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

For The Record  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Stone Salutes

Roger Stone Salutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15. Oth­man’s links to Bush are pro­found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Discussion

48 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
  24. Here’s a sto­ry that was pret­ty much inevitable: Felix Sater just opened up to Buz­zFeed about his years of work as an under­cov­er US infor­mant. He says he’s doing this to clear up his rep­u­ta­tion.

    Most of the con­tent in the arti­cle has been report­ed on before. But there were some new things. For instance, it turns out his his val­ue as a CIA infor­mant on al Qae­da draws heav­i­ly from the rela­tion­ship he devel­oped with an intel­li­gence offi­cer work­ing for the North­ern Alliance in Afghanistan. And this offi­cer, in turn, has ties to Mul­lah Omar’s per­son­al sec­re­tary, who was at the time liv­ing inside a cave with Osama bin Laden. So Sater real­ly was a sig­nif­i­cant intel­li­gence source regard­ing al Qae­da.

    And the range of top­ics he was pro­vid­ing the US gov­ern­ment infor­ma­tion went far beyond track­ing al Qae­da. For more than a decade he was pro­vid­ing the FBI with intel­li­gence on every­thing from the mob to North Kore­a’s nuclear weapons pro­gram. And accord­ing to to cur­rent FBI agents, Sater is still a source for the bureau. He appar­ent­ly nev­er stopped being a source and actu­al­ly has past work­ing rela­tion­ships with six of the mem­bers of Robert Mueller’s ‘Rus­sia probe’ team

    He also start­ed work­ing as an infor­mant before he was caught in the a stock pump-and-dump scheme, so it does­n’t appear that he become an infor­mant under threat of pros­e­cu­tion. Even more remark­able, it was con­firmed by two peo­ple work­ing for the gov­ern­ment that Sater did all this work for free. Or, as Sater puts it, for love of coun­try and the “thrill” of it:

    Buz­zFeed

    How A Play­er In The Trump-Rus­sia Scan­dal Led A Dou­ble Life As An Amer­i­can Spy

    Felix Sater has been cast as a Russ­ian mafioso, a career crim­i­nal, and a key busi­ness asso­ciate of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump — but he spent more than two decades as an intel­li­gence asset who helped the US gov­ern­ment track ter­ror­ists and mob­sters. “Greed is my go-to weapon.”

    Antho­ny Cormi­er
    Buz­zFeed News Reporter
    Jason Leopold
    Buz­zFeed News Reporter
    Post­ed on March 12, 2018, at 10:56 a.m.

    In the sprawl­ing Trump-Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion, one name con­stant­ly pops up: Felix Sater. In sto­ry after sto­ry, Sater is described as Don­ald Trump’s for­mer busi­ness part­ner, a con­vict­ed stock swindler who was born in the Sovi­et Union, worked in Rus­sia, tried to win Trump a deal in Moscow, and even helped bro­ker a Ukrain­ian peace plan that Vladimir Putin would have loved.

    Basi­cal­ly, he’s por­trayed as some­thing just short of a Russ­ian spy.

    Effec­tive­ly, he has been a spy — but for the Unit­ed States. For the first time, Buz­zFeed News has ver­i­fied the sur­pris­ing sweep of Sater’s under­cov­er work and many of his spe­cif­ic exploits. He worked as an asset for the CIA and the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (or DIA) and tracked Osama bin Laden. Then he worked for more than a decade for the FBI, pro­vid­ing intel on every­thing from the mob to North Korea’s dri­ve for nuclear weapons. He still oper­ates as a source for the bureau, accord­ing to two cur­rent FBI agents.

    He did some of this work to fend off prison time after he admit­ted guilt in a stock scam — but he had start­ed help­ing the US gov­ern­ment before then, and he con­tin­ued to report back to the FBI after the agree­ment end­ed. Today, as he is being ques­tioned about Trump’s busi­ness deals and ties to Rus­sia, he has built rela­tion­ships with at least six mem­bers of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s team, some going back more than 10 years.

    Frag­ments of Sater’s work for the gov­ern­ment have leaked out, part­ly because Sater him­self has bragged about “build­ing Trump Tow­ers by day and hunt­ing Bin Laden by night.” But his “cloak-and-dag­ger claims of chas­ing down ter­ror­ists” were often dis­missed as “wild­ly unlike­ly,” while Sater him­self remained “an obses­sion of the many inves­ti­ga­tors — pro­fes­sion­al and ama­teur — search­ing for Trump’s Rus­sia con­nec­tion.”

    Now Buz­zFeed News has obtained the state­ment Sater gave under oath to House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee inves­ti­ga­tors at his attorney’s office in Decem­ber, inter­viewed him exten­sive­ly, and cor­rob­o­rat­ed many details of his spy-thriller account through legal doc­u­ments, emails, let­ters, and inter­views with 10 cur­rent and for­mer law enforce­ment and intel­li­gence offi­cials famil­iar with his under­cov­er work.

    “At the direc­tion of the FBI,” the Depart­ment of Jus­tice stat­ed in a new­ly unsealed court fil­ing, Sater trav­eled to the Mid­dle East after 9/11 to col­lect “valu­able intel­li­gence” on “key lead­ers in al Qae­da,” and he helped “in a num­ber of oth­er areas, includ­ing Russ­ian orga­nized crime.” In oth­er court fil­ings, the Jus­tice Depart­ment said Sater’s work on behalf of the Unit­ed States “involves 18 for­eign gov­ern­ments” as well as “var­i­ous fam­i­lies of La Cosa Nos­tra,” and that his help was “of an extra­or­di­nary depth and breadth.”

    Spe­cif­ic exploits con­firmed by Buz­zFeed News include:

    * He obtained five of the per­son­al satel­lite tele­phone num­bers for Osama bin Laden before 9/11 and he helped flip the per­son­al sec­re­tary to Mul­lah Omar, then the head of the Tal­iban and an ally of bin Laden, into a source who pro­vid­ed the loca­tion of al-Qae­da train­ing camps and weapons caches.

    * In 2004, he per­suad­ed a source in Russia’s for­eign mil­i­tary intel­li­gence to hand over the name and pho­tographs of a North Kore­an mil­i­tary oper­a­tive who was pur­chas­ing equip­ment to build the country’s nuclear arse­nal.

    * Sater pro­vid­ed US intel­li­gence with details about pos­si­ble assas­si­na­tion threats against for­mer pres­i­dent George W. Bush and sec­re­tary of state Col­in Pow­ell. Sater report­ed that jihadists were hid­ing in a hut out­side Bagram Air Base and planned to shoot down Powell’s plane dur­ing a Jan­u­ary 2002 vis­it. He lat­er told his han­dlers that two female al-Qae­da mem­bers were try­ing to recruit an Afghan woman work­ing in the Sen­ate bar­ber­shop to poi­son Pres­i­dent Bush or Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney.

    * He went under­cov­er in Cyprus and Istan­bul to catch Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian cyber­crim­i­nals around 2005. After the FBI set him up with a fake name and back­ground, Sater posed as a mon­ey laun­der­er to help nab the sus­pects for wash­ing funds stolen from US finan­cial insti­tu­tions.

    The CIA, DIA, FBI, and lead­ers of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee all declined to com­ment.

    Over the past month, two Buz­zFeed News reporters met fre­quent­ly with Sater in Los Ange­les, where he’s been liv­ing since Feb­ru­ary and which seems to suit him. He’s tan. He had his Porsche shipped over from Long Island. He gets the good table at Delilah, a see-and-be-seen West Hol­ly­wood night­club. He said he is telling his full sto­ry, long kept secret by the gov­ern­ment, to clear his name. “I am being giv­en no choice because of the ongo­ing Trump inves­ti­ga­tions,” he said. “The media lies about me.”

    The rev­e­la­tions about his clan­des­tine work for the Unit­ed States com­pli­cate an already com­pli­cat­ed fig­ure, reveal­ing a man who thrives on mix­ing espi­onage, pol­i­tics, and busi­ness, often play­ing one off the oth­er to his own advan­tage.

    Sater, who recent­ly turned 52, start­ed out as a stock­bro­ker who lost his license after he assault­ed a man in a bar brawl. He helped scam investors out of tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in the mid-1990s. He lat­er emerged as a part­ner to the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion and a senior advi­sor to Trump him­self, rais­ing mon­ey for the future pres­i­dent and his fam­i­ly on projects such as Trump SoHo, the trou­bled hotel that near­ly led to fraud charges against Ivan­ka Trump and her broth­er Don­ald Jr.

    Even as he was help­ing US intel­li­gence and law enforce­ment agen­cies, Sater racked up ene­mies in his busi­ness deal­ings. An Ari­zona man said Sater threat­ened to cut his legs off dur­ing a failed devel­op­ment deal. Flori­da investors said his com­pa­ny, Bay­rock, ripped them off. A for­mer col­league said in a law­suit that the entire Bay­rock oper­a­tion was run by orga­nized crime fig­ures, and that Sater threat­ened to have him killed if he did­n’t coop­er­ate. Sater denied doing any of these things.

    But he does­n’t deny that he is always look­ing for an angle. As the Trump cam­paign kicked into high gear in 2015, Sater saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty.

    In emails ini­tial­ly revealed by the Wash­ing­ton Post, Sater wrote to Trump’s long­time per­son­al lawyer, Michael Cohen, boast­ing about being able to final­ly line up a real estate devel­op­ment in Moscow — a deal the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion had long sought.

    In one of the emails, Sater told Cohen that he could get buy-in from Putin him­self and that “we will get Don­ald elect­ed” in the process. Those emails have become a flash­point in the Trump-Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion — but Sater, who denied hav­ing any­thing to do with Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the elec­tion, told Buz­zFeed News he was just doing what he’s always done: work­ing a deal.

    Did he actu­al­ly know Putin?

    “No, of course not.”

    Did he think the Trump Moscow deal could get Trump elect­ed?

    Even Trump “is fuc king sur­prised he became the pres­i­dent.”

    Then why send that email?

    “If a deal can get done and I could make mon­ey and he could look like a states­man, what the fu ck is the down­side, right?”

    “The dark side of Wall Street”

    Born in the Sovi­et Union but an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen raised in Brook­lyn, Sater was a Wall Street wun­derkind who worked at top shops such as Bear Stearns and Shear­son Lehman Broth­ers. He was whip-smart but also a hot­head, and, one night in 1991, a drunk Sater got into an argu­ment at a Mid­town bar with a com­modi­ties bro­ker. The man was com­ing after Sater with a beer bot­tle, Sater said, so he grabbed a mar­gari­ta glass and hit the man in the face with it. Both men were hos­pi­tal­ized after­ward, but Sater’s oppo­nent took the worst of it: a bad­ly slashed face that led to Sater spend­ing a year in prison for felony assault.

    Worse still, he was stripped of his broker’s license and became per­sona non gra­ta on Wall Street. To make mon­ey, he helped start a com­pa­ny that pur­port­ed to buy and sell Nas­daq stocks. In real­i­ty, it was an elab­o­rate and ille­gal “pump and dump” stock scheme that defraud­ed investors out of near­ly $40 mil­lion, accord­ing to court records.

    Bro­kers, paid under the table, pur­chased stocks through off­shore accounts con­trolled by Sater. Sater’s firm spun false sto­ries about the com­pa­nies to inflate their val­ue, then dumped the over­priced stocks onto unwit­ting investors. Court doc­u­ments show that the five main New York City mafia fam­i­lies were direct­ly involved, most­ly to pro­vide mus­cle.

    “They were there for dis­putes,” Sater said.

    After work­ing on what he called “the dark side of Wall Street” for 18 months, Sater said he left the busi­ness in 1995 because he “didn’t want to do dirty shit any­more.” The next year, he went to Rus­sia to work on telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions deals with AT&T and oth­ers. One night, Sater was at din­ner with a group of Rus­sians in Moscow when he was intro­duced to an Amer­i­can defense con­trac­tor named Mil­ton Blane. Sater said Blane, who died last year, fol­lowed him into the restroom that night and asked for his phone num­ber to set up a meet­ing the fol­low­ing day.

    At an Irish pub, Blane explained that he worked for the DIA and that some of the peo­ple Sater had been din­ing with were high-lev­el Russ­ian intel­li­gence agents. “‘You’re in with a group who could deliv­er,’” Sater recalls Blane telling him. Blane, Sater said, asked him to work as an asset, intel­li­gence lin­go for an con­fi­den­tial source, but warned, “‘I want you to under­stand: If you’re caught, the USA is going to dis­avow you and, at best, you get a bul­let in the head.’”

    Sater’s flu­ent Russ­ian, his busi­ness con­nec­tions, and his access to Russ­ian mil­i­tary offi­cials would have made him a prime recruit­ment tar­get for any US intel­li­gence agency in Moscow, two long­time intel­li­gence offi­cers said. But they also said Blane’s approach was unortho­dox — recruits wouldn’t usu­al­ly be told they would be dis­avowed, and a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence inves­ti­ga­tion would nor­mal­ly have tak­en place to ensure Sater wasn’t work­ing for an ene­my.

    In any event, the Moscow meet­ing with Blane launched Sater’s work for the gov­ern­ment, which would last for the bet­ter part of two decades. He said was not paid for his work — which two Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cials con­firmed — but did it to help his coun­try and for the “thrill.”

    One of Sater’s ear­ly oper­a­tions involved the pur­suit in 1998 of Stinger anti-air­craft mis­siles. The CIA had orig­i­nal­ly giv­en the mis­siles to the mujahideen to oust the Sovi­ets dur­ing their occu­pa­tion of Afghanistan — but now the agency want­ed to pre­vent them from falling into the hands of rad­i­cal­ized jihadists. Sater man­aged to find some, com­plete with their ser­i­al num­bers.

    Sater’s attor­ney, Robert Wolf, said he act­ed as his con­duit to the CIA. As Wolf tells it, he called some­one he had long known: David Kendall, Bill Clin­ton’s lawyer, telling him that he had ser­i­al num­bers for the Stinger mis­siles that the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion had been try­ing to obtain. Kendall, Wolf said, called back and said he had spo­ken with Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and that Wolf should call Robert M. McNa­ma­ra Jr., the CIA’s gen­er­al coun­sel. Dur­ing the phone call with McNa­ma­ra, Wolf read out the ser­i­al num­bers for the Stinger mis­siles.

    But, intel­li­gence sources told Buz­zFeed News, CIA offi­cials were skep­ti­cal. So Sater pro­vid­ed pho­tographs of the mis­siles — with their ser­i­al num­bers and a copy of a dai­ly news­pa­per to prove the pho­to was cur­rent. Two for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cers and an FBI agent con­firmed that Sater had pro­vid­ed the pho­tographs, an inci­dent they said bol­stered his cred­i­bil­i­ty.

    Mean­while, Wolf recalled, McNa­ma­ra bro­kered a meet­ing at a restau­rant near the CIA head­quar­ters in Lan­g­ley, Vir­ginia, which was attend­ed by Wolf and two employ­ees of the CIA’s clan­des­tine divi­sion: an oper­a­tions offi­cer and an attor­ney named Steve Her­mes. For the next year or so, Wolf said, he talked reg­u­lar­ly with Her­mes by pay phone or land­line when Sater want­ed to pass on new infor­ma­tion — or when the CIA want­ed more intel­li­gence. “We just went back and forth for months and months about al-Qae­da, bin Laden, and the return of the Stingers,” Wolf said.

    Her­mes, who has retired from the CIA, and Clinton’s spokesper­son did not respond to requests for com­ment. Kendall declined to com­ment. McNa­ma­ra Jr. died in 2013.

    In August 1998, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton autho­rized Oper­a­tion Infi­nite Reach — a bomb­ing strike against al-Qae­da in retal­i­a­tion for the ter­ror attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tan­za­nia, which killed 224 peo­ple. Sater, 10 cur­rent and for­mer intel­li­gence and law enforce­ment offi­cials said, sup­ple­ment­ed US intel­li­gence by pro­vid­ing loca­tion coor­di­nates for al-Qae­da camps that the US mil­i­tary ulti­mate­ly bombed in Khost, Afghanistan.

    Buz­zFeed News also con­firmed anoth­er 1998 mis­sion, in which Sater infil­trat­ed the Afghan pre­cious stone mar­ket to find deal­ers who were laun­der­ing mon­ey for al-Qae­da. Sater found his own deal­er, from New York City’s 47th Street dia­mond dis­trict, and brought him to the Mid­dle East to make the ruse seem more authen­tic. An FBI source said the Jus­tice Depart­ment lat­er con­firmed this detail in court fil­ings that remain under seal. Buz­zFeed News reviewed an inter­nal gov­ern­ment doc­u­ment about the mis­sion in which an intel­li­gence offi­cial char­ac­ter­ized the infor­ma­tion Sater passed on as “high­ly sen­si­tive intel­li­gence.”

    But while Sater devel­oped con­tacts and fil­tered infor­ma­tion for America’s spies, back at home the FBI was start­ing to ask ques­tions about his past.

    Bin Laden’s phone num­bers

    One day in 1998, while Sater was liv­ing in Rus­sia, a NYPD offi­cial called the FBI with an unusu­al tip: In a Man­hat­tan stor­age lock­er, the police had dis­cov­ered a shot­gun, two pis­tols, and a gym bag con­tain­ing a cache of doc­u­ments tied to Sater.

    Ray­mond Kerr, in charge of the FBI’s Russ­ian orga­nized crime task force, went down to the NYPD sta­tion to check out the records. What he found was shock­ing: The doc­u­ments showed the inner work­ings of the pump-and-dump scheme, which involved more than a dozen traders and mus­cle from the Ital­ian mob. Imme­di­ate­ly, Kerr and anoth­er agent, Leo Tad­deo, began hunt­ing for Sater.

    As the FBI closed in, Sater con­tin­ued to work his con­tacts over­seas. He devel­oped a close bond with an intel­li­gence offi­cer work­ing for the North­ern Alliance, the Afghan mili­tia led by Ahmad Shah Mas­soud, the fierce and beloved fight­er called the Lion of Pan­jshir. As the North­ern Alliance fought Islamists, its intel­li­gence offi­cer fed infor­ma­tion to Sater, accord­ing to Sater and a for­mer FBI agent.

    Late in 1998, Sater was vaca­tion­ing in Italy with his fam­i­ly when the Afghan intel­li­gence offi­cer called with five satel­lite phone num­bers belong­ing to bin Laden. He asked Sater to pass the num­bers along to offi­cials in the US.

    Then the FBI found Sater and told him he was under inves­ti­ga­tion for the stock fraud. “I nev­er intend­ed on fight­ing and I sur­ren­dered,” Sater told Buz­zFeed News. “I knew I was going to coop­er­ate.”

    Sater flew back to New York City, and at his first meet­ing with Tad­deo, the FBI agent, Sater played his trump card, turn­ing over a piece of scrap paper on which he had jot­ted down bin Laden’s satel­lite phone num­bers.

    Sater plead­ed guilty to rack­e­teer­ing in Decem­ber 1998. But instead of being sen­tenced, Sater, like 16 oth­er defen­dants in the case, signed a coop­er­a­tion agree­ment with the US gov­ern­ment, and his entire case file was sealed.

    Sign­ing Sater’s coop­er­a­tion agree­ment for the Depart­ment of Jus­tice was Andrew Weiss­mann, then an assis­tant US attor­ney and now a key mem­ber of the spe­cial counsel’s team. Mueller him­self would be the FBI direc­tor for most of the time Sater served as a source.

    The US attor­ney who over­saw Sater’s pump-and-dump case was Loret­ta Lynch, lat­er the attor­ney gen­er­al under Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma. While the Sen­ate was con­sid­er­ing her con­fir­ma­tion, Sen. Orrin Hatch asked Lynch about how her office han­dled Sater’s fraud case. In a writ­ten response, she said:

    “The defen­dant in ques­tion, Felix Sater, pro­vid­ed valu­able and sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion to the gov­ern­ment dur­ing the course of his coop­er­a­tion, which began in or about Decem­ber 1998. For more than 10 years, he worked with pros­e­cu­tors pro­vid­ing 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. For that rea­son, his case was ini­tial­ly sealed.”

    To the gov­ern­ment, he was no longer Felix Sater; in pub­lic he was referred to as John Doe, while in hun­dreds of pages of FBI inter­view reports, his code name was “The Quar­ter­back.”

    “Greed is my go-to weapon”

    Sater was dri­ving into Man­hat­tan one fall morn­ing when traf­fic ground to a halt on a ramp to the Queens–Midtown Tun­nel. In the dis­tance, he saw smoke ris­ing from low­er Man­hat­tan.

    The 9/11 attacks shook Sater, and his law enforce­ment and intel­li­gence han­dlers urged him to find any infor­ma­tion he could.

    Some­times, he said, he threat­ened peo­ple, but most of the time he used a dif­fer­ent approach: “I’m not that big of a guy and I don’t car­ry a gun. Greed is my go-to weapon. I knew how to tap into that emo­tion. I would con­vince them that they’re going to make a lot of mon­ey with me.”

    He said he told a for­mer Russ­ian intel­li­gence offi­cial that the two of them could run banks togeth­er and make $200 mil­lion. To the North­ern Alliance source who had pro­vid­ed bin Laden’s satel­lite num­bers, Sater said he went one step fur­ther, per­suad­ing the man that he would become the “Alan Greenspan of Afghanistan” and run the country’s fed­er­al reserve after the US inva­sion.

    Sater said he set up Delaware LLCs in the US — for the “Bank of Kab­ul” and the “Bank of Afghanistan.” He reg­is­tered web­sites to con­vince the North­ern Alliance source that he was seri­ous about his inten­tions, going so far, he said, as to print out the cor­po­rate reg­is­tra­tions, adorn them with rib­bons, and use a wax stamp to make them seem more offi­cial. He said he mailed the doc­u­ments, and a satel­lite phone, to the source.

    Two for­mer Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cials said Sater took these steps with­out the FBI’s knowl­edge or autho­riza­tion, telling his han­dlers about it only after the fact.

    But soon, accord­ing to three for­mer FBI agents, an intel­li­gence offi­cial, and a Depart­ment of Jus­tice offi­cial, Sater report­ed back to intel­li­gence agen­cies on the results of coali­tion bomb­ings, kills on the bat­tle­field, the finan­cial net­works behind the 9/11 bombers and oth­er al-Qae­da mem­bers world­wide, and even the iden­ti­ty of a New Mex­i­co com­pa­ny believed to be laun­der­ing ter­ror funds in the US.

    Sater’s Afghan intel­li­gence source fun­neled to him copies of al-Qae­da pass­ports, jiha­di escape routes, the loca­tions of fight­ers, and weapons caches. He described the source as a “gold mine” — but it was only much lat­er that Sater learned that the infor­ma­tion orig­i­nat­ed inside al-Qaeda’s hide­outs. Accord­ing to a for­mer senior Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cial and a for­mer FBI agent with knowl­edge of Sater’s work, Sater’s source had his own source: Mul­lah Omar’s per­son­al sec­re­tary, who was liv­ing inside a cave with bin Laden.

    In most cas­es, Sater would turn over infor­ma­tion and nev­er know what, if any­thing, the US did with it. But Ray­mond Kerr, a for­mer FBI agent in charge of inves­ti­gat­ing orga­nized crime in New York City and who used Sater as a key source, said the intel­li­gence Sater pro­vid­ed was valu­able. “We wouldn’t have gone to bat for him the way we did if his infor­ma­tion wasn’t good and we couldn’t cor­rob­o­rate it,” Kerr said.

    Said anoth­er top intel­li­gence offi­cial who worked direct­ly on ter­ror cas­es before and after 9/11, “Felix like­ly does not real­ize how impor­tant his work has been in sav­ing Amer­i­can lives. What he did on behalf of the US for more than a decade out­weighs any of the bad deeds from his youth.” Sater, the offi­cial said, “deserves a com­men­da­tion.”

    Doing deals for Trump

    Sater was under orders to keep his gov­ern­ment work secret. He changed his last name to “Sat­ter” to avoid scruti­ny from inter­net sleuths, and the details of his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the stock fraud were kept sealed from the pub­lic.

    The first hints emerged in a lit­tle-read book, The Scor­pi­on and the Frog, writ­ten by one of Sater’s part­ners in the stock fraud. In it, author Sal­va­tore Lau­ria wrote about his adven­tures with Sater in Rus­sia and else­where for the CIA. Sater was referred to as “Lex Ter­sa” (“Ter­sa” is an ana­gram of “Sater”) but the book didn’t take off and his his­to­ry as an intel­li­gence asset remained large­ly hid­den.

    But a new part­ner­ship would put him in busi­ness with one of the most famous peo­ple in Amer­i­ca — Don­ald Trump.

    Sater and his part­ners, includ­ing Tev­fik Arif, a Kaza­kh real estate baron, start­ed a com­pa­ny called Bay­rock Group and sought to finance real estate projects across the globe. Bay­rock rent­ed office space in Trump Tow­er, and one after­noon the ever-con­fi­dent Sater said he knocked on Trump’s office door and intro­duced him­self: “I’m going to be the biggest devel­op­er in New York City — and you want to be my part­ner.”

    Bay­rock began to work with the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion on licens­ing deals in which Trump earned a fee by doing lit­tle more than giv­ing his name to the project, while oth­ers put up the mon­ey and actu­al­ly built the prop­er­ty. Sater and Trump are pic­tured cel­e­brat­ing deals togeth­er across the globe, and Sater accom­pa­nied Ivan­ka Trump and her broth­er Don Jr. on a trip to Rus­sia.

    But the good times stopped rolling when a 2007 arti­cle in the New York Times out­ed Felix’s involve­ment in the pump-and-dump scheme and his “tan­gled past.” Investors, unaware of Sater’s crim­i­nal back­ground, ques­tioned his involve­ment with Bay­rock. Banks pulled back from doing busi­ness with the com­pa­ny, and his part­ners squeezed him. “I had to leave the com­pa­ny that I built with my own hands,” he said.

    He left the US and spent two years work­ing in Rus­sia with a large real estate devel­op­er, the Mirax Group. He worked on two projects in Lon­don, he said, includ­ing a group of town­hous­es near Regent’s Park that made “good mon­ey.”

    “Try­ing to reha­bil­i­tate myself”

    In 2009, 11 years after he for­mal­ly start­ed coop­er­at­ing, the US gov­ern­ment was final­ly going to hold up its end of the bar­gain. Sater head­ed to a fed­er­al cour­t­house in Brook­lyn in Octo­ber 2009 for his sen­tenc­ing in the stock fraud scheme.

