goldstone’s email at the time make it sounds like this VK page topic came up during the meeting, one of the attendees, Ike Kaveladze, says the topic never actually came up:


    In June 2016, Goldstone again contacted Trump Jr., urging him to meet with Russian lawyer ­Natalia Veselnitskaya, who he said would share information that was part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. Goldstone represented a Russian pop star, Emin Agalarov, whose father, Aras, is a Russian developer who helped bring Trump’s Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013.

    Asked whether he had any further contact with Goldstone, Trump Jr. responded: “Casual. ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ Emin’s going to be in town performing, something like that.”

    The newly disclosed emails show that Goldstone was in contact with the campaign about two weeks after visiting Trump Tower.

    I’m following up on an email [from] a while back of something I had mentioned to Don and Paul Manafort during a meeting recently,” Goldstone wrote to Scavino on June 29. Goldstone wrote that his client, Emin Agalarov, and a “contact” at VK wanted to create a “Vote Trump 2016” promotion.

    “At the time, Paul had said he would welcome it, and so I had the VK folks mock up a basic sample page, which I am resending for your approval now,” Goldstone wrote. “It would merely require Mr. Trump to drop in a short message to Russian-American voters or a generic message, depending on your choice, and the page can be up and running very quickly.”

    He indicated that he was copying Sidorkov, “a good friend,” on his note, “as he would oversee the promotion of the page.” Excerpts of the email were first reported by CNN.

    Ike Kaveladze, a U.S.-based representative for the Agalarovs, attended the Trump Tower meeting but said the VK page idea was not discussed, according to his attorney Scott Balber.

    “It absolutely did not come up,” he said. Balber, who also represents the Agalarovs, added that he had no reason to believe his clients “knew anything about this.”

    The VK proposal was not mentioned in notes taken by Manafort during the meeting, which have been turned over to Congress, according to a person who has seen them. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, declined to comment.

    And then this same VK Trump page idea is pushed by Sidorkov one last time on November 5th, just days before the election:


    On Nov. 5, Sidorkov renewed his pitch to the Trump team, writing that “all Russian speakers,” including in the United States, Russia and former Soviet states, were interested in getting Russian language news about Trump.

    “We will help you with the page promotion to … our audience, 100 million users,” he wrote to Scavino, Trump Jr. and Graff.

    It’s all quite a head-scratcher. Sure, it’s not hard to imagine that the operators of VK would be thrilled to have the Trump campaign set up a page on their website. It really would be big news in Russia. And big news in the US. Especially after all those hacked documents started getting released by “Guccifer 2.0”, who kept leaving all sorts of “I’m a Russian hacker” clues in the hacked documents. Don’t forget, “Guccifer 2.0” started releasing hacked documents on June 15th and by June 16th there were already reports concluding that “Guccifer 2.0” was probably a Russian hacker thanks to all the ‘oopsie’ clues left in the metadata of the documents like signing the documents with “Iron Felix”, the nickname of the first head of Soviet intelligence. It took a whole day before the “Guccifer 2.0” persona was labeled a Russian proxy thanks to the inexplicably blatant clues. And two weeks later we have Rob Goldstone once again trying to get the Trump team to set up a VK page.

    So once again, the more we learn about the strange case of the Trump team and alleged Russian collusion, the more it appears that, if there was an actual Russian operation to collude with the Trump team, it was an operation where leaving lots and lots of evidence of the plan from was part of the plan. From start to finish. Which seems like a pretty unorthodox and risky plan of this nature.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 11, 2017, 4:02 pm
  15. Here’s one more new twist to the strange tale of Rob Goldstone and his repeated contacts with the 2016 Trump campaign: Goldstone actually started his outreach effort in July of 2015, just a month after Donald Trump announced he was running. And he specifically dangled the possibility of Trump meeting with Vladimir Putin during this initial outreach.

    The initial emails were sent on July 22, 2015, to Trump’s longtime personal assistant, Rhona Graff. Goldstone was trying to get Trump to attend the birthday of Aras Agalarov. Recall that Aras and his pop-star son, Emin, licensed Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in 2013. Also recall that one of the 2015 attempts to get Trump Tower Moscow built centered around Trump courting the Agalarovs (this is separate from the Trump Tower Moscow drive Felix Sater was pushing in late 2015/early 2016). And that initial push with the Agalarovs to get the tower built was reportedly scuttled in 2015 after Trump announced his candidacy (whereas Sater’s push to get the tower built started up in the Fall of 2015).

    So in July of 2015, a month after Trump announces his candidacy which apparently ended the Trump Tower Moscow deal between Trump and the Agalarovs, we have Rob Goldstone, Emin’s publicist, starting an email correspondence with Rhona Graff that includes offers to meet Putin. And as the article notes, this was just one of several attempts to arrange for a meet with Putin: there was Felix Sater’s offer to get Trump Org lawyer Michael Cohen to travel to an economic conference in St. Petersburgh that would potentially involve a meeting with Putin (to ostensibly work out the Trump Tower Moscow deal Sater and Cohen were pursuing). And there was also the offers given to Trump team foreign policy advisor George Papapdopoulos by the mysterious Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud to arrange a Trump meeting with Putin. So we can add an offer by Rob Goldstone in the summer of 2015 to that list of Putin meeting offers.

    It’s hard to know what additional insights this gives us. But if Goldstone really was acting as a Kremlin agent as is widely assumed, and this offer to meet Putin was genuine, that would suggest the Kremlin had no problem at all with having Trump openly meeting with Putin well before he even won the GOP primary, which seems like the kind of political risk that could have complicated Trump’s ability to actually win the primary and eventually the presidency. It’s reminiscent of the offer Goldstone made in January of 2016 to get the Trump team to set up a campaign page on VK, the Russian analog of Facebook.

    So in addition to arranging the now notorious Trump Tower meeting of June 2016, where Goldstone promised Russian government “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, and in addition to suggesting the Trump team set up a Russian social media campaign page, we can add arranging a meeting with Putin to the list of fun offers Rob Goldstone made to the Trump campaign:

    The Washington Post

    Music promoter dangled possible Putin meeting for Trump during campaign

    By Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger
    December 14, 2017

    About a month after Donald Trump launched his presidential bid, a British music promoter suggested his Russian pop-star client could arrange for the new candidate to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.

    The July 2015 offer by publicist Rob Goldstone came about a year before he set up a meeting for Trump’s eldest son with a Russian lawyer who he said had incriminating information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

    Goldstone’s overture came as he unsuccessfully urged Trump to travel to Moscow later that year to attend a birthday celebration for his client’s father.

    “Maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin,” Goldstone wrote in a July 24, 2015, email to Trump’s longtime personal assistant, Rhona Graff. There is no indication Trump or his assistant followed up on Goldstone’s offer.

    The invitation is the latest example to emerge of efforts to broker a meeting between the Kremlin and Trump Tower during the campaign. The timing of Goldstone’s offer served as a reminder of the high-level contacts that Trump had in Russia as he ramped up his White House run.

    The email exchange is among thousands of pages of internal Trump documents that have been turned over to investigators examining Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Scott Balber, an attorney for the pop star Emin Agalarov, said Agalarov asked Goldstone to invite Trump to his father’s party but was not aware that the publicist dangled the possibility of meeting with Putin.

    “It is certainly not the case that Emin Agalarov can arrange a meeting with Vladimir Putin for anybody,” Balber said.

    Goldstone’s attorney, Robert Gage, declined to comment, as did Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Graff.

    But Futerfas expressed concern that material provided to investigators has been shared with the media.

    “We are disappointed that documents continue to be selectively leaked from confidential investigations,” said Futerfas, who last week called for an investigation into the leaking of information provided to the House Intelligence Committee.

    Trump’s relationship with Emin Agalarov and his father, Aras, a wealthy Moscow developer, dated to 2013, when they licensed the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant and brought it to Moscow. During Trump’s visit to Moscow for the event, he appeared in a music video for an Emin Agalarov song that was filmed at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Following the pageant, Aras Agalarov discussed a possible real estate development deal with Trump in Moscow, but the project never materialized.

    Goldstone, a publicist for Emin Agalarov, reached out several times to Trump’s inner circle during the presidential race. In early 2016, he sent an email to Donald Trump Jr. to discuss the idea of setting up a page for Trump’s campaign on VK, the Russian equivalent of Facebook. Later in the year, he brokered a meeting between Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

    Goldstone’s brief 2015 exchange with Graff began on July 22, when he wrote to invite the elder Trump to attend Aras Agalarov’s 60th birthday party. Goldstone asked if Trump would send a congratulatory note to Agalarov.

    Graff responded two days later, telling Goldstone that Trump would probably not be able to attend the party.

    “Given his presidential campaign, it’s highly unlikely he would have time on his calendar to go to Moscow,” she wrote. “Regardless, I am sure he will want to write a congratulatory note.”

    “I totally understand re: Moscow,” Goldstone wrote back. “Unless maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin which Emin would set up.”

    The email chain does not indicate that Graff responded.

    Goldstone was known to sometimes be prone to exaggeration, according to people familiar with his reputation in Trump Tower.

    Last month, he told the Telegraph, a British newspaper, that he was not part of any Russian effort to interfere in the U.S. election.

    “If I’m guilty of anything, and I hate the word guilty, it’s hyping the message and going the extra mile for my clients,” he said. “Using hot-button language to puff up the information I had been given.”

    Trump did not attend the November 2015 party, which coincided with the opening of a Nobu restaurant in the Crocus City Mall, the shopping and entertainment complex in Moscow owned by Aras Agalarov.

    However, Trump did send a birthday note to the Russian developer.

    In an April 2016 interview with The Post, Agalarov said he had remained in touch with the then-presidential candidate during the campaign and cited the note Trump had written him for his birthday.

    “You have to pay attention [to] that,” he said of the birthday greeting. “He signed it himself, and he just wrote it himself. It’s not like he gave it to a secretary asking her to type. … It’s like the future president of the United States just wrote something to his friend from Moscow.”

    In the interview, Agalarov said Trump had been eager for Putin to attend the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. The Russian president at first said he would be there but canceled at the last minute because of a scheduling conflict, Agalarov said.

    “That was a very complicated situation then because I promised Trump that he would meet Putin and then there will be no meeting,” Agalarov said. The developer said he asked Putin’s protocol director to get on the phone with Trump and explain the cancellation personally.

    Later, Putin sent Trump a warm note and a traditional Russian wooden box, Agalarov said.

    Goldstone’s 2015 invitation to Trump was among several offers that were made to broker meetings between the Kremlin and Trump or his associates during the campaign.

    Foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos sought repeatedly to organize a meeting for Trump or his campaign with Putin, according to court documents. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts. Former Trump business associate Felix Sater urged Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to go to an economic conference in St. Petersburg in June 2016, offering in an email to organize meetings with the Russian prime minister or even Putin, as The Post previously reported.

    Republican operative Paul Erickson sought to organize a meeting at the National Rifle Association convention in May 2016 between Trump and Alexander Torshin, a former Russian senator. Erickson referred to Torshin in an email to Trump campaign staffers as “Putin’s emissary” for building stronger ties with the United States, according to an email first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by The Post.

    None of those meetings took place.

    ———-

    “Music promoter dangled possible Putin meeting for Trump during campaign” by Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger; The Washington Post; 12/14/2017

    “Maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin,” Goldstone wrote in a July 24, 2015, email to Trump’s longtime personal assistant, Rhona Graff. There is no indication Trump or his assistant followed up on Goldstone’s offer.”

    Notice how the Putin meeting offer was more of a deal sweetener when it looked like Trump wouldn’t make it to Aras’s birthday party in Moscow:


    Goldstone’s brief 2015 exchange with Graff began on July 22, when he wrote to invite the elder Trump to attend Aras Agalarov’s 60th birthday party. Goldstone asked if Trump would send a congratulatory note to Agalarov.

    Graff responded two days later, telling Goldstone that Trump would probably not be able to attend the party.

    “Given his presidential campaign, it’s highly unlikely he would have time on his calendar to go to Moscow,” she wrote. “Regardless, I am sure he will want to write a congratulatory note.”

    “I totally understand re: Moscow,” Goldstone wrote back. “Unless maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin which Emin would set up.”

    And notice how this offer to meet Putin is sort of like a make-up offer after Agalarov’s offer to have Trump meet Putin at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant fell through:


    In an April 2016 interview with The Post, Agalarov said he had remained in touch with the then-presidential candidate during the campaign and cited the note Trump had written him for his birthday.

    “You have to pay attention [to] that,” he said of the birthday greeting. “He signed it himself, and he just wrote it himself. It’s not like he gave it to a secretary asking her to type. … It’s like the future president of the United States just wrote something to his friend from Moscow.”

    In the interview, Agalarov said Trump had been eager for Putin to attend the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. The Russian president at first said he would be there but canceled at the last minute because of a scheduling conflict, Agalarov said.

    “That was a very complicated situation then because I promised Trump that he would meet Putin and then there will be no meeting,” Agalarov said. The developer said he asked Putin’s protocol director to get on the phone with Trump and explain the cancellation personally.

    Later, Putin sent Trump a warm note and a traditional Russian wooden box, Agalarov said.

    So, to some extent, offering to have Trump finally meet Putin is finishing up unfinished business. It’s part of why it would be nice to know if this offer by Goldstone was made before or after the Trump Tower Moscow deal fell through. Was this offer a deal sweetener to keep that whole project going? Did the Trump team have concerns that the Agalarovs didn’t have the political clout to get the tower deal approved and this was a way of projecting that clout? That seems like important context in interpreting this offer.

    And, of course, the whole thing is made that much more curious by the fact that the Felix Sater/Michael Cohen outreach effort to the Kremlin in January of 2016 to get the second Trump Tower Moscow project approved fell flat, but then we have George Papadopoulos getting offers of a Putin meeting a couple months later:


    Goldstone’s 2015 invitation to Trump was among several offers that were made to broker meetings between the Kremlin and Trump or his associates during the campaign.

    Foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos sought repeatedly to organize a meeting for Trump or his campaign with Putin, according to court documents. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts. Former Trump business associate Felix Sater urged Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to go to an economic conference in St. Petersburg in June 2016, offering in an email to organize meetings with the Russian prime minister or even Putin, as The Post previously reported.

    Recall that it was Paul Manafort who reportedly turned to the offers Papadopoulos was given, saying, “We need someone to communicate that [Trump] is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

    All in all, it would appear that the Trump team did indeed want someone to meet with Putin last year. Ostensibly to arrange a big Trump Tower Moscow deal and who knows what else. But the Trump team didn’t want Trump to actually attend the meeting because that’s too conspicuous. And yet Trump’s partners on that Trump Tower Moscow project- whether it’s the Agalarovs or Felix Sater – really wanted to see a high-profile Trump-Russia event of some sort. It’s like a game of footsie when one side wants the footsie to be as conspicuous as possible and the other side just wants to quietly play footsie. It’s a recipe for some controversial footsie.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 19, 2017, 4:16 pm
  16. Here’s an article that contains a couple of fun-facts about the relationship between Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch: First, the article notes a recent story in Esquire about the ever-shrinking “Never Trump” faction of the conservative movement that includes an interesting fun-fact about the Wall Street Journal’s self-censorship during the campaign. James Freeman, a Ted Cruz backer, wrote a strong piece attacking Trump’s mob ties during the GOP primaries. And Freeman has a second piece ready to go. But as the nomination got closer, and Rupert Murdoch realized Trump could win, that second piece kept getting delayed. Once the piece was finally published, after Trump became the likely Republican nominee, it had turned into a Trump endorsement.

    And here’s the second fun-fact relating to Trump and Murdoch: the article notes a New York Times article from back in May that makes a claim that’s both not at all surprising but still rather startling: apparently Murdoch is one of Trumps regular advisors and they speak almost every day:

    Salon

    Did the Wall Street Journal kill an editorial exposing Trump’s mob dealings?
    Rupert Murdoch’s loyalties to Trump, and the journalistic integrity of the WSJ, starts to blur

    Nicole Karlis
    12.20.2017•5:30 PM

    A new report in Esquire detailing the inner lives of D.C.’s “Never Trumpers” — a term coined to describe former diehard Republicans who refused to ever support Trump — revealed an interesting tidbit about the operations at the Wall Street Journal, and the recent, mysterious departures of five top writers and editors:

    Bret Stephens, who won a Pulitzer in 2013, was the defector with the highest profile. He was deputy editor when he jumped over to the Times, where he was soon joined by his editor at the Journal, Bari Weiss. The Journal’s books editor, Robert Messenger, is now at The Weekly Standard. Sohrab Ahmari, a foreign-policy writer, went to Commentary. Mark Lasswell, an editor, was told not to return from a book leave.

    Reportedly, this was due to an internal controversy surrounding a second editorial, written by James Freeman, which detailed Trump’s mob dealings — a topic that was brought into the spotlight after a Ted Cruz’s interview with “Meet The Press.”

    According to the report:

    Freeman wrote a strong attack on Trump’s Mob dealings, and had a second ready to go. But as Trump got closer to clinching the nomination, Paul Gigot kept delaying publication, saying “it needed work.” Once Trump became the likely Republican nominee, Freeman executed a neat volte-face. “The facts suggest that Mrs. Clinton is more likely to abuse liberties than Mr. Trump,” he wrote. “America managed to survive Mr. Clinton’s two terms, so it can stand the far less vulgar Mr. Trump.”

    Some commentators, such as conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, believe the Journal’s editorial page toes the ideological line of House Speaker Paul Ryan. Likewise, the Journal’s writers tend to bite their proverbial tongue when it comes to criticizing Trump — at least since he became president. Rcently, WSJ published an editorial questioning Robert Mueller’s “credibility” and suggested that he should resign from leading the Russia investigation.

    Yet if the report is confirmed true, the biggest hypocrisy and irony here has to do with Trump’s ongoing tantrums about “Fake News” and his war on the media, when his hands, which is no surprise, are the dirtiest. Trump has no concept of objectivity and the importance of freedom of the press.

    Rupert Murdoch, who owns both WSJ and Fox News, is a friend of the president, and reportedly advises Trump daily.

    “The president speaks to Murdoch now almost every day. And Murdoch speaks with Jared Kushner as well. Murdoch is one of the people who urges the president to stay focused on the economy narrowly and foreign policy more broadly,” the New York Times reported in May.