    Two fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors and four FBI agents showed up to vouch for him. A tran­script of that hear­ing is heav­i­ly redact­ed, but it makes clear that Sater was no ordi­nary coop­er­at­ing wit­ness.

    “There was noth­ing he wouldn’t do,” for­mer assis­tant US attor­ney Todd Kamin­sky, now a New York state sen­a­tor, told the judge. “He was real­ly help­ful and was the key to open a hun­dred dif­fer­ent doors.”

    Tad­deo, his main FBI han­dler, said that Sater’s work dam­aged the Bonan­no crime fam­i­ly and helped the FBI take La Cosa Nos­tra out of the Wall Street stock busi­ness.

    “The length of his coop­er­a­tion is extra­or­di­nary,” said Mar­shall Miller, anoth­er assis­tant US attor­ney. “And I want­ed to be here to express from the office’s per­spec­tive just how capa­ble a coop­er­a­tor he was, how impor­tant a coop­er­a­tor he was, and how effec­tive he was.”

    Tad­deo, who left the FBI in August 2015 and now works for a pri­vate cyber­se­cu­ri­ty firm, did not respond to phone and email mes­sages. Kamin­sky said he couldn’t com­ment because much of the case was still sealed, and Miller, who has left the Jus­tice Depart­ment, also declined to com­ment.

    Final­ly, it was Sater’s turn to face the judge. “Yes, I am guilty of the things that I have done,” he said. But, he added, “I am try­ing to reha­bil­i­tate myself.”

    US Dis­trict Court Judge I. Leo Glass­er, who had sen­tenced dozens of peo­ple to prison based on infor­ma­tion Sater had pro­vid­ed to the FBI, told him, “For 11 years, I would sus­pect you had gone to bed every night or every oth­er night sleep­ing a lit­tle rest­less­ly and won­der­ing what your sen­tence is going to be. So, in effect, there has been a sen­tence which already has been imposed.”

    For the $40 mil­lion scheme, Sater was fined $25,000.

    To this day, Sater con­tin­ues to coop­er­ate with the FBI and Jus­tice Depart­ment, he said in his state­ment to the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. He would­n’t dis­close addi­tion­al details, except to say that he works on “inter­na­tion­al mat­ters.” Two US offi­cials con­firmed Sater con­tin­ues to be a reli­able asset.

    As for his reg­u­lar life, when he relo­cat­ed back to the US in 2010, he recalled, “Don­ald said, ‘Where have you been?’” Sater said Trump asked him to join the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion. “That’s when I became senior advi­sor to him,” he said. The Trump Orga­ni­za­tion and the White House declined to com­ment.

    “Trump Moscow”

    When Trump won the pres­i­den­cy, Sater saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty to do what he does best: make deals. But his ambi­tion back­fired, putting Sater in the mid­dle of the Trump-Rus­sia scan­dal.

    In ear­ly 2017, Sater told Buz­zFeed News he was try­ing to close a deal with a Ukrain­ian politi­cian and oth­ers on an ener­gy deal in East­ern Europe. Sater esti­mat­ed he and his part­ners could earn bil­lions. But as they closed in, the Ukrain­ian, Andrey Arte­menko, asked Sater for a favor: Could he bro­ker a meet­ing with Trump’s team to dis­cuss a “peace plan” for Ukraine and Rus­sia?

    The deal, which Sater said set out a way to lift sanc­tions on Rus­sia, sure­ly would have pleased the Krem­lin, but it would have been a sharp depar­ture from pre­vi­ous US pol­i­cy. Still, Sater sum­moned Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, Cohen, to a Mid­town Man­hat­tan hotel in Feb­ru­ary 2017, and Arte­menko gave him a let­ter about the plan. Cohen has denied pass­ing the plan to the White House and told Buz­zFeed News he threw it out.

    Where some see the meet­ing as for­eign inter­fer­ence in US pol­i­cy, Sater sees oppor­tu­ni­ty. If he could grease the skids with a poten­tial busi­ness part­ner while bring­ing peace to a war-torn region, Sater said, who could argue with that? “No more war,” Sater said. “Peo­ple not get­ting killed. Beau­ti­ful sit­u­a­tion.”

    But the encounter is now report­ed­ly part of the spe­cial counsel’s inves­ti­ga­tion, and Sater finds him­self in the spot­light. Of the Ukrain­ian plan, Sater said, “I thought every­body wins. Turns out, I lost.”

    Sater has already been sum­moned by con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors, and he is expect­ed to speak to the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee in April. He also has been ques­tioned by Mueller’s team, sev­er­al of whom he knows from his past under­cov­er work. It’s almost cer­tain that Sater has sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion about Trump’s busi­ness deal­ings, but he won’t say what he was asked or what infor­ma­tion he pro­vid­ed. The spe­cial counsel’s office declined to com­ment for this sto­ry.

    ...

    Trump has denied know­ing the man who had an office three doors down from his own and who helped his com­pa­ny explore deals across the globe. In a 2013 depo­si­tion, Trump said of Sater, “If he were sit­ting in the room right now, I real­ly wouldn’t know what he looked like.”

    Over din­ner last week at the Bev­er­ly Hills Hotel, Sater was clear­ly hurt when he spoke about the president’s state­ment. “It’s very upset­ting but, you know, what am I going to do?” Sater said. “Start call­ing him a liar?” Sater said he hasn’t talked with Trump in a cou­ple of years, but he sees an angle to keep­ing in Trump’s good graces.

    “First thing I plan to do when Trump leaves office, whether it’s next week, in 2020 or four years lat­er, is march right into his office and say, ‘Let’s build Trump Moscow.’

    “I’m seri­ous.”

    ———-

    “How A Play­er In The Trump-Rus­sia Scan­dal Led A Dou­ble Life As An Amer­i­can Spy” by Antho­ny Cormi­er; Jason Leopold; Buz­zFeed; 03/12/2018

    Effec­tive­ly, he has been a spy — but for the Unit­ed States. For the first time, Buz­zFeed News has ver­i­fied the sur­pris­ing sweep of Sater’s under­cov­er work and many of his spe­cif­ic exploits. He worked as an asset for the CIA and the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (or DIA) and tracked Osama bin Laden. Then he worked for more than a decade for the FBI, pro­vid­ing intel on every­thing from the mob to North Korea’s dri­ve for nuclear weapons. He still oper­ates as a source for the bureau, accord­ing to two cur­rent FBI agents.

    Felix Sater, the inter­na­tion­al man of mys­tery, is a lit­tle less mys­te­ri­ous now. But still pret­ty mys­te­ri­ous.

    Part of that mys­tery revolves around the appar­ent fact that Sater start­ed work­ing as a US infor­mant even before he was in legal trou­ble over the pump-and-dump scheme:

    ...
    He did some of this work to fend off prison time after he admit­ted guilt in a stock scam — but he had start­ed help­ing the US gov­ern­ment before then, and he con­tin­ued to report back to the FBI after the agree­ment end­ed. Today, as he is being ques­tioned about Trump’s busi­ness deals and ties to Rus­sia, he has built rela­tion­ships with at least six mem­bers of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s team, some going back more than 10 years.
    ...

    And that work as a US infor­mant appar­ent­ly hap­pened some­what spon­ta­neous­ly in 1995 while Sater was in Rus­sia work­ing on some telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions deals for AT&T and oth­ers. Sate was hav­ing din­ner with a group of Rus­sians in Moscow when he was intro­duced to an Amer­i­can defense con­trac­tor, Mil­ton Blane. Blane sets up a meet­ing with Sater, informs Sater that the peo­ple he was hav­ing din­ner with were high-lev­el Russ­ian intel­li­gence agents, Blane asked Sater if he would work as an asset, and Sater accept­ed. That’s the sto­ry for how Sater’s life as an inter­na­tion­al man of mys­tery who works for free began:

    ...
    After work­ing on what he called “the dark side of Wall Street” for 18 months, Sater said he left the busi­ness in 1995 because he “didn’t want to do dirty shit any­more.” The next year, he went to Rus­sia to work on telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions deals with AT&T and oth­ers. One night, Sater was at din­ner with a group of Rus­sians in Moscow when he was intro­duced to an Amer­i­can defense con­trac­tor named Mil­ton Blane. Sater said Blane, who died last year, fol­lowed him into the restroom that night and asked for his phone num­ber to set up a meet­ing the fol­low­ing day.

    At an Irish pub, Blane explained that he worked for the DIA and that some of the peo­ple Sater had been din­ing with were high-lev­el Russ­ian intel­li­gence agents. “‘You’re in with a group who could deliv­er,’” Sater recalls Blane telling him. Blane, Sater said, asked him to work as an asset, intel­li­gence lin­go for an con­fi­den­tial source, but warned, “‘I want you to under­stand: If you’re caught, the USA is going to dis­avow you and, at best, you get a bul­let in the head.’”

    Sater’s flu­ent Russ­ian, his busi­ness con­nec­tions, and his access to Russ­ian mil­i­tary offi­cials would have made him a prime recruit­ment tar­get for any US intel­li­gence agency in Moscow, two long­time intel­li­gence offi­cers said. But they also said Blane’s approach was unortho­dox — recruits wouldn’t usu­al­ly be told they would be dis­avowed, and a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence inves­ti­ga­tion would nor­mal­ly have tak­en place to ensure Sater wasn’t work­ing for an ene­my.

    In any event, the Moscow meet­ing with Blane launched Sater’s work for the gov­ern­ment, which would last for the bet­ter part of two decades. He said was not paid for his work — which two Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cials con­firmed — but did it to help his coun­try and for the “thrill.”
    ...

    And some of this spy work includes work on the North Kore­an nuclear mis­sile pro­gram and catch­ing Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian cyber­crim­i­nals:

    ...
    Spe­cif­ic exploits con­firmed by Buz­zFeed News include:

    * He obtained five of the per­son­al satel­lite tele­phone num­bers for Osama bin Laden before 9/11 and he helped flip the per­son­al sec­re­tary to Mul­lah Omar, then the head of the Tal­iban and an ally of bin Laden, into a source who pro­vid­ed the loca­tion of al-Qae­da train­ing camps and weapons caches.

    * In 2004, he per­suad­ed a source in Russia’s for­eign mil­i­tary intel­li­gence to hand over the name and pho­tographs of a North Kore­an mil­i­tary oper­a­tive who was pur­chas­ing equip­ment to build the country’s nuclear arse­nal.

    * Sater pro­vid­ed US intel­li­gence with details about pos­si­ble assas­si­na­tion threats against for­mer pres­i­dent George W. Bush and sec­re­tary of state Col­in Pow­ell. Sater report­ed that jihadists were hid­ing in a hut out­side Bagram Air Base and planned to shoot down Powell’s plane dur­ing a Jan­u­ary 2002 vis­it. He lat­er told his han­dlers that two female al-Qae­da mem­bers were try­ing to recruit an Afghan woman work­ing in the Sen­ate bar­ber­shop to poi­son Pres­i­dent Bush or Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney.

    * He went under­cov­er in Cyprus and Istan­bul to catch Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian cyber­crim­i­nals around 2005. After the FBI set him up with a fake name and back­ground, Sater posed as a mon­ey laun­der­er to help nab the sus­pects for wash­ing funds stolen from US finan­cial insti­tu­tions.
    ...

    But it’s Sater’s work as an infor­mant on al Qae­da where he appears to have been a tru­ly invalu­able asset. And that was large­ly due to Sater devel­op­ing a rela­tion­ship with a North­ern Alliance intel­li­gence offi­cer who kept feed­ing Sater valu­able infor­ma­tion:

    ...
    Bin Laden’s phone num­bers

    One day in 1998, while Sater was liv­ing in Rus­sia, a NYPD offi­cial called the FBI with an unusu­al tip: In a Man­hat­tan stor­age lock­er, the police had dis­cov­ered a shot­gun, two pis­tols, and a gym bag con­tain­ing a cache of doc­u­ments tied to Sater.

    Ray­mond Kerr, in charge of the FBI’s Russ­ian orga­nized crime task force, went down to the NYPD sta­tion to check out the records. What he found was shock­ing: The doc­u­ments showed the inner work­ings of the pump-and-dump scheme, which involved more than a dozen traders and mus­cle from the Ital­ian mob. Imme­di­ate­ly, Kerr and anoth­er agent, Leo Tad­deo, began hunt­ing for Sater.

    As the FBI closed in, Sater con­tin­ued to work his con­tacts over­seas. He devel­oped a close bond with an intel­li­gence offi­cer work­ing for the North­ern Alliance, the Afghan mili­tia led by Ahmad Shah Mas­soud, the fierce and beloved fight­er called the Lion of Pan­jshir. As the North­ern Alliance fought Islamists, its intel­li­gence offi­cer fed infor­ma­tion to Sater, accord­ing to Sater and a for­mer FBI agent.

    Late in 1998, Sater was vaca­tion­ing in Italy with his fam­i­ly when the Afghan intel­li­gence offi­cer called with five satel­lite phone num­bers belong­ing to bin Laden. He asked Sater to pass the num­bers along to offi­cials in the US.
    ...

    And that infor­ma­tion from this North­ern Alliance intel­li­gence offi­cer would pass along to Sater was appar­ent­ly com­ing from Mul­lah Omar’s per­son­al sec­re­tary:

    ...
    He said he told a for­mer Russ­ian intel­li­gence offi­cial that the two of them could run banks togeth­er and make $200 mil­lion. To the North­ern Alliance source who had pro­vid­ed bin Laden’s satel­lite num­bers, Sater said he went one step fur­ther, per­suad­ing the man that he would become the “Alan Greenspan of Afghanistan” and run the country’s fed­er­al reserve after the US inva­sion.

    Sater said he set up Delaware LLCs in the US — for the “Bank of Kab­ul” and the “Bank of Afghanistan.” He reg­is­tered web­sites to con­vince the North­ern Alliance source that he was seri­ous about his inten­tions, going so far, he said, as to print out the cor­po­rate reg­is­tra­tions, adorn them with rib­bons, and use a wax stamp to make them seem more offi­cial. He said he mailed the doc­u­ments, and a satel­lite phone, to the source.

    Two for­mer Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cials said Sater took these steps with­out the FBI’s knowl­edge or autho­riza­tion, telling his han­dlers about it only after the fact.

    But soon, accord­ing to three for­mer FBI agents, an intel­li­gence offi­cial, and a Depart­ment of Jus­tice offi­cial, Sater report­ed back to intel­li­gence agen­cies on the results of coali­tion bomb­ings, kills on the bat­tle­field, the finan­cial net­works behind the 9/11 bombers and oth­er al-Qae­da mem­bers world­wide, and even the iden­ti­ty of a New Mex­i­co com­pa­ny believed to be laun­der­ing ter­ror funds in the US.

    Sater’s Afghan intel­li­gence source fun­neled to him copies of al-Qae­da pass­ports, jiha­di escape routes, the loca­tions of fight­ers, and weapons caches. He described the source as a “gold mine” — but it was only much lat­er that Sater learned that the infor­ma­tion orig­i­nat­ed inside al-Qaeda’s hide­outs. Accord­ing to a for­mer senior Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cial and a for­mer FBI agent with knowl­edge of Sater’s work, Sater’s source had his own source: Mul­lah Omar’s per­son­al sec­re­tary, who was liv­ing inside a cave with bin Laden.

    In most cas­es, Sater would turn over infor­ma­tion and nev­er know what, if any­thing, the US did with it. But Ray­mond Kerr, a for­mer FBI agent in charge of inves­ti­gat­ing orga­nized crime in New York City and who used Sater as a key source, said the intel­li­gence Sater pro­vid­ed was valu­able. “We wouldn’t have gone to bat for him the way we did if his infor­ma­tion wasn’t good and we couldn’t cor­rob­o­rate it,” Kerr said.

    Said anoth­er top intel­li­gence offi­cial who worked direct­ly on ter­ror cas­es before and after 9/11, “Felix like­ly does not real­ize how impor­tant his work has been in sav­ing Amer­i­can lives. What he did on behalf of the US for more than a decade out­weighs any of the bad deeds from his youth.” Sater, the offi­cial said, “deserves a com­men­da­tion.”
    ...

    And this invalu­able intel­li­gence is why the US gov­ern­ment could­n’t sing Sater’s prais­es enough dur­ing his belat­ed sen­tenc­ing hear­ing for the stock pump-and-dump charges that even­tu­al­ly took place in 2009:

    ...
    “Try­ing to reha­bil­i­tate myself”

    In 2009, 11 years after he for­mal­ly start­ed coop­er­at­ing, the US gov­ern­ment was final­ly going to hold up its end of the bar­gain. Sater head­ed to a fed­er­al cour­t­house in Brook­lyn in Octo­ber 2009 for his sen­tenc­ing in the stock fraud scheme.

    Two fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors and four FBI agents showed up to vouch for him. A tran­script of that hear­ing is heav­i­ly redact­ed, but it makes clear that Sater was no ordi­nary coop­er­at­ing wit­ness.

    “There was noth­ing he wouldn’t do,” for­mer assis­tant US attor­ney Todd Kamin­sky, now a New York state sen­a­tor, told the judge. “He was real­ly help­ful and was the key to open a hun­dred dif­fer­ent doors.”
    ...

    And to top if all off, Sater is still described as a reli­able US asset to this day:

    ...
    To this day, Sater con­tin­ues to coop­er­ate with the FBI and Jus­tice Depart­ment, he said in his state­ment to the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. He would­n’t dis­close addi­tion­al details, except to say that he works on “inter­na­tion­al mat­ters.” Two US offi­cials con­firmed Sater con­tin­ues to be a reli­able asset.
    ...

    And that’s all some­thing to keep in mind regard­ing the mys­tery of sort of role Felix Sater played in the whole #TrumpRus­sia sit­u­a­tion: He was a US gov­ern­ment infor­mant the whole time.

    So what was he telling the US gov­ern­ment dur­ing that 2015–2016 Trump cam­paign peri­od? That’s still a mys­tery.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 13, 2018, 3:20 pm
  25. Here’s anoth­er Roger Stone-relat­ed twist to the #Trum­Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion: Accord­ing to two sources, Roger Stone had a phone con­ver­sa­tion in the spring of 2016 where he said he learned from Julian Assange that Wik­ileaks had obtained emails that would tor­ment senior Democ­rats such as John Podes­ta.

    And that date range, the spring of 2016, makes this a very inter­est­ing rev­e­la­tion because it sug­gests Stone real­ly did have advance notice of the DNC hacks. And not just the DNC serv­er hack but also the hack John Podesta’s Gmail account.

    Both of those hacks have been deter­mined to have tak­en place in March of 2016 and attrib­uted to ‘Fan­cy Bear’. So learn­ing that Stone was telling peo­ple in the “spring of 2016” that he learned from Julian Assange that Wik­ileaks has the emails of senior Democ­rats like John Podes­ta is a poten­tial­ly impor­tant data point in terms of under­stand­ing who knew what when. Albeit a vague data point since “spring” could indi­cate any date from mid-March to mid-June. Recall that the first dump of doc­u­ments by “Guc­cifer 2.0” hap­pened in mid-June of 2016. Also recall that he dump of John Podesta’s hacked emails did­n’t hap­pen until Octo­ber of 2016 (right after the release of the “Hol­ly­wood Access” tape)

    It’s also worth recall­ing that Trump cam­paign oper­a­tive George Papadopou­los was appar­ent­ly told by Joseph Mif­sud — the mys­te­ri­ous Mal­tese pro­fes­sor with ties to the Krem­lin — that the Krem­lin had “dirt” on Hillary Clin­ton, includ­ing thou­sands of Clin­ton’s emails, in April of 2016. So it’s unclear whether or not these alleged claims by Roger Stone that he learned from Assange about Wik­ileaks obtain­ing emails from senior Democ­rats took place before or after Papadopoulos’s April meet­ing with Mif­sud.

    And don’t for­get that we’ve already learned about a mid­dle-man between Stone and Assange: Randy Credi­co, who freely admits to meet­ing with Assange, but insists he would nev­er do some­thing to help Trump.

    One of the two sources of these new claims about Stone is Sam Nun­berg, the for­mer Trump cam­paign aid who had a pub­lic drunk­en melt­down on tele­vi­sion recent­ly. Accord­ing to Nun­berg, Stone told him at one point that he actu­al­ly met with Assange. Stone has respond­ed to Nun­berg’s claims by say­ing he was just jok­ing with Nun­berg at that moment. ““I said, ‘I think I will go to Lon­don for the week­end and meet with Julian Assange.’ It was a joke, a throw­away line to get him off the phone. The idea that I would meet with Assange unde­tect­ed is ridicu­lous on its face.’?” Nun­berg insists that he did­n’t think it was a joke at the time:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Roger Stone claimed con­tact with Wik­iLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, accord­ing to two asso­ciates

    By Tom Ham­burg­er, Josh Dawsey, Car­ol D. Leon­nig and Shane Har­ris
    March 13, 2018 at 3:32 PM

    In the spring of 2016, long­time polit­i­cal oper­a­tive Roger Stone had a phone con­ver­sa­tion that would lat­er seem prophet­ic, accord­ing to the per­son on the oth­er end of the line.

    Stone, an infor­mal advis­er to then-can­di­date Don­ald Trump, said he had learned from Wik­iLeaks founder Julian Assange that his orga­ni­za­tion had obtained emails that would tor­ment senior Democ­rats such as John Podes­ta, then cam­paign chair­man for Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hillary Clin­ton.

    The con­ver­sa­tion occurred before it was pub­licly known that hack­ers had obtained the emails of Podes­ta and of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee, doc­u­ments that Wik­iLeaks released in late July and Octo­ber. The U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty lat­er con­clud­ed that the hack­ers were work­ing for Rus­sia.

    The per­son, who spoke to The Wash­ing­ton Post on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because of the ongo­ing fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian cam­paign inter­fer­ence, is one of two Stone asso­ciates who say Stone claimed to have had con­tact with Assange in 2016.

    The sec­ond, for­mer Trump advis­er Sam Nun­berg, said in an inter­view Mon­day that Stone told him that he had met with Assange — a con­ver­sa­tion Nun­berg said inves­ti­ga­tors for spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III recent­ly asked him to describe.

    Stone’s pos­si­ble con­nec­tion to Assange has been under scruti­ny since the 2016 cam­paign, when he made pub­lic claims that he was in con­tact with the Lon­don-based Wik­iLeaks founder. Since then, Stone has emphat­i­cal­ly denied any com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Assange or advance knowl­edge of the doc­u­ment dumps by Wik­iLeaks, which embar­rassed Clin­ton allies and dis­rupt­ed the 2016 cam­paign. Wik­iLeaks and Assange have also said they nev­er com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Stone.

    Poten­tial con­tacts with Wik­iLeaks have been probed by fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tors exam­in­ing whether allies of Pres­i­dent Trump coor­di­nat­ed with Rus­sians seek­ing to tilt the 2016 race. The pres­i­dent has repeat­ed­ly denied any col­lu­sion with Rus­sia.

    Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, declined to com­ment.

    Stone, a long­time Trump friend, briefly worked for his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in 2015 and then remained in his orbit as an advis­er.

    In an inter­view Mon­day, he again denied that he had any advance notice about the hacked emails or any con­tact with Assange. He said he only recalled hav­ing one con­ver­sa­tion with any­one in which he allud­ed to meet­ing the Wik­iLeaks founder — a com­ment he said he made as a joke to a long-wind­ed Nun­berg.

    “I wish him no ill will, but Sam can man­i­cal­ly and per­sis­tent­ly call you,” Stone said, recall­ing that Nun­berg had called him on a Fri­day to ask about his plans for the week­end. “I said, ‘I think I will go to Lon­don for the week­end and meet with Julian Assange.’ It was a joke, a throw­away line to get him off the phone. The idea that I would meet with Assange unde­tect­ed is ridicu­lous on its face.’?’’

    Stone said that he does not recall any sim­i­lar con­ver­sa­tion with any­one else.

    “The alle­ga­tion that I met with Assange, or asked for a meet­ing or com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Assange, is prov­ably false,” he said, adding that he did not leave the coun­try in 2016.

    Through his attor­ney, Assange — who has been liv­ing in the Ecuado­ran Embassy in Lon­don since 2012 — told The Post in Jan­u­ary that he did not meet Stone in spring 2016. His attor­ney was unable to reach Assange on Mon­day evening for fur­ther com­ment.

    Wik­iLeaks has denied any con­tact with the long­time Trump advis­er.

    “Wik­iLeaks & Assange have repeat­ed­ly con­firmed that they have nev­er com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Stone,” the orga­ni­za­tion tweet­ed in March 2017.

    Nun­berg told The Post that the ques­tions he was asked by Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tors indi­cat­ed to him that the spe­cial coun­sel is exam­in­ing state­ments Stone has made pub­licly about Wik­iLeaks.

    “Of course they have to inves­ti­gate this,” he said. “Roger made state­ments that could be prob­lem­at­ic.”

    He said he did not recall the exact date when Stone told him that he had met with Assange, adding that he did not take the com­ment as a joke at the time. He said he was glad to hear Stone told The Post that the remark was made in jest.

    “No one con­nect­ed to the pres­i­dent should be con­nect­ed with Julian Assange,” he added.

    ...

    Dur­ing the 2016 race, the orga­ni­za­tion released hacked Demo­c­ra­t­ic emails at two key junc­tures: A cache of DNC emails land­ed on the eve of the party’s nation­al nom­i­na­tion con­ven­tion and a col­lec­tion of Podes­ta emails appeared on the same day in Octo­ber that The Post revealed a tape of Trump speak­ing about women in lewd terms.

    Stone pub­licly cheered on Wik­iLeaks dur­ing the race, at one point refer­ring to Assange as “my hero.”

    On Aug. 8, 2016, in an appear­ance at the South­west Broward Repub­li­can Orga­ni­za­tion in Flori­da, Stone answered a ques­tion about what he sus­pect­ed would be the campaign’s Octo­ber sur­prise by say­ing: “I actu­al­ly have com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his doc­u­ments per­tain to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion, but there’s no telling what the Octo­ber sur­prise may be.”

    He lat­er said he had not meant that he had com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Assange direct­ly.

    On Aug. 21, Stone tweet­ed that some­thing grim was loom­ing for Podes­ta.

    “Trust me, it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the bar­rel. #Crooked­Hillary,” he tweet­ed.

    On Oct. 3, he tweet­ed: “I have total con­fi­dence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will edu­cate the Amer­i­can peo­ple soon #Lock­HerUp.”

    “Pay­load com­ing. #Lock­themup,” Stone tweet­ed on Oct. 5.