    ———-

    “Did the Wall Street Journal kill an editorial exposing Trump’s mob dealings?” by Nicole Karlis; Salon; 12/20/2017

    Freeman wrote a strong attack on Trump’s Mob dealings, and had a second ready to go. But as Trump got closer to clinching the nomination, Paul Gigot kept delaying publication, saying “it needed work.” Once Trump became the likely Republican nominee, Freeman executed a neat volte-face. “The facts suggest that Mrs. Clinton is more likely to abuse liberties than Mr. Trump,” he wrote. “America managed to survive Mr. Clinton’s two terms, so it can stand the far less vulgar Mr. Trump.””

    So the Wall Street Journal was willing to publish strong anti-Trump editorials that attack Trump’s mob dealings…until it looks like Trump is going to win, at which point the WSJ decided it was time to cuddle up to the GOP nominee. And that cuddling has apparently only grown more intense:


    The president speaks to Murdoch now almost every day. And Murdoch speaks with Jared Kushner as well. Murdoch is one of the people who urges the president to stay focused on the economy narrowly and foreign policy more broadly,” the New York Times reported in May.

    A Donald & Rupert daily pow wow. You’d think Trump’s daily binges on Fox News would suffice, but apparently the president and Rupert Murdoch have separate chats too. At least that was the reporting back in May. And it’s hard to see anything since then that was suggest a change. So let’s take a closer look at that article from back in May. It’s an interview by the New York times of the Times’s White House correspondent Maggie Haberman about Trump’s relationship with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnull. A topic that inevitably goes back to Trump’s relationship with Australian-born Rupert Murdoch, especially since it sounds like Murdoch influence the Trump administration on all sorts of US foreign policy, not just in relation to Australia:

    The New York Times

    Did Trump Snub Turnbull? Our White House Reporter Explains

    By DAMIEN CAVE
    MAY 4, 2017

    President Trump postponed his meeting today with Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, to celebrate the passage of a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, in New York.

    When they finally did meet before a planned dinner they both attended Thursday evening, Mr. Trump and Mr. Turnbull both said they had moved beyond the contentious phone call that defined their relationship early on. “We’re not babies,” Mr. Trump said.

    Damien Cave, the New York Times Australia bureau chief, interviewed Maggie Haberman, a Times White House correspondent, about how Mr. Trump was managing relations with Australia and China; about his relationship with Rupert Murdoch; and about what it’s like covering the Trump White House.

    What do you make of the fact that Trump canceled the scheduled meeting with Malcolm Turnbull, or shortened it and pushed it into the evening? What should we take away from that?

    Well, I think a few things. Part of it speaks to Trump’s whimsical approach to all things. He shifted course so he could celebrate a needed (albeit short-term) victory on the repeal bill for the Affordable Care Act.

    And that ceremony was the happiest that Trump had seemed in some time. But I also think that it speaks to his lack of concern for protocol, and perhaps his lack of belief that he has some making up to do with the prime minister.

    Do they see a role for Australia to play in the standoff with North Korea?

    I have gotten conflicting signals on that. Right now they don’t seem certain of what their goal is diplomatically with Australia. It’s worth noting here that one of the most significant voices for the president here is Rupert Murdoch’s.

    Interesting point. How does that play out? I think tonight might give us a clue! Murdoch is among the attendees on the Intrepid.

    We just got the pool report with a few quotes from President Trump and Mr. Turnbull and they seemed to be trying to sound pretty chummy. There wasn’t much detail on policy but Trump said the argument at the center of their first phone call, about a deal to bring refugees from Manus Island and Nauru to the United States, was all worked out. “It’s been worked out for a long time,” Trump said. What do you make of what they said?

    I am struck by the degree to which they are downplaying the fight. I don’t take much more from it.

    What else are you looking at as you continue to report out the Trump-Turnbull meeting or the dinner?

    I think President Trump’s body language will tell us a lot. When he is in an uncomfortable situation, or when he doesn’t really know someone very well and doesn’t want to, he’ll be quite stiff. So how he behaves, especially after their introductory phone call months ago, will say a lot, and I am curious to see how the president describes Murdoch compared to how he describes Turnbull. A 30-minute meeting — if it even is that much — is not a long time for a relationship reset.

    That’s what seems to be frustrating a lot of Australians. It looks like a second act of disrespect.

    By any objective measure, it is. The question to me is how much the president tries to mitigate that in person.

    Getting back to Murdoch for a second, can you describe the Murdoch-Trump relationship a bit? Are they friends, mates in the Australian sense, or is there another dynamic at play?

    They’ve known each other, obviously, a very long time. The president, when he was a real estate developer and man about town in New York City, was a regular feature on the gossip pages of The New York Post, which Murdoch owns. In the years since, Ivanka Trump has become close with Murdoch, as well as his ex-wife Wendy.

    The president speaks to Murdoch now almost every day. And Murdoch speaks with Jared Kushner as well. Murdoch is one of the people who urges the president to stay focused on the economy narrowly and foreign policy more broadly.

    Do we know if Murdoch advises him on China or Australia, or is it just more general?

    My sense — and again this is a sense — is that he speaks with some specificity on both, but the details are not clear.

    Anything else you think Australia should know about Trump that I haven’t asked?

    I would strongly recommend people read Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities” to better understand this president.

    ———-

    “Did Trump Snub Turnbull? Our White House Reporter Explains” by DAMIEN CAVE; The New York Times; 05/04/2017

    They’ve known each other, obviously, a very long time. The president, when he was a real estate developer and man about town in New York City, was a regular feature on the gossip pages of The New York Post, which Murdoch owns. In the years since, Ivanka Trump has become close with Murdoch, as well as his ex-wife Wendy.”

    So Trump and Murdoch have, at a minimum, been long time associates. But in recent years, Ivanka has grown close to Murdoch too, long with Wendy Deng, Murdoch’s ex-wife. And now that Trump is president, Rupert is apparently a regular White House advisor on all sorts of topics. Like policies towards China and Australia:


    The president speaks to Murdoch now almost every day. And Murdoch speaks with Jared Kushner as well. Murdoch is one of the people who urges the president to stay focused on the economy narrowly and foreign policy more broadly.

    Do we know if Murdoch advises him on China or Australia, or is it just more general?

    My sense — and again this is a sense — is that he speaks with some specificity on both, but the details are not clear.

    Again, none of this is particularly surprising, but it is still somewhat shocking. Rupert Murdoch is apparently both the presidential shadow advisor along with being the CEO of the a media organization that’s basically ‘Trump TV’ at this point.

    But what is surprising about all this is that somehow, despite all this media focus on #TrumpRussia, the Murdochs have never been swept up in the #TrumpRussia investigation. After all, let’s not forget about all those rumors that Wendy Deng was dating Vladimir Putin, Ivanka and Wendy traveling together in August of 2016. Deng reportedly introduced Ivanka to to the wife of Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch seen as close to Putin. And then there’s the fact that Rob Goldstone – the publicist at the center of the notorious Trump Tower meeting – worked for a Murdoch-owned British tabloid The Sun (back in the 80’s) before becoming a publicist in the music industry. And while Deng denies the Putin-romance rumors (and there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of that beyond the rumors), it’s not like merely being a rumor is something that would stop a story from becoming enmeshed in the #TrumpRussia speculations. And sure, Goldstone’s employment at Murdoch publications was a while ago, but it’s not like decades-old relationships aren’t relevant when you’re trying to investigate and discover hidden relationships and motives that could be driving an elaborate conspiracy.

    So how is it possible that the Murdochs managed to keep themselves out the this #TrumpRussia story almost entirely while being tangentially tied to it in a number of different ways?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 21, 2017, 4:09 pm
  17. Here’s another relationship between Rupert Murdoch’s family and the cast of characters involved with the #TrumpRussia antics of 2016. It’s a tangential relationship but still worth noting, especially given the reports that Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch talk daily: it turns out Emin Agalarov – the pop-start son of Aras Agalarov – was married to Leyla Aliyeva, the daughter of the long-time president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. They divorced in 2015, but reportedly remain on friendly terms, with Emin helping raise Leyla’s adopted daughter. And while the Agalarovs are generally referred to as “Russian oligarchs”, as we’ll see, they’re actually better described as “Russian/Azerbaijani oligarchs”.

    And don’t forget that Azerbaijan happens to be one of the countries Donald Trump tried to build a Trump Tower in back in 2012, partnering with the notoriously corrupt Transportation Minister on a Trump Tower Baku project that was never completed.

    Here’s where the Murdochs tie in: Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth, is reportedly quite chummy with Emin’s ex-wife Leyla. So chummy that Elisabeth’s husband, Matthew Freud (now ex-Husband), helped “launch” Leyla’s status as a London socialite back in 2011. Again, it’s just a tangential tie to whole #TrumpRussia investigation, but one of a number of tangential ties which is why it’s rather noteworthy.

    So first, here’s an 2011 about Leyla Aliyeva and her ties to a number of UK socialites. She was the front person for a number of Azerbaijani cultural outreach events in the UK that year, and as the article notes, it was Elisabeth Murdoch’s husband who put on one of those events:

    IOL

    Leyla, the champagne connection

    Celeb News / 10 March 2011, 10:48am / Paul Harris

    GIVEN his lifelong interest in matters cultural and commercial, who could doubt what might first have attracted the Duke of York to Leyla Aliyeva?

    She’s connected – the daughter of Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev.

    Rich – with a plush penthouse overlooking Hyde Park in her international, multi-million-pound property portfolio.

    Motivated – the London-educated editor-in-chief of a glossy magazine promoting her country, and a champion of worthy causes.

    Little wonder the duke and the glamorous Miss Aliyeva are said to have become friends while he forged links between the UK and the oil rich Caspian state in his role as a trade envoy for Britain.

    The fact that her father has been accused of rigging elections and torturing protesters probably wasn’t their first topic of conversation in a country that welcomes him as a frequent guest.

    But neither the duke’s considerable ego nor the 25-year-old socialite’s East-meets-West mission to attract wider interest in her homeland will have suffered during their time in public together.

    The duke clearly likes to be seen in the company of attractive young women; Leyla could hardly have wished for a higher profile connection than a member of the Royal Family, until recently at least.

    Leyla is married to dishy, U.S.-educated singer Emin Agalarov, whose billionaire father is close to Russian premier Vladimir Putin. She also has a close group of friends, once running up a bill of £300,000 for Cristal champagne at a gathering for a dozen girlfriends.

    Leyla, who has two young children, is a leading campaigner for young people in Azerbaijan and has spearheaded a drive to encourage young Azerbaijanis to donate blood to sick children.

    For the last 12 months or so she has been fronting a string of London events to introduce the West to the culture of Azerbaijan, once nicknamed the Paris of the East, in the run-up to its celebration in October of 20 years of independence from the Soviet Union. One was entitled Flying Carpet to Fairy Tale, an exhibition of antique Azerbaijani rugs at the One Marylebone venue in London.

    Among the guests were Lord Mandelson, communications minister Ed Vaizey, Marks & Spencer tycoon Sir Stuart Rose and Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth – her husband Matthew Freud’s organisation was behind the event.

    “I want people to know more about us,” said Leyla. “We have an amazing culture and history. I would like Azerbaijan to become a bridge between civilisations.”

    Leyla is said to be “a strong mother”, taking the children with her on her travels around the world.

    Yet friends also describe her as a “society girl”, fiercely proud of her roots but enthusiastically embracing Western culture. She studied Spanish at college and lived in Spain for a year in her teens. She Tweets, and, naturally, has a Facebook page. Yesterday – just hours after she found herself in the headlines through her links with Prince Andrew, it was updated with flattering photographs of her arm-in-arm with her husband.

    ———-

    “Leyla, the champagne connection” by Paul Harris; IOL; 03/10/2011

    Leyla is married to dishy, U.S.-educated singer Emin Agalarov, whose billionaire father is close to Russian premier Vladimir Putin. She also has a close group of friends, once running up a bill of £300,000 for Cristal champagne at a gathering for a dozen girlfriends.”

    That was 2011, when the then-wife of Emin Agalarov was hobnobbing with UK socialites and promoting Azerbaijan in a series of London events. Events that included the “Flying Carpet to Fairy Tale” exhibition of antique Azerbaijani rugs that was put on by Elisabeth Murdoch’s husband’s organization:


    For the last 12 months or so she has been fronting a string of London events to introduce the West to the culture of Azerbaijan, once nicknamed the Paris of the East, in the run-up to its celebration in October of 20 years of independence from the Soviet Union. One was entitled Flying Carpet to Fairy Tale, an exhibition of antique Azerbaijani rugs at the One Marylebone venue in London.

    Among the guests were Lord Mandelson, communications minister Ed Vaizey, Marks & Spencer tycoon Sir Stuart Rose and Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth – her husband Matthew Freud’s organisation was behind the event.

    Note that Elisabeth Murdoch and Matthew Freud have since divorced, something that reportedly pleased Rupert Murdoch since he never particularly liked Matthew Freud, a man considered one of London’s premier publicists. And the event that reportedly doomed their marriage was the revelation that Rupert’s ex-wife, Wendy Deng, has an affair with Tony Blair. Freud was Blair’s PR man/confidant and Elisabeth and Matthew were considered a ‘golden couple’ in the UK press. So Elisabeth Murdoch is far more than just Rupert Murdoch’s daughter. She’s a TV executive who was married to one of the most influential men in the UK. And that’s the kind of social circle Leyla Aliyeva was involved with.

    Now, in the above article, Elisabeth Murdoch is described as a mere guests at the event. But as the following article notes, Elisabeth is considered part of Leyla’s social circle, along with the Duke of York – Prince Andrew – and Lord Mendelson.

    As the following article also notes, Leyla and her sister were both caught up in the “Panama Papers” scandal. It turns out the Aliyev family’s vast fortune of UK properties were managed by a firm secretly incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2015, right around the same time Leyla and Emin were divorced. The firm, Exaltation Limited, was purchased by Mossack Fonseca, the paper at the center of the Panama Papers scandl. So after Leyla and Emin get divorced, the Aliyev family’s vast secret empire got a bit of a secret makeover. And that was just one of the secret trusts set up by the family. The Panama Papers also revealed was a second trust set up on behalf the Aliyev family, Ata Holdings, set up by Azerbaijan’s long-time minister of taxes Fazil Mammadov.

    And what this all tells us is that Leyla wasn’t just the daughter of Azerbaijan’s long-standing strong-man president who happened to be a London socialite and friends with some of the most influential people in the UK like Prince Andrew and Elisabeth Murdoch. She is also a key player in managing her family’s ill-gotten wealth, a lot of that wealth is in UK properties, UK firms were used to set up the secret holdings:

    The Guardian

    London law firm helped Azerbaijan’s first family set up secret offshore firm

    Panama Papers shine light on hidden property portfolio of President Aliyev’s daughters

    Iceland prime minister resigns over Panama Papers revelations

    Juliette Garside, Luke Harding, David Pegg and Holly Watt
    Tue 5 Apr ‘16 10.45 EDT

    The daughters of Azerbaijan’s president have a secret offshore company in the British Virgin Islands that was set up last year to help manage their multimillion-pound property portfolio in Britain

    Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva – who have cultivated high profiles inside and outside their home country – are shareholders in Exaltation Limited, leaked documents reveal. The company was incorporated in April 2015 with the purpose of “holding UK property”. The London law firm that set it up, Child & Child, claimed – wrongly – that the two women had no political connections.

    The business interests and property portfolios of President Ilham Aliyev and his family have been the subject of extensive reporting in recent years.

    These fresh revelations come amid growing concern in government that house price inflation – particularly in London – is being fuelled by rich foreign investors, who are now estimated to own more than £170bn of UK property.

    Three years ago, David Cameron launched a campaign to demand more transparency about the ownership of offshore vehicles.

    The network of companies used by Azerbaijan’s ruling family and their associates are set out in the Panama Papers, a leak of the database of the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. It was shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington with the Guardian, the BBC and other media around the world.

    President Aliyev has ruled the country since 2003. During this time his daughters have reportedly amassed vast personal business empires. They own luxury apartments in the UAE, as well as interests in telecoms and gold mining.

    It was already known that Leyla Aliyeva owned a £17m mansion on Hampstead Lane in north London, next door to Kenwood House and overlooking Hampstead Heath. She is an artist and socialite, with friends said to include Prince Andrew, Lord Mandelson and Elisabeth Murdoch.

    The papers show that she set up a new offshore firm at the time of her 2015 divorce from Emin Agalarov, an ethnic Azerbaijani businessman and pop star. The couple lived in Moscow and also reportedly owned a luxury penthouse overlooking Hyde Park. Aliyeva, 30, is said to prefer Britain to Russia.

    Under the British government rules, Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva are classified as “PEPs” – politically exposed persons. The term encompasses anybody with links to top political leaders, including family members and close associates. It is not illegal for people classified as PEPs to own offshore businesses, but those companies are supposed to be subject to greater scrutiny and due diligence checks by banks.

    However, it appears that Child & Child, the firm of London solicitors that acted on behalf of Aliyev’s daughters, did not declare their high-profile status. Asked on company formation documents in January 2015 if the two women were PEPs, Child & Child ticked “no” rather than “yes”.

    It is not clear whether their status as PEPs was overlooked. The Guardian repeatedly asked Child & Child to comment but it declined to do so.

    Child & Child, whose Knightsbridge office overlooks the gardens of Buckingham Palace, bought Exaltation Ltd on behalf of the Aliyev daughters from the Jersey branch of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

    Child & Child requested nominee directors for the new company, at the cost of $550 each.

    The total value of Exaltation Ltd’s assets is unclear, but is put in documents at “over $1m”. The money is said to come from “personal savings”.

    Hidden foundation

    Another London solicitor, Derrick French, was involved in arranging a separate hidden foundation belonging to Azerbaijan’s first family. His firm, Derrick French & Co, set up a clandestine Panamanian trust called UF Universe Foundation, which controlled a majority stake in Ata Holding, one of Azerbaijan’s biggest conglomerates.

    Ata Holding was established in 2003. The files suggest its first owner was Azerbaijan’s minister of taxes, Fazil Mammadov, with a secret controlling stake in the $600m conglomerate from 2003.

    Documents in 2005 show how he planned to share Ata Holding, which owns two major banks, construction firms and Baku’s five-star Excelsior hotel, with President Aliyev’s three children.

    Mammadov has been the country’s senior tax official since before Aliyev came to power, but his apparent financial links to the ruling family were until now unclear.

    It is understood that Mammadov has never publicly declared an interest in Ata.

    According to documents, the scheme was managed through the UK. In December 2002, a company called FM Financial Management Holding (UK) Ltd was incorporated in England. Its only share was held on trust by French, and it controlled 75% of Ata, according to company accounts. Its purpose appeared to be to channel tax free dividends from Ata to an offshore company, the Panama-registered FM Management Holding Group SA.

    Records show Mossack Fonseca asked French for a letter explaining what the company was for and who owned it. He replied: “The ultimate owner of the structure is FM. At the moment I hold the share of the UK company on trust pending the setting up of the whole structure … FM is Azerbaijani. I have done all the due diligence on him within your guidelines … It is intended that the Panama company will act as a holding company receiving dividends from the UK company, which under UK law are paid without any withholding tax.”

    Evidence to suggest Mammadov was the person referred to as FM comes from documents sent to Mossack Fonseca in 2005.

    From his office in the City of London, French issued papers in 2005 outlining a change of control at UF Universe Foundation. Aliyev’s children were to become beneficiaries. Leyla, Arzu and their brother, Heydar, who at the time was just seven, would have a combined 50% interest in the trust. Their mother, Mehriban, was to be the “protector”, an anonymous role giving control over the foundation. The other “protector” was to be Mammadov.

    According to documents, Mammadov was also pencilled in as a beneficiary with a 30% share, which represented the largest single stake. Ata’s chairman, Ahmet Erentok, was to receive just 15%. The remaining 5% went to minor beneficiaries.

    Should the beneficiaries die, 18 children and other relatives were named as substitutes, with a date of birth, address and percentage share carefully noted next to each entry. Mammadov had 10 replacements, some of them young children.

    A chart shows how money was to flow from Ata via two other offshore firms to the president’s three children: “anonymous beneficiaries”. Their payments are described in documents as tax free. UF Universe Foundation was wound up in 2007 but Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva are currently listed as the majority owners of Ata via yet another Panamanian firm, Hughson Management Inc.

    In 2007 the solicitors’ disciplinary tribunal suspended French for failing to comply with “important regulatory requirements”. In his defence, French said he had been seriously ill and “suffered from a phobia of opening any kind of official correspondence”.

    French reappears later in the Panama Papers not as a solicitor but as a “marine consultant”.

    Officially, President Aliyev has no personal business interests. Leaked US diplomatic cables, however, suggest that he is Azerbaijan’s richest person. They add that after coming to power Aliyev transferred his pre-2003 assets into his wife’s name. The country’s political system was distinctly “feudal”, the US said, with “a handful of well-connected families” controlling practically all sectors of the economy.

    Details of the family’s wider business interests and those of their inner circle have also come to light.

    ———-

    “London law firm helped Azerbaijan’s first family set up secret offshore firm” by Juliette Garside, Luke Harding, David Pegg and Holly Watt; The Guardian; 04/05/2016

    “Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva – who have cultivated high profiles inside and outside their home country – are shareholders in Exaltation Limited, leaked documents reveal. The company was incorporated in April 2015 with the purpose of “holding UK property”. The London law firm that set it up, Child & Child, claimed – wrongly – that the two women had no political connections.”

    So Leyla and Emin get divorced in 2015, and the London law firm that set up this secret offshore company to manage their real estate assets claims Leyla and her sister had no political connections. And that gives us an idea of one of the key mechanism the global super-rich use to avoid scrutiny while setting up of offshore business in tax shelters: elite firms that play dumb. Really, really dumb:


    Under the British government rules, Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva are classified as “PEPs” – politically exposed persons. The term encompasses anybody with links to top political leaders, including family members and close associates. It is not illegal for people classified as PEPs to own offshore businesses, but those companies are supposed to be subject to greater scrutiny and due diligence checks by banks.

    However, it appears that Child & Child, the firm of London solicitors that acted on behalf of Aliyev’s daughters, did not declare their high-profile status. Asked on company formation documents in January 2015 if the two women were PEPs, Child & Child ticked “no” rather than “yes”.

    It is not clear whether their status as PEPs was overlooked. The Guardian repeatedly asked Child & Child to comment but it declined to do so.

    Child & Child, whose Knightsbridge office overlooks the gardens of Buckingham Palace, bought Exaltation Ltd on behalf of the Aliyev daughters from the Jersey branch of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

    Yes, apparently Leyla and her sister were not “PEPs” – politically exposed persons. At least for the purposes of setting up an offshore tax shelter firm and avoiding extra scrutiny they weren’t PEPs. And these two non-PEPs just happened to be a socialite with friends like Prince Andrew, Lord Mandelson, and Elisabeth Murdoch:


    President Aliyev has ruled the country since 2003. During this time his daughters have reportedly amassed vast personal business empires. They own luxury apartments in the UAE, as well as interests in telecoms and gold mining.

    It was already known that Leyla Aliyeva owned a £17m mansion on Hampstead Lane in north London, next door to Kenwood House and overlooking Hampstead Heath. She is an artist and socialite, with friends said to include Prince Andrew, Lord Mandelson and Elisabeth Murdoch.

    The papers show that she set up a new offshore firm at the time of her 2015 divorce from Emin Agalarov, an ethnic Azerbaijani businessman and pop star. The couple lived in Moscow and also reportedly owned a luxury penthouse overlooking Hyde Park. Aliyeva, 30, is said to prefer Britain to Russia.

    So just how close was Leyla to Matthew Freud and Elisabeth Murdoch? Well, according to the following piece in Foreign Policy, Matthew Freud actually threw “a caviar-rich London party” in 2011 to “launch” Leyla in British high society:

    Foreign Policy

    The Corleones of the Caspian
    How Azerbaijan’s dictator woos the United States and Europe.

    By Michael Weiss | June 10, 2014, 11:15 PM

    On Oct. 9, 2012, the American subsidiary of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) purchased a five-story, 23,232-square-foot mansion in the heart of Washington, D.C., for the purposes of “expand[ing] its operations in the United States,” as the Washington Business Journal put it. Oil is the one thing Azerbaijan has plenty of, and it’s the one thing the United States is most interested in, so SOCAR’s “operations” are bound to be extensive.

    Given the money at stake, the mansion’s sale price was a pittance: $12 million. The exact address is 1319 18th St. NW, which ought to be familiar to many an old Cold War hand as the former office of Jeane Kirkpatrick, a onetime U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and one of the most influential officials in Ronald Reagan’s administration. This mansion is where Demokratizatsiya, the journal of post-Soviet democratization, founded in 1992, used to be published. And, for a time, its most famous lessee was Freedom House, the respected human rights monitor, which today counts Azerbaijan among the “not free” countries.

    “I’m speechless,” said Jennifer Windsor, the executive director of Freedom House when it was based at the Kirkpatrick address and now the associate dean for programs and outreach at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. “I find it the highest form of irony that one of the world’s least free countries is now occupying what was the house of freedom.”

    It’s as much a sign of the times as it is an irony. Barack Obama’s administration has cut the U.S. budget for democracy promotion and has struck all manner of cynical bargains with kleptocratic authoritarian regimes. Realpolitik and isolationism are trading at high premiums again, as whole swaths of Congress, beholden to a libertarian or Tea Party ideology, view human rights as, at best, an afterthought of the national interest or, at worst, as an inconvenience that America can ill afford in the 21st century.

    But SOCAR USA’s tony new address also underscores the quiet success of one of the most energetic and free-spending foreign lobbies in American and European politics — that of the regime headed by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Over the past decade, a South Caucasian country the size of Ireland but with possibly twice the oil reserves of Texas has managed to win friends and influence people who include past and present members of the U.S. Congress, British Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which was once known for pressuring dictatorships, not embracing them. Where it hasn’t resorted to all-expenses-paid vacations to Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku — a form of what one European think tank witheringly describes as “caviar diplomacy” — it has poured millions of dollars into top-drawer U.S. lobbying, consultancy, and PR firms to whitewash its image in the American media.

    But it’s a bit more subtle than that: The Aliyev regime has quietly made inroads into transatlantic establishments by recapitulating a hat trick of persuasive arguments.

    The first is that Azerbaijan is the only secular Muslim-majority state that is an ally of the United States and NATO in the war on terror as well as a happy commercial and diplomatic ally of Israel, which imports around a third of its energy from the Caucasian state. Azerbaijani infrastructure is set to help facilitate NATO and U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan later this year.

    The second is that its oil boom, which caused Azerbaijan’s GDP to grow tenfold from 2001 to 2011, is a necessary counterweight for diversifying Europe’s energy consumption and putting an end to Russia’s monopolistic and bullying tactics, the nadir of which were its “gas wars” with Ukraine and Belarus. Almost all of Azerbaijan’s exports in 2011 were in oil and petroleum products. The so-called Southern Gas Corridor, a pipeline rival to Russia’s Nord Stream, advanced dramatically last December when a BP-led consortium began laying the groundwork for Shah Deniz 2, a $28 billion natural gas exploration project in the Azerbaijani-controlled part of the Caspian Sea. British Foreign Secretary William Hague and EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger were both in Baku for the signing of this landmark deal, which will ship gas through two pipelines: the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline, running through Turkey, and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, running through Greece and Italy. Even though Azerbaijani gas going to the European Union represents just 2 percent of the 500 billion cubic meters per year that the continent imports, Europe wants to lower its energy dependence on Russia. Moscow’s state-owned gas giant, Gazprom, is now under antitrust investigation by the European Commission. And the continuing Western standoff with the Kremlin over Russia’s invasion and destabilization of Ukraine will mean that Azerbaijani gas becomes more important to Brussels in the coming months and years.

    Finally, situated at the gateway between Asia and Europe, Azerbaijan is a strategic partner for the West in resisting Iran’s nuclear threat as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to “re-Sovietize the region,” as then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton memorably characterized the Russian-conceived customs union, entry into which has sparked a political crisis in Ukraine. So as the United States goes looking for as many friends as it can find in the post-Soviet world — especially those with energy resources — Baku’s influence in Washington is only poised to grow.

    And if the West is ever ungrateful or unreceptive to these overtures, the Azerbaijani lobby passive-aggressively intimates, then the Aliyev regime always has the option of turning toward Moscow or Tehran, both of which are eagerly knocking at its door.

    The European lobby

    In addition to being a high-stakes property owner in the Gulf, first daughter Leyla Aliyeva is also fashion and art junkie — and a journalist. She’s editor-in-chief of the “style magazine” Baku, a publication financed by her father and published by Condé Nast Contract Publishing in London. Something of an Azeri Kim Kardashian, Aliyeva of course needs good PR people to help maintain her jet-set lifestyle. Enter Matthew Freud, the son-in-law of Rupert Murdoch and head of the London-based PR firm Freud Communications. Having reportedly rejected contracts from Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi 10 times, and from ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak five times, Freud was clearly more amenable to a request for representation by the Azeri dauphine. In 2011, he organized what the British satirical weekly Private Eye called “a caviar-rich London party” to “launch” Aliyeva in British high society. Guests at this soirée included Lord Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair’s onetime political svengali; Freud’s wife and Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth; Lord Browne, the former head of BP; Ed Vaizey, the current British culture minister; Stuart Rose, formerly the top man at Marks & Spencer; and Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian oligarch proprietor of the Independent and Evening Standard newspapers, and son of billionaire businessman Alexander Lebedev.*

    ———-

    “The Corleones of the Caspian” by Michael Weiss; Foreign Policy; 06/10/2014

    “In addition to being a high-stakes property owner in the Gulf, first daughter Leyla Aliyeva is also fashion and art junkie — and a journalist. She’s editor-in-chief of the “style magazine” Baku, a publication financed by her father and published by Condé Nast Contract Publishing in London. Something of an Azeri Kim Kardashian, Aliyeva of course needs good PR people to help maintain her jet-set lifestyle. Enter Matthew Freud, the son-in-law of Rupert Murdoch and head of the London-based PR firm Freud Communications. Having reportedly rejected contracts from Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi 10 times, and from ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak five times, Freud was clearly more amenable to a request for representation by the Azeri dauphine. In 2011, he organized what the British satirical weekly Private Eye called “a caviar-rich London party” to “launch” Aliyeva in British high society. Guests at this soirée included Lord Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair’s onetime political svengali; Freud’s wife and Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth; Lord Browne, the former head of BP; Ed Vaizey, the current British culture minister; Stuart Rose, formerly the top man at Marks & Spencer; and Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian oligarch proprietor of the Independent and Evening Standard newspapers, and son of billionaire businessman Alexander Lebedev.*

    All in all, it would appear that Leyla Aliyeva, now the ex-wife of Emin Agalarov, was mighty close to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter. So close that Elisabeth and her husband helped launch Leyla’s UK socialite status.

    And let’s not forget that the Trump family has its own history of dealings in Azerbaijan and the Aliyev clan. Shady dealings that involve a stunning lack of due diligence, of course.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 26, 2017, 7:29 pm
  18. There was another recent twist in the #TrumpRussia investigation. This one again focuses on George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign’s young ‘foreign-policy advisor’ who become a contact person between the Trump campaign and a cast of characters with Kremlin ties like Joseph Mifsud, the mysterious Maltese professor who told Papadopoulos Moscow had thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and a woman claiming to be Vladimir Putin’s niece.

    It turns out Papadopoulos decided to talk about his contacts with these Kremlin-connected individuals with a third party: The Australian government. Not directly, but that’s basically what Papadopoulos did when he reportedly got very drunk in May of 2016 and talked with Alexander Downer, Australia’s top diplomat in Britain, about his new Russian friends. What exactly he told Downer isn’t clear, but it was apparently salacious enough that the information helped to prompt the FBI into quietly opening up its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. Curiously, though that information wasn’t actually passed along to the US government until a couple of months after Papadopoulos’s drunken chat with Downer, after the DNC emails started getting released.

    So what was it that prompted Papadopoulos to open up to Australia’s top diplomat in the UK? That’s not at all clear. It’s also unclear whether Downer was fishing for this information or if Papadopoulos brought it up on his own. The meeting at the bar came reportedly came about from a series of connections that started when an Israeli Embassy official introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to another Australian diplomat in London. And Australia was apparently just one of a number of foreign intelligence agencies were were sending the US government information related to the #TrumpRussia investigation, with Britain and the Netherlands intelligence agencies also sending info. So who knows how many other people Papapdopoulos was ‘spilling the beans’ to during this period.

    But we do know that Alexander Downer is a conservative Australian politicians from the center-right Liberal Party. Perhaps Papadopoulos figured they were on the same ideological ‘team’ and it was safe to talk about this? Who knows, but like a number of aspects of this investigation, it begs the question that keeps coming up given the characters involved in all this: “what did Rupert Murdoch know and when did he know it?”

    No, Rupert Murdoch isn’t directly involved with this latest twist, but when you step back and look at the situation – a situation where the likely GOP nominee’s campaign staff was blabbering to a top Australian diplomat about an alleged Kremlin dirty tricks operation that the GOP nominee was apparently fine with – it’s hard to imagine that Rupert Murdoch didn’t come up in the “what do we do with this information?” conversations that the Australian government must have been quietly having. After all, Murdoch is both one of the most prominent and influential Australians in the world AND the media God Father for the Republican Party. He’s the perfect guy for the Australian government to go to with this type of information. So when a right-wing Australian government wants to share something extremely sensitive to the US establishment that might be damaging to the GOP in the middle of a presidential election, how would it go about doing that? It seems like having a quiet chat with Rupert would be an obvious choice for an initial outreach to informally talk about what’s to be done.

    Did some sort of quiet outreach to the Murdochs take place? We don’t get to know. But now we know that the Australian government did pass this information along to the US government a couple of months of Downer received it. After the hacked emails started getting released. And that information played a major role in getting the FBI countintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign started in the first place:

    The New York Times

    How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt

    By SHARON LaFRANIERE, MARK MAZZETTI and MATT APUZZO
    DEC. 30, 2017

    WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

    About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

    Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

    The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

    If Mr. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is now a cooperating witness, was the improbable match that set off a blaze that has consumed the first year of the Trump administration, his saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation.

    While some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have derided him as an insignificant campaign volunteer or a “coffee boy,” interviews and new documents show that he stayed influential throughout the campaign. Two months before the election, for instance, he helped arrange a New York meeting between Mr. Trump and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

    The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

    It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.

    Interviews and previously undisclosed documents show that Mr. Papadopoulos played a critical role in this drama and reveal a Russian operation that was more aggressive and widespread than previously known. They add to an emerging portrait, gradually filled in over the past year in revelations by federal investigators, journalists and lawmakers, of Russians with government contacts trying to establish secret channels at various levels of the Trump campaign.

    The F.B.I. investigation, which was taken over seven months ago by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has cast a shadow over Mr. Trump’s first year in office — even as he and his aides repeatedly played down the Russian efforts and falsely denied campaign contacts with Russians.

    They have also insisted that Mr. Papadopoulos was a low-level figure. But spies frequently target peripheral players as a way to gain insight and leverage.

    F.B.I. officials disagreed in 2016 about how aggressively and publicly to pursue the Russia inquiry before the election. But there was little debate about what seemed to be afoot. John O. Brennan, who retired this year after four years as C.I.A. director, told Congress in May that he had been concerned about multiple contacts between Russian officials and Trump advisers.

    Russia, he said, had tried to “suborn” members of the Trump campaign.

    ‘The Signal to Meet’

    Mr. Papadopoulos, then an ambitious 28-year-old from Chicago, was working as an energy consultant in London when the Trump campaign, desperate to create a foreign policy team, named him as an adviser in early March 2016. His political experience was limited to two months on Ben Carson’s presidential campaign before it collapsed.

    Mr. Papadopoulos had no experience on Russia issues. But during his job interview with Sam Clovis, a top early campaign aide, he saw an opening. He was told that improving relations with Russia was one of Mr. Trump’s top foreign policy goals, according to court papers, an account Mr. Clovis has denied.

    Traveling in Italy that March, Mr. Papadopoulos met Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor at a now-defunct London academy who had valuable contacts with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Mifsud showed little interest in Mr. Papadopoulos at first.

    But when he found out he was a Trump campaign adviser, he latched onto him, according to court records and emails obtained by The New York Times. Their joint goal was to arrange a meeting between Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Moscow, or between their respective aides.

    In response to questions, Mr. Papadopoulos’s lawyers declined to provide a statement.

    Before the end of the month, Mr. Mifsud had arranged a meeting at a London cafe between Mr. Papadopoulos and Olga Polonskaya, a young woman from St. Petersburg whom he falsely described as Mr. Putin’s niece. Although Ms. Polonskaya told The Times in a text message that her English skills are poor, her emails to Mr. Papadopoulos were largely fluent. “We are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” Ms. Polonskaya wrote in one message.