    Two days lat­er, Wik­iLeaks pub­lished a cache of Podesta’s hacked emails describ­ing inter­nal con­flicts with­in the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion and excerpts of Clinton’s speech­es to Wall Street exec­u­tives.

    The release came short­ly after The Post revealed the exis­tence of an “Access Hol­ly­wood” tape in which Trump described grab­bing women by the gen­i­tals.

    Stone also exchanged pri­vate Twit­ter mes­sages with Wik­iLeaks that month. In one Oct. 13 exchange, he described him­self as a defend­er of the orga­ni­za­tion and object­ed to its “strat­e­gy of attack­ing me,” the Atlantic report­ed this year. Wik­iLeaks replied to Stone in a pri­vate mes­sage that “false claims of asso­ci­a­tion” were being used by Democ­rats to under­mine the group.

    Stone answered: “You need to fig­ure out who your friends are.”

    Assange and Stone said that the mes­sages prove he did not have any advance knowl­edge of Wik­iLeaks’ plans.

    “A mes­sage telling Roger Stone to cease false­ly sug­gest­ing con­tact with Wik­iLeaks is now the claimed proof that Roger Stone had con­tact with Wik­iLeaks — when it proves what I’ve said all along,” Assange tweet­ed last month.

    Stone wrote recent­ly on his web­site that “only in the cur­rent, high­ly charged atmos­phere can a leaked doc­u­ment which is entire­ly excul­pa­to­ry and proves that I was not col­lab­o­rat­ing with Wik­iLeaks, pro­voke an ‘AHA’ moment.”

    In a Sep­tem­ber 2017 appear­ance before the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Stone also vig­or­ous­ly denied he had any fore­knowl­edge of what Wik­iLeaks would pub­lish or of the hack­ing of Podesta’s emails.

    “Such asser­tions are con­jec­ture, sup­po­si­tion, pro­jec­tion, and alle­ga­tions but none of them are facts,” he wrote in a pre­pared open­ing state­ment.

    Stone told the com­mit­tee that his Aug. 21 tweet was meant as a pre­dic­tion that Podesta’s busi­ness activ­i­ties would come under scruti­ny after Paul Man­afort was forced to resign from the Trump cam­paign amid alle­ga­tions about his work for a pro-Russ­ian par­ty in Ukraine.

    Stone acknowl­edged that some may label him a “dirty trick­ster,” but he said he does not engage in ille­gal activ­i­ties.

    “There is one ‘trick’ that is not in my bag,” he told the com­mit­tee, “and that is trea­son.”

    ———-

    “Roger Stone claimed con­tact with Wik­iLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, accord­ing to two asso­ciates” by Tom Ham­burg­er, Josh Dawsey, Car­ol D. Leon­nig and Shane Har­ris; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 03/13/2018

    “In the spring of 2016, long­time polit­i­cal oper­a­tive Roger Stone had a phone con­ver­sa­tion that would lat­er seem prophet­ic, accord­ing to the per­son on the oth­er end of the line.”

    The “spring of 2016”. That’s the crit­i­cal detail here because it encom­pass­es the peri­od of time right after the hacks are pre­sumed to have tak­en place lead­ing up to the peri­od when “Guc­cifer 2.0” went pub­lic in mid-June. So if Stone knew about Podesta’s emails get­ting hacked dur­ing this peri­od that’s pret­ty sig­nif­i­cant.

    And note that this is based sole­ly on the tes­ti­mo­ny of Sam Nun­berg. There’s a sec­ond unnamed Stone asso­ciate back­ing up these claims that Stone claimed to have had con­tact with Assange in 2016:

    ...
    Stone, an infor­mal advis­er to then-can­di­date Don­ald Trump, said he had learned from Wik­iLeaks founder Julian Assange that his orga­ni­za­tion had obtained emails that would tor­ment senior Democ­rats such as John Podes­ta, then cam­paign chair­man for Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hillary Clin­ton.

    The con­ver­sa­tion occurred before it was pub­licly known that hack­ers had obtained the emails of Podes­ta and of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee, doc­u­ments that Wik­iLeaks released in late July and Octo­ber. The U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty lat­er con­clud­ed that the hack­ers were work­ing for Rus­sia.

    The per­son, who spoke to The Wash­ing­ton Post on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because of the ongo­ing fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian cam­paign inter­fer­ence, is one of two Stone asso­ciates who say Stone claimed to have had con­tact with Assange in 2016.

    The sec­ond, for­mer Trump advis­er Sam Nun­berg, said in an inter­view Mon­day that Stone told him that he had met with Assange — a con­ver­sa­tion Nun­berg said inves­ti­ga­tors for spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III recent­ly asked him to describe.
    ...

    “The sec­ond, for­mer Trump advis­er Sam Nun­berg, said in an inter­view Mon­day that Stone told him that he had met with Assange — a con­ver­sa­tion Nun­berg said inves­ti­ga­tors for spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III recent­ly asked him to describe”

    And in response to these claims, Stone asserts that he was just jok­ing with Nun­berg when talked about going to Lon­don to meet with Assange:

    ...
    Stone, a long­time Trump friend, briefly worked for his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in 2015 and then remained in his orbit as an advis­er.

    In an inter­view Mon­day, he again denied that he had any advance notice about the hacked emails or any con­tact with Assange. He said he only recalled hav­ing one con­ver­sa­tion with any­one in which he allud­ed to meet­ing the Wik­iLeaks founder — a com­ment he said he made as a joke to a long-wind­ed Nun­berg.

    “I wish him no ill will, but Sam can man­i­cal­ly and per­sis­tent­ly call you,” Stone said, recall­ing that Nun­berg had called him on a Fri­day to ask about his plans for the week­end. “I said, ‘I think I will go to Lon­don for the week­end and meet with Julian Assange.’ It was a joke, a throw­away line to get him off the phone. The idea that I would meet with Assange unde­tect­ed is ridicu­lous on its face.’?’’

    Stone said that he does not recall any sim­i­lar con­ver­sa­tion with any­one else.

    “The alle­ga­tion that I met with Assange, or asked for a meet­ing or com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Assange, is prov­ably false,” he said, adding that he did not leave the coun­try in 2016.

    Through his attor­ney, Assange — who has been liv­ing in the Ecuado­ran Embassy in Lon­don since 2012 — told The Post in Jan­u­ary that he did not meet Stone in spring 2016. His attor­ney was unable to reach Assange on Mon­day evening for fur­ther com­ment.

    Wik­iLeaks has denied any con­tact with the long­time Trump advis­er.
    ...

    Where­as Nun­berg says he did­n’t inter­pret that as a joke:

    ...
    Nun­berg told The Post that the ques­tions he was asked by Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tors indi­cat­ed to him that the spe­cial coun­sel is exam­in­ing state­ments Stone has made pub­licly about Wik­iLeaks.

    “Of course they have to inves­ti­gate this,” he said. “Roger made state­ments that could be prob­lem­at­ic.”

    He said he did not recall the exact date when Stone told him that he had met with Assange, adding that he did not take the com­ment as a joke at the time. He said he was glad to hear Stone told The Post that the remark was made in jest.

    “No one con­nect­ed to the pres­i­dent should be con­nect­ed with Julian Assange,” he added.
    ...

    And don’t for­get that Stone him­self rou­tine­ly demon­strat­ed fore­knowl­edge of Wik­ileak’s doc­u­ment dumps, and even open­ly said in August 2016 that he com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Assange:

    ...
    Stone pub­licly cheered on Wik­iLeaks dur­ing the race, at one point refer­ring to Assange as “my hero.”

    On Aug. 8, 2016, in an appear­ance at the South­west Broward Repub­li­can Orga­ni­za­tion in Flori­da, Stone answered a ques­tion about what he sus­pect­ed would be the campaign’s Octo­ber sur­prise by say­ing: “I actu­al­ly have com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his doc­u­ments per­tain to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion, but there’s no telling what the Octo­ber sur­prise may be.”

    He lat­er said he had not meant that he had com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Assange direct­ly.

    On Aug. 21, Stone tweet­ed that some­thing grim was loom­ing for Podes­ta.

    “Trust me, it will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the bar­rel. #Crooked­Hillary,” he tweet­ed.

    On Oct. 3, he tweet­ed: “I have total con­fi­dence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will edu­cate the Amer­i­can peo­ple soon #Lock­HerUp.”

    “Pay­load com­ing. #Lock­themup,” Stone tweet­ed on Oct. 5.

    Two days lat­er, Wik­iLeaks pub­lished a cache of Podesta’s hacked emails describ­ing inter­nal con­flicts with­in the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion and excerpts of Clinton’s speech­es to Wall Street exec­u­tives.

    The release came short­ly after The Post revealed the exis­tence of an “Access Hol­ly­wood” tape in which Trump described grab­bing women by the gen­i­tals.
    ...

    So on the on hand, we have two Stone asso­ciates who assert that Stone told them he met Assange and knew about the email hacks at some point in the spring of 2016. And all the pri­or claims of Roger Stone about com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Assange.

    On oth­er hand, we have Roger Stone and Julian Assange deny­ing it all. It’s not exact­ly a trust­wor­thy col­lec­tion of char­ac­ters on either side. But giv­en all the cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence we already have it’s sure hard to believe that Stone and Assange weren’t in con­tact some­how.

    That said, it does seem quite pos­si­ble that Stone nev­er per­son­al­ly met with Assange and lim­it­ed his con­tact to things like Twit­ter or using mid­dle-men like Credi­co. And that brings us to anoth­er Stone-relat­ed detail that just emerged: accord­ing to Mor­gan Pehme, a pro­duc­er for “Get Me Roger Stone”, Stone was try­ing to meet­ing with Assange in the sum­mer of 2016. So we have Sam Nun­berg claim­ing that Stone told him he was going to fly to Lon­don to meet Assange and this con­ver­sa­tion pre­sum­ably took place in the spring of 2016. And now we have a pro­duc­er about a doc­u­men­tary on Stone telling us that Stone did actu­al­ly try to meet­ing with Assange, but not until the sum­mer of 2016:

    Politi­co

    Roger Stone tried to meet with Assange, doc­u­men­tary pro­duc­er says

    By REBECCA MORIN

    03/13/2018 09:47 PM EDT

    Roger Stone was attempt­ing to meet with Wik­ileaks founder Julian Assange in the sum­mer of 2016, a pro­duc­er for “Get Me Roger Stone” said on Tues­day.

    Mor­gan Pehme, a pro­duc­er for the doc­u­men­tary, said on MSNBC that dur­ing an inter­view with Stone for the doc­u­men­tary, the then-infor­mal Trump advis­er “was try­ing to meet with Julian Assange.”

    “We don’t know if it was suc­cess­ful,” Pehme said.

    The Wash­ing­ton Post first report­ed that Stone inter­act­ed with Assange. Stone in the spring of 2016 said he heard from Assange that Wik­ileaks had obtained emails that would dis­tress top Democ­rats, includ­ing Hillary Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podes­ta, accord­ing to the Post.

    ...

    “I do not know if he had knowl­edge,“ Pehme said. “He has said con­sis­tent­ly that he could extract this idea that John Podes­ta could be in trou­ble from pub­lic news reports, that’s what he con­tends.“

    “I do not know for cer­tain if he met with Wik­ileaks in advance of the elec­tion but he was cer­tain­ly attempt­ing to do so,” Pehme con­clud­ed.

    ———-

    “Roger Stone tried to meet with Assange, doc­u­men­tary pro­duc­er says” by REBECCA MORIN; Politi­co; 03/13/2018

    “Roger Stone was attempt­ing to meet with Wik­ileaks founder Julian Assange in the sum­mer of 2016, a pro­duc­er for “Get Me Roger Stone” said on Tues­day.”

    So Stone’s attempts to meet with Assange were appar­ent­ly so open that a doc­u­men­tary pro­duc­er could see it hap­pen­ing. And this was at some point in the sum­mer of 2016. But this pro­duc­er does­n’t know if Stone’s attempts were suc­cess­ful:

    ...
    Mor­gan Pehme, a pro­duc­er for the doc­u­men­tary, said on MSNBC that dur­ing an inter­view with Stone for the doc­u­men­tary, the then-infor­mal Trump advis­er “was try­ing to meet with Julian Assange.”

    “We don’t know if it was suc­cess­ful,” Pehme said.
    ...

    So, putting this all togeth­er, we have two Stone asso­ciates assert­ing Stone appeared to be in con­tact with Assange in the spring of 2016 and knew about the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty hacks. And Sam Nun­berg recounts Stone say­ing he was going to actu­al­ly trav­el to Lon­don and meet Assange. And then we have the pro­duc­er of a doc­u­men­tary on Roger Stone say­ing Stone was active­ly try­ing to meet with Assange, but this was in the sum­mer of 2016.

    Tak­en togeth­er, it does­n’t seem out­landish that Stone did­n’t actu­al­ly meet with Assange, at least not in the spring of 2016. Maybe in the sum­mer or per­haps nev­er. He had Randy Credi­co for actu­al meet­ings, after all. Or pri­vate direct mes­sages on Twit­ter.

    But when you look at all the instances of fore­knowl­edge Stone demon­strat­ed upcom­ing about Wik­ileaks’ email dumps it does seem pret­ty unlike­ly that Stone and Assange weren’t at least in con­tact with each oth­er. And it also seems extreme­ly implau­si­ble that what Stone knew about these mat­ters was­n’t some­how fed to the Trump cam­paign. So while there’s a great deal of ambi­gu­i­ty about what Roger Stone knew and when he knew it, it seems like a safe bet from these two new reports that Stone knew Wik­ileaks had those Demo­c­ra­t­ic emails some time in the spring of 2016 and there­fore so did the Trump cam­paign.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 14, 2018, 3:51 pm
  26. Stone has at least admit­ted to try­ing to con­tact Wiki-Leaks Founder Julian Assange all the way in Lon­don. And inter­est­ing­ly enough, Stone put in a good word to Trump about Far Right British Politi­cian Nigel Farange after meet­ing him in 2016. This arti­cle sug­gests the Pos­si­bil­i­ty that there may be more than causu­al con­tacts with Nigel Farange and Julian Assange and that Farange pro­vid­ed Assange with a Thumb Dri­ve. Could Nigel Farange have been Assanges back-door Chan­nel.

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/roger-stone-says-he-visited-the-ecuadorian-embassy-in-london-where-julian-assange-is-in-hiding

    Roger Stone Says He Vis­it­ed the Ecuado­ri­an Embassy in Lon­don Where Julian Assange Is In Hid­ing
    The for­mer Trump cam­paign advis­er told The Dai­ly Beast that he had dropped by the embassy and left his busi­ness card for the Wik­iLeaks founder.

    Nico Hines
    NICO HINES
    01.31.18 6:29 PM ET
    LONDON—Former Trump pres­i­den­tial cam­paign advis­er Roger Stone paid a vis­it to the Ecuado­ri­an Embassy in Lon­don on Wednes­day where Julian Assange has been holed up for the last five years.

    Stone is in Britain for a short speak­ing tour that will include address­es at the Oxford and Cam­bridge Unions. He told The Dai­ly Beast that he had tak­en time out to drop by the embassy where Assange has been in hid­ing from an inves­ti­ga­tion into alle­ga­tions of sex­u­al mis­con­duct.

    The con­nec­tion between Stone and Assange has become a focal point in the inves­ti­ga­tion of links between Rus­sia and the Trump cam­paign after it emerged that Stone had a com­mu­ni­ca­tions backchan­nel with Wik­iLeaks, an orga­ni­za­tion described by the CIA as a “hos­tile intel­li­gence ser­vice” “abet­ted by Rus­sia.”

    Stone said he had trav­eled to the embassy in Cen­tral Lon­don. He said he had not seen Assange in per­son but left his con­tact details for the con­tro­ver­sial founder of Wik­iLeaks.

    “I didn’t go and see him, I dropped off a card to be a smart ass,” he told The Dai­ly Beast.

    Stone was at an event in West Lon­don organ­ised by the Bow Group, Britain’s old­est con­ser­v­a­tive think tank.

    In the bar after giv­ing a speech in sup­port of Brex­it, he chat­ted with a small group of peo­ple to whom he insist­ed that Assange was no agent of Rus­sia but sim­ply “a jour­nal­ist.”

    Stone said he was glad to have missed Assange ear­li­er in the day because he would have been asked about their con­ver­sa­tion by Rus­sia probe inves­ti­ga­tors in D.C.

    “I dropped in my card, I don’t even think he’s there any­more,” Stone said, spec­u­lat­ing that he might have been secret­ly “extract­ed” in recent weeks.

    In a wood-pan­eled room at the RAF pri­vate mem­bers club, Stone said that he had used a backchan­nel to com­mu­ni­cate with Assange before the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, explain­ing that he’d only asked an old friend who also knew Assange to con­firm some­thing the Wik­iLeaks head had said in a TV inter­view.

    Ten days lat­er, Stone said that his friend—who he didn’t explic­it­ly say had spo­ken to Assange came back to con­firm what Wik­iLeaks had.

    Wik­iLeaks pub­lished stolen emails in the run up to the 2016 vote that may have helped sway the elec­tion toward Trump. U.S. secu­ri­ty ser­vices believe that Russ­ian agents were involved in obtain­ing the leaked Demo­c­ra­t­ic emails.

    While the Ecuado­ri­an Embassy—and near­by Har­rods depart­ment store—were on Stone’s itin­er­ary, he said he had not had any meet­ings with Nigel Farage, one of the lead­ers of the Brex­it cam­paign.

    Stone said he had only met Farage once, at the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Cleve­land in July 2016, where the the for­mer leader of the U.K. Inde­pen­dence Par­ty had said he want­ed to meet Trump. Stone said he arranged it for him—and said he didn’t even know if Farage was aware that it was Stone who’d put in a good word for him.

    Farage is also known to have been a vis­i­tor to the Ecuado­ri­an Embassy. He was spot­ted leav­ing the build­ing in March last year after a meet­ing with Assange. In tes­ti­mo­ny to the House intel­li­gence com­mit­tee, Glenn Simp­son of Fusion GPS said he had been told—but could not confirm—that Farage was a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to the embassy and had even passed data to Assange on a thumb dri­ve.

    Farage, who has pre­vi­ous­ly expressed his admi­ra­tion for Pres­i­dent Putin, was a reg­u­lar on Russia’s state-backed pro­pa­gan­da chan­nel RT but denies that his cam­paign to break up the Euro­pean Union has ever been fund­ed by the Krem­lin.

    Stone, who declined to name his backchan­nel to the House intel­li­gence com­mit­tee, said that Farage had not been his con­duit to Assange.

    Stone did not name his contact—who CNN and oth­ers have report­ed was come­di­an and New York polit­i­cal gad­fly Randy Credi­co, who the House intel­li­gence com­mit­tee sub­poe­naed in November—in his con­ver­sa­tion Wednes­day.

    Posted by Mary Benton | March 15, 2018, 5:15 pm
  27. Here’s an inter­est­ing update regard­ing the alleged role Randy Credi­co, a left-wing activist and New York radio host, played as a mid­dle-man between Roger Stone and Julian Assange.

    First, recall that Stone told the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, ““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...I asked a jour­nal­ist who I knew had inter­viewed Assange to inde­pen­dent­ly con­firm this report, and he sub­se­quent­ly did...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.” Stone lat­er pri­vate­ly told the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee in Novem­ber 2017 that Credi­co was indeed this mid­dle-man and lat­er con­firmed this on Face­book after his claims to the com­mit­tee were report­ed.

    Also recall how Credi­co had indeed host­ed Assange on his radio show in August of 2015 so there does appear to be some sort of rela­tion­ship between Credi­co and Assange.

    Well, it turns out that Credi­co com­plete­ly denies Stone’s asser­tions about Credi­co and Assange in the new Russ­ian Roulette book by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Credi­co told Corn and Isikoff that he was being set up as the fall guy by Stone and that none of it was true. Credi­co also claims that he nev­er even spoke to Assange until he had Stone as a guest on his radio show on Aug. 26, 2016, and that he nev­er knew any­thing about Wik­iLeaks’ plans to pub­licly release the Clin­ton cam­paign emails.

    Credi­co then goes on to sug­gest that Stone nev­er actu­al­ly had any con­tact with Assange and Stone was basi­cal­ly act­ing like “Wal­ter Mit­ty” and puff­ing up his con­tacts with Wik­ileaks in order to get back into Trump’s good graces after get­ting kicked out of Trump’s cam­paign in the fall of 2015. Keep in mind that Stone’s depar­ture from the cam­paign always looked high­ly orches­trat­ed and designed to put dis­tance between Stone and the cam­paign for the pur­pose of free­ing Stone up for dirty tricks and Stone’s sub­se­quent behav­ior was in keep­ing with that. So Credi­co’s sug­ges­tion that there was a real divide between Stone and Trump and that Stone nev­er actu­al­ly con­tact­ed Assange is the kind of nar­ra­tive that effec­tive­ly helps pro­tect both Stone and the Trump cam­paign by fram­ing Stone as a hap­less show­boat.

    So when Credi­co he had nev­er spo­ken with Assange at all until the August 26, 2016, radio show, it’s unclear how we should inter­pret that, espe­cial­ly giv­en Credi­co had Assange on his radio show in August of 2015. So the pri­ma­ry thing that’s clear here is that it’s still unclear what hap­pened between Stone, Credi­co, and Assange:

    Yahoo News

    Come­di­an Randy Credi­co says Trump advis­er Roger Stone threat­ened his dog

    Michael Isikoff
    Chief Inves­tiga­tive Cor­re­spon­dent, Yahoo News
    April 13, 2018

    New York City com­ic and ex-radio host Randy Credi­co says that long­time Don­ald Trump advis­er Roger Stone sent him “scary,” obscen­i­ty-filled emails — includ­ing one threat­en­ing his dog — after he went pub­lic dis­put­ing Stone’s claim that Credi­co was his “backchan­nel” to Wik­iLeaks dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    In a new inter­view on the Yahoo News pod­castSkull­dug­gery,” Credi­co shared with co-hosts Daniel Klaid­man and Michael Isikoff email mes­sages he said he had received from Stone in just the last few days.

    “You are a rat. You are a stoolie. You back­stab your friends — run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds,” one of them read.

    Then Stone added: “I’m going to take that dog away from you,” refer­ring to Credico’s “ther­a­py” dog, a Coton de Tulear named Bian­ca. “Not a f***ing thing you can do about it either because you are a weak broke piece of s***.”.

    “It’s cer­tain­ly scary,” Credi­co told Skull­dug­gery about the Stone emails. “When you start bring­ing up my dog, you’re cross­ing the line.”

    Credi­co said the repeat­ed obscen­i­ties in the emails and their abu­sive tone sug­gest­ed that Stone is lash­ing out because he is grow­ing increas­ing­ly fear­ful about the inves­ti­ga­tion by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller. He cit­ed this week’s FBI raid of the offices of Michael Cohen, Trump’s per­son­al lawyer.

    “I think he’s wig­ging out right now,” Credi­co said. “After Cohen was raid­ed, I’m sure he thinks he’s next.”

    ...

    The dis­pute between Stone and Credi­co — who, despite their polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences, were once close friends — began last month after a new book, “Russ­ian Roulette,” co-authored by Isikoff and David Corn, quot­ed Credi­co as dis­put­ing Stone’s account to a con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee about his con­tacts with Wik­iLeaks. Stone had said at a polit­i­cal ral­ly in Flori­da on Aug. 8, 2016, that he had “com­mu­ni­cat­ed” with Julian Assange about emails the Wik­iLeaks founder would soon release as part of an “Octo­ber Sur­prise” that would reveal “stone cold proof of the crim­i­nal­i­ty of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clin­ton.”

    But when he was called to tes­ti­fy before the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee last Novem­ber, Stone released a state­ment assert­ing that he nev­er actu­al­ly spoke to Assange at all. Instead, he said it was actu­al­ly a “jour­nal­ist” who was his “inter­me­di­ary” with Assange, who “con­firmed” to him that Wik­iLeaks was about to dump a “moth­er­lode” of emails about Clin­ton. “This jour­nal­ist assured me that Wik­iLeaks would release this infor­ma­tion in Octo­ber [2016] and con­tin­ued to assure me of this through­out the bal­ance of August and all of Sep­tem­ber. This infor­ma­tion proved to be cor­rect,” Stone told the com­mit­tee in a state­ment last Novem­ber.

    He lat­er iden­ti­fied the jour­nal­ist as Credi­co.

    But in “Russ­ian Roulette,” Credi­co reject­ed Stone’s account as non­sen­si­cal. Credi­co told the authors he nev­er even spoke to Assange until he had the Trump advis­er as a guest on his radio show on Aug. 26, 2016, and that he nev­er knew any­thing about Wik­iLeaks’ plans to pub­licly release the Clin­ton cam­paign emails.

    “He’s got me as the fall guy,” Credi­co was quot­ed as say­ing. “It’s ridicu­lous.”

    Stone’s claims about his con­tacts with Wik­iLeaks took anoth­er bizarre twist this month when the Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed that Mueller’s pros­e­cu­tors were inves­ti­gat­ing an email that Sam Nun­berg, anoth­er for­mer Trump advis­er, had got­ten from Stone on Aug. 4, 2016, say­ing, “I dined with my new pal Julian Assange last nite.”

    Stone said the email to Nun­berg was a joke, and reit­er­at­ed that he nev­er com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Assange at all in 2016, releas­ing screen­shots show­ing he was on an Delta Air Lines flight from Los Ange­les to Mia­mi on the night before the email was sent. “I nev­er dined with Assange,” Stone told the Jour­nal. The email “doesn’t have any sig­nif­i­cance because I prov­ably didn’t go … there was no such meet­ing. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. This was said in jest.”

    Credi­co said in the pod­cast he believes Stone had been puff­ing up his inter­ac­tions with Wik­iLeaks to ingra­ti­ate him­self with Trump. “He’s Wal­ter Mit­ty,” Stone said. “He’s an ego­man­ic. He was tossed out by Trump. Trump was not loy­al to him. This was his way of get­ting back in.”

    The come­di­an also said he expects to be con­tact­ed soon by Mueller’s staff. “I’m mov­ing around like the Scar­let Pim­per­nel in the city,” Credi­co said. “Try­ing to avoid any kind of con­tact. But I keep hear­ing through the grapevine that some­thing is com­ing.”

    ———-

    “Come­di­an Randy Credi­co says Trump advis­er Roger Stone threat­ened his dog” by Michael Isikoff; Yahoo News; 04/13/2018

    “In a new inter­view on the Yahoo News pod­castSkull­dug­gery,” Credi­co shared with co-hosts Daniel Klaid­man and Michael Isikoff email mes­sages he said he had received from Stone in just the last few days.