    More important, Mr. Mifsud connected Mr. Papadopoulos to Ivan Timofeev, a program director for the prestigious Valdai Discussion Club, a gathering of academics that meets annually with Mr. Putin. The two men corresponded for months about how to connect the Russian government and the campaign. Records suggest that Mr. Timofeev, who has been described by Mr. Mueller’s team as an intermediary for the Russian Foreign Ministry, discussed the matter with the ministry’s former leader, Igor S. Ivanov, who is widely viewed in the United States as one of Russia’s elder statesmen.

    When Mr. Trump’s foreign policy team gathered for the first time at the end of March in Washington, Mr. Papadopoulos said he had the contacts to set up a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump listened intently but apparently deferred to Jeff Sessions, then a senator from Alabama and head of the campaign’s foreign policy team, according to participants in the meeting.

    Mr. Sessions, now the attorney general, initially did not reveal that discussion to Congress, because, he has said, he did not recall it. More recently, he said he pushed back against Mr. Papadopoulos’s proposal, at least partly because he did not want someone so unqualified to represent the campaign on such a sensitive matter.

    If the campaign wanted Mr. Papadopoulos to stand down, previously undisclosed emails obtained by The Times show that he either did not get the message or failed to heed it. He continued for months to try to arrange some kind of meeting with Russian representatives, keeping senior campaign advisers abreast of his efforts. Mr. Clovis ultimately encouraged him and another foreign policy adviser to travel to Moscow, but neither went because the campaign would not cover the cost.

    Mr. Papadopoulos was trusted enough to edit the outline of Mr. Trump’s first major foreign policy speech on April 27, an address in which the candidate said it was possible to improve relations with Russia. Mr. Papadopoulos flagged the speech to his newfound Russia contacts, telling Mr. Timofeev that it should be taken as “the signal to meet.”

    “That is a statesman speech,” Mr. Mifsud agreed. Ms. Polonskaya wrote that she was pleased that Mr. Trump’s “position toward Russia is much softer” than that of other candidates.

    Stephen Miller, then a senior policy adviser to the campaign and now a top White House aide, was eager for Mr. Papadopoulos to serve as a surrogate, someone who could publicize Mr. Trump’s foreign policy views without officially speaking for the campaign. But Mr. Papadopoulos’s first public attempt to do so was a disaster.

    In a May 4, 2016, interview with The Times of London, Mr. Papadopoulos called on Prime Minister David Cameron to apologize to Mr. Trump for criticizing his remarks on Muslims as “stupid” and divisive. “Say sorry to Trump or risk special relationship, Cameron told,” the headline read. Mr. Clovis, the national campaign co-chairman, severely reprimanded Mr. Papadopoulos for failing to clear his explosive comments with the campaign in advance.

    From then on, Mr. Papadopoulos was more careful with the press — though he never regained the full trust of Mr. Clovis or several other campaign officials.

    Mr. Mifsud proposed to Mr. Papadopoulos that he, too, serve as a campaign surrogate. He could write op-eds under the guise of a “neutral” observer, he wrote in a previously undisclosed email, and follow Mr. Trump to his rallies as an accredited journalist while receiving briefings from the inside the campaign.

    In late April, at a London hotel, Mr. Mifsud told Mr. Papadopoulos that he had just learned from high-level Russian officials in Moscow that the Russians had “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents. Although Russian hackers had been mining data from the Democratic National Committee’s computers for months, that information was not yet public. Even the committee itself did not know.

    Whether Mr. Papadopoulos shared that information with anyone else in the campaign is one of many unanswered questions. He was mostly in contact with the campaign over emails. The day after Mr. Mifsud’s revelation about the hacked emails, he told Mr. Miller in an email only that he had “interesting messages coming in from Moscow” about a possible trip. The emails obtained by The Times show no evidence that Mr. Papadopoulos discussed the stolen messages with the campaign.

    Not long after, however, he opened up to Mr. Downer, the Australian diplomat, about his contacts with the Russians. It is unclear whether Mr. Downer was fishing for that information that night in May 2016. The meeting at the bar came about because of a series of connections, beginning with an Israeli Embassy official who introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to another Australian diplomat in London.

    It is also not clear why, after getting the information in May, the Australian government waited two months to pass it to the F.B.I. In a statement, the Australian Embassy in Washington declined to provide details about the meeting or confirm that it occurred.

    “As a matter of principle and practice, the Australian government does not comment on matters relevant to active investigations,” the statement said. The F.B.I. declined to comment.

    A Secretive Investigation

    Once the information Mr. Papadopoulos had disclosed to the Australian diplomat reached the F.B.I., the bureau opened an investigation that became one of its most closely guarded secrets. Senior agents did not discuss it at the daily morning briefing, a classified setting where officials normally speak freely about highly sensitive operations.

    Besides the information from the Australians, the investigation was also propelled by intelligence from other friendly governments, including the British and Dutch. A trip to Moscow by another adviser, Carter Page, also raised concerns at the F.B.I.

    With so many strands coming in — about Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Page, the hackers and more — F.B.I. agents debated how aggressively to investigate the campaign’s Russia ties, according to current and former officials familiar with the debate. Issuing subpoenas or questioning people, for example, could cause the investigation to burst into public view in the final months of a presidential campaign.

    It could also tip off the Russian government, which might try to cover its tracks. Some officials argued against taking such disruptive steps, especially since the F.B.I. would not be able to unravel the case before the election.

    Others believed that the possibility of a compromised presidential campaign was so serious that it warranted the most thorough, aggressive tactics. Even if the odds against a Trump presidency were long, these agents argued, it was prudent to take every precaution.

    That included questioning Christopher Steele, the former British spy who was compiling the dossier alleging a far-ranging Russian conspiracy to elect Mr. Trump. A team of F.B.I. agents traveled to Europe to interview Mr. Steele in early October 2016. Mr. Steele had shown some of his findings to an F.B.I. agent in Rome three months earlier, but that information was not part of the justification to start an counterintelligence inquiry, American officials said.

    Ultimately, the F.B.I. and Justice Department decided to keep the investigation quiet, a decision that Democrats in particular have criticized. And agents did not interview Mr. Papadopoulos until late January.

    ———-

    “How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt” by SHARON LaFRANIERE, MARK MAZZETTI and MATT APUZZO; The New York Times; 12/30/2017

    “Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.”

    So the Australian government gets all this info directly from George Papadopoulos about the Trump campaign’s discussions with people Papadopoulos believes are Russian government operatives back in May of 2016, then the hacked emails get released, and then, some time in July of 2016 they pass this info to the FBI, helping launch the counterintelligence investigation. Although as the article notes, this wasn’t the only info the FBI was working with. There was also info from British and Dutch intelligence, and a trip to Moscow by Carter Page that also raised eyebrows. But based on this report it would appear that it was the information the Australians handed over that played the biggest role in launching the investigation:


    The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

    It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.

    Not long after, however, he opened up to Mr. Downer, the Australian diplomat, about his contacts with the Russians. It is unclear whether Mr. Downer was fishing for that information that night in May 2016. The meeting at the bar came about because of a series of connections, beginning with an Israeli Embassy official who introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to another Australian diplomat in London.

    It is also not clear why, after getting the information in May, the Australian government waited two months to pass it to the F.B.I. In a statement, the Australian Embassy in Washington declined to provide details about the meeting or confirm that it occurred.

    “As a matter of principle and practice, the Australian government does not comment on matters relevant to active investigations,” the statement said. The F.B.I. declined to comment.

    A Secretive Investigation

    Once the information Mr. Papadopoulos had disclosed to the Australian diplomat reached the F.B.I., the bureau opened an investigation that became one of its most closely guarded secrets. Senior agents did not discuss it at the daily morning briefing, a classified setting where officials normally speak freely about highly sensitive operations.

    Besides the information from the Australians, the investigation was also propelled by intelligence from other friendly governments, including the British and Dutch. A trip to Moscow by another adviser, Carter Page, also raised concerns at the F.B.I.

    So whatever Papadopoulos told Downer, it was apparently quite significant.

    It also all points towards one of the other adds aspects of this whole mess: Given the fact that the hacking operation was filled with “I’m a Russian hacker!” clueslike the Cyrillic metadata with the name “Iron Felix” that was almost immediately used to blame the hack on Russia – it might be tempting to assume these clues were left intentionally for strategic purposes if the Kremlin was actually behind that operation. Like, maybe it was determined that the Republican party is so fundamentally corrupt that Moscow could effectively buy off the Republican party and get better treatment on things like sanctions by openly hacking Hillary Clinton. And yet we have one story after another about people who act like Kremlin operatives openly approaching the Trump campaign and openly talking about hacked emails. In other words, the high profile “I’m a Russian hacker!” clues were completely unnecessary in terms of sending a message to the GOP. Those messages were already being privately sent through people like Papadopoulos or the infamous Trump Tower meeting of June 2016. It’s not as if the Trump team wouldn’t have had reason to assume it was Kremlin hackers if none of those “I’m a Russian hacker!” clues had been left. And it would have been a lot easier for Trump to actually improve relations with Russia if he wasn’t embroiled in a giant Russian collusion scandal that probably wouldn’t have ever happened if it wasn’t for all those “I’m a Russian hacker!” clues. It’s as if the Kremlin was actively trying to get caught despite the fact that getting caught ruins so much of the potential value of such an operation.

    And yet here we are, with an unfolding investigation that reveals one behind-the-scenes point of contact after another between the Trump campaign and apparent Kremlin operatives in the lead up to a high-profile hacking operation filled with in-your-face “I’m a Russian hacker!” clues all over the place. And now we learn that the Trump campaign itself was sharing this kind of information with one of Australia’s top diplomats. And who knows who else. If the Kremlin was actively trying to get caught for some reason it couldn’t have chosen a better partner.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 3, 2018, 4:39 pm
  19. Here’s another Rupert Murdoch-related twist/mystery to the Trump White House escapades: There appears to be quite a bit of shock within the White House over the brutal portrayal of Trump and his entire team in Michael Wolff’s new Fire and Fury book. And to some extent that shock might be understandable given that the book was on Wolff’s exclusive access to the White House. They probably didn’t expect the journalist who was given exclusive access to end up writing a book that portrays Trump as a demented lunatic his entire staff is scare of and makes Steve Bannon into Trump’s Judas (or more like an anti-Judas given who Trump is).

    But here’s the Murdoch twist: Wolff was also the guy who wrote the 2008 book The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch about Rupert Murdoch. A book that also involved Wolff getting extensive inside access and also resulted in Murdoch feeling like a much nastier story was written about him than he expected.

    So given how long Murdoch and Trump have known each other and how often they reportedly talk to each other, you have to wonder what, if anything, Murdoch told Trump about having Wolff act as the exclusive White House inside reporter. And as the following piece notes, Murdoch has already responded to this question, but it’s a rather curious response:

    Politico

    Trump Got Wolffed
    The president should have known better. Michael Wolff does not mess around.

    By JACK SHAFER
    January 04, 2018

    President Donald Trump could have saved himself a lot of grief if he—or one of his people—had read Michael Wolff’s 2008 book, The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch, before permitting the writer seemingly unfettered access to the White House and his underling Steve Bannon.

    I’m not the only one to arrive at that observation. On Twitter today, Roger Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman wrote, “One of the baffling things about Trumpworld giving access to Wolff: all they needed to do was call Murdoch and he would have said don’t cooperate b/c Wolff had written nasty book on him. And Jared/Trump speak to Murdoch all the time!”

    Six minutes later, Wolff tweeted back at Sherman, “I kept waiting for that call to be made.”

    Why wasn’t the call made as Wolff began collecting string for Fire and Fury, his new book about the Trump White House? The simple answer is that Wolff appears to have mastered a journalistic skill that allows him to suck up one moment and then, when seated at the keyboard, to spit out.

    This technique was fully displayed in his Murdoch book, which both accepts the media tyrant on his own terms and demolishes him (as I noted in my review). That book grew out of Wolff’s sympathetic and sometimes flattering account of Murdoch’s takeover of the Wall Street Journal in the September 2007 Vanity Fair. Perhaps confusing Wolff’s positive take with an offer of eternal supplication, Murdoch gave the writer an all-access pass to his operation. How all-access was it? In the book’s acknowledgments, Wolff wrote, “None of this would have been possible without the singular cooperation of this book’s subject, who not only was (mostly) a patient and convivial interviewee but opened every door I asked him to open.” Wolff also extended thanks to Murdoch business executives and family members for honoring the old man’s request that they cooperate.

    Murdoch’s high regard for his Boswell ended as soon as the book was finished. A few weeks before its official release, the mogul lacerated Wolff and his publisher for the book’s alleged inaccuracies. “It contains some extremely damaging misstatements of fact which I will be happy to point out to you if we could meet. Otherwise I will have no option other than to speak to Random House,” Murdoch emailed Wolff.

    Why on Earth did Murdoch open the door to his life to Wolff? He had, after all, established a firm reputation as an unmerciful and often cruel journalistic narrator. Murdoch’s family and executives wondered the same when Murdoch instructed them to talk to Wolff. “Everybody said, ‘Why did he do this?’ No one seems to know,” Wolff told the New York Times.

    Wolff appears to have juked the Trumpies with a similar move. They foolishly interpreted several of Wolff’s generous-to-Trump pieces (most notably a conversation with candidate Trump and a post-victory interview with Steve Bannon, both for the Hollywood Reporter) as a kind of declaration of solidarity. Yes, the Wolff pieces were generous; they were not fawning. A work of journalism need not incorporate the give and take of an Oxford Union debate. As long as a piece conveys intelligence or insight—and Wolff’s Trump work has—there is no automatic shame in transcribing the words of newsmakers. If Wolff was guilty of anything, it was of extending to victorious Republicans the time-honored opportunity of having their say, something Barack Obama and company enjoyed repeatedly following the 2008 election without any mass freak-out.

    After Wolff caught hell from journalistic corners for the stenographic quality of his Trump stories (Glenn Greenwald, Charles P. Pierce, Jeff Jarvis, Mathew Ingram and others), he basked in the heat like a sauna. The greater the criticism from the press, he had to know, the greater likelihood the Trumpies would embrace him. In a November Q&A with Digiday, Wolff fed additional bait into the trap by denouncing media coverage of Trump and endorsing his stenographic interview style as a useful journalistic technique. In a post-inauguration Newsweek piece titled “Why the Media Keeps Losing to Donald Trump,” he expanded on his early themes to describe the Trump gang as superior to the press. In a February appearance on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Wolff admitted to “sucking up a bit to get access” to the White House, but found validation in this approach when his material was “retailed through the media chain” by other journalists.

    That Murdoch got suckered by Wolff says volumes about Murdoch’s naiveté. But the fact that Trump got suckered by Wolff a decade after his frequent telephone companion Murdoch got suckered says even more. Did Trump never ask Murdoch about Wolff? (If that’s the case, Murdoch would have very good reason to have called Trump a “fuc king idiot,” as Wolff reports.) How can it be that Murdoch never volunteered to Trump in one of their phone calls that Wolff would smile in his face but ultimately stab him? Wolff’s penetration of the White House presents two equally damning conclusions about Trump—that’s he’s too much of an egoist to care who might be loitering around the White House, gathering string on him, and that he’s too incurious about the world to spot a potential danger to his presidency.

    ———-

    “Trump Got Wolffed” by JACK SHAFER; Politico; 01/04/2018

    “I’m not the only one to arrive at that observation. On Twitter today, Roger Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman wrote, “One of the baffling things about Trumpworld giving access to Wolff: all they needed to do was call Murdoch and he would have said don’t cooperate b/c Wolff had written nasty book on him. And Jared/Trump speak to Murdoch all the time!”

    It’s a pretty obvious question: how did the Trump White House, which has long-standing and extensive ties to the Murdochs, end up picking the exact same biographer that left Murdoch feeling so burned a decade ago?

    And look at Murdoch’s response to that open question:


    Six minutes later, Wolff tweeted back at Sherman, “I kept waiting for that call to be made.”

    “I kept waiting for that call to be made”

    WHAT!? “That call” reportedly happens almost every day. Trump and Murdoch are phone buddies!

    But Wolff apparently managed to flatter the Trumps enough to get the deal. And when you read the reports from Wolff back in February of 2017, right around the time Wolff was trying to get permission from the White House to write the book, it’s not inconceivable that the Trumps really were quite flattered by Wolff(assuming they never discussed this with the Murdochs, which is less conceivable):

    BuzzFeed News

    Media Writer Michael Wolff Is Shopping Around A Trump Book, Sources Say

    Wolff, who is said to be negotiating access with the administration, recently wrote flattering profiles of Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon.

    Steven Perlberg
    BuzzFeed News Reporter
    Posted on February 6, 2017, at 1:50 p.m.

    Veteran media critic Michael Wolff is shopping around a book about the Trump administration, two sources familiar with the pitch told BuzzFeed News.

    Wolff, a source said, is attempting to convince the White House to grant him access for the book. A few weeks ago, he was seen having lunch at the fading Manhattan media power lunch joint Michael’s with special counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, which turned heads even at a restaurant known for star sightings.

    Wolff recently published a piece in the Hollywood Reporter, which referenced the lunch and reflected on Conway’s role as a media lightning rod. “If Donald Trump is going to war with the media — if he is to continue his war — Kellyanne Conway will be both his general and, likely, his cannon fodder,” Wolff wrote.

    Days after the election, Wolff also published a largely flattering profile of Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist who has taken center stage in the new administration.

    Wolff did not return multiple requests for comment.

    Wolff, a controversy-prone media chronicler, has a history of securing unprecedented access to his subjects — although they don’t always like the result. Wolff was granted wide access to Rupert Murdoch for his 2008 biography The Man Who Owns the News. Before publication, the billionaire media mogul taken center stage in the new administration, the New York Times reported at the time.

    While the New York Times once described Wolff as “genuinely detested,” he has a knack for breaking stories about powerful figures. Now he has evidently turned his attention to politics — and Trump. In November, Wolff said in an interview that a large part of journalists’ jobs is pure stenography, a remark that received considerable Twitter backlash.

    On Sunday, Wolff appeared on CNN and criticized the media for “having a nervous breakdown” while covering Trump, though he acknowledged the Trump administration is a great story for journalists. “Which is why I am, like all of us, spending every day on it,” he said.

    ———-

    “Media Writer Michael Wolff Is Shopping Around A Trump Book, Sources Say” by Steven Perlberg; BuzzFeed News; 02/06/2015

    Wolff, a source said, is attempting to convince the White House to grant him access for the book. A few weeks ago, he was seen having lunch at the fading Manhattan media power lunch joint Michael’s with special counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, which turned heads even at a restaurant known for star sightings.”

    Just a couple weeks after the inauguration Wolff is openly trying to get a book deal and is seen chatting with Kellyanne Conway. So there was already reporting about Wolff trying to get this book deal, and that reporting included warnings about how Wolff treated Murdoch! It’s just amazing.

    But note how Wolff didn’t just start cozying up to the Trump team at that point. He had been buttering them up for months, including a largely flattering profile of Steve Bannon shortly after the election:


    Days after the election, Wolff also published a largely flattering profile of Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist who has taken center stage in the new administration.

    So is it possible that it wasn’t actually the Trump family that grant Wolff this access but instead Conway or Bannon? Well, according to the following article, the White House is now claiming that it was Bannon who was granting Wolff most of his access, and Trump is claiming that he turned down Wolff’s book request numerous times:

    USA Today

    How author Michael Wolff got his ‘fly-on-the-wall’ access to the Trump White House

    Gregory Korte
    Published 4:58 p.m. ET Jan. 4, 2018 | Updated 11:08 p.m. ET Jan. 4, 2018

    WASHINGTON — Eight days before President Trump’s inauguration, reporters crammed into the lobby of Trump Tower to chronicle the comings-and-goings of diplomats, CEOs, lobbyists and former campaign officials — many of whom would become future White House officials.

    The one reporter who crossed the press gauntlet that day to make his way to the elevators was Michael Wolff, a long-time New York writer, author and media executive. Asked whether he was meeting with the president-elect, Wolff just smiled.

    Upstairs, Wolff said he told Trump he’d like to write a book. “A book?” Trump responded, according to an account Wolff published Thursday in the Hollywood Reporter. “I hear a lot of people want to write books.”

    Over the next few months, Wolff would get similarly conspicuous access at the White House. With his distinctive bald head and New York fashion affectations, he stood out from the throngs of Washington media seeking inside information from Trump’s inner circle.

    Armed with a blue “appointment” badge from the Secret Service — unlike the grey press badges that gain access to the press briefing room — he walked into the West Wing and, he says, took up semi-permanent residence on a couch in the lobby, where he could see the daily interactions of top players in the Trump White House.

    Adding to the intrigue, the White House now says that it was Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who signed off on most of Wolff’s access.

    That “fly-on-the-wall” access has now resulted in what’s become the most explosive tell-all book of the Trump presidency so far — Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

    How explosive? The book portrays Trump as ignorant and mercurial, and his White House as in a near-constant state of chaos.

    Trump denied Wolff had such open access to his administration, tweeting late Thursday, “I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book!” and insisted he never spoke to Wolff for the book.

    I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2018

    Trump’s private lawyers threatened the book’s author and publisher Thursday, demanding that they retract the allegations and pull the book from the market. (Instead, the publisher moved up publication four days, from next Tuesday to Friday.) White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the yet-to-be-released book “complete fantasy and full of tabloid gossip.”

    A longtime fixture in New York media circles — with stints at New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, the Hollywood Reporter, USA TODAY and the Guardian — Wolff has spent most of his career examining the intersection of business, celebrity and media. That often put him in the same circles as Donald Trump.

    “This man is only tangentially a businessman. What he does is exploit himself,” Wolf said of Trump in Vanity Fair in 2004, as Trump’s Apprentice television franchise premiered.

    Wolff, too, has shown a penchant for promotion over the years. A television commercial promoting his column for USA TODAY showed an executive jumping out a window and yelling, “This is off the record!” rather than talk to him. “Read Michael Wolff,” the narrator said, “and thank your lucky stars he’s not writing about you.”

    Wolff’s column appeared in USA TODAY from 2012 through January, 2017. His second-to-last column was headlined, “Media stumped over how to cover Trump.”

    But Wolff’s work has also brought complaints about embellished or made-up quotes.

    “I think you have to look also at this author’s track record in which he’s had a real problem with this in the past,” Sanders said Thursday.

    Steven Brill — who like Wolff is a New York author, writer and journalism entrepreneur — alleged in 1998 that Wolff’s treatment of Silicon Valley, Burn Rate: How I Survived The Gold Rush Years on the Internet, “invented or changed quotes” and suggested he even invented a composite character from three different AOL executives. Wolff stood by his reporting.

    In the introduction to Fire and Fury, Wolff attempts to head off inevitable questions about the veracity of his stories. “Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue,” he wrote, saying he would allow readers to figure out which were true and which were false.

    An excerpt of Wolff’s book in New York Magazine contained an editor’s note explaining that Wolff conducted about 200 interviews over 18 months.

    The White House has downplayed the amount of access Wolff got.

    “In fact, there are probably more than 30 requests for access to information from Michael Wolff that were repeatedly denied,” Sanders said. They included two dozen requests to interview president, she said.

    “We saw him for what he was, and there was no reason to waste the president of the United States’s time,” she said.

    Wolff did not respond to requests for comment.

    The White House, reversing President Obama’s transparency policy, has refused to allow the release of visitors records that would show who signed off on Wolff’s access. But Sanders said Wolff had “just over a dozen interactions” with White House officials, and almost all were at Bannon’s request.

    The book quotes Bannon as saying that the July, 2016 meeting by Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower was “treasonous,” and portrays Bannon as a sort-of presidential puppetmaster.

    In an extraordinary statement Wednesday repudiating for cooperating with the book, Trump portrayed Wolff as a tool of Bannon. “Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”

    ———-

    “How author Michael Wolff got his ‘fly-on-the-wall’ access to the Trump White House” by Gregory Korte; USA Today; 01/04/2018

    “Upstairs, Wolff said he told Trump he’d like to write a book. “A book?” Trump responded, according to an account Wolff published Thursday in the Hollywood Reporter. “I hear a lot of people want to write books.””

    That was apparently the first time Wolff brought up the idea of a book to Trump. Eight days before the inauguration. But notice how Wolff was clearly given prior permission to actually approach Trump and float the idea:


    Eight days before President Trump’s inauguration, reporters crammed into the lobby of Trump Tower to chronicle the comings-and-goings of diplomats, CEOs, lobbyists and former campaign officials — many of whom would become future White House officials.

    The one reporter who crossed the press gauntlet that day to make his way to the elevators was Michael Wolff, a long-time New York writer, author and media executive. Asked whether he was meeting with the president-elect, Wolff just smiled.

    So Wolff was “the one reporter” who was allowed to actually ascend Trump Tower that day. Someone clearly gave him access just to do that. And then the access flowed. Conspicuously. For months:


    Over the next few months, Wolff would get similarly conspicuous access at the White House. With his distinctive bald head and New York fashion affectations, he stood out from the throngs of Washington media seeking inside information from Trump’s inner circle.

    Armed with a blue “appointment” badge from the Secret Service — unlike the grey press badges that gain access to the press briefing room — he walked into the West Wing and, he says, took up semi-permanent residence on a couch in the lobby, where he could see the daily interactions of top players in the Trump White House.

    Semi-Permanent residence on a couch in the lobby where he could watch the daily interactions of top players. That’s some pretty conspicuous access!

    And yet the White House line now is that this was all Steve Bannon’s doing, and Trump claims he granted no access at all and turned Wolff down many times:


    Adding to the intrigue, the White House now says that it was Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who signed off on most of Wolff’s access.

    Trump denied Wolff had such open access to his administration, tweeting late Thursday, “I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book!” and insisted he never spoke to Wolff for the book.

    I authorized Zero access to White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book! I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist. Look at this guy’s past and watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2018

    It was all Bannon’s doing! That’s the White House line at this point.

    And when you read the following piece by Wolff summarizing his experience, it does appear to be the case that Bannon was the person most openly critical of Trump. Whether or not he was directly confiding in Wolff or Wolff picked all this up while sitting on the couch in the lounge is unclear. But Wolff clearly had no shortage of highly critical comments from Bannon about Trump. Bannon even reportedly portrayed himself as the person really in charge, with Trump just a figurehead.

    And yet the following piece also makes clear that it wasn’t just Bannon expressing these view. As Wolff puts it, “my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.” So while Bannon might have been the most caustic in his remarks about Trump, he apparently was far from the only one who felt that way:

    The Hollywood Reporter

    “You Can’t Make This S— Up”: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House

    4:00 AM PST 1/4/2018 by Michael Wolff

    Author and columnist Michael Wolff was given extraordinary access to the Trump administration and now details the feuds, the fights and the alarming chaos he witnessed while reporting what turned into a new book.

    Editor’s Note: Author and Hollywood Reporter columnist Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt & Co.), is a detailed account of the 45th president’s election and first year in office based on extensive access to the White House and more than 200 interviews with Trump and senior staff over a period of 18 months. In advance of the Jan. 9 publication of the book, which Trump is already attacking, Wolff has written this extracted column about his time in the White House based on the reporting included in Fire and Fury.

    I interviewed Donald Trump for The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, and he seemed to have liked — or not disliked — the piece I wrote. “Great cover!” his press assistant, Hope Hicks, emailed me after it came out (it was a picture of a belligerent Trump in mirrored sunglasses). After the election, I proposed to him that I come to the White House and report an inside story for later publication — journalistically, as a fly on the wall — which he seemed to misconstrue as a request for a job. No, I said. I’d like to just watch and write a book. “A book?” he responded, losing interest. “I hear a lot of people want to write books,” he added, clearly not understanding why anybody would. “Do you know Ed Klein?”— author of several virulently anti-Hillary books. “Great guy. I think he should write a book about me.” But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out.

    Since the new White House was often uncertain about what the president meant or did not mean in any given utterance, his non-disapproval became a kind of passport for me to hang around — checking in each week at the Hay-Adams hotel, making appointments with various senior staffers who put my name in the “system,” and then wandering across the street to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch.

    The West Wing is configured in such a way that the anteroom is quite a thoroughfare — everybody passes by. Assistants — young women in the Trump uniform of short skirts, high boots, long and loose hair — as well as, in situation-comedy proximity, all the new stars of the show: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, Gary Cohn, Michael Flynn (and after Flynn’s abrupt departure less than a month into the job for his involvement in the Russia affair, his replacement, H.R. McMaster), all neatly accessible.

    The nature of the comedy, it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment — with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Their estimable accomplishment of getting to the West Wing risked at any moment becoming farce.

    A new president typically surrounds himself with a small group of committed insiders and loyalists. But few on the Trump team knew him very well — most of his advisors had been with him only since the fall. Even his family, now closely gathered around him, seemed nonplussed. “You know, we never saw that much of him until he got the nomination,” Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, told one senior staffer. If much of the country was incredulous, his staff, trying to cement their poker faces, were at least as confused.

    Their initial response was to hawkishly defend him — he demanded it — and by defending him they seemed to be defending themselves. Politics is a game, of course, of determined role-playing, but the difficulties of staying in character in the Trump White House became evident almost from the first day.

    “You can’t make this shit up,” Sean Spicer, soon to be portrayed as the most hapless man in America, muttered to himself after his tortured press briefing on the first day of the new administration, when he was called to justify the president’s inaugural crowd numbers — and soon enough, he adopted this as a personal mantra. Reince Priebus, the new chief of staff, had, shortly after the announcement of his appointment in November, started to think he would not last until the inauguration. Then, making it to the White House, he hoped he could last a respectable year, but he quickly scaled back his goal to six months. Kellyanne Conway, who would put a finger-gun to her head in private about Trump’s public comments, continued to mount an implacable defense on cable television, until she was pulled off the air by others in the White House who, however much the president enjoyed her, found her militancy idiotic. (Even Ivanka and Jared regarded Conway’s fulsome defenses as cringeworthy.)

    Steve Bannon tried to gamely suggest that Trump was mere front man and that he, with plan and purpose and intellect, was, more reasonably, running the show — commanding a whiteboard of policies and initiatives that he claimed to have assembled from Trump’s off-the-cuff ramblings and utterances. His adoption of the Saturday Night Live sobriquet “President Bannon” was less than entirely humorous. Within the first few weeks, even rote conversations with senior staff trying to explain the new White House’s policies and positions would turn into a body-language ballet of eye-rolling and shrugs and pantomime of jaws dropping. Leaking became the political manifestation of the don’t-blame-me eye roll.

    The surreal sense of the Trump presidency was being lived as intensely inside the White House as out. Trump was, for the people closest to him, the ultimate enigma. He had been elected president, that through-the-eye-of-the-needle feat, but obviously, he was yet … Trump. Indeed, he seemed as confused as anyone to find himself in the White House, even attempting to barricade himself into his bedroom with his own lock over the protests of the Secret Service.

    There was some effort to ascribe to Trump magical powers. In an early conversation — half comic, half desperate — Bannon tried to explain him as having a particular kind of Jungian brilliance. Trump, obviously without having read Jung, somehow had access to the collective unconscious of the other half of the country, and, too, a gift for inventing archetypes: Little Marco … Low-Energy Jeb … the Failing New York Times. Everybody in the West Wing tried, with some panic, to explain him, and, sheepishly, their own reason for being here. He’s intuitive, he gets it, he has a mind-meld with his base. But there was palpable relief, of an Emperor’s New Clothes sort, when longtime Trump staffer Sam Nunberg — fired by Trump during the campaign but credited with knowing him better than anyone else — came back into the fold and said, widely, “He’s just a fuc king fool.”

    Part of that foolishness was his inability to deal with his own family. In a way, this gave him a human dimension. Even Donald Trump couldn’t say no to his kids. “It’s a littleee, littleee complicated …” he explained to Priebus about why he needed to give his daughter and son-in-law official jobs. But the effect of their leadership roles was to compound his own boundless inexperience in Washington, creating from the outset frustration and then disbelief and then rage on the part of the professionals in his employ.

    The men and women of the West Wing, for all that the media was ridiculing them, actually felt they had a responsibility to the country. “Trump,” said one senior Republican, “turned selfish careerists into patriots.” Their job was to maintain the pretense of relative sanity, even as each individually came to the conclusion that, in generous terms, it was insane to think you could run a White House without experience, organizational structure or a real purpose.

    On March 30, after the collapse of the health care bill, 32-year-old Katie Walsh, the deputy chief of staff, the effective administration chief of the West Wing, a stalwart political pro and stellar example of governing craft, walked out. Little more than two months in, she quit. Couldn’t take it anymore. Nutso. To lose your deputy chief of staff at the get-go would be a sign of crisis in any other administration, but inside an obviously exploding one it was hardly noticed.

    While there might be a scary national movement of Trumpers, the reality in the White House was stranger still: There was Jared and Ivanka, Democrats; there was Priebus, a mainstream Republican; and there was Bannon, whose reasonable claim to be the one person actually representing Trumpism so infuriated Trump that Bannon was hopelessly sidelined by April. “How much influence do you think Steve Bannon has over me? Zero! Zero!” Trump muttered and stormed. To say that no one was in charge, that there were no guiding principles, not even a working org chart, would again be an understatement. “What do these people do?” asked everyone pretty much of everyone else.

    The competition to take charge, which, because each side represented an inimical position to the other, became not so much a struggle for leadership, but a near-violent factional war. Jared and Ivanka were against Priebus and Bannon, trying to push both men out. Bannon was against Jared and Ivanka and Priebus, practicing what everybody thought were dark arts against them. Priebus, everybody’s punching bag, just tried to survive another day. By late spring, the larger political landscape seemed to become almost irrelevant, with everyone focused on the more lethal battles within the White House itself. This included screaming fights in the halls and in front of a bemused Trump in the Oval Office (when he was not the one screaming himself), together with leaks about what Russians your opponents might have been talking to.

    Reigning over all of this was Trump, enigma, cipher and disruptor. How to get along with Trump — who veered between a kind of blissed-out pleasure of being in the Oval Office and a deep, childish frustration that he couldn’t have what he wanted? Here was a man singularly focused on his own needs for instant gratification, be that a hamburger, a segment on Fox & Friends or an Oval Office photo opp. “I want a win. I want a win. Where’s my win?” he would regularly declaim. He was, in words used by almost every member of the senior staff on repeated occasions, “like a child.” A chronic naysayer, Trump himself stoked constant discord with his daily after-dinner phone calls to his billionaire friends about the disloyalty and incompetence around him. His billionaire friends then shared this with their billionaire friends, creating the endless leaks which the president so furiously railed against.

    One of these frequent callers was Rupert Murdoch, who before the election had only ever expressed contempt for Trump. Now Murdoch constantly sought him out, but to his own colleagues, friends and family, continued to derisively ridicule Trump: “What a fuc king moron,” said Murdoch after one call.

    With the Comey firing, the Mueller appointment and murderous White House infighting, by early summer Bannon was engaged in an uninterrupted monologue directed to almost anyone who would listen. It was so caustic, so scabrous and so hilarious that it might form one of the great underground political treatises.

    By July, Jared and Ivanka, who had, in less than six months, traversed from socialite couple to royal family to the most powerful people in the world, were now engaged in a desperate dance to save themselves, which mostly involved blaming Trump himself. It was all his idea to fire Comey! “The daughter,” Bannon declared, “will bring down the father.”

    Priebus and Spicer were merely counting down to the day — and every day seemed to promise it would be the next day — when they would be out.

    And, indeed, suddenly there were the 11 days of Anthony Scaramucci.

    Scaramucci, a minor figure in the New York financial world, and quite a ridiculous one, had overnight become Jared and Ivanka’s solution to all of the White House’s management and messaging problems. After all, explained the couple, he was good on television and he was from New York — he knew their world. In effect, the couple had hired Scaramucci — as preposterous a hire in West Wing annals as any — to replace Priebus and Bannon and take over running the White House.

    There was, after the abrupt Scaramucci meltdown, hardly any effort inside the West Wing to disguise the sense of ludicrousness and anger felt by every member of the senior staff toward Trump’s family and Trump himself. It became almost a kind of competition to demystify Trump. For Rex Tillerson, he was a moron. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as shit. For H.R. McMaster, he was a hopeless idiot. For Steve Bannon, he had lost his mind.

    Most succinctly, no one expected him to survive Mueller. Whatever the substance of the Russia “collusion,” Trump, in the estimation of his senior staff, did not have the discipline to navigate a tough investigation, nor the credibility to attract the caliber of lawyers he would need to help him. (At least nine major law firms had turned down an invitation to represent the president.)

    There was more: Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn’t stop saying something.