    As we can see with Credi­co’s release of Roger Stone’s angry emails, Stone is as hor­ri­ble a per­son in pri­vate as he is in pub­lic:

    ...
    “You are a rat. You are a stoolie. You back­stab your friends — run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds,” one of them read.

    Then Stone added: “I’m going to take that dog away from you,” refer­ring to Credico’s “ther­a­py” dog, a Coton de Tulear named Bian­ca. “Not a f***ing thing you can do about it either because you are a weak broke piece of s***.”.

    “It’s cer­tain­ly scary,” Credi­co told Skull­dug­gery about the Stone emails. “When you start bring­ing up my dog, you’re cross­ing the line.”
    ...

    Of course, this could all be the­atrics between Stone and Credi­co. A planned strat­e­gy to have Credi­co refute Stone’s claims about Credi­co in order to dis­cred­it the larg­er assump­tion that Stone was indeed in con­tact with Assange dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign.

    But that’s Credi­co’s stance now. A stance he adopt­ed in his com­ments to David Corn and Michael Isikoff in their new book “Russ­ian Roulette”. Along with the stance that he nev­er even spoke to Assange until he had Stone as a guest on his radio show on Aug. 26, 2016. Which, again, is a con­fus­ing state­ment for Credi­co to make if, as we saw before, Credi­co host­ed Assange on his show in August of 2015 and then host­ed a series of oth­er fig­ures in a “Free Assange” series of shows. But that’s Credi­co’s stance now:

    ...
    The dis­pute between Stone and Credi­co — who, despite their polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences, were once close friends — began last month after a new book, “Russ­ian Roulette,” co-authored by Isikoff and David Corn, quot­ed Credi­co as dis­put­ing Stone’s account to a con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee about his con­tacts with Wik­iLeaks. Stone had said at a polit­i­cal ral­ly in Flori­da on Aug. 8, 2016, that he had “com­mu­ni­cat­ed” with Julian Assange about emails the Wik­iLeaks founder would soon release as part of an “Octo­ber Sur­prise” that would reveal “stone cold proof of the crim­i­nal­i­ty of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clin­ton.”

    But when he was called to tes­ti­fy before the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee last Novem­ber, Stone released a state­ment assert­ing that he nev­er actu­al­ly spoke to Assange at all. Instead, he said it was actu­al­ly a “jour­nal­ist” who was his “inter­me­di­ary” with Assange, who “con­firmed” to him that Wik­iLeaks was about to dump a “moth­er­lode” of emails about Clin­ton. “This jour­nal­ist assured me that Wik­iLeaks would release this infor­ma­tion in Octo­ber [2016] and con­tin­ued to assure me of this through­out the bal­ance of August and all of Sep­tem­ber. This infor­ma­tion proved to be cor­rect,” Stone told the com­mit­tee in a state­ment last Novem­ber.

    He lat­er iden­ti­fied the jour­nal­ist as Credi­co.

    But in “Russ­ian Roulette,” Credi­co reject­ed Stone’s account as non­sen­si­cal. Credi­co told the authors he nev­er even spoke to Assange until he had the Trump advis­er as a guest on his radio show on Aug. 26, 2016, and that he nev­er knew any­thing about Wik­iLeaks’ plans to pub­licly release the Clin­ton cam­paign emails.

    “He’s got me as the fall guy,” Credi­co was quot­ed as say­ing. “It’s ridicu­lous.”
    ...

    “But in “Russ­ian Roulette,” Credi­co reject­ed Stone’s account as non­sen­si­cal. Credi­co told the authors he nev­er even spoke to Assange until he had the Trump advis­er as a guest on his radio show on Aug. 26, 2016, and that he nev­er knew any­thing about Wik­iLeaks’ plans to pub­licly release the Clin­ton cam­paign emails.”

    And Credi­co com­bines his denials that he ever even spoke with Assange until August of 2016 with the sug­ges­tion that Stone nev­er real­ly had any con­tact with Assange at all and it was all just Stone puff­ing him­self up to get back into Trump’s good graces:

    ...
    Credi­co said in the pod­cast he believes Stone had been puff­ing up his inter­ac­tions with Wik­iLeaks to ingra­ti­ate him­self with Trump. “He’s Wal­ter Mit­ty,” Stone said. “He’s an ego­man­ic. He was tossed out by Trump. Trump was not loy­al to him. This was his way of get­ting back in.
    ...

    And this whole dis­pute with Credi­co is hap­pen­ing a month after close Stone asso­ciate Sam Nun­berg had his bizarre drunk­en spec­ta­cle on the cable news chan­nels for a day. And accord­ing to Nun­berg, Stone emailed him on August 4, 2016, say­ing, “I dined with my new pal Julian Assange last nite.”:

    ...
    Stone’s claims about his con­tacts with Wik­iLeaks took anoth­er bizarre twist this month when the Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed that Mueller’s pros­e­cu­tors were inves­ti­gat­ing an email that Sam Nun­berg, anoth­er for­mer Trump advis­er, had got­ten from Stone on Aug. 4, 2016, say­ing, “I dined with my new pal Julian Assange last nite.”

    Stone said the email to Nun­berg was a joke, and reit­er­at­ed that he nev­er com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Assange at all in 2016, releas­ing screen­shots show­ing he was on an Delta Air Lines flight from Los Ange­les to Mia­mi on the night before the email was sent. “I nev­er dined with Assange,” Stone told the Jour­nal. The email “doesn’t have any sig­nif­i­cance because I prov­ably didn’t go … there was no such meet­ing. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. This was said in jest.”
    ...

    Stone claims it was all a joke with Nun­berg. And per­haps it was. Or per­haps “I dined with my new pal Julian Assange last nite” was a way of say­ing he spoke with Assange over the inter­net. It’s unclear. What is clear is that peo­ple close to Roger Stone make for inter­est­ing wit­ness­es.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 17, 2018, 6:57 pm
  28. Oh look at that, Joseph Mif­sud, the mys­te­ri­ous Mal­tese pro­fes­sor who alleged­ly informed George Papadopou­los that Moscow had ‘thou­sands of Hillary’s emails’, just got a lit­tle more mys­te­ri­ous: In addi­tion to his Russ­ian gov­ern­ment ties, it turns out Mif­sud appears to have ties to the Sau­di gov­ern­ment too.

    This is has emerged as a result on some new report­ing about Mif­sud’s last know trip to Moscow back in Octo­ber. Mif­sud was invit­ed by the Russ­ian Coun­cil of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs (RIAC), a think tank close to the Russ­ian Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, to attend a sem­i­nar about secu­ri­ty chal­lenges in Yemen orga­nized by RIAC and Sau­di Arabia’s King Faisal Cen­ter for Research and Islam­ic Stud­ies. And accord­ing to two sources at the RIAC, Mif­sud attend­ed as a mem­ber of the offi­cial del­e­ga­tion of Sau­di King Salman bin Abdu­laz­iz.

    If true, that’s quite a twist to the mys­tery of Mif­sud. After all, one of the broad­er mys­ter­ies around the #TrumpRus­sia sit­u­a­tion at this point is why on earth was the crown prince of the UAE so deeply involved in set­ting up an alleged ‘back chan­nel’ between the Trump team and Moscow and why was George Nad­er, anoth­er man or mys­tery, appar­ent­ly sit­ting in on those back chan­nel meet­ings.

    Addi­tion­al­ly, we’ve learned how George Nad­er was act­ing as a lob­by­ist on behalf of the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia when he arranged for the deputy finance chair of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee, Elliott Broidy, to lob­by the US gov­ern­ment on behalf of his clients.

    So to learn that Joseph Mif­sud was alleged­ly also work­ing for the Sau­di only adds to the ques­tion of what is going on with this Mid­dle East­ern angle to the Trump cam­paign’s inter­na­tion­al shenani­gans?

    It’s also some­what of a twist to learn that the Saud­is are host­ing sem­i­nars in Moscow about the war in Yemen, which seems rather notable giv­en Rus­si­a’s ties to Iran and Iran’s back­ing of the Houthi rebels in Yemen’s con­flict. But that’s appar­ent­ly what hap­pened and Joseph Mif­sud appar­ent­ly attend­ed this con­fer­ence as a mem­ber of the Sau­di del­e­ga­tion:

    Buz­zFeed

    The Pro­fes­sor At The Cen­ter Of The Trump-Rus­sia Probe Was In Moscow Just Weeks Before Court Doc­u­ments Were Unsealed

    Joseph Mif­sud’s trip to Moscow coin­cid­ed with an offi­cial vis­it by the king of Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Alber­to Nardel­li
    Buz­zFeed News Europe Edi­tor
    Post­ed on May 1, 2018, at 11:18 a.m.

    Joseph Mif­sud, the enig­mat­ic Mal­tese pro­fes­sor at the cen­ter of the Trump-Rus­sia probe, was in Moscow just weeks before spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller unsealed court doc­u­ments alleg­ing that Mif­sud had told a Trump cam­paign advis­er that Rus­sia had “dirt” on Hillary Clin­ton, Buz­zFeed News has learned.

    The trip, which hasn’t been pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, is the last time Mif­sud is known to have been in Rus­sia.

    Three weeks after his Rus­sia trip, Mif­sud was iden­ti­fied as the unnamed “over­seas pro­fes­sor” who alleged­ly told for­eign pol­i­cy advis­er George Papadopou­los in April 2016 that Rus­sia had thou­sands of emails from the Democ­rats. That was weeks before the Democ­rats them­selves were aware that their com­put­er sys­tems had been hacked.

    Mif­sud was last seen in pub­lic Oct. 31, 2017, in Rome. His cur­rent where­abouts are unknown.

    The pre­cise nature of Mif­sud’s place, if any, in Rus­si­a’s med­dling in the 2016 US elec­tion remains unclear and unex­plained.

    Still, the new infor­ma­tion on Mif­sud’s trav­els indi­cates that even after he’d been ques­tioned by the FBI, and as US inves­ti­ga­tors were about to make his role pub­lic, he remained in con­tact with Russ­ian gov­ern­ment cir­cles.

    The Mal­tese pro­fes­sor was for­mal­ly invit­ed to Moscow by the Russ­ian Coun­cil of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs (RIAC), a think tank close to the Russ­ian Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, accord­ing to a visa dat­ed Oct. 4, 2017.

    In Moscow, Mif­sud par­tic­i­pat­ed in a sem­i­nar about secu­ri­ty chal­lenges in Yemen orga­nized by RIAC and Sau­di Arabia’s King Faisal Cen­ter for Research and Islam­ic Stud­ies.

    Two sources at RIAC told Buz­zFeed News that Mif­sud was a mem­ber of the offi­cial del­e­ga­tion of Sau­di King Salman bin Abdu­laz­iz, who was in Rus­sia on an offi­cial vis­it to Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on the same dates.

    The King Faisal Foun­da­tion and the Sau­di Embassy in Lon­don didn’t respond to requests for com­ment.

    Mif­sud had spo­ken at oth­er events, in both Sau­di Ara­bia and Rus­sia, orga­nized by RIAC and the King Faisal Cen­ter, and he has trav­eled to Moscow fre­quent­ly in recent years. A sep­a­rate visa seen by Buz­zFeed News, dat­ed March 24, 2017, to March 1, 2018, was issued upon invi­ta­tion of the Lomonosov Moscow State Uni­ver­si­ty, one of Russia’s most pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties, with which Mif­sud has col­lab­o­rat­ed in var­i­ous capac­i­ties.

    Mif­sud has gone under­ground since being iden­ti­fied as the pro­fes­sor who told Papadopou­los that Rus­sia had thou­sands of emails from the Democ­rats.

    In Feb­ru­ary, Buz­zFeed News revealed that not even his girl­friend in Ukraine, who claims to be the moth­er of his child, has heard from him since the court doc­u­ments were made pub­lic.

    She told Buz­zFeed News that she last met Mif­sud in per­son in Kiev in ear­ly April 2017. He told her then that he had recent­ly been ques­tioned by the FBI in the US.

    And at the end of Octo­ber, he stopped reply­ing to her mes­sages and phone calls after urg­ing her not to talk to jour­nal­ists.

    The fact that Mif­sud was in Moscow in ear­ly Octo­ber 2017 would appear to con­tra­dict some of the What­sApp mes­sages seen by Buz­zFeed News that he sent his Ukrain­ian girl­friend say­ing he couldn’t vis­it her in Kiev because he was ill and unable to trav­el.

    Dur­ing his stay in Moscow, Mif­sud met with at least one oth­er indi­vid­ual ref­er­enced in the Mueller doc­u­ments.

    Accord­ing to the doc­u­ments, Mif­sud intro­duced Papadopou­los to a “Russ­ian nation­al con­nect­ed to the Russ­ian Min­istry of For­eign Affairs” over email in April 2016. Media reports have sug­gest­ed that the unnamed Russ­ian nation­al is Ivan Tim­o­feev, RIAC’s direc­tor of pro­grams.

    Tim­o­feev acknowl­edged over email that Mif­sud was in Moscow last Octo­ber and vol­un­teered the infor­ma­tion about the sem­i­nar, but he declined to say whether they dis­cussed inter­ac­tions with Papadopou­los.

    Mif­sud was last seen Oct. 31, 2017, when he gave an inter­view with Ital­ian news­pa­per La Repub­bli­ca pub­lished the next day. He has since van­ished from the Rome uni­ver­si­ty where he’d worked for years and quit his job with a Scot­tish uni­ver­si­ty. The Lon­don diplo­mat­ic insti­tute where he was a direc­tor has shut down, and Ital­ian pros­e­cu­tors, who are seek­ing him in an unre­lat­ed case where he is accused of inflat­ing salaries at a uni­ver­si­ty con­sor­tium in Agri­gen­to, Sici­ly, which he presided over near­ly a decade ago, haven’t been able to locate him.

    Mif­sud has not respond­ed to repeat­ed requests for com­ment. He acknowl­edged in the inter­view with La Repub­bli­ca that he met Papadopou­los “three or four times,” and facil­i­tat­ed con­nec­tions between “offi­cial and unof­fi­cial sources,” but denied any wrong­do­ing.

    Accord­ing to court fil­ings, Mif­sud told Papadopou­los about the Democ­rats’ emails in April 2016, before the Democ­rats them­selves were aware that their com­put­er sys­tem had been hacked. Mif­sud told Papadopou­los he’d learned of the emails dur­ing a trip to Rus­sia, but who told him is unknown.

    Papadopou­los is report­ed to have lat­er shared the infor­ma­tion with the Aus­tralian high com­mis­sion­er to the Unit­ed King­dom, whose gov­ern­ment passed the infor­ma­tion to US author­i­ties after Wik­iLeaks began pub­lish­ing the emails in July 2016. That infor­ma­tion sparked the FBI to launch the inves­ti­ga­tion that Mueller now leads.

    ...

    ———-

    “The Pro­fes­sor At The Cen­ter Of The Trump-Rus­sia Probe Was In Moscow Just Weeks Before Court Doc­u­ments Were Unsealed” by Alber­to Nardel­li; Buz­zFeed; 05/01/2018

    “The Mal­tese pro­fes­sor was for­mal­ly invit­ed to Moscow by the Russ­ian Coun­cil of Inter­na­tion­al Affairs (RIAC), a think tank close to the Russ­ian Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, accord­ing to a visa dat­ed Oct. 4, 2017.”

    So a few weeks before Joseph Mif­sud’s name becomes splashed across the pages of news reports as an appar­ent Krem­lin con­tact with Papadopou­los, Mif­sud makes his last know trip to Moscow. As part of a Sau­di del­e­ga­tion, accord­ing to two sources at RIAC:

    ...
    In Moscow, Mif­sud par­tic­i­pat­ed in a sem­i­nar about secu­ri­ty chal­lenges in Yemen orga­nized by RIAC and Sau­di Arabia’s King Faisal Cen­ter for Research and Islam­ic Stud­ies.

    Two sources at RIAC told Buz­zFeed News that Mif­sud was a mem­ber of the offi­cial del­e­ga­tion of Sau­di King Salman bin Abdu­laz­iz, who was in Rus­sia on an offi­cial vis­it to Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin on the same dates.

    The King Faisal Foun­da­tion and the Sau­di Embassy in Lon­don didn’t respond to requests for com­ment.
    ...

    And it sounds like this was­n’t a one time thing for Mif­sud. He’s been speak­ing at oth­er events in Sau­di Ara­bia at the King Faisal Cen­ter:

    ...
    Mif­sud had spo­ken at oth­er events, in both Sau­di Ara­bia and Rus­sia, orga­nized by RIAC and the King Faisal Cen­ter, and he has trav­eled to Moscow fre­quent­ly in recent years. A sep­a­rate visa seen by Buz­zFeed News, dat­ed March 24, 2017, to March 1, 2018, was issued upon invi­ta­tion of the Lomonosov Moscow State Uni­ver­si­ty, one of Russia’s most pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties, with which Mif­sud has col­lab­o­rat­ed in var­i­ous capac­i­ties.
    ...

    So one obvi­ous ques­tion raised by this is whether or not Mif­sud’s ties to Moscow are large­ly dri­ven by his ties to Sau­di Ara­bia or vice ver­sa. In oth­er words, who is Mif­sud actu­al­ly work­ing for in this rela­tion­ship? Moscow? Riyadh? A bit of both? That seems like a pret­ty impor­tant ques­tion to answer in this whole #TrumpRus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion giv­en all the oth­er Mid­dle East con­nec­tions.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, get­ting those answers might not be so easy since Mif­sud appears to have dis­ap­peared. Not even his Ukrain­ian girl­friend has heard from him:

    ...
    Mif­sud has gone under­ground since being iden­ti­fied as the pro­fes­sor who told Papadopou­los that Rus­sia had thou­sands of emails from the Democ­rats.

    In Feb­ru­ary, Buz­zFeed News revealed that not even his girl­friend in Ukraine, who claims to be the moth­er of his child, has heard from him since the court doc­u­ments were made pub­lic.

    She told Buz­zFeed News that she last met Mif­sud in per­son in Kiev in ear­ly April 2017. He told her then that he had recent­ly been ques­tioned by the FBI in the US.

    And at the end of Octo­ber, he stopped reply­ing to her mes­sages and phone calls after urg­ing her not to talk to jour­nal­ists.

    The fact that Mif­sud was in Moscow in ear­ly Octo­ber 2017 would appear to con­tra­dict some of the What­sApp mes­sages seen by Buz­zFeed News that he sent his Ukrain­ian girl­friend say­ing he couldn’t vis­it her in Kiev because he was ill and unable to trav­el.
    ...

    So it’s worth not­ing one lit­tle tid­bit about Mif­sud and Sau­di Ara­bia that we’ve learned from his now-scorned girl­friend: Mif­sud claimed to be in Sau­di Ara­bia at the same time of Trump’s vis­it in May of 2017:

    Buz­zFeed

    The Pro­fes­sor At The Cen­ter Of The Trump-Rus­sia Probe Boast­ed To His Girl­friend In Ukraine That He Was Friends With Russ­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov

    A Ukrain­ian woman named Anna says Joseph Mif­sud asked her to mar­ry him in a restau­rant over­look­ing the Krem­lin. Lat­er, he alleged­ly told a Trump cam­paign aide that Rus­sia had “dirt” on Hillary Clin­ton. She hasn’t heard from him since that news broke in Octo­ber.

    Alber­to Nardel­li
    Buz­zFeed News Europe Edi­tor
    Post­ed on Feb­ru­ary 27, 2018, at 10:11 a.m.

    Amid the oppor­tunists, weirdos, trolls, and pawns who make up the cast of the Russ­ian plot to inter­fere in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, Joseph Mif­sud stands out.

    The Mal­tese pro­fes­sor, who alleged­ly deliv­ered word of Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails to Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign, is an authen­ti­cal­ly mys­te­ri­ous fig­ure, his true role and ties to Russ­ian intel­li­gence unclear.

    And while oth­ers like for­mer Trump cam­paign aides George Papadopou­los and Carter Page — and their friends and girl­friends — told their sto­ries, Mif­sud went to ground. His biog­ra­phy dis­ap­peared from one uni­ver­si­ty where he taught and he quit his job at anoth­er uni­ver­si­ty. His email and cell phones went dead. And politi­cians, col­leagues, and jour­nal­ists can’t find him.

    Nei­ther can Anna, his 31-year-old Ukrain­ian fiancé, who says he is the father of her new­born child. And her sto­ry, snatched from the pages of a John le Car­ré nov­el, offers a glimpse at the human col­lat­er­al dam­age of an intel­li­gence oper­a­tion in which the mys­te­ri­ous Mif­sud was alleged­ly a cen­tral fig­ure.

    Anna, whom Buz­zFeed News has agreed to iden­ti­fy only by her first name because she doesn’t want the atten­tion, says she was sev­en months preg­nant and engaged to Mif­sud when he became the focus of world media atten­tion as the pro­fes­sor who told Papadopou­los that Rus­sia had “dirt” on Clin­ton.

    Short­ly there­after, he dropped from sight. He also cut off all con­tact with Anna, includ­ing phone calls and What­sApp mes­sages. That silence has held, even six weeks after the daugh­ter Anna says he fathered was born.

    “He nev­er helped me,” she said. “Only talk and promis­es.”

    Buz­zFeed News first con­tact­ed Anna in Octo­ber. She refused to talk then, say­ing her rela­tion­ship with Mif­sud was pri­vate. Accord­ing to What­sApp mes­sages she lat­er shared, she told the pro­fes­sor about Buz­zFeed News’ attempt to speak to her — and in his very last What­sApp mes­sage to Anna, Mif­sud asked her not to talk to jour­nal­ists.

    Now, how­ev­er, feel­ing deceived, she’s changed her mind. The result is new infor­ma­tion about Mifsud’s activ­i­ties, includ­ing his claim of hav­ing dined with Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s for­eign min­is­ter.

    “He said, ‘I have din­ner with Lavrov tonight. Lavrov is my friend. Lavrov this, Lavrov that,’” Anna said. “He even show me pic­ture with Lavrov.”

    Russia’s For­eign Min­istry didn’t respond to a request for com­ment.

    In a series of What­sApp mes­sages sent in May 2017, Mif­sud also told Anna he was in Sau­di Ara­bia at the same time as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s vis­it, and in Sici­ly, Italy, for the G7 Sum­mit.

    Mif­sud did not respond to repeat­ed requests for com­ment, which Buz­zFeed News made to mul­ti­ple phone num­bers and email accounts, as well as via What­sApp and Sig­nal. Sev­er­al of his fam­i­ly mem­bers, col­leagues, and Face­book friends also did not return requests for com­ment. Mif­sud acknowl­edged in an inter­view with Ital­ian news­pa­per La Repub­bli­ca pub­lished last Novem­ber that he met for­mer Trump cam­paign aide Papadopou­los “three or four times,” and facil­i­tat­ed con­nec­tions between “offi­cial and unof­fi­cial sources,” but denied any wrong­do­ing.

    In addi­tion to meet­ing Anna in Kiev, Buz­zFeed News spoke to her mul­ti­ple times in the past month over Face­book mes­sen­ger, via What­sApp, on the tele­phone, and in a video call.

    She pro­vid­ed access to her entire What­sApp his­to­ry with Mif­sud. She also shared dozens of pho­tos of the cou­ple togeth­er, includ­ing in Ukraine and Rus­sia. Buz­zFeed News has seen many pho­tos of the baby and of Anna dur­ing dif­fer­ent stages of her preg­nan­cy and at the clin­ic where she gave birth. Anna also said that she wants to do a DNA test to prove that Mif­sud is the father of the baby.

    Parts of the con­ver­sa­tion with Anna in the Ukrain­ian cap­i­tal were in her frac­tured Eng­lish, and oth­ers took place through an inter­preter. Some quotes have been edit­ed for clar­i­ty.

    Anna told Buz­zFeed News that she first met Mif­sud about four years ago at the Bol­shoi The­atre in Moscow.

    He approached her while she was tak­ing a self­ie and, using Eng­lish, offered to take her pic­ture. They spoke for a bit, and he invit­ed her to din­ner, she said.

    The two met again in Moscow a few months lat­er — and “then he came to Ukraine,” Anna said, “to cel­e­brate my niece’s birth­day.”

    Over the next three years, Mif­sud vis­it­ed Ukraine about 10 times, Anna said. “He came to cel­e­brate a New Year, birth­days, my sister’s baby. He knew all my fam­i­ly. Some­thing we cel­e­brate, he would come. We had a good rela­tion­ship,” she said.

    In late Octo­ber 2015, Mif­sud pro­posed to her. Anna says they were at a restau­rant over­look­ing the Krem­lin in Moscow cel­e­brat­ing Anna’s sister’s birth­day. The Mal­tese aca­d­e­m­ic asked Anna to mar­ry him at the restau­rant, and gave her a ring.

    “We had a plan to live in Rome. We spoke about this, but only speak,” Anna, who works in mar­ket­ing, said. “He tell me, I want a baby with you, I want a fam­i­ly with you.”

    When the cou­ple split up for a few months in 2016, Mif­sud sent her an email ask­ing her to return the ring and hand­bags, one of which was a Chanel hand­bag that Mif­sud had bought for her dur­ing a vis­it to Rome in spring 2015. In the Ital­ian cap­i­tal, they stayed in a hotel where “peo­ple came to see him all the time,” Anna said.

    Accord­ing to Anna’s What­sApp mes­sages, he often shared news of his activ­i­ties, send­ing Anna links to his inter­views and pho­tos from events he was speak­ing at, and telling her about his work as a pro­fes­sor at the now-closed Lon­don Acad­e­my of Diplo­ma­cy.

    But he also had a secre­tive side. Accord­ing to Anna, he asked her to delete pho­tos from Face­book where she could be seen drink­ing, after she uploaded one hold­ing a cock­tail. “He said, ‘because I am impor­tant man.’” He also demand­ed she unfriend any­one she hadn’t met in per­son.

    Over the course of what Anna describes as an on-and-off rela­tion­ship span­ning three years, the cou­ple saw each oth­er in Rome, Moscow, and Kiev. But unlike in Rome and Moscow, where Mif­sud fre­quent­ly received vis­i­tors, Mif­sud didn’t use his trips to Ukraine to net­work. “He didn’t meet peo­ple in Kiev. ‘Rus­sia-Ukraine rela­tion­ship not good, and I do a lot of work in Moscow,’” Anna recalled Mif­sud say­ing.

    Anna said she and Mif­sud last met in per­son in Kiev in ear­ly April 2017. He told her then that he had recent­ly been ques­tioned by the FBI in the US, she said.

    “He told me he was in his hotel room when he was called down­stairs by recep­tion. It was the FBI. He said they want­ed to talk about con­nec­tions he set up between peo­ple in Britain and Rus­sia.”

    “He said his phone was prob­a­bly being checked,” Anna added.

    In mid-May, about a month after Mif­sud left Kiev, Anna found out she was preg­nant. And six weeks ago she gave birth to a baby girl.

    After find­ing out that she was preg­nant, accord­ing to What­sApp mes­sages seen by Buz­zFeed News, Mif­sud repeat­ed­ly told Anna he real­ly want­ed to see her and promised to vis­it her soon, but he nev­er did, often mak­ing excus­es or cit­ing health rea­sons.

    “For 7 months, ‘I come, I come,’” Anna said. “He nev­er helped me. Only talk and promis­es.”

    Mif­sud at first expressed “shock” at the news of Anna’s preg­nan­cy. He asked if she slept with any­one dur­ing a recent work trip she’d made to Den­mark and Nor­way, and whether she want­ed to keep the baby.

    But in lat­er mes­sages, he put his ini­tial reac­tion down to being sur­prised and told Anna that he was “super excit­ed” and that the “child will have great par­ents.”

    In mes­sages sent in late Sep­tem­ber, Mif­sud wrote, “You will be the most beau­ti­ful mum­my … I can­not stop think­ing of you.” In anoth­er mes­sage, he wrote, “I am so proud of you­u­u­uu I think we need to get a nan­ny to help you.”

    But there were also signs that Mif­sud was not as enthu­si­as­tic as he por­trayed him­self, and the tone of their mes­sages changed in the final months of her preg­nan­cy. The pro­fes­sor stopped answer­ing the phone and would reply only to Anna’s What­sApp mes­sages, say­ing he was ill with heart prob­lems or in the hos­pi­tal, but promis­ing to fly to her as soon as he was giv­en the green light.

    In one mes­sage, Anna accused Mif­sud of back­track­ing on a promise to help her. He replied by say­ing he couldn’t recall any promis­es, and that he con­tin­ued to be ill. And, appar­ent­ly cast­ing doubt on the child’s pater­ni­ty, he wrote that once he was well again, they would do the DNA test that Anna had been ask­ing for.

    In late Octo­ber, he told her in a mes­sage that he was “fight­ing to live.”

    Just days lat­er, on Nov. 1, one day after Papadopoulos’s guilty plea was unsealed in Wash­ing­ton, La Repub­bli­ca pub­lished an inter­view with him at the Rome uni­ver­si­ty where he was work­ing, in which he acknowl­edged being the unnamed pro­fes­sor ref­er­enced in the court doc­u­ments in which inves­ti­ga­tors allege that Mif­sud told Papadopou­los that the Rus­sians had dirt on Clin­ton. The jour­nal­ist who did the inter­view said in an email that it had tak­en place the pre­vi­ous day.

    When Mifsud’s name was thrust upon the world stage, the What­sApp mes­sages stopped.

    Anna says that she was sur­prised by the news of the alle­ga­tions. “I real­ly believed he was sick,” she said.

    “I am angry with myself. I did not see what he real­ly is!” Anna wrote in a Face­book mes­sage last month. “Joseph only promised me...many promis­es.”

    In what was one of Mifsud’s last mes­sages to her, the 57-year-old pro­fes­sor wrote — after she remind­ed him that the baby was due soon and that they hadn’t seen one anoth­er in months — that either she give him time to recov­er or their paths would go dif­fer­ent ways.

    “We still need to speak face to face,” he said, appar­ent­ly ref­er­enc­ing the baby. “We nev­er did.”

    ...

    Exact­ly how Mif­sud and Papadopou­los met also is not pub­licly known, though Papadopou­los is coop­er­at­ing with the Mueller probe. Mif­sud alleged­ly showed lit­tle inter­est in Papadopou­los until he learned that Papadopou­los had been named to Trump’s cam­paign.

    Mifsud’s pro­fes­sion­al ven­tures before the Papadopou­los guilty plea are also in dis­pute. Papadopoulos’s fiancé, Simona Man­giante, whom Mif­sud hired in 2016 to work at the grand-sound­ing Lon­don Cen­tre of Inter­na­tion­al Law Prac­tice, anoth­er UK-based orga­ni­za­tion where the Mal­tese aca­d­e­m­ic held a senior posi­tion, told Buz­zFeed News that she nev­er under­stood what the orga­ni­za­tion did.

    “I nev­er under­stood if it was a facade for some­thing else,” she said when reached by phone in Jan­u­ary. “It wasn’t a seri­ous thing. For starters, I nev­er under­stood what I was doing there, and they nev­er paid me for three months, so I just said ‘OK, enough.’”

    The cen­ter did not respond to a request for com­ment.

    Asked for her thoughts on Mif­sud, Man­giante said, “My impres­sion [is that] he was not a trans­par­ent per­son and I nev­er under­stood what he was real­ly doing.”

    ———-

    “The Pro­fes­sor At The Cen­ter Of The Trump-Rus­sia Probe Boast­ed To His Girl­friend In Ukraine That He Was Friends With Russ­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov” by Alber­to Nardel­li; Buz­zFeed; 02/27/2018

    “In a series of What­sApp mes­sages sent in May 2017, Mif­sud also told Anna he was in Sau­di Ara­bia at the same time as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s vis­it, and in Sici­ly, Italy, for the G7 Sum­mit.

    So that’s pret­ty notable.

    It’s also worth not­ing what his girl­friend, Anna, has to say about how Mif­sud would say about his ties to Rus­sian’s for­eign min­is­ter, Sergey Lavrov:

    ...
    Buz­zFeed News first con­tact­ed Anna in Octo­ber. She refused to talk then, say­ing her rela­tion­ship with Mif­sud was pri­vate. Accord­ing to What­sApp mes­sages she lat­er shared, she told the pro­fes­sor about Buz­zFeed News’ attempt to speak to her — and in his very last What­sApp mes­sage to Anna, Mif­sud asked her not to talk to jour­nal­ists.

    Now, how­ev­er, feel­ing deceived, she’s changed her mind. The result is new infor­ma­tion about Mifsud’s activ­i­ties, includ­ing his claim of hav­ing dined with Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s for­eign min­is­ter.

    “He said, ‘I have din­ner with Lavrov tonight. Lavrov is my friend. Lavrov this, Lavrov that,’” Anna said. “He even show me pic­ture with Lavrov.”

    Russia’s For­eign Min­istry didn’t respond to a request for com­ment.
    ...

    And this gives us a sense of why the Saud­is would like to hire Mif­sud: he real­ly does appear to have high-lev­el Krem­lin con­nec­tions.

    At the same time, he also appears to have high-lev­el Sau­di con­nec­tions, which brings us back to the ques­tion of who is Mif­sud actu­al­ly work­ing for, espe­cial­ly dur­ing that March-April 2016 peri­od when he was meet with George Papadopou­los?

    So, along those lines, it’s worth recall­ing that one of the ini­tial fun facts about Mif­sud that was point­ed out to high­light his ties to the Krem­lin was his appear­ance at the Val­dai Club. And it turns out that Mif­sud has a post from April 2016 at the Val­dai Club’s web­site. And guess what the focus of the post is: the need for Moscow and Riyadh to strength­en their ties:

    Val­dai Club

    What Rus­sia Can Do to Bridge Sau­di-Iran­ian Dif­fer­ences

    Joseph Mif­sud
    20.04.2016

    As more and more dif­fer­ences emerge between Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed States, it is time for Moscow and Riyadh to inten­si­fy their rela­tions.

    The Doha nego­ti­a­tions on freez­ing oil out­put failed because par­tic­i­pants con­cen­trat­ed on prices, neglect­ing diplo­ma­cy, but as new nego­ti­a­tions are being pre­pared, Rus­sia can play a vital role in bridg­ing dif­fer­ences between the key stake­hold­ers, believes Val­dai Club expert Pro­fes­sor Joseph Mif­sud, Direc­tor of the Lon­don Acad­e­my of Diplo­ma­cy.

    The fact that not enough diplo­ma­cy has been put in the prepa­ra­tion for the Doha meet­ing tor­pe­doed the meet­ing itself, he told valdaiclub.com on the side­lines of the pre­sen­ta­tion of the “Glob­al Ener­gy: 2010–2015” research paper in Moscow.

    “I think most of the prepa­ra­tion has been done on fig­ures, on the mar­ket­ing part, not on the rela­tions, first of all, between the peo­ple who were going to be attend­ing the meet­ing, and, sec­ond­ly, the coun­tries and the geostrate­gic posi­tion­ing of these coun­tries. So, there was a dichoto­my between what the coun­tries were think­ing and what the mar­kets were say­ing,” Pro­fes­sor Mif­sud stressed.

    ...

    Accord­ing to Mif­sud, the prob­lems of oil prices should be tack­led at a broad­er forum involv­ing both pro­duc­ers and con­sumers. “The con­fer­ence on ener­gy does not only belong to peo­ple who pro­duce ener­gy, but also to the peo­ple who con­sume ener­gy,” he said. “The forum of pro­duc­ers and con­sumers has nev­er actu­al­ly hap­pened. If I had to put some­thing on the agen­da of the new UN Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al, who­ev­er he or she might be, it would be a glob­al ener­gy forum,” he point­ed out.

    Address­ing the Sau­di-Iran­ian dis­agree­ment over freez­ing oil out­put, which was one of the most impor­tant rea­sons for the fail­ure of the Doha sum­mit, Mif­sud said Rus­sia could play a role in bridg­ing their dif­fer­ences. “I know Rus­sia quite well and I know the diplo­mat­ic strength of this coun­try,” he said. “From the vibes that I’m hear­ing – and I’m hear­ing vibes from the two sides, both Iran and Sau­di Ara­bia – I think it is a good time for Rus­sia to act as a bridge.”

    “It might be a very small suc­cess, but it would be a good sign of open­ing up, he went on to say. “I know that the two sides are keen to lis­ten. The whole sit­u­a­tion in the Unit­ed States is very ‘in the air’ at the moment because of the elec­tions and the nom­i­na­tions, while the EU is embroiled in a huge prob­lem: Brex­it and the whole migra­tion issue,” Mif­sud stressed.

    As more and more dif­fer­ences emerge between Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed States, it is time for Moscow and Riyadh to inten­si­fy their rela­tions, Mif­sud believes. After Rus­sia brought Iran in from the cold, scor­ing a major diplo­mat­ic suc­cess, it should try and take Sau­di Ara­bia on board, he said. “I feel there is a taste for this rela­tion­ship to devel­op between the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion and Sau­di Ara­bia,” the schol­ar con­clud­ed.

    ———-

    “What Rus­sia Can Do to Bridge Sau­di-Iran­ian Dif­fer­ences” by Joseph Mif­sud; Val­dai Club; 04/20/2016

    As more and more dif­fer­ences emerge between Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed States, it is time for Moscow and Riyadh to inten­si­fy their rela­tions, Mif­sud believes. After Rus­sia brought Iran in from the cold, scor­ing a major diplo­mat­ic suc­cess, it should try and take Sau­di Ara­bia on board, he said. “I feel there is a taste for this rela­tion­ship to devel­op between the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion and Sau­di Ara­bia,” the schol­ar con­clud­ed.”

    Yep, back in April of 2016, which over­laps with the peri­od when Mif­sud was in con­tact with Papadou­los, Mif­sud was writ­ing about strength­en­ing ties between Moscow and Riyadh. So, again, we have to ask: who was Mif­sud actu­al­ly work­ing for dur­ing this peri­od? And it does­n’t have to be exclu­sive. Per­haps he was engaged in out­reach to the Trump cam­paign on behalf of the Krem­lin and Riyadh? We don’t know. And we might nev­er know since he has appar­ent­ly dis­ap­peared.

    But it’s pret­ty amaz­ing how, in one per­son, we find ties to Moscow, the Mid­dle East, and Ukraine, the three focal points of the #TrumpRus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion. Mif­sud cer­tain­ly does­n’t dis­ap­point in the mys­tery depart­ment.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 1, 2018, 4:09 pm
  29. So remem­ber that fas­ci­nat­ing 2015 piece by Mark Ames about Peter Pomer­ant­sev, a senior fel­low at the Lega­tum Insti­tute, and how Pomer­ant­sev was co-author­ing white papers with neo­con fig­ures like Michael Weiss and writ­ing about a Russ­ian infor­ma­tion war being waged against the West? And remem­ber Pomer­ant­sev’s close ties to Bill Brow­der, and Pomer­ant­sev even lob­byied the British par­lia­ment in favor the Mag­nit­sky Act sanc­tions? And remem­ber how that arti­cle talked about the founders of the Lega­tum Insti­tute, the bil­lion­aire Chan­dler broth­ers, and how they made their bil­lions from the mass pri­va­ti­za­tion of Russ­ian stat assets in the 90’s before falling out with the Putin regime?

    Well, all of those fun facts about kind of work and peo­ple asso­ci­at­ed with the Lega­tum Insti­tute need to be kept in mind when read­ing the fol­low­ing arti­cles, because it sounds like Lega­tum’s ties to the pro-Brex­it forces in the UK have result­ed in an attempt to por­tray Lega­tum as a tool of the Krem­lin:

    The Guardian

    Founder of pro-Brex­it think­tank has link with Russ­ian intel­li­gence, says MP

    Bob Seely uses par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege to claim bil­lion­aire Christo­pher Chan­dler was ‘object of inter­est’ to French intel­li­gence

    Luke Hard­ing

    Tue 1 May 2018 13.57 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Tue 1 May 2018 20.00 EDT

    A Con­ser­v­a­tive MP has claimed that a bil­lion­aire who found­ed an influ­en­tial pro-Brex­it think­tank has “a link with Russ­ian intel­li­gence”.

    In a speech made in the Com­mons under par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege, Bob Seely alleged that Christo­pher Chan­dler had been an “object of inter­est” to French intel­li­gence. Chan­dler, who found­ed the Lega­tum think­tank, reject­ed the claim as “com­plete non­sense”.

    Seely said that he and four oth­er MPs had seen doc­u­ments from Monaco’s secu­ri­ty depart­ment. These “brief, terse, fac­tu­al files” relat­ed to “nation­al secu­ri­ty and mon­ey laun­der­ing” and includ­ed infor­ma­tion sup­plied by the DST intel­li­gence agency, France’s equiv­a­lent of MI5.

    The MP said senior French intel­li­gence sources plus their British and Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts had “authen­ti­cat­ed” their con­tent. He added: “The doc­u­ments indi­cat­ed a link – a not­ed indi­vid­ual in this coun­try – with Russ­ian intel­li­gence.”

    The files dat­ed from 2005 and cov­ered a peri­od from the mid-1990s, he said. They con­cerned “Christo­pher Chan­dler and his broth­er”, the MP said, adding that he was con­vinced the files were gen­uine.

    He told the Com­mons: “Accord­ing to the French intel­li­gence ser­vices, as record­ed by their col­leagues in Mona­co ... Mr Chan­dler is described as hav­ing been ‘an object of inter­est’ to the DST since 2002 on sus­pi­cion of work­ing for Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices.”

    Mona­co intel­li­gence divi­sion had marked Chandler’s file with an S, to indi­cate “counter-espi­onage”, he added.

    The Lega­tum Insti­tute has advo­cat­ed hard Brex­it and has had sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence on min­is­te­r­i­al think­ing, espe­cial­ly over trade pol­i­cy. Chan­dler and his broth­er Richard were born in New Zealand and made their for­tunes from a series of invest­ments in Rus­sia in the 1990s.

    Lega­tum robust­ly denied the MP’s alle­ga­tions on Tues­day. In a state­ment, the insti­tute said that Chan­dler “has nev­er been asso­ci­at­ed direct­ly or indi­rect­ly with Russ­ian intel­li­gence or the Russ­ian state”.

    It added: “Nei­ther Christo­pher Chan­dler nor any­one at Lega­tum is aware of any such alleged “inves­ti­ga­tion” by the French author­i­ties, not 16 years ago or at any time since.

    “To be clear Christo­pher Chan­dler has nev­er been approached at any time by the French or any oth­er author­i­ties regard­ing Rus­sia and main­tains a ster­ling record of eth­i­cal busi­ness prac­tices earned over many decades.”

    It called the accu­sa­tions “com­plete non­sense” and said Lega­tum had “pre­vi­ous­ly rebutted them”.

    Speak­ing in the Com­mons, the MP Ben Brad­shaw who has pre­vi­ous­ly raised ques­tions about the Kremlin’s pos­si­ble role in Brex­it said he called for an inves­ti­ga­tion into Lega­tum last Novem­ber.

    Brad­shaw said he was con­cerned by Seely’s new “infor­ma­tion” and by the “grow­ing cor­rup­tion, mon­ey laun­der­ing and sale of pass­ports by Mal­ta, where Chan­dler has just acquired cit­i­zen­ship”. The MP called on the UK author­i­ties to “urgent­ly inves­ti­gate”.

    Last year the Mail on Sun­day pub­lished a detailed sto­ry on Chandler’s alleged ties to Moscow. It claimed that Legatum’s eco­nom­ics direc­tor, Shanker Sing­ham, had met Boris John­son and Michael Gove, and had coor­di­nat­ed a let­ter writ­ten by them to There­sa May demand­ing a hard Brex­it.

    Sing­ham held dis­cus­sions with lead­ing cab­i­net Brex­iters on mul­ti­ple occa­sions, and saw rep­re­sen­ta­tives of David Davis’s depart­ment six times in the year up to August 2017, it has been report­ed. Sing­ham recent­ly left to work for a rightwing think­tank. Lega­tum said at the time in a state­ment that Sing­ham had been sought out for his “unpar­al­leled knowl­edge and exper­tise”.

    ...

    The Lega­tum insti­tute respond­ed to the Mail on Sun­day with a lengthy state­ment. Among oth­er things, it said that Chan­dler was “a much-loved friend of the insti­tute” but that he had no role with­in it.

    ———-

    “Founder of pro-Brex­it think­tank has link with Russ­ian intel­li­gence, says MP” by Luke Hard­ing; The Guardian; 05/01/2018

    “In a speech made in the Com­mons under par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege, Bob Seely alleged that Christo­pher Chan­dler had been an “object of inter­est” to French intel­li­gence. Chan­dler, who found­ed the Lega­tum think­tank, reject­ed the claim as “com­plete non­sense”.”

    And here we are: the founders of the neo­con Lega­tum Insti­tute are being described pos­si­ble Krem­lin spies. Or at least assets of Krem­lin spies. Not uber vul­ture cap­i­tal­ists. Krem­lin spies. It’s rather remark­able.

    So what is the basis for these sus­pi­cions? Well, the pri­ma­ry dri­ver is the fact that Lega­tum appears to have played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the pro-Brex­it cam­paign. And for some bizarre rea­son it’s gen­er­al­ly assumed that some group was push­ing for the Brex­it they must be tools of the Krem­lin. And those sus­pi­cions around Lega­tum have result­ed in peo­ple dis­cov­er­ing that the founders of Lega­tum, the bil­lion­aire Chan­dler broth­ers, have a bunch of old ties to Rus­sia which, inevitably, would put them in con­tact with peo­ple asso­ci­at­ed with Russ­ian intel­li­gence:

    ...
    Seely said that he and four oth­er MPs had seen doc­u­ments from Monaco’s secu­ri­ty depart­ment. These “brief, terse, fac­tu­al files” relat­ed to “nation­al secu­ri­ty and mon­ey laun­der­ing” and includ­ed infor­ma­tion sup­plied by the DST intel­li­gence agency, France’s equiv­a­lent of MI5.

    The MP said senior French intel­li­gence sources plus their British and Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts had “authen­ti­cat­ed” their con­tent. He added: “The doc­u­ments indi­cat­ed a link – a not­ed indi­vid­ual in this coun­try – with Russ­ian intel­li­gence.”

    The files dat­ed from 2005 and cov­ered a peri­od from the mid-1990s, he said. They con­cerned “Christo­pher Chan­dler and his broth­er”, the MP said, adding that he was con­vinced the files were gen­uine.

    He told the Com­mons: “Accord­ing to the French intel­li­gence ser­vices, as record­ed by their col­leagues in Mona­co ... Mr Chan­dler is described as hav­ing been ‘an object of inter­est’ to the DST since 2002 on sus­pi­cion of work­ing for Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices.”

    Mona­co intel­li­gence divi­sion had marked Chandler’s file with an S, to indi­cate “counter-espi­onage”, he added.

    The Lega­tum Insti­tute has advo­cat­ed hard Brex­it and has had sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence on min­is­te­r­i­al think­ing, espe­cial­ly over trade pol­i­cy. Chan­dler and his broth­er Richard were born in New Zealand and made their for­tunes from a series of invest­ments in Rus­sia in the 1990s.
    ...

    The Chan­dler broth­ers, of course, deny any such ties to Russ­ian intel­li­gence or the Russ­ian state:

    ...
    Lega­tum robust­ly denied the MP’s alle­ga­tions on Tues­day. In a state­ment, the insti­tute said that Chan­dler “has nev­er been asso­ci­at­ed direct­ly or indi­rect­ly with Russ­ian intel­li­gence or the Russ­ian state”.

    It added: “Nei­ther Christo­pher Chan­dler nor any­one at Lega­tum is aware of any such alleged “inves­ti­ga­tion” by the French author­i­ties, not 16 years ago or at any time since.

    “To be clear Christo­pher Chan­dler has nev­er been approached at any time by the French or any oth­er author­i­ties regard­ing Rus­sia and main­tains a ster­ling record of eth­i­cal busi­ness prac­tices earned over many decades.”

    It called the accu­sa­tions “com­plete non­sense” and said Lega­tum had “pre­vi­ous­ly rebutted them”.
    ...

    And these denials are, of course, sil­ly denials because they clear­ly had ties to the Russ­ian state at one point in the past giv­en their exten­sive hold­ings in Gazprom (which were sold off in 2002–2003).

    But it’s no less sil­ly to ignore the fact that they’re the financiers of a neo­con think tank that por­trays Rus­sia as the great­est threat in the world. After all, Bill Brow­der also had exten­sive ties to Russ­ian gov­ern­ment at on point giv­en his large invest­ments there, so should we con­sid­er Brow­der a Krem­lin dupe at this point? It’s sim­i­lar ahis­tor­i­cal log­ic at work here.

    But was is clear is that Lega­tum did play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the Brex­it cam­paign, with Lega­tum’s eco­nom­ics direc­tor, Shanker Sing­ham, play­ing a lead­ing role:

    ...
    Last year the Mail on Sun­day pub­lished a detailed sto­ry on Chandler’s alleged ties to Moscow. It claimed that Legatum’s eco­nom­ics direc­tor, Shanker Sing­ham, had met Boris John­son and Michael Gove, and had coor­di­nat­ed a let­ter writ­ten by them to There­sa May demand­ing a hard Brex­it.

    Sing­ham held dis­cus­sions with lead­ing cab­i­net Brex­iters on mul­ti­ple occa­sions, and saw rep­re­sen­ta­tives of David Davis’s depart­ment six times in the year up to August 2017, it has been report­ed. Sing­ham recent­ly left to work for a rightwing think­tank. Lega­tum said at the time in a state­ment that Sing­ham had been sought out for his “unpar­al­leled knowl­edge and exper­tise”.
    ...

    So now let’s take a look at that Mail on Sun­day piece from last year that has more on the Chan­dler broth­ers’ Krem­lin ties and the role Lega­tum play in the pro-Brex­it side of ref­er­en­dum.

    The arti­cle does indeed include some oth­er rel­e­vant facts that would appear to raise sus­pi­cions about Lega­tum’s ties to Russ­ian intel­li­gence. Specif­i­cal­ly, there’s the fact that Lega­tum Insti­tute ‘senior fel­low’ Matthew Elliott was chief exec­u­tive of Gove and Johnson’s ‘Vote Leave’ ref­er­en­dum cam­paign. And Elliott was involved with a 2012 con­tro­ver­sy when he was tar­get­ed by a man the Home Office now believes was a Russ­ian spy. And those are indeed inter­est­ing links. It’s just that those inter­est­ing links become far less inter­est­ing in the broad­er con­text of what Lega­tum stands for, like the ‘Rus­sia is wag­ing an infor­ma­tion war against the West’ poli­cies that Lega­tum rou­tine­ly pro­motes. And in these arti­cle search­ing for evi­dence of Krem­lin ties to Lega­tum that broad­er con­text is nev­er men­tioned:

    Dai­ly Mail
    The Mail on Sun­day

    Putin’s link to Boris and Gov­e’s Brex­it ‘coup’ revealed: Tycoon who net­ted mil­lions from Russ­ian gas deal funds think tank that helped write the min­is­ters let­ter demand­ing May take a tougher stance on leav­ing the EU

    * Think-tank financed by tycoon co-ordi­nat­ed covert let­ter to There­sa May
    * Christo­pher Chan­dler fund­ed Lega­tum Insti­tute after mak­ing a for­tune in Rus­sia
    * He helped Vladimir Putin’s asso­ciates take con­trol of the ener­gy giant Gazprom
    * Chan­dler and his broth­er, Richard, became rich in post-Sovi­et ‘wild cap­i­tal­ism’
    * Insti­tute eco­nom­ics head was ‘third man’ in Gove and John­son’s Brex­it demands

    By Simon Wal­ters for The Mail on Sun­day and Glen Owen for The Mail on Sun­day

    Pub­lished: 17:16 EDT, 25 Novem­ber 2017 | Updat­ed: 11:25 EDT, 26 Novem­ber 2017

    A Russ­ian link to Boris John­son and Michael Gove’s suc­cess­ful plot to per­suade There­sa May to take a tougher stance on Brex­it has been uncov­ered by The Mail on Sun­day.

    This news­pa­per has estab­lished that a secret let­ter sent by the Cab­i­net Min­is­ters to the Prime Min­is­ter was co-ordi­nat­ed by a senior fig­ure in a free-mar­ket UK think-tank found­ed by a tycoon who made a for­tune in Rus­sia fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union.

    The financier who estab­lished that think-tank, the Lega­tum Insti­tute, also helped Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s asso­ciates to take con­trol of Russia’s state ener­gy giant Gazprom.

    The institute’s eco­nom­ics direc­tor, Shanker Sing­ham, was the ‘third man’ in draw­ing up John­son and Gove’s Brex­it ulti­ma­tum, which this news­pa­per dis­closed last month.