    By summer’s end, in something of a historic sweep — more usual for the end of a president’s first term than the end of his first six months — almost the entire senior staff, save Trump’s family, had been washed out: Michael Flynn, Katie Walsh, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon. Even Trump’s loyal, longtime body guard Keith Schiller — for reasons darkly whispered about in the West Wing — was out. Gary Cohn, Dina Powell, Rick Dearborn, all on their way out. The president, on the spur of the moment, appointed John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general and head of homeland security, chief of staff — without Kelly having been informed of his own appointment beforehand. Grim and stoic, accepting that he could not control the president, Kelly seemed compelled by a sense of duty to be, in case of disaster, the adult in the room who might, if needed, stand up to the president … if that is comfort.

    As telling, with his daughter and son-in-law sidelined by their legal problems, Hope Hicks, Trump’s 29-year-old personal aide and confidant, became, practically speaking, his most powerful White House advisor. (With Melania a nonpresence, the staff referred to Ivanka as the “real wife” and Hicks as the “real daughter.”) Hicks’ primary function was to tend to the Trump ego, to reassure him, to protect him, to buffer him, to soothe him. It was Hicks who, attentive to his lapses and repetitions, urged him to forgo an interview that was set to open the 60 Minutes fall season. Instead, the interview went to Fox News’ Sean Hannity who, White House insiders happily explained, was willing to supply the questions beforehand. Indeed, the plan was to have all interviewers going forward provide the questions.

    As the first year wound down, Trump finally got a bill to sign. The tax bill, his singular accomplishment, was, arguably, quite a reversal of his populist promises, and confirmation of what Mitch McConnell had seen early on as the silver Trump lining: “He’ll sign anything we put in front of him.” With new bravado, he was encouraging partisans like Fox News to pursue an anti-Mueller campaign on his behalf. Insiders believed that the only thing saving Mueller from being fired, and the government of the United States from unfathomable implosion, is Trump’s inability to grasp how much Mueller had on him and his family.

    Steve Bannon was openly handicapping a 33.3 percent chance of impeachment, a 33.3 percent chance of resignation in the shadow of the 25th amendment and a 33.3 percent chance that he might limp to the finish line on the strength of liberal arrogance and weakness.

    Donald Trump’s small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country’s future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.

    ———-

    “”You Can’t Make This S— Up”: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House” by Michael Wolff; The Hollywood Reporter; 01/04/2018

    Steve Bannon tried to gamely suggest that Trump was mere front man and that he, with plan and purpose and intellect, was, more reasonably, running the show — commanding a whiteboard of policies and initiatives that he claimed to have assembled from Trump’s off-the-cuff ramblings and utterances. His adoption of the Saturday Night Live sobriquet “President Bannon” was less than entirely humorous. Within the first few weeks, even rote conversations with senior staff trying to explain the new White House’s policies and positions would turn into a body-language ballet of eye-rolling and shrugs and pantomime of jaws dropping. Leaking became the political manifestation of the don’t-blame-me eye roll.”

    President Bannon. That was the spin Bannon himself apparently tried to put on the situation.

    But it sure doesn’t sound like Bannon was the only one talk to Wolff. Apparently, “everybody in the West Wing tried, with some panic, to explain him, and, sheepishly, their own reason for being here”:


    There was some effort to ascribe to Trump magical powers. In an early conversation — half comic, half desperate — Bannon tried to explain him as having a particular kind of Jungian brilliance. Trump, obviously without having read Jung, somehow had access to the collective unconscious of the other half of the country, and, too, a gift for inventing archetypes: Little Marco … Low-Energy Jeb … the Failing New York Times. Everybody in the West Wing tried, with some panic, to explain him, and, sheepishly, their own reason for being here. He’s intuitive, he gets it, he has a mind-meld with his base. But there was palpable relief, of an Emperor’s New Clothes sort, when longtime Trump staffer Sam Nunberg — fired by Trump during the campaign but credited with knowing him better than anyone else — came back into the fold and said, widely, “He’s just a fuc king fool.”

    And Trump himself appears to be well aware of this internal panic with his staff, since he was apparently calling his billionaire friends every day to complain about his staff. Billionaire friends that, as Wolff notes, frequently included Rupert Murdoch:


    Reigning over all of this was Trump, enigma, cipher and disruptor. How to get along with Trump — who veered between a kind of blissed-out pleasure of being in the Oval Office and a deep, childish frustration that he couldn’t have what he wanted? Here was a man singularly focused on his own needs for instant gratification, be that a hamburger, a segment on Fox & Friends or an Oval Office photo opp. “I want a win. I want a win. Where’s my win?” he would regularly declaim. He was, in words used by almost every member of the senior staff on repeated occasions, “like a child.” A chronic naysayer, Trump himself stoked constant discord with his daily after-dinner phone calls to his billionaire friends about the disloyalty and incompetence around him. His billionaire friends then shared this with their billionaire friends, creating the endless leaks which the president so furiously railed against.

    One of these frequent callers was Rupert Murdoch, who before the election had only ever expressed contempt for Trump. Now Murdoch constantly sought him out, but to his own colleagues, friends and family, continued to derisively ridicule Trump: “What a fuc king moron,” said Murdoch after one call.

    “One of these frequent callers was Rupert Murdoch, who before the election had only ever expressed contempt for Trump. Now Murdoch constantly sought him out, but to his own colleagues, friends and family, continued to derisively ridicule Trump: “What a fuc king moron,” said Murdoch after one call.”

    So Murdoch used to just express contempt for Trump, but now they’re regular buddies, at least to Trump’s face. But not behind his back, when Murdoch ridicules Trump as a “fuc king moron”. That’s a pretty remarkable admission. Because the Murdochs and Trumps have been hanging out together for years. Ivanka and Rupert’s ex-wife Wendi have reportedly been “dear friends” for the past 12 years and Ivanka is even helping oversee a $300 million trust fund for Rupert and Wendi’s two youngest daughters.

    So does Rupert really call Trump a “fuc king moron” in private? Well, if so, might that be part of why he never bothered to warn Trump about Wolff? Don’t forget, this book Wolff wrote wasn’t some surprise no one knew about. As we saw above, there were articles about Wolff trying to score this book access just a few weeks into the Trump administration. So what are the odds Murdoch didn’t know Wolff was writing this book? Heck, how did Wolff learn that Murdoch still calls Trump a “fuc king moron” in the first place? Was Murdoch also interviewed by Wolff for this book? Is this another Trumpian open secret?

    It’s all part of seemingly endless maelstrom of chaotic mystery swirling about this administration. But if it really is the case that Murdoch basically thinks nothing of Trump, despite the years of apparent friendship between the two families, it certainly adds a new twist the parallel mystery of what Rupert knew about the Trump campaign’s games of Russian footsie and when did he know it?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 5, 2018, 3:43 pm
  20. Here’s something we can add to the list of ‘things Roger Stone does that we should be keeping an eye on’: lobbying the US government for military operations on behalf of clients who would benefit from those military operations:

    The Daily Beast

    Roger Stone’s New Gig: Lobbying for Drone Strikes in Somalia
    The Trump ally and notorious dirty trickster has a new, interesting, and somewhat dark influence-peddling assignment.

    Lachlan Markay
    01.04.18 10:00 PM ET

    Veteran Republican operative and self-described “ratf
    ucker” Roger Stone is advocating for military operations, including drone strikes, in Somalia on behalf of his first lobbying client in 17 years.

    Stone recently disclosed that he had done lobbying work for a Buffalo-area company that acts as a middleman for the sale of African livestock to clients around the world. In his disclosure form, he formally said that he is pressing for “commodity rights and security” in Somalia and working on issues related to economic policy and commodity trading.

    But in text messages with The Daily Beast, Stone suggested that his work for the company—investment firm Capstone Financial Group—has focused on U.S. military and foreign policy as well.

    The goal, he said, is to achieve a more stable security situation in Somalia that will allow his client to more freely conduct business in that country. And that, he said, calls for an aggressive U.S. military posture.

    “Capstone interests are in stability. Their business interests in the county can not be realized [if] the country is war torn,” Stone said. “The Al Queda off-shoot [sic] Al Shabaab is quite violent and deadly. The topography of Somalia unlike Afghanistan lends itself to a successful drone based US campaign against the insurgency.”

    Despite a rich history in electoral politics and the influence industry, Stone hasn’t registered to lobby the federal government since 2000 when he represented the company of his longtime confidante and future president, one Donald Trump. Stone’s work for Capstone began in May 2017, as the Trump administration stepped up U.S military operations in Somalia, including a major escalation in drone strikes against insurgent groups in the country. The number of U.S. troops in Somalia has more than doubled to over 500 since Trump took office.

    Initial reports on Stone’s registration suggested that he may have flouted the legal timeline for disclosure of lobbying activity. But Stone insists that he disclosed that activity in a timely manner as required. He’s worked with Capstone since May, Stone told The Daily Beast. But, he added, reportable lobbying activity only began in November.

    That lobbying itself was sparse, Stone said. It consisted only of “casual conversation on two occasions with a single member of Congress about the status of the insurgency and the security of Somalia.” Stone declined to specify which member of Congress with whom he spoke. But the offices of Reps. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Brian Higgins (D-NY), who represent the area of Buffalo/Western New York where Capstone is based, both denied that they had been lobbied by Stone.

    Capstone and its chief executive, a prominent investor and Hillary Clinton donor named Darin Pastor, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But the firm’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission suggest that it has significant business interests in Somalia.

    In late 2016, it inked multiple deals with unidentified suppliers to sell sheep and cattle to customers in countries including the gulf nation of Oman. Though it redacted the names of its suppliers, the filings mentioned they were based in Africa, and one in particular suggested a Somali seller by alluding to the drought that ravaged the country from 2015 until last year.

    “Investors should be aware that the opportunities we are pursuing in the livestock trading and minerals industries tend to be exceptionally high-risk,” the company said in a filing in late 2016.

    Capstone seems to be an obscure client for an operative with Stone’s high profile. But the company also has interesting geographic ties. Somalia’s current president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, lived in the Buffalo area, and worked for New York state government, before returning to his native country to run for the office he now occupies.

    The Somali government’s official U.S. lobbying firm, Park Strategies, also maintains a Buffalo office. That firm linked up with Mohamed by way of Joel Giambra, a Park Strategies VP and former Erie County executive who on Wednesday announced a New York gubernatorial run. Giambra and Mohamed became good friends while the latter worked in New York’s department of transportation, according to John Zagame, another Park Strategies VP who works on the Somalia account.

    Zagame said he wasn’t familiar with Stone’s work on the issue, but welcomes all efforts to improve the security situation in Somalia. “You’d like to see Somalia stabilized enough to receive some foreign investment,” Zagame told The Daily Beast. “They are resource rich, but what company is going to go into a situation where your people aren’t safe?”

    ———-

    “Roger Stone’s New Gig: Lobbying for Drone Strikes in Somalia” by Lachlan Markay; The Daily Beast; 01/04/2018

    “Stone recently disclosed that he had done lobbying work for a Buffalo-area company that acts as a middleman for the sale of African livestock to clients around the world. In his disclosure form, he formally said that he is pressing for “commodity rights and security” in Somalia and working on issues related to economic policy and commodity trading.

    That’s how Roger Stone described his lobbying work on his disclosure forms: work on issues related to economic policy and commodity trading. But based on his text messages with the Daily Beast it sounds like his ‘economic policy and commodity trading’ lobbying involves quite a bit of foreign policy lobbying with an emphasis on promoting US military operations:


    But in text messages with The Daily Beast, Stone suggested that his work for the company—investment firm Capstone Financial Group—has focused on U.S. military and foreign policy as well.

    The goal, he said, is to achieve a more stable security situation in Somalia that will allow his client to more freely conduct business in that country. And that, he said, calls for an aggressive U.S. military posture.

    “Capstone interests are in stability. Their business interests in the county can not be realized [if] the country is war torn,” Stone said. “The Al Queda off-shoot [sic] Al Shabaab is quite violent and deadly. The topography of Somalia unlike Afghanistan lends itself to a successful drone based US campaign against the insurgency.”

    “The goal, he said, is to achieve a more stable security situation in Somalia that will allow his client to more freely conduct business in that country. And that, he said, calls for an aggressive U.S. military posture.”

    And note the timing of Stone’s lobbying work: he begins working for Capstone in May of 2017, just as the Trump administration was increasing military operations in Somalia. But it doesn’t appear that Stone actually registered as lobbyist for this work until the end of 2017.

    So what’s Stone’s explanation? Well, he insists he didn’t actually do any “reportable lobbying” until November and that reportable lobbying consistently of two casual conversations with a single member of Congress:


    Despite a rich history in electoral politics and the influence industry, Stone hasn’t registered to lobby the federal government since 2000 when he represented the company of his longtime confidante and future president, one Donald Trump. Stone’s work for Capstone began in May 2017, as the Trump administration stepped up U.S military operations in Somalia, including a major escalation in drone strikes against insurgent groups in the country. The number of U.S. troops in Somalia has more than doubled to over 500 since Trump took office.

    Initial reports on Stone’s registration suggested that he may have flouted the legal timeline for disclosure of lobbying activity. But Stone insists that he disclosed that activity in a timely manner as required. He’s worked with Capstone since May, Stone told The Daily Beast. But, he added, reportable lobbying activity only began in November.

    That lobbying itself was sparse, Stone said. It consisted only of “casual conversation on two occasions with a single member of Congress about the status of the insurgency and the security of Somalia.” Stone declined to specify which member of Congress with whom he spoke. But the offices of Reps. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Brian Higgins (D-NY), who represent the area of Buffalo/Western New York where Capstone is based, both denied that they had been lobbied by Stone.

    So Capstone hired Stone in May, just as the US government was significantly reshaping its policies regarding Somalia, and the company didn’t have him do no actual lobbying on the matter until November. And by claiming that the lobbying effort started in November, instead of May, Stone avoids violating the lobbyist disclosure rules that state he has 45 days to register as a lobbyist. In other words, the story about how he barely did any lobbying work and it didn’t start until November of 2017 is the necessary story to avoid getting in trouble for not filing as a lobbyist.

    And don’t forget that it would have been really inconvenient for Stone to have registered as a lobbyist in the middle of 2017 given all the focus on around regarding the #TrumpRussia investigation. So this story about his casual lobbying starting in November would also have served the purpose of allowing him to avoiding that awkward disclosure.

    And note how Stone refers to “reportable lobbying” that only began in November. That raises questions about any unreportable lobbying Stone may have been engaging in during this period. Because if there’s one area that Roger Stone is a suitable lobbyists for it’s lobbying Donald Trump. Obviously. And yet here was have this odd tale about Roger Stone getting hired by a firm doing something other than lobbying, and then suddenly doing some casual lobbying in November. And during this same time frame, starting in May of 2017, the goals of Stone’s client – like seeing a much greater US military involvement in Somalia – have been achieved.

    Also note how this is the first lobbying client Stone has had in 17 years:

    Veteran Republican operative and self-described “ratf ucker” Roger Stone is advocating for military operations, including drone strikes, in Somalia on behalf of his first lobbying client in 17 years.

    So it’s not like this is routine work for Stone. It used to be routine for Stone to lobby decades ago when he part of the lobbying firm Black, Manafort, and Stone. But it’s been 17 years since he did that. And now, when his long-time friend Trump becomes President, Stone jumps back into the lobbying business.
    All in all, it sure looks like Roger Stone is now selling his services as a Trump Whisperer, without actually admitting to it. Maybe that’s not what’s happening, but it’s hard to imagine Stone’s deep and long-standing ties to Trump weren’t part of why they hired him. It’s obvious he’s talking to Trump on regular basis. Might he mention some of his clients’ work to the President? Well, if you listen to Stone’s explanation, he explicitly says he did not lobby anyone in the Executive branch:

    The Observer

    Roger Stone Files Lobbying Disclosure for Somalia Efforts Months After Troop Surge

    By Davis Richardson • 01/02/18 12:33pm

    More foreign lobbying efforts connected to the White House have surfaced. President Donald Trump’s longtime political advisor Roger Stone filed a lobbying disclosure on Friday about his work advocating for “commodity rights and security of the same in Somalia.” According to the federal lobbying disclosure database, Stone signed Capstone Financial Group Inc. in May of last year, just two weeks after the president deployed dozens of troops to the region.

    “I was not initially contracted by Capstone to engage in any lobbying activities,” Stone told Observer. “Later, although not initially contemplated, the discharge of my responsibilities included casual conversation on two occasions with a single member of Congress about the status of the insurgency and the security of Somalia.”

    “I did not lobby anyone in the Executive branch so [the Capstone contract] had no impact on U.S./Somalia policy,” Stone added.

    In addition to the over 500 U.S. troops stationed, the highest number since two Black Hawk helicopters were gunned down over Mogadishu in 1993, the U.S. government is currently working to “accelerate Somalia’s growing integration into the global economy through a combination of initiatives that improve the country’s competitiveness; spur new investments; and increase market linkages and business partnerships.”

    Although Stone’s work began last spring, he retroactively registered several days ago. The late filing does not disclose how much Stone was paid or which people or agencies he lobbied.

    “Although my legislative activities for Capstone did not commence until November 2017, the date I entered into the initial contract, which was not for legislative activities, was May 1, 2017,” said Stone.

    Trump’s former advisors Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn also registered well past the 45-day window, but were charged by the FBI for lobbying efforts that benefitted foreign governments. By contrast, lobbying for private corporations like Capstone falls into the House and Senate’s jurisdiction rather than that of the Justice Department.

    ———-

    “Roger Stone Files Lobbying Disclosure for Somalia Efforts Months After Troop Surge” by Davis Richardson; The Observer
    ; 01/02/2018

    ““I did not lobby anyone in the Executive branch so [the Capstone contract] had no impact on U.S./Somalia policy,” Stone added.”

    That sure sounds like Stone is ruling out the possibility that he mentioned any of his client’s issues to Trump during their many private conversations that are likely taking place on a regular basis despite the denials. The way Stone puts it, he wasn’t actually hired to be a lobbyist. It just sort of happened casually and now he’s registering as a lobbyist as a precautionary measure:


    “I was not initially contracted by Capstone to engage in any lobbying activities,” Stone told Observer. “Later, although not initially contemplated, the discharge of my responsibilities included casual conversation on two occasions with a single member of Congress about the status of the insurgency and the security of Somalia.”

    That’s Stone’s story and he’s sticking to it. #DrainTheSwamp.