    The organ­i­sa­tion, which oper­ates from a town­house in London’s afflu­ent May­fair, was set up using some of the for­tune that secre­tive New Zealand-born tycoon Christo­pher Chan­dler made with broth­er Richard from a string of invest­ments, some of which were made dur­ing the ‘wild cap­i­tal­ism’ of the post-Sovi­et econ­o­my.

    Tonight one lead­ing MP called for an inves­ti­ga­tion by Parliament’s intel­li­gence and secu­ri­ty com­mit­tee into the Lega­tum Insti­tute and its influ­ence on the Gov­ern­ment.

    But an Insti­tute spokesman strong­ly defend­ed the charity’s influ­ence in the Brex­it let­ter, and denied that Mr Chan­dler had played any role.

    It comes amid a sep­a­rate polit­i­cal row over claims that the Krem­lin secret­ly inter­fered in both Brex­it and the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump. This news­pa­per has traced thou­sands of pro-Brex­it social media posts to a ‘troll fac­to­ry’ based in St Peters­burg.

    Mr Sing­ham and Mr Gove were both at a behind-closed-doors Com­mons sem­i­nar on Brex­it on Fri­day, which was also attend­ed by No 10 and offi­cials from the US Embassy. All guests were sworn to secre­cy.

    The Mail on Sun­day pho­tographed Mr Sing­ham as he slipped out of the meet­ing on Fri­day after­noon.

    Asked about his links with the Lega­tum Insti­tute, Mr Gove told this news­pa­per he had met one of the Chan­dler broth­ers on one occa­sion. But he declined to com­ment on Friday’s meet­ing with Mr Sing­ham, or Mr Singham’s role in the let­ter, say­ing: ‘The blessed sponge of amne­sia wipes the mem­o­ry slate clean.’

    John­son and Gove’s Lega­tum-backed let­ter, revealed by The Mail on Sun­day a fort­night ago, made three key demands to Mrs May: to force Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond to do more to plan for a ‘hard Brex­it’; to use our with­draw­al from the EU to scrap swathes of rules and reg­u­la­tions; and to appoint a new ‘Brex­it Tsar’ to head up a task force with­in White­hall.

    All three demands seem to have been met. Mr Ham­mond used the Bud­get to announce an extra £3 bil­lion to pre­pare for a ‘no deal’ on Brex­it talks. Mr Gove has report­ed­ly boast­ed that he has won Mrs May’s back­ing to use our EU with­draw­al to break free of all Brus­sels rules.

    And our inves­ti­ga­tion sug­gests that Mr Sing­ham is effec­tive­ly becom­ing that Tsar: over the past year, he has held at least sev­en secret meet­ings with Min­is­ters and offi­cials at DexEU – the Depart­ment for Exit­ing the EU – includ­ing a sum­mer sum­mit at Chevening, the Kent home shared by John­son, Brex­it Sec­re­tary David Davis and Inter­na­tion­al Trade Sec­re­tary Liam Fox. Mr Sing­ham, who has dual UK and US cit­i­zen­ship, has worked on trade deals involv­ing Rus­sia in the past.

    He pre­vi­ous­ly spent 18 years work­ing for US law firm Squire Sanders, which was sub­se­quent­ly dragged into the row over Don­ald Trump’s links to Rus­sia. The com­pa­ny formed an alliance with one of the President’s for­mer lawyers, Michael Cohen, who had been embroiled in con­tro­ver­sy for approach­ing Putin’s spokesman for help on a prop­er­ty deal.

    Asked if Mr Sing­ham had helped write the let­ter to Mrs May, Mr Gove declined to answer four times before claim­ing he had for­got­ten. The Envi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary con­firmed he had met Mr Sing­ham, an Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty con­tem­po­rary.

    He also said he had met Mona­co-based Christo­pher Chan­dler, who fierce­ly guards his pri­va­cy, at an event backed by the Lega­tum Insti­tute and host­ed by for­mer Tory Cab­i­net Min­is­ter Lord Cran­borne.

    The Chan­dlers extend­ed their flour­ish­ing busi­ness empire into Rus­sia in the 1990s, when state busi­ness­es were being pri­va­tised, and lucky entre­pre­neurs were able to make a killing. Through their com­pa­ny, Sov­er­eign Glob­al, they built a sub­stan­tial hold­ing in Gazprom, the gov­ern­ment-con­trolled ener­gy giant.

    Short­ly after Putin became Russ­ian Pres­i­dent for the first time in 2000, the Chan­dlers, angered by the cor­rup­tion they had wit­nessed in Gazprom, were cred­it­ed with help­ing to trig­ger a board­room coup which sub­se­quent­ly led to Alex­ey Miller being installed as head of the com­pa­ny. The Chan­dlers say they helped to bring ‘trans­paren­cy and account­abil­i­ty’ to the com­pa­ny. Miller was a close ally and con­fi­dant of Putin’s from their time work­ing togeth­er in St Peters­burg.

    Putin used the vast prof­its from Gazprom, the world’s largest ener­gy com­pa­ny, to con­sol­i­date his grip on pow­er. In 2005 anoth­er Putin ally, Dmit­ry Medvedev, the cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter, became chair­man of Gazprom.

    The broth­ers split their for­tunes in 2006, with Christo­pher using his share to help form the Lega­tum Group, which oper­ates from Lega­tum Plaza in Dubai. The Lega­tum Group then spawned the Lega­tum Insti­tute, which the group says is a com­plete­ly inde­pen­dent char­i­ty with its own trustees.

    The Lega­tum Insti­tute has played a key role in push­ing Mrs May’s Gov­ern­ment clos­er to a ‘hard Brex­it’ deal.

    It referred ques­tions to the Lega­tum Group, which last night con­firmed that Mr Sing­ham is advis­ing the Gov­ern­ment because of his ‘unpar­al­leled exper­tise in eco­nom­ics and trade as a pub­lic ser­vice.’

    The spokesman said Mr Chan­dler was ‘not aware’ of the Johnson/Gove let­ter. He added that Mr Chan­dler had made his mon­ey in many endeav­ours, not just Rus­sia, was ‘not involved in run­ning the Lega­tum Insti­tute’ and had no ‘role in appoint­ing Mr Sing­ham’.

    Accord­ing to the institute’s accounts, it received more than £4.4 mil­lion in fund­ing last year – of which £3.9 mil­lion came from the Lega­tum Foun­da­tion, the ‘devel­op­ment wing’ of the Lega­tum Group.

    The Johnson/Gove let­ter is not the only thing link­ing the organ­i­sa­tion to the Gov­ern­ment:

    * It paid Brex­it Sec­re­tary David Davis £5,000 to make a speech at its Lon­don office and flew him to Los Ange­les for anoth­er func­tion;

    * Lega­tum Insti­tute trade expert Craw­ford Fal­con­er was appoint­ed Liam Fox’s chief trade nego­tia­tor two months ago;

    * And Lega­tum Insti­tute ‘senior fel­low’ Matthew Elliott was chief exec­u­tive of Gove and Johnson’s ‘Vote Leave’ ref­er­en­dum cam­paign.

    Mr Elliott was pre­vi­ous­ly caught up in a Russ­ian con­tro­ver­sy in 2012, when he was tar­get­ed by a man the Home Office now believes was a Russ­ian spy.

    Russ­ian diplo­mat Sergey Nalobin cul­ti­vat­ed links with Elliott and helped to found Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends of Rus­sia, which was lat­er revealed to have links to Russ­ian intel­li­gence.

    But in August 2015, Nalobin had his per­mis­sion to stay in Britain sud­den­ly revoked after the inquiry into the death of Alexan­der Litvi­nenko by polo­ni­um poi­son­ing in Lon­don con­clud­ed that he was prob­a­bly mur­dered on the per­son­al orders of Putin.

    The Chancellor’s £3 bil­lion Bud­get boost, and claims that Mrs May now sup­ports Mr Gove’s demand to ditch EU stan­dards will fuel claims the Gov­ern­ment is fol­low­ing the Lega­tum Institute’s Brex­it blue­print.

    Fur­ther­more, the charity’s involve­ment in the secret John­son-Gove let­ter and Friday’s behind-closed-doors Com­mons sum­mit will lead to more ques­tions about the alleged cloak-and-dag­ger aspects of the organisation’s influ­ence.

    One senior Gov­ern­ment source claimed the insti­tute had ‘staged a soft coup via John­son and Gove’ and that civ­il ser­vants who have to obey strict anti-cor­rup­tion rules had effec­tive­ly been bypassed.

    ...

    ———-

    “Putin’s link to Boris and Gov­e’s Brex­it ‘coup’ revealed: Tycoon who net­ted mil­lions from Russ­ian gas deal funds think tank that helped write the min­is­ters let­ter demand­ing May take a tougher stance on leav­ing the EU” by Simon Wal­ters and Glen Owen; The Mail on Sun­day; 11/25/2017

    “This news­pa­per has estab­lished that a secret let­ter sent by the Cab­i­net Min­is­ters to the Prime Min­is­ter was co-ordi­nat­ed by a senior fig­ure in a free-mar­ket UK think-tank found­ed by a tycoon who made a for­tune in Rus­sia fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union.”

    Yep, Lega­tum Insti­tute eco­nom­ics direc­tor Shanker Sing­ham did indeed help coor­di­nate a secret let­ter from from Boris John­son and Michael Gove to There­sa May lay­ing out their Brex­it ‘ulti­ma­tum’. And that’s what has led to the focus on the Chan­der broth­ers’ pos­si­ble Russ­ian intel­li­gence ties:

    ...
    The financier who estab­lished that think-tank, the Lega­tum Insti­tute, also helped Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s asso­ciates to take con­trol of Russia’s state ener­gy giant Gazprom.

    The institute’s eco­nom­ics direc­tor, Shanker Sing­ham, was the ‘third man’ in draw­ing up John­son and Gove’s Brex­it ulti­ma­tum, which this news­pa­per dis­closed last month.

    The organ­i­sa­tion, which oper­ates from a town­house in London’s afflu­ent May­fair, was set up using some of the for­tune that secre­tive New Zealand-born tycoon Christo­pher Chan­dler made with broth­er Richard from a string of invest­ments, some of which were made dur­ing the ‘wild cap­i­tal­ism’ of the post-Sovi­et econ­o­my.

    Tonight one lead­ing MP called for an inves­ti­ga­tion by Parliament’s intel­li­gence and secu­ri­ty com­mit­tee into the Lega­tum Insti­tute and its influ­ence on the Gov­ern­ment.

    But an Insti­tute spokesman strong­ly defend­ed the charity’s influ­ence in the Brex­it let­ter, and denied that Mr Chan­dler had played any role.

    It comes amid a sep­a­rate polit­i­cal row over claims that the Krem­lin secret­ly inter­fered in both Brex­it and the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump. This news­pa­per has traced thou­sands of pro-Brex­it social media posts to a ‘troll fac­to­ry’ based in St Peters­burg.

    Mr Sing­ham and Mr Gove were both at a behind-closed-doors Com­mons sem­i­nar on Brex­it on Fri­day, which was also attend­ed by No 10 and offi­cials from the US Embassy. All guests were sworn to secre­cy.

    The Mail on Sun­day pho­tographed Mr Sing­ham as he slipped out of the meet­ing on Fri­day after­noon.

    Asked about his links with the Lega­tum Insti­tute, Mr Gove told this news­pa­per he had met one of the Chan­dler broth­ers on one occa­sion. But he declined to com­ment on Friday’s meet­ing with Mr Sing­ham, or Mr Singham’s role in the let­ter, say­ing: ‘The blessed sponge of amne­sia wipes the mem­o­ry slate clean.’

    John­son and Gove’s Lega­tum-backed let­ter, revealed by The Mail on Sun­day a fort­night ago, made three key demands to Mrs May: to force Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond to do more to plan for a ‘hard Brex­it’; to use our with­draw­al from the EU to scrap swathes of rules and reg­u­la­tions; and to appoint a new ‘Brex­it Tsar’ to head up a task force with­in White­hall.

    All three demands seem to have been met. Mr Ham­mond used the Bud­get to announce an extra £3 bil­lion to pre­pare for a ‘no deal’ on Brex­it talks. Mr Gove has report­ed­ly boast­ed that he has won Mrs May’s back­ing to use our EU with­draw­al to break free of all Brus­sels rules.

    And our inves­ti­ga­tion sug­gests that Mr Sing­ham is effec­tive­ly becom­ing that Tsar: over the past year, he has held at least sev­en secret meet­ings with Min­is­ters and offi­cials at DexEU – the Depart­ment for Exit­ing the EU – includ­ing a sum­mer sum­mit at Chevening, the Kent home shared by John­son, Brex­it Sec­re­tary David Davis and Inter­na­tion­al Trade Sec­re­tary Liam Fox. Mr Sing­ham, who has dual UK and US cit­i­zen­ship, has worked on trade deals involv­ing Rus­sia in the past.

    He pre­vi­ous­ly spent 18 years work­ing for US law firm Squire Sanders, which was sub­se­quent­ly dragged into the row over Don­ald Trump’s links to Rus­sia. The com­pa­ny formed an alliance with one of the President’s for­mer lawyers, Michael Cohen, who had been embroiled in con­tro­ver­sy for approach­ing Putin’s spokesman for help on a prop­er­ty deal.

    Asked if Mr Sing­ham had helped write the let­ter to Mrs May, Mr Gove declined to answer four times before claim­ing he had for­got­ten. The Envi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary con­firmed he had met Mr Sing­ham, an Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty con­tem­po­rary.
    ...

    Next the arti­cle men­tions how the Chan­dlers built a busi­ness empire in Rus­sia in the 1990 by tak­ing advan­tage of the state pri­va­ti­za­tions, lead­ing to a sub­stan­tial hold­ing in Gazprom (although it does­n’t men­tion those hold­ings being sold off in 2002–2003)

    ...
    He also said he had met Mona­co-based Christo­pher Chan­dler, who fierce­ly guards his pri­va­cy, at an event backed by the Lega­tum Insti­tute and host­ed by for­mer Tory Cab­i­net Min­is­ter Lord Cran­borne.

    The Chan­dlers extend­ed their flour­ish­ing busi­ness empire into Rus­sia in the 1990s, when state busi­ness­es were being pri­va­tised, and lucky entre­pre­neurs were able to make a killing. Through their com­pa­ny, Sov­er­eign Glob­al, they built a sub­stan­tial hold­ing in Gazprom, the gov­ern­ment-con­trolled ener­gy giant.

    Short­ly after Putin became Russ­ian Pres­i­dent for the first time in 2000, the Chan­dlers, angered by the cor­rup­tion they had wit­nessed in Gazprom, were cred­it­ed with help­ing to trig­ger a board­room coup which sub­se­quent­ly led to Alex­ey Miller being installed as head of the com­pa­ny. The Chan­dlers say they helped to bring ‘trans­paren­cy and account­abil­i­ty’ to the com­pa­ny. Miller was a close ally and con­fi­dant of Putin’s from their time work­ing togeth­er in St Peters­burg.

    Putin used the vast prof­its from Gazprom, the world’s largest ener­gy com­pa­ny, to con­sol­i­date his grip on pow­er. In 2005 anoth­er Putin ally, Dmit­ry Medvedev, the cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter, became chair­man of Gazprom.
    ...

    Then the arti­cle men­tions how Christo­pher Chan­dler went on to start the Lega­tum Insti­tute which con­tin­ues to get the vast major­i­ty of its annu­al fund­ing from the Lega­tum Foun­da­tion (i.e. from the Chan­dlers). And no men­tion of the staunch neo­con ori­en­ta­tion of Lega­tum or its fix­a­tion on fight­ing Russ­ian infor­ma­tion war­fare:

    ...
    The broth­ers split their for­tunes in 2006, with Christo­pher using his share to help form the Lega­tum Group, which oper­ates from Lega­tum Plaza in Dubai. The Lega­tum Group then spawned the Lega­tum Insti­tute, which the group says is a com­plete­ly inde­pen­dent char­i­ty with its own trustees.

    The Lega­tum Insti­tute has played a key role in push­ing Mrs May’s Gov­ern­ment clos­er to a ‘hard Brex­it’ deal.

    It referred ques­tions to the Lega­tum Group, which last night con­firmed that Mr Sing­ham is advis­ing the Gov­ern­ment because of his ‘unpar­al­leled exper­tise in eco­nom­ics and trade as a pub­lic ser­vice.’

    The spokesman said Mr Chan­dler was ‘not aware’ of the Johnson/Gove let­ter. He added that Mr Chan­dler had made his mon­ey in many endeav­ours, not just Rus­sia, was ‘not involved in run­ning the Lega­tum Insti­tute’ and had no ‘role in appoint­ing Mr Sing­ham’.

    Accord­ing to the institute’s accounts, it received more than £4.4 mil­lion in fund­ing last year – of which £3.9 mil­lion came from the Lega­tum Foun­da­tion, the ‘devel­op­ment wing’ of the Lega­tum Group.
    ...

    But there is one some­what notable tie between Lega­tum and the pro-Brex­it forces: Lega­tum Insti­tute ‘senior fel­low’ Matthew Elliott was chief exec­u­tive of Gove and Johnson’s ‘Vote Leave’ ref­er­en­dum cam­paign and Elliott was also caught up in a 2012 con­tro­ver­sy when it was dis­cov­ered that the “Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends of Rus­sia” group had ties to Russ­ian intel­li­gence:

    ...
    The Johnson/Gove let­ter is not the only thing link­ing the organ­i­sa­tion to the Gov­ern­ment:

    * It paid Brex­it Sec­re­tary David Davis £5,000 to make a speech at its Lon­don office and flew him to Los Ange­les for anoth­er func­tion;

    * Lega­tum Insti­tute trade expert Craw­ford Fal­con­er was appoint­ed Liam Fox’s chief trade nego­tia­tor two months ago;

    * And Lega­tum Insti­tute ‘senior fel­low’ Matthew Elliott was chief exec­u­tive of Gove and Johnson’s ‘Vote Leave’ ref­er­en­dum cam­paign.

    Mr Elliott was pre­vi­ous­ly caught up in a Russ­ian con­tro­ver­sy in 2012, when he was tar­get­ed by a man the Home Office now believes was a Russ­ian spy.

    Russ­ian diplo­mat Sergey Nalobin cul­ti­vat­ed links with Elliott and helped to found Con­ser­v­a­tive Friends of Rus­sia, which was lat­er revealed to have links to Russ­ian intel­li­gence.

    But in August 2015, Nalobin had his per­mis­sion to stay in Britain sud­den­ly revoked after the inquiry into the death of Alexan­der Litvi­nenko by polo­ni­um poi­son­ing in Lon­don con­clud­ed that he was prob­a­bly mur­dered on the per­son­al orders of Putin.
    ...

    So that’s at least kind of an inter­est­ing link between Lega­tum, the pro-Brex­it forces, and the Krem­lin. It’s cer­taint­ly not con­clu­sive or a bomb­shell. But it’s inter­est­ing. At least, it would be an inter­est­ing link if you com­plete­ly ignore Lega­tum’s exten­sive track record pro­mot­ing the ‘Russ­ian infor­ma­tion war­fare is going to destroy us’ meme.

    It’s all a reminder that Lega­tum is at least half cor­rect: we should indeed all be quite wor­ried about the impact of infor­ma­tion war­fare on soci­ety. Just not exclu­sive­ly Russ­ian infor­ma­tion war­fare.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 2, 2018, 3:33 pm
  30. Here’s a sto­ry that’s almost like Chap­ter 2 of the recent rev­e­la­tion about a August 3, 2016 Trump Tow­er meet­ing. That’s the new dis­cov­ered meet­ing where Erik Prince and George Nad­er informed Don­ald Trump, Jr. and Stephen Miller about how “eager” the crown princes of Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE were to help Don­ald Trump win the elec­tion and pitched the use of an Israeli pri­vate intel­li­gence firm with a plan for social media manip­u­la­tion. And as part of that recent rev­e­la­tion we also learned about a lob­by­ing effort George Nad­er was engaged in short­ly after Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion to push an eco­nom­ic desta­bi­liza­tion cam­paign against Iran along with a large Arab pri­vate con­trac­tor force to fight in Yemen.. In oth­er words, the Saud­is and UAE want­ed Trump to win so they could see an array of major US for­eign pol­i­cy changes, in par­tic­u­lar regard­ing Iran, the Syr­ia, and Qatar.

    The fol­low­ing arti­cle basi­cal­ly flesh­es out the sec­ond half of that sto­ry: the post-vic­to­ry secret Saudi/UAE lob­by­ing effort of the US gov­ern­ment and Trump admin­is­tra­tion to see those desired pol­i­cy changes through. It’s a chap­ter of this sto­ry we’ve read about before. Specif­i­cal­ly, the reports back in March of the lob­by­ing efforts by RNC financier Elliot Broidy and George Nad­er start­ing in ear­ly 2017 on behalf of the Saud­is and UAE.

    The fol­low­ing arti­cle has a lot more on that whole effort, includ­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s response to the lob­by­ing effort. And it sounds like Trump was high­ly recep­tive to the var­i­ous pro­pos­als of Broidy and Nad­er. Sur­prise! So if there was indeed a quid pro quo arrange­ment between the Trump team and the Saudis/UAE dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign, it looks like the ‘quo’ was get­ting worked out by Broidy and Nader’s lob­by­ing effort.

    One of the key areas of lob­by­ing Broidy and Nad­er were pitch­ing to the US involved Qatar. In par­tic­u­lar, they want­ed to see the US move its mas­sive air­base out of Qatar to either Sau­di Ara­bia or the UAE. They also want­ed to see for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son replaced over his stances that were seen as over­ly friend­ly to Qatar.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, Nad­er and Broidy’s lob­by­ing efforts have the appear­ance of lob­by­ing both sides. The US and the Saudi/UAE side. For instance, one of the plans Broidy and Nad­er were pitch­ing to the Saud­is and UAE was for the cre­ation of an all-Mus­lim fight­ing force of 5,000 troops. A sec­ond was a pro­pos­al to help the UAE gath­er intel­li­gence. Oth­er pro­pos­als includ­ed strength­en­ing Sau­di mar­itime and bor­der secu­ri­ty and set­ting up counter-ter­ror­ism cen­ters in Sau­di Ara­bia. All pro­pos­als that sound like they could have come from the UAE and Sau­di gov­ern­ments.

    So was it real­ly the case that Broidy and Nad­er were con­ceiv­ing of all of these plans on their own and pitch­ing them to both the US and Saudi/UAE sides? Well, recall from the pre­vi­ous sto­ry about the the Trump Tow­er meet­ing about how it was unclear if George Nader’s pro­pos­als were his own or he was secret­ly mak­ing these pro­pos­als on behalf of one of his clients. And in the fol­low­ing arti­cle we get an idea of why Broidy and Nad­er may have want­ed to cast their lob­by­ing effort as one where they lob­by both sides, as opposed to one where they’re hired by the Saudis/UAE to lob­by the US: as long as they can main­tain the pre­tense that all of these pro­pos­als were their own ideas, they don’t have to reg­is­ter as for­eign lob­by­ists in the US.

    And, sure enough, Broidy and Nad­er did indeed neglect to reg­is­ter as for­eign lob­by­ists while lob­by­ing the US gov­ern­ment and instead main­tain the pre­tense that all of these pro­pos­als were all their own ideas. Which makes sense from a lob­by­ing stand­point. These kinds of pro­pos­als are going to be a lot less per­sua­sive if they’re com­ing from reg­is­tered for­eign lob­by­ists. So we’re prob­a­bly look­ing at a sce­nario where Broidy and Nad­er qui­et­ly got ideas from their Saudi/UAE clients about pol­i­cy changes and new project they want­ed to hap­pen and then for­mal­ly lob­bied those same clients for the pur­pose of main­tain­ing the pre­tense that they weren’t act­ing on their behalf.

    Anoth­er inter­est­ing aspect of the part of this sto­ry con­tained in the fol­low­ing arti­cle is that much of the behind the scenes infor­ma­tion about this lob­by­ing effort is from hacked emails pro­vid­ed to the Asso­ci­at­ed Press. And there is strong sus­pi­cion that the hack­ing was done by Qatar for the pur­pose of expos­ing this anti-Qatar lob­by­ing effort. So it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble that we’re look­ing at a sec­ond exam­ple of a state-backed hack intend­ed to influ­ence US pol­i­cy. It’s a far more under­stand­able hack than the 2016 hacks of the Democ­rats but it’s still a stand-backed hack intend­ed to influ­ence US pub­lic pol­i­cy. It’s a sign of the times and a reminder that there’s prob­a­bly no short­age of coun­tries with sophis­ti­cat­ed hack­ing capa­bil­i­ties and a will­ing­ness to use them to affect the poli­cies of oth­er coun­tries.

    Note that there’s no actu­al men­tion of the new­ly dis­cov­ered Trump Tow­er meet­ing in the fol­low­ing arti­cle, pre­sum­ably because it arti­cle was pub­lished just a day after the big Trump Tow­er meet­ing sto­ry. But they’re real­ly cov­er­ing the same big sto­ry. A the same big sto­ry about about a mas­sive quid pro quo:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    The princes, the pres­i­dent and the for­tune seek­ers

    By DESMOND BUTLER and TOM LoBIAN­CO
    05/21/2018

    WASHINGTON (AP) — After a year spent care­ful­ly cul­ti­vat­ing two princes from the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la, Elliott Broidy, a top fundrais­er for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, thought he was final­ly close to nail­ing more than $1 bil­lion in busi­ness.

    He had ingra­ti­at­ed him­self with crown princes from Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, who were seek­ing to alter U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy and pun­ish Qatar, an archri­val in the Gulf that he dubbed “the snake.”

    To do that, the Cal­i­for­nia busi­ness­man had helped spear­head a secret cam­paign to influ­ence the White House and Con­gress, flood­ing Wash­ing­ton with polit­i­cal dona­tions.

    Broidy and his busi­ness part­ner, Lebanese-Amer­i­can George Nad­er, pitched them­selves to the crown princes as a backchan­nel to the White House, pass­ing the princes’ praise — and mes­sag­ing — straight to the president’s ears.

    Now, in Decem­ber 2017, Broidy was ready to be reward­ed for all his hard work.

    It was time to cash in.

    In return for push­ing anti-Qatar poli­cies at the high­est lev­els of America’s gov­ern­ment, Broidy and Nad­er expect­ed huge con­sult­ing con­tracts from Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE, accord­ing to an Asso­ci­at­ed Press inves­ti­ga­tion based on inter­views with more than two dozen peo­ple and hun­dreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men. The emails reviewed by the AP includ­ed work sum­maries and con­tract­ing doc­u­ments and pro­pos­als.