    Also keep in mind that, with Erik Prince’s private contractors already operating in Somalia, Roger Stone isn’t the only shady figure in Trump’s orbit who might be Trump-Whispering regarding the US policy in Somalia. #TheSwampLovesMercenaries.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 9, 2018, 4:56 pm
  21. This should be interesting: The House Intelligence Committee unanimously voted to release a declassified version of the congressional testimony of Fusion GPS Founder Glenn R. Simpson. This is a week after after Senator Feinstein released a transcript of his Senate Intelligence Committee interview, so it’s not like the Committee necessarily wanted this released. But it’s out there and filled with all sorts of tidbits.

    For starters, Simpson basically described Bill Browder as a scofflaw tax cheat.

    But check out this interesting unconfirmed report Simpson relayed about Nigel Farage and Julian Assange that provides potentially significant explanation of how the hacked DNC data made its way to Wikileaks: Simpson heard unconfirmed reports that it was Nigel Farage who delivered it via a thumb drive during one of his trips to the Ecuadoran embassy in London:

    Talking Points Memo
    Muckraker

    Fusion GPS Founder: I Heard Brexit Leader Farage Gave Data To Assange

    By Allegra Kirkland | January 18, 2018 6:02 pm

    Two foreign allies of President Donald Trump — the face of Brexit and founder of WikiLeaks — may have had multiple, previously undisclosed meetings during the 2016 presidential campaign. In November testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that was made public Thursday, Glenn Simpson, founder of private intelligence firm Fusion GPS, said he’d heard reports that Brexit leader Nigel Farage provided data to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

    “I’ve been told and have not confirmed that Nigel Farage had additional trips to the Ecuadoran Embassy than the one that’s been in the papers and that he provided data to Julian Assange,” Simpson testified.

    Simpson, whose firm assembled the so-called Trump-Russia dossier, added that the data came in the form of a thumb drive.

    Farage is known to have made a trip to the embassy in March 2017 to meet with Assange, who has been accused of working with Russian hackers to release stolen emails and other material intended to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The former UKIP party leader, who campaigned on Trump’s behalf, was identified as a “person of interest” in the federal investigation into Russia’s election interference in a Guardian report published last summer.

    ———-

    “Fusion GPS Founder: I Heard Brexit Leader Farage Gave Data To Assange” by Allegra Kirkland; Talking Points Memo; 01/18/2018

    ““I’ve been told and have not confirmed that Nigel Farage had additional trips to the Ecuadoran Embassy than the one that’s been in the papers and that he provided data to Julian Assange,” Simpson testified.”

    So Simpson hears an unconfirmed report that Farage provided some sort of data to Assange. And it was in a digital format since it was a thumb drive:


    Simpson, whose firm assembled the so-called Trump-Russia dossier, added that the data came in the form of a thumb drive.

    And that was just one of the interesting things he passed along about the Trump team, the UKIP movement, and Assange. Because when you look at the fully declassified testimony, Simpson arrived at the conclusion that Steve Bannon’s relationship with the UKIP movement figures prominently in this story. Additionally, hwne they looked into Roger Stone and his relationships “the trail led to sort of international far right.” And while Simpson doesn’t believe Cambridge Analytica specifically acted as the “nucleus” for all this, but he does feel the Mercers are significant. And this all appeared to be information that was gathered near the end of their work on this issue and was independent of “the Steele stuff” (Christopher Steele’s work). Here’s an excerpt of that testimony (from pages 99-101 of the declassified document):


    MR. SCHIFF: And didn’t you, during the course of your work, uncover any information regarding a connection between Trump or those around him and Wikileaks?

    MR. SIMPSON: Yes. I mean, you’ve seen some of the public reporting. We gradually — I mean, this would be separate from the Steele stuff, but, you know, we gradually towards the end of the project became very interested in — you know, Roger Stone bragged about having his contact. We tried to figure out who the contact was.

    We started going into who Stone was and who his relationships were with, and essentially the trail led to sort of international far right. And, you know, Brexit happened, and Nigel Farage became someone that we were very interested in, and I still think it’s very interesting.

    And so I have formed my own opinions that went through – that there was a somewhat unacknowledged relationship between the Trump people and the UKIP people and that the path to Wikileaks ran through that. And I still think that today.

    MR. SCHIFF: And when you talk about the connection between the Trump campaign and the Brexit campaign, is that a line you’re drawing through Cambridge Analytica, or were there other lines you were drawing there?

    MR. SIMPSON: Well, Bannon went over to the UK in or around 2011. And originally, he was trying to set up a sort of British tea party, which was an inopportune choice of

    MR. SCHIFF: The anti tea party.

    [Blanked out name]: One minute.

    MR. SIMPSON: And so, you know, some of it – so there’s — it really isn’t, I don’t think, that Cambridge is the nucleus. I think that it’s there’s some Bannon connections. I know there’s – and there’s some other Bannon Stone associates, a guy named Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, who was – is an American who was living over there and associating with UKIP and, I believe, is a significant figure in this.

    So I don’t – l had had some run into Cambridge and Analytica previously, and I would – there was a lot of skepticism about whether they really were capable about doing anything or whether they were just selling snake oil, and that was certainly my view when I first heard about them years earlier. So I don’t view them as nucleus. The Mercers, I think are significant.

    MR. SCHIFF: And, I mean, were you able to find any factual links between the Mercers and Assange or Wikileaks or Farage?

    MR. SIMPSON: Well, I mean, the things that we heard, which, you know, l think could be sorted out by an official inquiry are that Nigel Farage made a number of trips to New York and had a number of meetings – Nigel Farage and Air Bank had a number of trips to the U.S., and that they sort of – that there’s been a misrepresentation of the length of that relationship and the extent of it.

    There’s — I’ve been told and have not confimied that Nigel Farage had additional trips to the Ecuadoran Embassy than the one that’s been in the papers and that he provided data to Julian Assange.

    MR. SCHIFF: What kind of data?

    [Blanked out name]: Time is up.

    MR. SCHIFF: Can we just get an answer to that.

    MR. SIMPSON: A thumb drive.

    MR. SCHIFF: Thumb drive. Thank you.

    “MR. SCHIFF: And didn’t you, during the course of your work, uncover any information regarding a connection between Trump or those around him and Wikileaks?”

    ‘Uncover any connections between the Trump team and Wikileaks?’ Yeah, that seems like a pretty important question. And based on Simpson’s response, a lot more questions should follow:


    MR. SIMPSON: Yes. I mean, you’ve seen some of the public reporting. We gradually — I mean, this would be separate from the Steele stuff, but, you know, we gradually towards the end of the project became very interested in — you know, Roger Stone bragged about having his contact. We tried to figure out who the contact was.

    We started going into who Stone was and who his relationships were with, and essentially the trail led to sort of international far right. And, you know, Brexit happened, and Nigel Farage became someone that we were very interested in, and I still think it’s very interesting.

    And so I have formed my own opinions that went through – that there was a somewhat unacknowledged relationship between the Trump people and the UKIP people and that the path to Wikileaks ran through that. And I still think that today.

    “And so I have formed my own opinions that went through – that there was a somewhat unacknowledged relationship between the Trump people and the UKIP people and that the path to Wikileaks ran through that. And I still think that today.

    And the specific people Simpson views as important to this Trump campaign/UKIP/Wikileaks connection was a Ted Malloch – a US businessman who Trump tried to appoint as the ambassador to the EU but chose to drop him after EU protests over Malloch’s anti-EU views – and the Mercers:


    MR. SIMPSON: And so, you know, some of it – so there’s — it really isn’t, I don’t think, that Cambridge is the nucleus. I think that it’s there’s some Bannon connections. I know there’s – and there’s some other Bannon Stone associates, a guy named Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, who was – is an American who was living over there and associating with UKIP and, I believe, is a significant figure in this.

    So I don’t – l had had some run into Cambridge and Analytica previously, and I would – there was a lot of skepticism about whether they really were capable about doing anything or whether they were just selling snake oil, and that was certainly my view when I first heard about them years earlier. So I don’t view them as nucleus. The Mercers, I think are significant.

    And note how, while none of this has been confirmed, Simpson suggested that these things can actually be sorted out by an official inquiry:


    MR. SCHIFF: And, I mean, were you able to find any factual links between the Mercers and Assange or Wikileaks or Farage?

    MR. SIMPSON: Well, I mean, the things that we heard, which, you know, l think could be sorted out by an official inquiry are that Nigel Farage made a number of trips to New York and had a number of meetings – Nigel Farage and Air Bank had a number of trips to the U.S., and that they sort of – that there’s been a misrepresentation of the length of that relationship and the extent of it.

    Yeah, an officially inquiry into this seems in order:


    There’s — I’ve been told and have not confirmed that Nigel Farage had additional trips to the Ecuadoran Embassy than the one that’s been in the papers and that he provided data to Julian Assange.

    MR. SCHIFF: What kind of data?

    [Blanked out name]: Time is up.

    MR. SCHIFF: Can we just get an answer to that.

    MR. SIMPSON: A thumb drive.

    MR. SCHIFF: Thumb drive. Thank you.

    So Simpson testifies that he heard about Farage made more trips to Assange than previously reported and delivered a thumb drive during one of those trips. But he hasn’t confirmed this. So, at a minimum, there should obviously be an official inquiry into the timing of that trip involving the thumb drive? Like, did it happen before or after the release of the DNC documents by Wikileaks? And if there isn’t an official inquiry after this public revelation…well, that will confirm something else.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 18, 2018, 9:14 pm
  22. This should be interesting: The House Intelligence Committee unanimously voted to release a declassified version of the congressional testimony of Fusion GPS Founder Glenn R. Simpson. This is a week after after Senator Feinstein released a transcript of his Senate Intelligence Committee interview, so it’s not like the Committee necessarily wanted this released. But these twin testimonies are now out there and filled with all sorts of tidbits.

    For starters, Simpson basically described Bill Browder as a scofflaw tax cheat during the Senate testimony.

    But check out this interesting unconfirmed report Simpson relayed about Nigel Farage and Julian Assange that provides potentially significant explanation of how the hacked DNC data made its way to Wikileaks: Simpson heard unconfirmed reports that it was Nigel Farage who delivered it via a thumb drive during one of his trips to the Ecuadoran embassy in London:

    Talking Points Memo
    Muckraker

    Fusion GPS Founder: I Heard Brexit Leader Farage Gave Data To Assange

    By Allegra Kirkland | January 18, 2018 6:02 pm

    Two foreign allies of President Donald Trump — the face of Brexit and founder of WikiLeaks — may have had multiple, previously undisclosed meetings during the 2016 presidential campaign. In November testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that was made public Thursday, Glenn Simpson, founder of private intelligence firm Fusion GPS, said he’d heard reports that Brexit leader Nigel Farage provided data to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

    “I’ve been told and have not confirmed that Nigel Farage had additional trips to the Ecuadoran Embassy than the one that’s been in the papers and that he provided data to Julian Assange,” Simpson testified.

    Simpson, whose firm assembled the so-called Trump-Russia dossier, added that the data came in the form of a thumb drive.

    Farage is known to have made a trip to the embassy in March 2017 to meet with Assange, who has been accused of working with Russian hackers to release stolen emails and other material intended to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The former UKIP party leader, who campaigned on Trump’s behalf, was identified as a “person of interest” in the federal investigation into Russia’s election interference in a Guardian report published last summer.

    ———-

    “Fusion GPS Founder: I Heard Brexit Leader Farage Gave Data To Assange” by Allegra Kirkland; Talking Points Memo; 01/18/2018

    ““I’ve been told and have not confirmed that Nigel Farage had additional trips to the Ecuadoran Embassy than the one that’s been in the papers and that he provided data to Julian Assange,” Simpson testified.”

    So Simpson hears an unconfirmed report that Farage provided some sort of data to Assange. And it was in a digital format since it was a thumb drive:


    Simpson, whose firm assembled the so-called Trump-Russia dossier, added that the data came in the form of a thumb drive.

    And that was just one of the interesting things he passed along about the Trump team, the UKIP movement, and Assange. Because when you look at the fully declassified testimony, Simpson arrived at the conclusion that Steve Bannon’s relationship with the UKIP movement figures prominently in this story. Additionally, hwne they looked into Roger Stone and his relationships “the trail led to sort of international far right.” And while Simpson doesn’t believe Cambridge Analytica specifically acted as the “nucleus” for all this, but he does feel the Mercers are significant. And this all appeared to be information that was gathered near the end of their work on this issue and was independent of “the Steele stuff” (Christopher Steele’s work). Here’s an excerpt of that testimony (from pages 99-101 of the declassified document):


    MR. SCHIFF: And didn’t you, during the course of your work, uncover any information regarding a connection between Trump or those around him and Wikileaks?

    MR. SIMPSON: Yes. I mean, you’ve seen some of the public reporting. We gradually — I mean, this would be separate from the Steele stuff, but, you know, we gradually towards the end of the project became very interested in — you know, Roger Stone bragged about having his contact. We tried to figure out who the contact was.

    We started going into who Stone was and who his relationships were with, and essentially the trail led to sort of international far right. And, you know, Brexit happened, and Nigel Farage became someone that we were very interested in, and I still think it’s very interesting.

    And so I have formed my own opinions that went through – that there was a somewhat unacknowledged relationship between the Trump people and the UKIP people and that the path to Wikileaks ran through that. And I still think that today.

    MR. SCHIFF: And when you talk about the connection between the Trump campaign and the Brexit campaign, is that a line you’re drawing through Cambridge Analytica, or were there other lines you were drawing there?

    MR. SIMPSON: Well, Bannon went over to the UK in or around 2011. And originally, he was trying to set up a sort of British tea party, which was an inopportune choice of

    MR. SCHIFF: The anti tea party.

    [Blanked out name]: One minute.

    MR. SIMPSON: And so, you know, some of it – so there’s — it really isn’t, I don’t think, that Cambridge is the nucleus. I think that it’s there’s some Bannon connections. I know there’s – and there’s some other Bannon Stone associates, a guy named Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, who was – is an American who was living over there and associating with UKIP and, I believe, is a significant figure in this.

    So I don’t – l had had some run into Cambridge and Analytica previously, and I would – there was a lot of skepticism about whether they really were capable about doing anything or whether they were just selling snake oil, and that was certainly my view when I first heard about them years earlier. So I don’t view them as nucleus. The Mercers, I think are significant.

    MR. SCHIFF: And, I mean, were you able to find any factual links between the Mercers and Assange or Wikileaks or Farage?

    MR. SIMPSON: Well, I mean, the things that we heard, which, you know, l think could be sorted out by an official inquiry are that Nigel Farage made a number of trips to New York and had a number of meetings – Nigel Farage and Air Bank had a number of trips to the U.S., and that they sort of – that there’s been a misrepresentation of the length of that relationship and the extent of it.

    There’s — I’ve been told and have not confimied that Nigel Farage had additional trips to the Ecuadoran Embassy than the one that’s been in the papers and that he provided data to Julian Assange.

    MR. SCHIFF: What kind of data?

    [Blanked out name]: Time is up.

    MR. SCHIFF: Can we just get an answer to that.

    MR. SIMPSON: A thumb drive.

    MR. SCHIFF: Thumb drive. Thank you.

    “MR. SCHIFF: And didn’t you, during the course of your work, uncover any information regarding a connection between Trump or those around him and Wikileaks?”

    ‘Uncover any connections between the Trump team and Wikileaks?’ Yeah, that seems like a pretty important question. And based on Simpson’s response, a lot more questions should follow:


    MR. SIMPSON: Yes. I mean, you’ve seen some of the public reporting. We gradually — I mean, this would be separate from the Steele stuff, but, you know, we gradually towards the end of the project became very interested in — you know, Roger Stone bragged about having his contact. We tried to figure out who the contact was.

    We started going into who Stone was and who his relationships were with, and essentially the trail led to sort of international far right. And, you know, Brexit happened, and Nigel Farage became someone that we were very interested in, and I still think it’s very interesting.

    And so I have formed my own opinions that went through – that there was a somewhat unacknowledged relationship between the Trump people and the UKIP people and that the path to Wikileaks ran through that. And I still think that today.

    “And so I have formed my own opinions that went through – that there was a somewhat unacknowledged relationship between the Trump people and the UKIP people and that the path to Wikileaks ran through that. And I still think that today.

    And the specific people Simpson views as important to this Trump campaign/UKIP/Wikileaks connection was a Ted Malloch – a US businessman who Trump tried to appoint as the ambassador to the EU but chose to drop him after EU protests over Malloch’s anti-EU views – and the Mercers:


    MR. SIMPSON: And so, you know, some of it – so there’s — it really isn’t, I don’t think, that Cambridge is the nucleus. I think that it’s there’s some Bannon connections. I know there’s – and there’s some other Bannon Stone associates, a guy named Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, who was – is an American who was living over there and associating with UKIP and, I believe, is a significant figure in this.

    So I don’t – l had had some run into Cambridge and Analytica previously, and I would – there was a lot of skepticism about whether they really were capable about doing anything or whether they were just selling snake oil, and that was certainly my view when I first heard about them years earlier. So I don’t view them as nucleus. The Mercers, I think are significant.

    And note how, while none of this has been confirmed, Simpson suggested that these things can actually be sorted out by an official inquiry:


    MR. SCHIFF: And, I mean, were you able to find any factual links between the Mercers and Assange or Wikileaks or Farage?

    MR. SIMPSON: Well, I mean, the things that we heard, which, you know, l think could be sorted out by an official inquiry are that Nigel Farage made a number of trips to New York and had a number of meetings – Nigel Farage and Air Bank had a number of trips to the U.S., and that they sort of – that there’s been a misrepresentation of the length of that relationship and the extent of it.

    Yeah, an officially inquiry into this seems in order:


    There’s — I’ve been told and have not confirmed that Nigel Farage had additional trips to the Ecuadoran Embassy than the one that’s been in the papers and that he provided data to Julian Assange.

    MR. SCHIFF: What kind of data?

    [Blanked out name]: Time is up.

    MR. SCHIFF: Can we just get an answer to that.

    MR. SIMPSON: A thumb drive.

    MR. SCHIFF: Thumb drive. Thank you.

    So Simpson testifies that he heard about Farage made more trips to Assange than previously reported and delivered a thumb drive during one of those trips. But he hasn’t confirmed this. So, at a minimum, there should obviously be an official inquiry into the timing of that trip involving the thumb drive? Like, did it happen before or after the release of the DNC documents by Wikileaks? And if there isn’t an official inquiry after this public revelation…well, that will confirm something else.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 18, 2018, 9:17 pm
  23. Here’s another story related to the question of how Wikileaks actually obtained the hacked DNC data. It’s about Andy Müller-Maguhn, a German hacker close to Julian Assange who makes monthly trips to visit Assange in the Ecuador’s London embassy. US investigators have reportedly had a keen interest in him in relation to understanding how Wikileaks operates.

    During one of those trips in 2016 he delivered a thumb drive. But he assures us that it just contained personal messages for Assange. Although he also says that he doesn’t actually know what was on the thumb drive.

    Müller-Maguhn also characterizes the idea of passing that hacked info to Wikileaks via a thumb drive as “insane”. He asserts it would only make sense to transmit data of that nature through encrypted channels. A former WikiLeaks associate said that Müller-Maguhn was one of the people who oversaw submissions through WikiLeaks’ anonymous submission server in 2016, although Müller-Maguhn denies this.

    So that’s something to keep in mind given the recent story about Glenn R. Simpson testifying that he heard that Nigel Farage gave Assange a thumb drive during a trip to visit Assange in 2016: Assange gets monthly visits from a German hacker who admits to delivering a thumb drives in 2016:

    The Washington Post

    A German hacker offers a rare look inside the secretive world of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

    By Ellen Nakashima, Souad Mekhennet and Greg Jaffe
    January 17, 2018

    LONDON — The passengers stepping off the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt, Germany, last month head straight for the passport-scanning machines that allow European residents to enter Britain quickly and without any human interaction.

    A lone figure in a black hoodie and jeans breaks off from the pack.

    “Too many biometric details,” says Andy Müller-Maguhn, eyeing the cameras on the timesaving devices.

    He has come here, as he does most months, to meet with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the world’s most controversial purveyor of government secrets. For most of the past six years, Assange has been confined to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, fearful that if he leaves he will be extradited to the United States for prosecution under the Espionage Act. Ecuador recently granted Assange citizenship, but British officials said he is still subject to arrest if he leaves the embassy.

    Müller-Maguhn is one of Assange’s few connections to the outside world. He typically brings Assange books, clothes or movies. Once in 2016, he delivered a thumb drive that he says contained personal messages for the WikiLeaks founder, who for security reasons has stopped using email.

    These visits have caught the attention of U.S. and European spy chiefs, who have struggled to understand how Assange’s organization operates and how exactly WikiLeaks came to possess a trove of hacked Democratic Party emails that the group released at key moments in the 2016 presidential campaign.

    The three major U.S. intelligence agencies — the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency — assessed “with high confidence” that Russia relayed to WikiLeaks material it had hacked from the Democratic National Committee and senior Democratic officials. And last year, then-FBI Director James B. Comey said that the bureau believes the transfer was made using a “cut-out,” or a human intermediary or a series of intermediaries.

    Exactly how the Russians delivered the email trove to WikiLeaks is the subject of an ongoing examination by U.S. and European intelligence officials. As part of their effort to understand the group’s operations, these officials have taken an intense interest in Müller-Maguhn, who visits Assange monthly, U.S. officials said.

    Müller-Maguhn insists that he was never in possession of the material before it was put online and that he did not transport it.

    “That would be insane,” he says.

    U.S. officials who once dismissed WikiLeaks as a little more than an irritating propaganda machine and Assange as an antiestablishment carnival barker now take a far darker view of the group.

    “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate hostile intelligence service,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in the spring after the group released documents describing CIA hacking tools. In December, he doubled down on that assessment, describing WikiLeaks as a national security threat and suggesting that Assange cannot protect those who pass him state secrets.

    “He ought to be a bit less confident about that,” Pompeo said.

    In an interview at the Ecuadoran Embassy last month, Assange insisted that Müller-Maguhn never possessed the hacked DNC emails and blasted Pompeo’s statements as “very strange and bombastic.”

    Müller-Maguhn is more cautious. “How many of you wouldn’t be scared s—less by the head of the CIA declaring you the next target?” he asks.

    The 46-year-old hacker moves through Heathrow Airport like a man who knows that powerful governments are tracking his every move. A Washington Post reporter travels with him as he goes through passport control.

    He switches off his cellphone, fearful that British immigration officials have technology that can steal his data. Müller-Maguhn could enter the United Kingdom with his German identification card but prefers to use his passport. “The ID card has my address on it,” he says.

    A heavy-set immigration officer looks over Müller-Maguhn’s passport and stares for several seconds at a computer screen.

    “Why are you in the U.K?” he asks.

    “I’m visiting people,” Müller-Maguhn replies.

    The officer pecks at his computer. Necks crane to catch a glimpse of the man clad in all black who is holding up the normally brisk line of passengers headed to early morning business meetings.

    After a few minutes, the officer waves through Müller-Maguhn, who is walking toward the exit when the officer remembers one last question.

    “Sir, sir, where are you traveling from again?” he shouts.

    “Frankfurt,” Müller-Maguhn replies.

    And with that he is gone. Behind him, the immigration officer is still typing. The travelers who briefly took notice of Müller-Maguhn are back staring at their phones or marching toward their destinations. Müller-Maguhn heads for the Heathrow Express into London.

    Into the embassy

    The roots of Müller-Maguhn’s relationship with Assange trace back to his teenage years in the 1980s when his walk to school in Hamburg took him past the offices of the Chaos Computer Club.

    The group embodied postwar Germany’s anti-fascist convictions and the hacker underground’s libertarian ethos. Now the largest hacker club in Europe, it bills itself as “a galactic community of life forms independent of age, sex, race or society orientation that strives across borders for freedom of information.”

    Müller-Maguhn soon became a friend, confidant and adviser to the group’s founder, Wau Holland. “They were like a strange couple,” said Peter Glaser, a club member, journalist and friend of both men. “Andy was very young and behaved like an adult, and Wau was older and behaved like a child.”

    Müller-Maguhn later parlayed his interest in computers and surveillance into a business that he co-founded in 2003 making encrypted phones. He had hoped to sell the phones to journalists and dissidents but quickly discovered that military and intelligence agencies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East were the only clients who understood the technology and were willing to pay for it.

    “This was during the time I was following the path of capitalism,” he said with a smile during one of several lengthy interviews in Berlin.

    Müller-Maguhn spent 10 years selling the phones before leaving the company. “You can imagine, I know really strange people in really strange places,” he adds. These days, Müller-Maguhn says, he runs a data center that hosts websites and manages email for businesses. He also works as a security consultant, helping companies and governments safeguard their secrets. One of his clients is in China, a state known for its suppression of the Internet and its surveillance of dissidents.

    By Müller-Maguhn’s calculus, the nominally communist government is less prone to violence overseas and less of a threat than the United States is. “They don’t have the wish to apply their standards to the rest of the planet or have others dance to their music,” he says. “So there’s a big difference.”

    In recent years, Müller-Maguhn’s consulting and advocacy work has carried him all over the world, including Moscow, where in 2016 and 2017 he attended a security conference organized by the Russian Defense Ministry.

    On his way into London for his meeting with Assange, Müller-Maguhn casually mentions that he is just back from a three-day trip to Brazil.

    “It was business-related,” he says, declining to elaborate.

    Müller-Maguhn hops out of a cab in Knightsbridge, a posh section of London that’s home to Harrods department store, the Ecuadoran Embassy and Assange. On this cold December day, the stores are decked out for the Christmas season. Müller-Maguhn raises a camera with a telephoto lens and aims it at a building down the street from the brick embassy where Assange has been holed up since 2012.

    The shutter on his Nikon camera clicks as he snaps a few shots, hoping to spot surveillance equipment pointed at Assange and the embassy. Women in fur coats rush by him as Bentleys and Rolls-Royces roll past on the busy road. Müller-Maguhn moves down the sidewalk to get a better angle, takes some more pictures and then slings the Nikon over his shoulder.

    Farther down the block and closer to the embassy, he points up toward an apartment building where he suspects that the Spaniards, angry about Assange’s tweets in support of Catalan separatists, may have set up a surveillance team.

    Then he bounds up the steps of the building that houses the Ecuadoran Embassy, takes one last glance over his shoulder and rings the bell of the front door, where a guard immediately recognizes him and welcomes him inside.

    Müller-Maguhn met Assange through the Chaos Computer Club in 2007 when the WikiLeaks founder was seeking support for his then-fledgling organization.

    In those early days, Assange described his creation as a group committed to the mission of publishing original source material so citizens of the world could see “evidence of the truth” about global corporations and their governments.

    Just past the doors to the embassy, a guard asks Müller-Maguhn to turn over all electronic devices: cameras, mobile phones, as well as his watch and car keys.

    “The last time, they even looked into the fruit I was bringing,” Müller-Maguhn says. “These guys have their job. They have their instructions. So I am not complaining.”

    Since WikiLeaks’ early days, Assange’s circle of contacts has contracted significantly. Some allies, such as Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who first invited Assange to the Chaos Computer Club and signed on as WikiLeaks’ spokesman, broke with WikiLeaks in 2010 after Assange released hundreds of thousands of pages of U.S. military documents without redacting the names of local Afghans who had helped the military and could be targeted by the Taliban. Other backers were put off by Assange’s legal troubles and allegations of sexual assault in Sweden or his Manichaean view of the world.

    Still others alleged that the group allowed itself to be used as a tool by the Russians in their campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    “Look, he has messed up with so many people, I have no idea how many people he has left as friends,” Müller-Maguhn says.

    Assange continues to fear that he will be prosecuted by the United States and as a result is afraid to leave the embassy, saying that doing so would lead to his extradition. The Justice Department is considering a case against him, according to people familiar with the matter. Several months ago, Domscheit-Berg said, the FBI sought an interview with him in connection with a long-running grand jury investigation of WikiLeaks’ publication of State Department cables. Domscheit-Berg said in an interview that he rebuffed the request. “No matter the differences that Julian and I had, I’m not going to talk to anybody about what happened,” he said.

    WikiLeaks is ‘always just chaos’

    As WikiLeaks has contracted and Assange has retreated from public view, it has become harder for Western intelligence agencies to get a sense of how the group operates. An internal CIA report from November said the U.S. intelligence community has “gained few good insights into WikiLeaks’ inner workings.” The agency predicted that Assange’s negative views of Washington would lead the group to continue to “disproportionately” target the United States.

    Former WikiLeaks supporters say the group is governed by Assange’s whims. “The way to think of it is always just chaos,” said one former WikiLeaks activist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a frank opinion and avoid retribution from Assange. “There aren’t any systems. There aren’t any procedures — no formal roles, no working hours. It’s all just Julian and whatever he feels like.”

    During the 2016 campaign, Assange put out word that he wanted material on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “He was kind of asking everybody, ‘Can we get something for the election?’ ” Müller-Maguhn recalls.

    Assange signs off on all WikiLeaks publications but does not review everything that comes to the group. “For security reasons, he does not want that,” Müller-Maguhn says. Müller-Maguhn, though, is vague about WikiLeaks’ internal workings.

    A former WikiLeaks associate said that Müller-Maguhn and a colleague oversaw submissions through WikiLeaks’ anonymous submission server in 2016 — although Müller-Maguhn denies such involvement.

    Asked to explain the submission review process, he replies, “I don’t want to.”

    The only reliable way to contact Assange, he says, is through Direct Message on Twitter. “He seems to live on Twitter,” adds Müller-Maguhn, who doesn’t hide his disdain for the platform. “On Twitter you follow people, and that’s what German history forbids you to do,” he says.

    The size of WikiLeaks’ staff and its finances are also murky. Neither Müller-Maguhn nor Assange will say how many people work for the group or where they are located. “It seems to be a rather small team,” Müller-Maguhn says.

    WikiLeaks has amassed a stash of bitcoin, a digital currency that enables anonymous, bank-free transactions. As of this week, the stockpile is worth about $18 million, although in late December, with the currency’s spike in value, the group was sitting on $25 million, according to public online ledgers that record such transactions. Over the past several years, the Wau Holland Foundation, which was started in 2003 after the founder of the Chaos Computer Club died, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for Assange’s group.

    Müller-Maguhn sits on the board of the foundation, which seeks to promote “freedom of information and civil courage in various forms.” He says the foundation has provided support for some of WikiLeaks’ releases, such as last year’s “Vault 7” disclosure of CIA hacking tools.

    He describes the Vault 7 releases as a public service, adding that the CIA was “messing up other people’s computers and making it look like someone else had done it.”

    To Assange, any suggestion that Müller-Maguhn may have served as an intermediary to deliver the DNC emails is “a lame attempt” by U.S. intelligence agencies to hurt the Wau Holland Foundation, which is a key conduit for tax-free donations in Europe.

    The threat is all the more significant because the only other source of tax-exempt donations, the U.S.-based Freedom of the Press Foundation, has cut ties to WikiLeaks.

    Müller-Maguhn says he cannot say with certainty what was on the USB drive that he delivered to Assange. “How can I prove what was on there?” he says. “I cannot.” But he adds that it would be risky and impractical to deliver sensitive files by hand, rather than through encrypted channels.

    “A classical walk-in? You saw too many movies from the 1970s,” he says.

    These days, Müller-Maguhn describes his visits to the embassy as motivated by an increasingly rare commodity in Assange’s world: friendship. Assange’s visitors include celebrities, such as actress Pamela Anderson, and politicians, such as Nigel Farage, a vocal advocate for Britain’s exit from the European Union, and Dana Rohrabacher, a GOP congressman from California.

    When he talks to visitors, Assange turns on a white noise generator in the embassy conference room to counter listening devices. Above the door, he points out a surveillance camera and indicates that sensitive messages should be communicated only via handwritten notes, shielding the text from the camera with a hand or notepad cover.

    He tries to minimize his time in Britain. “I don’t like to stay overnight in a country that is hostile toward me,” he says.

    ———-

    “A German hacker offers a rare look inside the secretive world of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks” by Ellen Nakashima, Souad Mekhennet and Greg Jaffe; The Washington Post; 01/17/2018

    “Exactly how the Russians delivered the email trove to WikiLeaks is the subject of an ongoing examination by U.S. and European intelligence officials. As part of their effort to understand the group’s operations, these officials have taken an intense interest in Müller-Maguhn, who visits Assange monthly, U.S. officials said.”

    Monthly visits because Assange stopped using email for security reasons. Yeah, this seems like someone who would be a person of interest for US officials. And any other officials around the world who are trying to understand how Wikileaks operates. Especially if this guy really was one of the people administering Wikileaks’s submission server:


    A former WikiLeaks associate said that Müller-Maguhn and a colleague oversaw submissions through WikiLeaks’ anonymous submission server in 2016 — although Müller-Maguhn denies such involvement.

    Asked to explain the submission review process, he replies, “I don’t want to.”

    So the guy who allegedly oversaw submissions to Wikileaks is also making monthly visits to Assange. Huh, yeah, that seems like a pretty good reason to suspect he might be transmitting the actual leaked info to Assange. And yet Müller-Maguhn totally denies that he would think about transmitting the information in such a manner because, “that would be insane”:


    Müller-Maguhn is one of Assange’s few connections to the outside world. He typically brings Assange books, clothes or movies. Once in 2016, he delivered a thumb drive that he says contained personal messages for the WikiLeaks founder, who for security reasons has stopped using email.

    These visits have caught the attention of U.S. and European spy chiefs, who have struggled to understand how Assange’s organization operates and how exactly WikiLeaks came to possess a trove of hacked Democratic Party emails that the group released at key moments in the 2016 presidential campaign.

    The three major U.S. intelligence agencies — the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency — assessed “with high confidence” that Russia relayed to WikiLeaks material it had hacked from the Democratic National Committee and senior Democratic officials. And last year, then-FBI Director James B. Comey said that the bureau believes the transfer was made using a “cut-out,” or a human intermediary or a series of intermediaries.

    Müller-Maguhn insists that he was never in possession of the material before it was put online and that he did not transport it.

    “That would be insane,” he says.

    But here’s what’s so odd about that assertion that it would be “insane” to transport information to Assange on thumb drive: He clearly has the capacity to give Assange information via thumb drive because he just admitted to doing exactly that. IN 2016! So why exactly is it “insane” for him to do so? It seems like a tried and true method.

    This all raises the question of how confident Assange is about getting sensitive information at all over the internet from the Ecuadoran embassy. After all, it’s not like governments around the world don’t know where he is. So he’s presumably relying on all the various Cypherphunk tools popularized by Edward Snowden to interface with the internet like Tor to obscure his traffic and strong end-to-end encryption for communication. And yet Wikileaks has no doubt seen the reports about how Tor – which was developed with US government money – is potentially vulnerable to nation-state adversaries. Especially the NSA. And while strong encryption with a standard that hasn’t been compromised should theoretically protect the internet traffic from being decrypted (until super quantum computers or something like gets developed), there’s still going to be the danger of Assange having his internet-connected computers getting compromised by some undisclosed vulnerability. But if he has a computer that isn’t connected the internet at all for security reasons, a thumb drive for delivering materials would be the only real option for accessing the various submissions Wikileaks is routinely getting.

    We already saw how Assange stopped using email over security reasons, which is why he was getting these monthly visits. And that indicates Assange is worried about internet traffic getting monitored. In other words, for someone like Assange, who is no doubt be a prime target for surveillance, it seems like a thumb drive handed to him from his friend who visits once a month might be the less risky method of delivery. Especially if this guy is making these visits on a monthly basis and it’s established that he can do so without too much trouble.

    And note this strange admission that ties back to the reports about Assange conversing with Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 campaign over Twitter direct messages (DMs): According to Müller-Maguhn, the only way to reliably contact Assange is over Twitter DMs:


    The only reliable way to contact Assange, he says, is through Direct Message on Twitter. “He seems to live on Twitter,” adds Müller-Maguhn, who doesn’t hide his disdain for the platform. “On Twitter you follow people, and that’s what German history forbids you to do,” he says.

    So Assange won’t use email out of security reasons. But he will user Twitter DMs, something that Twitter could potentially make accessible to all sorts of law enforcement agencies.

    And keep in mind that Twitter direct messages aren’t a great way to send anything other than text messages or images and videos. So that might explain the need for thumb drive visits from Müller-Maguhn: it’s the only way he can access anything other than personal messages from the rest of the Wikileaks team because he’s justifiably too paranoid about getting those files over the internet. And that would imply he’s only sending things over Twitter DMs that he doesn’t mind governments learning about. You have to wonder how Don Jr. feels about that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 19, 2018, 4:46 pm

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