    The AP has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that Broidy and Nad­er sought to get an anti-Qatar bill through Con­gress while obscur­ing the source of the mon­ey behind their influ­ence cam­paign. A new cache of emails obtained by the AP reveals an ambi­tious, secre­tive lob­by­ing effort to iso­late Qatar and under­mine the Pentagon’s long­stand­ing rela­tion­ship with the Gulf coun­try.

    A lawyer for Broidy, Chris Clark, con­tend­ed the AP’s report­ing “is based on fraud­u­lent and fab­ri­cat­ed doc­u­ments obtained from enti­ties with a known agen­da to harm Mr. Broidy.”

    “To be clear, Mr. Nad­er is a U.S. cit­i­zen, and there is no evi­dence sug­gest­ing that he direct­ed Mr. Broidy’s actions, let alone that he did so on behalf of a for­eign enti­ty,” Clark said.

    The AP con­duct­ed an exhaus­tive review of the emails and doc­u­ments, check­ing their con­tent with dozens of sources, and deter­mined that they tracked close­ly with real events, includ­ing efforts to cul­ti­vate the princes and lob­by Con­gress and the White House.

    The cache also reveals a pre­vi­ous­ly unre­port­ed meet­ing with the pres­i­dent and pro­vides the most detailed account yet of the work of two Wash­ing­ton insid­ers who have been entan­gled in the tur­moil sur­round­ing the two crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions clos­est to Trump.

    ...

    Broidy’s cam­paign to alter U.S. pol­i­cy in the Mid­dle East and reap a for­tune for him­self shows that one of the president’s top mon­ey men found the swamp as nav­i­ga­ble as ever with Trump in office.

    Nader’s lawyer, Kathryn Ruemm­ler, declined com­ment. A senior Sau­di offi­cial con­firmed that the gov­ern­ment had dis­cus­sions with Nad­er but said it had signed no con­tracts with either Nad­er or Broidy.

    Nei­ther Broidy nor Nad­er reg­is­tered with the U.S. gov­ern­ment under the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act, a law intend­ed to make lob­by­ists work­ing for for­eign gov­ern­ments dis­close their ties and cer­tain polit­i­cal activ­i­ties. The law requires peo­ple to reg­is­ter even if they are not paid but mere­ly direct­ed by for­eign inter­ests with polit­i­cal tasks in mind.

    Vio­lat­ing the fed­er­al law car­ries a max­i­mum $10,000 fine or up to five years in prison.

    Broidy has main­tained he was not required to reg­is­ter because his anti-Qatar cam­paign was not direct­ed by a for­eign client and came entire­ly at his own ini­tia­tive. But doc­u­ments show the lob­by­ing was inter­twined with the pur­suit of con­tracts from the very start, and involved spe­cif­ic polit­i­cal tasks car­ried out for the crown princes — whose coun­tries are are list­ed as the “clients ” for the lob­by­ing cam­paign in a spread­sheet from Broidy’s com­pa­ny, Circi­nus LLC.

    “I have rep­re­sent­ed Mr. Broidy for many years. He has com­plied with all rel­e­vant laws, includ­ing FARA,” Clark, Broidy’s attor­ney, said in a state­ment to the AP.

    Sum­maries writ­ten by Broidy of two meet­ings he had with Trump — one of which has not been dis­closed before — report that he was pass­ing mes­sages to the pres­i­dent from the two princes and that he told Trump he was seek­ing busi­ness with them.

    By Decem­ber of last year, the part­ners were rid­ing a wave of suc­cess in their cam­paign to cre­ate an anti-Qatar drum­beat in Wash­ing­ton.

    Sau­di Ara­bia was find­ing a new ascen­dan­cy fol­low­ing Trump’s elec­tion. Broidy sought to claim cred­it for it, emails show, and was keen to col­lect the first install­ment of $36 mil­lion for an intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing con­tract with the UAE.

    It all might have pro­ceed­ed smooth­ly save for one fac­tor: the appoint­ment of Robert Mueller as spe­cial coun­sel to look into alle­ga­tions of Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

    ‘BELTWAY BANDITS’

    In many ways, the part­ner­ship between Broidy, 60, and Nad­er, 59, embod­ies the insid­er influ­ence that has giv­en con­trac­tors in D.C. the nick­name “belt­way ban­dits.”

    Both of their careers were marked by high-rolling suc­cess and spec­tac­u­lar falls from grace — and crim­i­nal con­vic­tions. The onset of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion pre­sent­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty: a return to glo­ry.

    Broidy, who made a for­tune in invest­ments, was finance chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee from 2006 to 2008. But when a New York state pen­sion fund decid­ed to invest $250 mil­lion with him, inves­ti­ga­tors found that he had plied state offi­cials with near­ly $1 mil­lion in ille­gal gifts while col­lect­ing $18 mil­lion in man­age­ment fees.

    In 2009, Broidy plead­ed guilty to a felony charge of reward­ing offi­cial mis­con­duct.

    “In seek­ing invest­ments from the New York State Com­mon Retire­ment Fund, I made pay­ments for the ben­e­fit of high-rank­ing offi­cials at the Office of the New York State Comp­trol­ler, who had influ­ence and deci­sion-mak­ing author­i­ty over invest­ment deci­sions,” Broidy said in his plea and coop­er­a­tion agree­ment.

    Andrew Cuo­mo, then-New York attor­ney gen­er­al, called it “an old-fash­ioned pay­off.”

    “This is effec­tive­ly bribery of state offi­cials, and not just one,” said Cuo­mo, who is now New York’s gov­er­nor.

    Three years lat­er, Broidy’s con­vic­tion was knocked down to a mis­de­meanor after he agreed to coop­er­ate with pros­e­cu­tors and pay back the $18 mil­lion to the state.

    Nader’s prob­lem was pedophil­ia.

    As a young Lebanese immi­grant to the U.S. in the 1980s, he quick­ly estab­lished him­self as a force­ful inde­pen­dent oper­a­tor, found­ing a pol­i­cy mag­a­zine called Mid­dle East Insight. By the ’90s, he had risen as a behind-the-scenes play­er, set­ting up din­ners for Israeli and Arab dig­ni­taries with Wash­ing­ton pow­er bro­kers and U.S. law­mak­ers.

    But in May 2003, Nad­er was con­vict­ed in the Czech Repub­lic of 10 counts of sex­u­al­ly abus­ing minors and sen­tenced to a one-year prison term, the AP revealed in March.

    He served his time in Prague, accord­ing to Czech author­i­ties, then was expelled from the coun­try.

    That sor­did past was no obsta­cle as Nad­er cul­ti­vat­ed a for­mi­da­ble list of high-pow­ered con­tacts.

    After the 2003 Iraq war end­ed, he re-emerged there, as con­trac­tors were mak­ing a for­tune help­ing the U.S. coali­tion and the post-Sad­dam Hus­sein gov­ern­ment rebuild the coun­try and arm its mil­i­tary.

    Nad­er worked with a pri­vate mil­i­tary con­trac­tor from the U.S., Erik Prince, whose for­mer com­pa­ny, Black­wa­ter, became infa­mous after a shootout in Bagh­dad in 2007 left 14 civil­ians dead.

    Nad­er has been liv­ing in the UAE, work­ing as an advis­er to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi crown prince known as MBZ.

    ...

    ‘A TERRIFIC, MAGNIFICENT MEETING’

    Just weeks after those meet­ings, Broidy and Nad­er met for the first time, dur­ing Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion.

    The two men were soon work­ing out their bud­ding part­ner­ship. Nad­er sent Broidy his pri­vate email address on the encrypt­ed Pro­ton­Mail ser­vice.

    From the start, the men had a two-track mis­sion: to car­ry out a cam­paign against Qatar that would cur­ry favor with the princes, and to then turn that suc­cess into mil­lions of dol­lars in defense deals, doc­u­ments show.

    The two men bare­ly knew each oth­er. But Broidy had the ear of the pres­i­dent. Nad­er claimed he had the crown princes’.

    On Feb. 7, 2017, Broidy wrote to a staffer for the chair­man of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee about a bill aimed at sanc­tion­ing Qatar for alleged sup­port of ter­ror­ist groups— part of what Nad­er called “ham­mer­ing Qatar,” emails show.

    The next day, Broidy for­ward­ed Nad­er ques­tions about a poten­tial con­tract with Sau­di Ara­bia to train Arab troops to fight in the esca­lat­ing war in Yemen.

    The three-year civ­il war there has left thou­sands of civil­ians dead, mil­lions dis­placed from their homes, and put the entire coun­try on the cusp of famine in what is now the largest human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis in the world. The war has drawn in myr­i­ad com­bat­ants, includ­ing a coali­tion led by Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE, and backed by the U.S.

    Broidy and Nad­er pro­posed mul­ti­ple plans to the princes for more than $1 bil­lion of work. One pitch was to help cre­ate an all-Mus­lim fight­ing force of 5,000 troops. A sec­ond was aimed at help­ing the UAE gath­er intel­li­gence. A third would strength­en Sau­di mar­itime and bor­der secu­ri­ty. Still anoth­er was relat­ed to set­ting up coun­tert­er­ror­ism cen­ters in Sau­di Ara­bia.

    In a note to Broidy, Nad­er said the princes were very hap­py with the pro­posed con­tracts, par­tic­u­lar­ly the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

    But first, emails show, they had to focus on the lob­by­ing cam­paign. They pro­posed a bud­get upward of $12 mil­lion to “expose and penal­ize” Qatar and get the U.S. to pres­sure it to “aid in coer­cive action against Iran,” accord­ing to a March 2017 doc­u­ment.

    The gist of their plan was to show evi­dence that Qatar was too close to Iran and sup­port­ed Islamist groups, includ­ing the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Iran is Saudi’s main region­al rival and on the oth­er side of the war in Yemen.

    Ide­al­ly, Broidy and Nad­er would work to per­suade the U.S. gov­ern­ment to sanc­tion Qatar and move a key mil­i­tary base from Qatar to anoth­er loca­tion in the Gulf. Broidy said he had a direct line to Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin.

    “Mnuchin is a close friend of mine (my wife and I are attend­ing Sec. Mnuchin’s wed­ding in Wash­ing­ton D.C. on June 24th),” Broidy wrote to Nad­er. “I can help in edu­cat­ing Mnuchin on the impor­tance of the Trea­sury Depart­ment putting many Qatari indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions on the applic­a­ble sanc­tions lists.”

    The al-Udeid Air Base out­side Doha is an impor­tant U.S. mil­i­tary asset in the Mid­dle East. It’s the for­ward oper­at­ing base for U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand and hosts some 10,000 U.S. troops — a geopo­lit­i­cal arrange­ment that Qatar’s Gulf rivals would like to change. Amid the fis­sures in the Gulf, the base is key lever­age for Qatar to main­tain influ­ence in Wash­ing­ton. Unlike oth­er coun­tries, Qatar impos­es few restric­tions on base oper­a­tions and is even build­ing new facil­i­ties for U.S. troops.

    Get­ting the U.S. gov­ern­ment to move its crit­i­cal base in the Gulf was unlike­ly. And pol­ish­ing up the image of the Saud­is and Emi­ratis was a hard sell.

    Sau­di Ara­bia has a his­to­ry of tor­ture and human rights abus­es. Many Amer­i­cans still asso­ciate the coun­try with the Sept. 11 attacks. Of the 19 attack­ers, 15 were from Sau­di Ara­bia, and two were from the UAE.

    The UAE’s track record is no bet­ter. Last year, the AP revealed that the UAE was oper­at­ing “black sites” in Yemen, where its sol­diers have tor­tured pris­on­ers — includ­ing, in some cas­es, tying them to a spit and roast­ing them over open fires.

    Qatar has a trou­bled record as well. Inter­na­tion­al human rights groups have dinged the coun­try for its treat­ment of migrant work­ers prepar­ing the coun­try for the 2022 World Cup. Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, in a 2013 report, stat­ed that migrants from south­east Asia worked in a state akin to slav­ery, “forced labour,” and lived in “squalid” hous­ing.

    Despite the chal­lenges of Sau­di Arabia’s human rights record, the part­ners’ tim­ing was good. Trump and many oth­er Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton viewed Sau­di Ara­bia as a coun­ter­weight against Iran.

    Broidy report­ed he was mak­ing progress, and Nad­er kept the “prin­ci­pals” briefed on their adven­tures, emails show. Broidy boast­ed that he had got the chair­man of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can Rep. Ed Royce, to back an anti-Qatar bill.

    “This is extreme­ly pos­i­tive,” Broidy wrote. He claimed he had “shift­ed” Royce from being crit­i­cal of Sau­di Ara­bia to “being crit­i­cal of Qatar.” The AP report­ed in March that Broidy gave near­ly $600,000 to GOP can­di­dates and caus­es since the begin­ning of 2017. Royce got the max­i­mum allowed.

    Cory Fritz, a spokesman for Royce, not­ed the congressman’s record: Royce has long been crit­i­cal of both coun­tries. He said Royce has not changed his stance.

    Broidy also bragged that he had “caused” Royce to praise a senior Sau­di gen­er­al, Ahmed Has­san Moham­mad Assiri, in words that were then memo­ri­al­ized in the Con­gres­sion­al Record. Nad­er was thrilled: A U.S. con­gress­man pub­licly flat­tered a Sau­di offi­cial, who doc­u­ments show was help­ing eval­u­ate Broidy and Nader’s con­tract pro­pos­als.

    At the end of March, Nad­er wrote that he’d had “a ter­rif­ic, mag­nif­i­cent meet­ing” with the Sau­di crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Prospects for the bil­lion-dol­lar con­tracts were good.

    “He was very pos­i­tive over­all,” Nad­er wrote. The prince even asked them to dis­cuss their con­tracts with “Gen­er­al Ahmed.”

    The mon­ey for the lob­by­ing was anoth­er mat­ter.

    At Nader’s request, $2.5 mil­lion was chan­neled in two install­ments from his com­pa­ny in the UAE through a Cana­di­an com­pa­ny called Xiemen Invest­ments Lim­it­ed, which some­one famil­iar with the trans­ac­tion said was run by one of Broidy’s friends. The mon­ey was then rout­ed to a Broidy account in Los Ange­les.

    The trans­ac­tion had the effect of obfus­cat­ing that the mon­ey for the polit­i­cal work in Wash­ing­ton had come from Nad­er in the UAE. Some of the recip­i­ents of Broidy’s spend­ing in Wash­ing­ton said they had no idea that Nad­er was involved. Broidy pre­vi­ous­ly told the AP that he did not think to ques­tion why the mon­ey was rout­ed through a for­eign enti­ty.

    At that point, Broidy might have real­ized the dan­gers of not reg­is­ter­ing as a for­eign agent — it was all over the news.

    Three Trump advis­ers reg­is­tered retroac­tive­ly as for­eign agents: Michael Fly­nn, Trump’s for­mer nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, who had done busi­ness for Turkey, and Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort and his long­time deputy, Rick Gates, who did busi­ness for Ukraine.

    Broidy was unde­terred. Nad­er cheered on his anti-Qatar exploits and told him to “keep ham­mer­ing the bas­tards.”

    AN ‘EXTRAORDINARY’ CAMPAIGN’

    Armed with fresh cash, Broidy pitched Nad­er a media blitz that would put the fire to Qatar.

    He’d per­suad­ed an Amer­i­can think tank, Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies, to stage an anti-Qatar con­fer­ence. Broidy wrote Nad­er that his plan includ­ed the com­mis­sion of 200 arti­cles assigned to the foun­da­tion and oth­er think tanks. Mark Dubowitz, the foundation’s CEO, lat­er said that Broidy assured him the fund­ing was not com­ing from a for­eign gov­ern­ment and that he had no con­tracts in the Gulf.

    On April 21, 2017, Broidy sent Nad­er the draft of an Op-Ed to show the impact of his cam­paign. It was marked “Con­fi­den­tial.”

    Three days lat­er, “The Two Faces of Qatar, a Dubi­ous Mideast Ally” was pub­lished in The Wall Street Jour­nal. The opin­ion piece, co-writ­ten by retired Air Force Gen. Charles Wald, who had been the deputy head of U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand, called for mov­ing U.S. mil­i­tary assets from the al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. “The Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates would be a log­i­cal des­ti­na­tion,” wrote Wald.

    What read­ers did not know was that Wald was list­ed in com­pa­ny doc­u­ments as a mem­ber of Broidy’s Circi­nus team that was pitch­ing con­tracts in Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Asked why he had not made his con­flict clear in the Op-Ed piece, Wald denied he had ever worked for Broidy.

    “I was not part of the team, peri­od,” Wald wrote. “I can’t speak for his doc­u­men­ta­tion.”

    A per­son famil­iar with the arrange­ment, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because he was not autho­rized to speak on the record, said that Wald con­sult­ed with Broidy, but could not join a trip to pitch the con­tract in Sau­di Ara­bia because of a sched­ul­ing con­flict. Broidy’s leaked emails refer to Wald’s involve­ment almost four dozen times.

    The Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies con­fer­ence was set for May 23 at the Fair­mont Hotel in Wash­ing­ton. In a Circi­nus progress report from Broidy to Nad­er, Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE are list­ed as the clients, Maj. Gen. Assiri as a con­sul­tant, and Broidy and Nad­er are “leader/liaison” — rais­ing ques­tions about Broidy’s con­tention to the AP that he was not work­ing for a for­eign gov­ern­ment.

    The con­fer­ence also set off a flur­ry of more anti-Qatar sto­ries in main­stream media, which Broidy cat­a­logued for the crown princes.

    The part­ners were jubi­lant when Trump made his first for­eign trip not to his allies in Europe, but to Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Two weeks lat­er, in a major esca­la­tion of ten­sions, the UAE, Sau­di Ara­bia and region­al allies launched a trav­el and trade embar­go against Qatar.

    It was hard to tell whose side the U.S. gov­ern­ment was on.

    One day after the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia began their block­ade, Trump sent a series of tweets sig­nal­ing sup­port for the two coun­tries’ actions and embrac­ing an anti-Qatar stance. He said his recent vis­it to Sau­di Ara­bia was “already pay­ing off. They said they would take a hard line on fund­ing extrem­ism and all ref­er­ence was point­ing to Qatar. Per­haps this will be the begin­ning of the end to hor­ror of ter­ror­ism!”

    U.S. offi­cials quick­ly tried to walk back Trump’s com­ments, say­ing the U.S. was not tak­ing sides in the dis­pute among its Gulf allies.

    A week lat­er, on June 16, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion com­plet­ed a $12 bil­lion sale of F‑15 fight­er jets to Qatar that had been approved ear­li­er by Con­gress. The move was at odds with the president’s rhetoric on Qatar, but it paled in com­par­i­son with the $110 bil­lion in arms deals with Sau­di Ara­bia that Trump had pre­vi­ous­ly announced.

    NADER OR VADER?

    In late Sep­tem­ber, Broidy arranged for the most cov­et­ed meet­ing for any lob­by­ist in Wash­ing­ton: an audi­ence for him­self with the pres­i­dent in the Oval Office.

    In advance of the meet­ing, Nad­er wrote Broidy a script, , an email shows . There were sev­er­al objec­tives: to sell the idea for a Mus­lim fight­ing force, to keep the pres­i­dent from inter­ven­ing on Qatar and to arrange a dis­creet meet­ing between Trump and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

    The princes “are count­ing on you to relate it blunt and straight,” Nad­er wrote.

    Nad­er told Broidy the meet­ing was poten­tial­ly his­toric and to “take advan­tage of this price­less asset.”

    And there was one more thing. Nad­er asked Broidy to tell the pres­i­dent about his con­nec­tions with the crown princes, using code names for all three.

    “Appre­ci­ate how you would make sure to bring up my role to Chair­man,” Nad­er emailed. “How I work close­ly with Two Big Friends.”

    After the Oct. 6 meet­ing, Broidy report­ed back to Nad­er that he had passed along the mes­sages and had urged the pres­i­dent to stay out of the dis­pute with Qatar. He also said he explained Circi­nus’ plan to build a Mus­lim fight­ing force.

    “Pres­i­dent Trump was extreme­ly enthu­si­as­tic,” he wrote. Broidy said Trump asked what the next step would be and that he told the pres­i­dent he should meet with the crown prince from the UAE, adding, “Pres­i­dent Trump agreed that a meet­ing with MBZ was a good idea.”

    The White House did not respond to repeat­ed requests for com­ment.

    Despite that suc­cess­ful read­out, Nad­er want­ed more: He want­ed a pho­to of him­self with the pres­i­dent — a big request for a con­vict­ed pedophile.

    Broidy was co-host­ing a fundrais­er for Trump and the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee in Dal­las on Oct. 25. The Secret Ser­vice had said Nad­er wouldn’t be allowed to meet the pres­i­dent. It was not clear if the objec­tions were relat­ed to his con­vic­tions for sex­u­al­ly abus­ing chil­dren.

    Broidy draft­ed an email to Trump’s chief of staff, John Kel­ly, ask­ing him to inter­vene on behalf of his friend, whom he odd­ly called “George Vad­er” — a mis­nomer that appears else­where in the emails.

    “One of my com­pa­nies does deep vet­ting for the US gov­ern­ment,” he wrote. “We ran all data bases includ­ing FBI and Inter­pol and found no issues with regard to Mr. Vad­er.”

    There was anoth­er issue. RNC offi­cials had decreed there would be no pho­tos with the pres­i­dent with­out pay­ment. Broidy sug­gest­ed that Nad­er meet the sug­gest­ed thresh­old with a dona­tion between $100,000 and $250,000.

    It’s unclear exact­ly how the two issues were resolved. Records from the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion show no dona­tions from either George Nad­er or “George Vad­er,” but on Nov. 30, Broidy gave $189,000 to the RNC — more than he had giv­en to the RNC in over two decades of Repub­li­can fundrais­ing.

    The result: a pic­ture of Nad­er and Trump grin­ning in front of the Amer­i­can flag.

    A SPIRAL OF MISFORTUNE

    It was time for Broidy to vis­it the UAE and nail down his first con­tract. He and Nad­er had already dis­cussed shar­ing the prof­its and begun set­ting up a UAE sub­sidiary of Circi­nus, Broidy’s com­pa­ny.

    In late Novem­ber, Broidy planned a vis­it to com­plete the con­tracts in the UAE, where MBZ was host­ing a For­mu­la One auto race.

    But maybe that was too pub­lic.

    “I think my friend not very wise for you to be see­ing (sic) at this event,” Nad­er wrote to Broidy. “Many jour­nal­ists and peo­ple from Rus­sia and oth­er coun­tries will be around.”

    Broidy met Trump once again on Dec. 2. He report­ed back to Nad­er that he’d told Trump the crown princes were “most favor­ably impressed by his lead­er­ship.” He offered the crown princes’ help in the Mid­dle East peace plan being devel­oped by Jared Kush­n­er. He did not tell Trump that his part­ner had com­plete con­tempt for the plan — and for the president’s son-in-law.

    “You have to hear in pri­vate my Broth­er what Prin­ci­pals think of ‘Clown prince’s’ efforts and his plan!” Nad­er wrote. “Nobody would even waste cup of cof­fee on him if it wasn’t for who he is mar­ried to.”

    Days after Broidy’s meet­ing with Trump, the UAE award­ed Broidy the intel­li­gence con­tract the part­ners had been seek­ing for up to $600 mil­lion over 5 years, accord­ing to a leaked email.

    The Mus­lim fight­ing force con­tract would be even larg­er, poten­tial­ly bring­ing their entire Gulf enter­prise to more than $1 bil­lion.

    In Jan­u­ary, Broidy was prepar­ing for a third meet­ing with Trump, at Mar-a-Lago, dur­ing cel­e­bra­tions of the president’s first year in office. Nad­er was sup­posed to join them, but the ini­tial pay­ment for the intel­li­gence con­tract was late. He delayed his trip to the U.S. for a day to make sure it was wired.

    On Jan. 17, Broidy report­ed that he had received the first install­ment — $36 mil­lion.

    “Ter­rif­ic!” Nad­er wrote before his flight. “First among many to go!”

    Hours after that mon­ey trans­fer, Nad­er and Broidy dis­cov­ered that, despite all their pre­cau­tions, they had not escaped notice.

    When Nad­er land­ed at Dulles Air­port out­side Wash­ing­ton, D.C., a team of FBI agents work­ing for Mueller was there to meet him. He was relieved of his elec­tron­ic devices and lat­er agreed to coop­er­ate. It is unclear why Nad­er was detained, but he is a link between the Trump cam­paign and the Russ­ian investor who attend­ed the meet­ing in the Sey­chelles.

    ...

    In Feb­ru­ary, the AP, The New York Times and oth­er news orga­ni­za­tions began receiv­ing anony­mous­ly leaked batch­es of Broidy’s emails and doc­u­ments that had appar­ent­ly been hacked. News sto­ries linked him to plans to lever­age his White House access for clients in Africa, East­ern Europe, the Mid­dle East and Asia.

    Broidy fought back. He sued Qatar and its lob­by­ists, alleg­ing in a law­suit filed in March that the hack was a smear cam­paign.

    “We believe the evi­dence is clear that a nation state is wag­ing a sophis­ti­cat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign against me in order to silence me, includ­ing hack­ing emails, forg­ing doc­u­ments, and engag­ing in espi­onage and numer­ous oth­er ille­gal activ­i­ties,” Broidy said in a state­ment at the time.

    Qatar respond­ed that it was Broidy who had engaged in a pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign.

    Then, on April 9, anoth­er blow.

    The FBI raid­ed the premis­es of Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, Michael Cohen, seek­ing infor­ma­tion on hush mon­ey paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels, who said she’d had an affair with the pres­i­dent.

    Broidy, it turned out, was also a Cohen client. He’d had an affair with Play­boy Play­mate Shera Bechard, who got preg­nant and lat­er had an abor­tion. Broidy agreed to pay her $1.6 mil­lion to help her out, so long as she nev­er spoke about it.

    “I acknowl­edge I had a con­sen­su­al rela­tion­ship with a Play­boy Play­mate,” Broidy said in a state­ment the day the news broke. He apol­o­gized to his wife and resigned from the RNC. There is no indi­ca­tion Broidy is under inves­ti­ga­tion by Mueller’s team.

    In the end, Nad­er and Broidy’s anti-Qatar oper­a­tion lost its momen­tum. There has been no trac­tion on the effort to get the base in Qatar moved to the UAE. In late April, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo called for an end to the bick­er­ing among Sau­di Ara­bia, the UAE and Qatar dur­ing a trip to the Gulf.

    Last week, Sau­di Ara­bia dis­tanced itself from Nad­er and Broidy. A senior offi­cial said Crown Prince bin Salman ordered an end to “engage­ment with these peo­ple.”

    But Broidy’s huge con­tract with the UAE?

    It’s good to go.

    ———-

    “The princes, the pres­i­dent and the for­tune seek­ers” by DESMOND BUTLER and TOM LoBIAN­CO; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 05/21/2018

    The AP has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that Broidy and Nad­er sought to get an anti-Qatar bill through Con­gress while obscur­ing the source of the mon­ey behind their influ­ence cam­paign. A new cache of emails obtained by the AP reveals an ambi­tious, secre­tive lob­by­ing effort to iso­late Qatar and under­mine the Pentagon’s long­stand­ing rela­tion­ship with the Gulf coun­try.

    Hacked emails. That’s the source for this report.

    So what do these hacked emails por­tray? In part, it depicts a sce­nario where Nad­er and Broidy effec­tive­ly pitched them­selves as a backchan­nel between the White House and Sau­di and UAE gov­ern­ments. That’s the pitch they made to the Saudi/UAE crown princes. And that’s exact­ly what they pro­ceed­ed to do through­out 2017, heav­i­ly push­ing an anti-Qatar lob­by­ing effort with the full expec­ta­tion that they would be reward­ed with lucra­tive Saudi/UAE con­tracts:

    ...
    Broidy and his busi­ness part­ner, Lebanese-Amer­i­can George Nad­er, pitched them­selves to the crown princes as a backchan­nel to the White House, pass­ing the princes’ praise — and mes­sag­ing — straight to the president’s ears.

    Now, in Decem­ber 2017, Broidy was ready to be reward­ed for all his hard work.

    It was time to cash in.

    In return for push­ing anti-Qatar poli­cies at the high­est lev­els of America’s gov­ern­ment, Broidy and Nad­er expect­ed huge con­sult­ing con­tracts from Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE, accord­ing to an Asso­ci­at­ed Press inves­ti­ga­tion based on inter­views with more than two dozen peo­ple and hun­dreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men. The emails reviewed by the AP includ­ed work sum­maries and con­tract­ing doc­u­ments and pro­pos­als.
    ...

    And this kind of arrange­ment, where Broidy and Nad­er lob­by the US with the expec­ta­tion that they would be paid in the form of lucra­tive Saudi/UAE con­tracts, appears to be the scheme they used to avoid hav­ing to reg­is­ter in the US as for­eign lob­by­ists:

    ...
    Nei­ther Broidy nor Nad­er reg­is­tered with the U.S. gov­ern­ment under the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act, a law intend­ed to make lob­by­ists work­ing for for­eign gov­ern­ments dis­close their ties and cer­tain polit­i­cal activ­i­ties. The law requires peo­ple to reg­is­ter even if they are not paid but mere­ly direct­ed by for­eign inter­ests with polit­i­cal tasks in mind.

    Vio­lat­ing the fed­er­al law car­ries a max­i­mum $10,000 fine or up to five years in prison.

    Broidy has main­tained he was not required to reg­is­ter because his anti-Qatar cam­paign was not direct­ed by a for­eign client and came entire­ly at his own ini­tia­tive. But doc­u­ments show the lob­by­ing was inter­twined with the pur­suit of con­tracts from the very start, and involved spe­cif­ic polit­i­cal tasks car­ried out for the crown princes — whose coun­tries are are list­ed as the “clients ” for the lob­by­ing cam­paign in a spread­sheet from Broidy’s com­pa­ny, Circi­nus LLC.
    ...

    “Broidy has main­tained he was not required to reg­is­ter because his anti-Qatar cam­paign was not direct­ed by a for­eign client and came entire­ly at his own ini­tia­tive.”

    LOL! Yeah, Broidy’s anti-Qatar cam­paign was all his own idea and he felt so strong­ly about it that he just did all this lob­by­ing on his own! That’s the pre­tense we’re asked to believe here.

    And notice how this joint lob­by­ing effort start­ed in ear­ly 2017, which is right around the same time Broidy and Nad­er appar­ent­ly met each oth­er for the first time at the Trump inau­gu­ra­tion in Jan­u­ary of 2017:

    ...
    ‘A TERRIFIC, MAGNIFICENT MEETING’

    Just weeks after those meet­ings, Broidy and Nad­er met for the first time, dur­ing Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion.

    The two men were soon work­ing out their bud­ding part­ner­ship. Nad­er sent Broidy his pri­vate email address on the encrypt­ed Pro­ton­Mail ser­vice.

    From the start, the men had a two-track mis­sion: to car­ry out a cam­paign against Qatar that would cur­ry favor with the princes, and to then turn that suc­cess into mil­lions of dol­lars in defense deals, doc­u­ments show.

    The two men bare­ly knew each oth­er. But Broidy had the ear of the pres­i­dent. Nad­er claimed he had the crown princes’.
    ...

    It’s a pret­ty remark­able ini­tia­tive to start up with some­one you just met. A secret backchan­nel ini­tia­tive with your brand new friend. It rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion of whether or not Broidy was essen­tial­ly paired up with Nad­er by some­one in Trump team orbit. Don’t for­get that the Trump team and George Nad­er had already been work­ing quite close­ly in the final months of the Trump cam­paign as part of that Saudi/UAE effort to help Trump win.

    Also don’t for­get that Nad­er and the crown prince of the UAE had their secret Trump Tow­er meet­ings in Decem­ber 2016 to set up the Sey­chelles backchan­nel. So by the start of 2017 the Trump team already had a secret backchan­nel set up with the UAE and Saud­is so it seems pret­ty like­ly like Broidy was basi­cal­ly tapped by some­one on the Trump side to work with Nad­er and main­tain that backchan­nel after Trump moved into the White House.

    In oth­er words, while it’s a vir­tu­al cer­tain­ty that Nad­er was work­ing on behalf of the Saud­is and UAE for this lob­by­ing effort, the ques­tion of who Broidy may have been work­ing for is poten­tial­ly far more scan­dalous if it turns out he was basi­cal­ly work­ing on behalf of the Trump team for the very begin­ning of this arrange­ment because that would strong­ly sug­gest a backchan­nel get­ting set up by the Trump and and UAE/Saudis for the pur­pose of exe­cut­ing the ‘quo’ part of a qui pro quo.

    So Broidy and Nad­er meet for the first time dur­ing Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion (Jan 20th, 2017), and by Feb­ru­ary 7, emails shows Broidy writ­ing to a staffer for the chair­man of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee about a bill aimed at sanc­tion­ing Qatar. That’s how fast this joint lob­by­ing effort began:

    ...
    On Feb. 7, 2017, Broidy wrote to a staffer for the chair­man of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee about a bill aimed at sanc­tion­ing Qatar for alleged sup­port of ter­ror­ist groups— part of what Nad­er called “ham­mer­ing Qatar,” emails show.
    ...

    And the very next day, Broidy was email Nad­er about their plan to get Sau­di Ara­bia to train an all-Mus­lim fight­ing force of 5,000 troops for the war in Yemen. And that was just one of the pro­pos­als Broidy and Nad­er had for the Saud­is and UAE worth over $1 bil­lion. Oth­er pitch­es includ­ed help­ing the UAE gath­er intel­li­gence, strength­en Sau­di mar­itime and bor­der secu­ri­ty, and set up counter-ter­ror­ism cen­ters in Sau­di Ara­bia. All the kinds of ideas we would expect the Saud­is and UAE to come up with on their own and all the kinds of projects that would involve mas­sive lucra­tive con­tracts.

    So when we’re ask­ing who in the Trump team may have arranged for Broidy to be Nader’s part­ner in this bachchan­nel, we also have to ask what kind of cut they were request­ing for all these high­ly lucra­tive deals Broidy and Nad­er were try­ing to make hap­pen. Don’t for­get that a quid pro quo between the Trump team and Saudis/UAE could have involved some­thing like ‘we’ll help you win and give you lucra­tive con­tracts (the quid) if you advance our pol­i­cy agen­da after win­ning (the quo). In oth­er words, the pro­ceeds from these high­ly lucra­tive con­tracts Broidy and Nad­er were try­ing to arrange with the Saud­is and UAE may have been intend­ed to shared among the larg­er Trumpian cabal:

    ...
    The next day, Broidy for­ward­ed Nad­er ques­tions about a poten­tial con­tract with Sau­di Ara­bia to train Arab troops to fight in the esca­lat­ing war in Yemen.

    ...

    Broidy and Nad­er pro­posed mul­ti­ple plans to the princes for more than $1 bil­lion of work. One pitch was to help cre­ate an all-Mus­lim fight­ing force of 5,000 troops. A sec­ond was aimed at help­ing the UAE gath­er intel­li­gence. A third would strength­en Sau­di mar­itime and bor­der secu­ri­ty. Still anoth­er was relat­ed to set­ting up coun­tert­er­ror­ism cen­ters in Sau­di Ara­bia.

    In a note to Broidy, Nad­er said the princes were very hap­py with the pro­posed con­tracts, par­tic­u­lar­ly the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
    ...

    But before those lucra­tive con­tracts could be secured, Broidy and Nad­er appar­ent­ly had to focus on the anti-Qatar lob­by­ing cam­paign in the US:

    ...
    But first, emails show, they had to focus on the lob­by­ing cam­paign. They pro­posed a bud­get upward of $12 mil­lion to “expose and penal­ize” Qatar and get the U.S. to pres­sure it to “aid in coer­cive action against Iran,” accord­ing to a March 2017 doc­u­ment.

    The gist of their plan was to show evi­dence that Qatar was too close to Iran and sup­port­ed Islamist groups, includ­ing the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Iran is Saudi’s main region­al rival and on the oth­er side of the war in Yemen.

    Ide­al­ly, Broidy and Nad­er would work to per­suade the U.S. gov­ern­ment to sanc­tion Qatar and move a key mil­i­tary base from Qatar to anoth­er loca­tion in the Gulf. Broidy said he had a direct line to Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin.

    ...

    The al-Udeid Air Base out­side Doha is an impor­tant U.S. mil­i­tary asset in the Mid­dle East. It’s the for­ward oper­at­ing base for U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand and hosts some 10,000 U.S. troops — a geopo­lit­i­cal arrange­ment that Qatar’s Gulf rivals would like to change. Amid the fis­sures in the Gulf, the base is key lever­age for Qatar to main­tain influ­ence in Wash­ing­ton. Unlike oth­er coun­tries, Qatar impos­es few restric­tions on base oper­a­tions and is even build­ing new facil­i­ties for U.S. troops.

    Get­ting the U.S. gov­ern­ment to move its crit­i­cal base in the Gulf was unlike­ly. And pol­ish­ing up the image of the Saud­is and Emi­ratis was a hard sell.

    ...

    Despite the chal­lenges of Sau­di Arabia’s human rights record, the part­ners’ tim­ing was good. Trump and many oth­er Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton viewed Sau­di Ara­bia as a coun­ter­weight against Iran.

    Broidy report­ed he was mak­ing progress, and Nad­er kept the “prin­ci­pals” briefed on their adven­tures, emails show. Broidy boast­ed that he had got the chair­man of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can Rep. Ed Royce, to back an anti-Qatar bill.

    ...

    At the end of March, Nad­er wrote that he’d had “a ter­rif­ic, mag­nif­i­cent meet­ing” with the Sau­di crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Prospects for the bil­lion-dol­lar con­tracts were good.

    “He was very pos­i­tive over­all,” Nad­er wrote. The prince even asked them to dis­cuss their con­tracts with “Gen­er­al Ahmed.”
    ...

    And these anti-Qatar lob­by­ing efforts weren’t cheap. $2.5 mil­lion was fun­neled to Broidy through a obscure Cana­di­an com­pa­ny run by one of Broidy’s friends, effec­tive­ly hid­ing the source of the mon­ey (and hid­ing the real­i­ty that Broidy was basi­cal­ly act­ing like a for­eign agent):

    ...
    The mon­ey for the lob­by­ing was anoth­er mat­ter.

    At Nader’s request, $2.5 mil­lion was chan­neled in two install­ments from his com­pa­ny in the UAE through a Cana­di­an com­pa­ny called Xiemen Invest­ments Lim­it­ed, which some­one famil­iar with the trans­ac­tion said was run by one of Broidy’s friends. The mon­ey was then rout­ed to a Broidy account in Los Ange­les.

    The trans­ac­tion had the effect of obfus­cat­ing that the mon­ey for the polit­i­cal work in Wash­ing­ton had come from Nad­er in the UAE. Some of the recip­i­ents of Broidy’s spend­ing in Wash­ing­ton said they had no idea that Nad­er was involved. Broidy pre­vi­ous­ly told the AP that he did not think to ques­tion why the mon­ey was rout­ed through a for­eign enti­ty.
    ...

    And once that $2.5 mil­lion is made avail­able to Broidy for the lob­by­ing effort, Broidy pro­ceed­ed to com­mis­sion the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies, a US-based think tank, to write 200 arti­cles in the foun­da­tion’s name that would push an anti-Qatar line and hold an anti-Qatar con­fer­ence. Broidy and Nad­er even got to review drafts of op-ed pieces that showed up in the Wall Street Jour­nal under the Foun­da­tion’s name (it’s some­thing to keep in mind when you read op-eds):

    ...
    AN ‘EXTRAORDINARY’ CAMPAIGN’

    Armed with fresh cash, Broidy pitched Nad­er a media blitz that would put the fire to Qatar.

    He’d per­suad­ed an Amer­i­can think tank, Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies, to stage an anti-Qatar con­fer­ence. Broidy wrote Nad­er that his plan includ­ed the com­mis­sion of 200 arti­cles assigned to the foun­da­tion and oth­er think tanks. Mark Dubowitz, the foundation’s CEO, lat­er said that Broidy assured him the fund­ing was not com­ing from a for­eign gov­ern­ment and that he had no con­tracts in the Gulf.

    On April 21, 2017, Broidy sent Nad­er the draft of an Op-Ed to show the impact of his cam­paign. It was marked “Con­fi­den­tial.”

    Three days lat­er, “The Two Faces of Qatar, a Dubi­ous Mideast Ally” was pub­lished in The Wall Street Jour­nal. The opin­ion piece, co-writ­ten by retired Air Force Gen. Charles Wald, who had been the deputy head of U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand, called for mov­ing U.S. mil­i­tary assets from the al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. “The Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates would be a log­i­cal des­ti­na­tion,” wrote Wald.

    What read­ers did not know was that Wald was list­ed in com­pa­ny doc­u­ments as a mem­ber of Broidy’s Circi­nus team that was pitch­ing con­tracts in Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Asked why he had not made his con­flict clear in the Op-Ed piece, Wald denied he had ever worked for Broidy.

    “I was not part of the team, peri­od,” Wald wrote. “I can’t speak for his doc­u­men­ta­tion.”

    A per­son famil­iar with the arrange­ment, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because he was not autho­rized to speak on the record, said that Wald con­sult­ed with Broidy, but could not join a trip to pitch the con­tract in Sau­di Ara­bia because of a sched­ul­ing con­flict. Broidy’s leaked emails refer to Wald’s involve­ment almost four dozen times.

    The Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies con­fer­ence was set for May 23 at the Fair­mont Hotel in Wash­ing­ton. In a Circi­nus progress report from Broidy to Nad­er, Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE are list­ed as the clients, Maj. Gen. Assiri as a con­sul­tant, and Broidy and Nad­er are “leader/liaison” — rais­ing ques­tions about Broidy’s con­tention to the AP that he was not work­ing for a for­eign gov­ern­ment.

    The con­fer­ence also set off a flur­ry of more anti-Qatar sto­ries in main­stream media, which Broidy cat­a­logued for the crown princes.
    ...

    Lat­er, in what is no doubt a sign of the Trump team’s con­spic­u­ous­ly close ties to the Saud­is, Trump makes the very first for­eign trip of his pres­i­den­cy not to a close ally in Europe. Nope, he heads to Sau­di Ara­bia and helps to unveil their new counter-ter­ror­ism cen­ter. And now we know that counter-ter­ror­ism cen­ters were one of the lucra­tive projects Broidy and Nad­er were pitch­ing to the Saud­is just months ear­li­er. Which rais­es the ques­tion: how many peo­ple in on the Trump team were get­ting a cut of the con­tracts asso­ci­at­ed with that new counter-ter­ror­ism cen­ter?

    ...
    The part­ners were jubi­lant when Trump made his first for­eign trip not to his allies in Europe, but to Sau­di Ara­bia.
    ...

    Then, two weeks after Trump’s trip, the Saud­is and UAE launch a trav­el and trade embar­go against Qatar and Trump tweets out his sup­port one day lat­er. Keep in mind that the largest US air­base in the region is in Qatar, which is reflect­ed by the fact that US offi­cial had to work to walk back Trump’s tweets:

    ...
    Two weeks lat­er, in a major esca­la­tion of ten­sions, the UAE, Sau­di Ara­bia and region­al allies launched a trav­el and trade embar­go against Qatar.

    It was hard to tell whose side the U.S. gov­ern­ment was on.

    One day after the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia began their block­ade, Trump sent a series of tweets sig­nal­ing sup­port for the two coun­tries’ actions and embrac­ing an anti-Qatar stance. He said his recent vis­it to Sau­di Ara­bia was “already pay­ing off. They said they would take a hard line on fund­ing extrem­ism and all ref­er­ence was point­ing to Qatar. Per­haps this will be the begin­ning of the end to hor­ror of ter­ror­ism!”

    U.S. offi­cials quick­ly tried to walk back Trump’s com­ments, say­ing the U.S. was not tak­ing sides in the dis­pute among its Gulf allies.

    A week lat­er, on June 16, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion com­plet­ed a $12 bil­lion sale of F‑15 fight­er jets to Qatar that had been approved ear­li­er by Con­gress. The move was at odds with the president’s rhetoric on Qatar, but it paled in com­par­i­son with the $110 bil­lion in arms deals with Sau­di Ara­bia that Trump had pre­vi­ous­ly announced.
    ...

    But despite the fact that Trump and the US gov­ern­ment were send­ing con­flict­ed mes­sages about the anti-Qatar cam­paign, the lob­by­ing effort con­tin­ued through­out 2017. And that includ­ed a late Sep­tem­ber 2017 meet­ing between Broidy and Trump him­self, where one of the object objec­tives was to basi­cal­ly as Trump to keep the US out of the region­al dis­pute with Qatar. So they clear­ly scaled back their ambi­tions (of get­ting the US to sup­port their anti-Qatar cam­paign) and were try­ing to mere­ly keep the US from pick­ing Qatar’s side. Anoth­er object of the meet­ing was to sell Trump on the idea of cre­at­ing an all Mus­lim fight­ing force to fight in Yemen (this would pre­sum­ably involve large con­tracts for Erik Prince’s mer­ce­nary busi­ness), and arrangig for a “dis­creet” (secret) meet­ing between Trump and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi:

    ...
    NADER OR VADER?

    In late Sep­tem­ber, Broidy arranged for the most cov­et­ed meet­ing for any lob­by­ist in Wash­ing­ton: an audi­ence for him­self with the pres­i­dent in the Oval Office.

    In advance of the meet­ing, Nad­er wrote Broidy a script, , an email shows . There were sev­er­al objec­tives: to sell the idea for a Mus­lim fight­ing force, to keep the pres­i­dent from inter­ven­ing on Qatar and to arrange a dis­creet meet­ing between Trump and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

    The princes “are count­ing on you to relate it blunt and straight,” Nad­er wrote.

    Nad­er told Broidy the meet­ing was poten­tial­ly his­toric and to “take advan­tage of this price­less asset.”
    ...

    Inter­est­ing­ly, the emails exchanged between Broidy and Nad­er in antic­i­pa­tion of the meet­ing with Trump showed them using code­names for Trump and the crown princes. Trump was “The Chair­man”, and the crown princes are “Two Big Friends”:

    ...
    And there was one more thing. Nad­er asked Broidy to tell the pres­i­dent about his con­nec­tions with the crown princes, using code names for all three.

    “Appre­ci­ate how you would make sure to bring up my role to Chair­man,” Nad­er emailed. “How I work close­ly with Two Big Friends.”
    ...

    So it’s worth recall­ing that the report­ing on the secret August 3, 2016, meet­ing in Trump Tow­er appar­ent­ly involved George Nad­er repeat­ed­ly refer­ring to the crown princes as “my friends.” And Nad­er asked Broidy to tell Trump about Nader’s close con­nec­tions to the “Two Big Friends.” And since Nad­er had been work­ing with the Trump team close­ly for over a year at this point and it had to be total­ly obvi­ous that he was close to the crown princes you have to won­der if that was intend­ed to send a mes­sage specif­i­cal­ly in ref­er­ence to that August 3 Trump Tow­er meet­ing. Could it have been a “you owe us for all that help we gave you” mes­sage, per­haps?

    So Broidy goes to the meet­ing with Trump on Octo­ber 6, 2017, and, sur­prise!, reports back that Trump was “extreme­ly enthu­si­as­tic” and want­ed to know what the next step would be:

    ...
    After the Oct. 6 meet­ing, Broidy report­ed back to Nad­er that he had passed along the mes­sages and had urged the pres­i­dent to stay out of the dis­pute with Qatar. He also said he explained Circi­nus’ plan to build a Mus­lim fight­ing force.

    “Pres­i­dent Trump was extreme­ly enthu­si­as­tic,” he wrote. Broidy said Trump asked what the next step would be and that he told the pres­i­dent he should meet with the crown prince from the UAE, adding, “Pres­i­dent Trump agreed that a meet­ing with MBZ was a good idea.”

    The White House did not respond to repeat­ed requests for com­ment.
    ...

    Nad­er then goes on to request a pho­to of him­self with Trump, pre­sum­ably to fur­ther impress his clients and make it clear that this backchan­nel is still viable. The hoped for venue for the meet­ing is a fundrais­er for Trump and the RNC on Octo­ber 25, co-host­ed by Broidy. But the Secret Ser­vice won’t allow the meet­ing for some rea­son (per­haps because Nad­er is a con­vict­ed pedophile?). Broidy appears to find a way to be more pur­sua­sive and Nad­er ends up get­ting his pic­ture with Trump while Broidy ends up mak­ing a $189,000 dona­tion to the RNC. So while we don’t know which strings were pulled to get around that ini­tial Secret Ser­vice block on Nad­er meet­ing Trump, strings were clear­ly pulled:

    ...
    Despite that suc­cess­ful read­out, Nad­er want­ed more: He want­ed a pho­to of him­self with the pres­i­dent — a big request for a con­vict­ed pedophile.

    Broidy was co-host­ing a fundrais­er for Trump and the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee in Dal­las on Oct. 25. The Secret Ser­vice had said Nad­er wouldn’t be allowed to meet the pres­i­dent. It was not clear if the objec­tions were relat­ed to his con­vic­tions for sex­u­al­ly abus­ing chil­dren.

    Broidy draft­ed an email to Trump’s chief of staff, John Kel­ly, ask­ing him to inter­vene on behalf of his friend, whom he odd­ly called “George Vad­er” — a mis­nomer that appears else­where in the emails.

    “One of my com­pa­nies does deep vet­ting for the US gov­ern­ment,” he wrote. “We ran all data bases includ­ing FBI and Inter­pol and found no issues with regard to Mr. Vad­er.”

    There was anoth­er issue. RNC offi­cials had decreed there would be no pho­tos with the pres­i­dent with­out pay­ment. Broidy sug­gest­ed that Nad­er meet the sug­gest­ed thresh­old with a dona­tion between $100,000 and $250,000.

    It’s unclear exact­ly how the two issues were resolved. Records from the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion show no dona­tions from either George Nad­er or “George Vad­er,” but on Nov. 30, Broidy gave $189,000 to the RNC — more than he had giv­en to the RNC in over two decades of Repub­li­can fundrais­ing.

    The result: a pic­ture of Nad­er and Trump grin­ning in front of the Amer­i­can flag.
    ...

    One of my com­pa­nies does deep vet­ting for the US gov­ern­ment...We ran all data bases includ­ing FBI and Inter­pol and found no issues with regard to Mr. Vad­er.” So one of Broidy’s com­pa­nies does “deep vet­tig” for the US gov­ern­ment. Umm...maybe some­one should look into that.

    Broidy then meets Trump again on Decem­ber 2, 2017, offer­ing the crown princes’ help with Jared Kush­n­er’s Mid­dle East peace plan. Although it sounds like Nad­er and his clients most­ly just have con­tempt for Kush­n­er:

    ...
    Broidy met Trump once again on Dec. 2. He report­ed back to Nad­er that he’d told Trump the crown princes were “most favor­ably impressed by his lead­er­ship.” He offered the crown princes’ help in the Mid­dle East peace plan being devel­oped by Jared Kush­n­er. He did not tell Trump that his part­ner had com­plete con­tempt for the plan — and for the president’s son-in-law.

    “You have to hear in pri­vate my Broth­er what Prin­ci­pals think of ‘Clown prince’s’ efforts and his plan!” Nad­er wrote. “Nobody would even waste cup of cof­fee on him if it wasn’t for who he is mar­ried to.”
    ...

    And just days after Broidy’s Decem­ber meet­ing with, the UAE awards Broid with a $600 mil­lion con­tract over 5 years to help the UAE gath­er intel­li­gence. It sounds like that Decem­ber meet­ing with Trump was a pret­ty pro­duc­tive one for Broidy:

    ...
    Days after Broidy’s meet­ing with Trump, the UAE award­ed Broidy the intel­li­gence con­tract the part­ners had been seek­ing for up to $600 mil­lion over 5 years, accord­ing to a leaked email.

    The Mus­lim fight­ing force con­tract would be even larg­er, poten­tial­ly bring­ing their entire Gulf enter­prise to more than $1 bil­lion.
    ...

    There was a third meet­ing planned for Jan­u­ary of this year dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions of Trump’s first year in office. And both Broidy and Nad­er were sup­posed to show up to this third meet­ing. But when Nad­er arrived at Dulles Air­port in DC a team of FBI agents show up to ques­tion Nad­er and that more or less was the begin­ning of the end this Nader/Broidy backchan­nel:

    ...
    In Jan­u­ary, Broidy was prepar­ing for a third meet­ing with Trump, at Mar-a-Lago, dur­ing cel­e­bra­tions of the president’s first year in office. Nad­er was sup­posed to join them, but the ini­tial pay­ment for the intel­li­gence con­tract was late. He delayed his trip to the U.S. for a day to make sure it was wired.

    On Jan. 17, Broidy report­ed that he had received the first install­ment — $36 mil­lion.

    ...

    When Nad­er land­ed at Dulles Air­port out­side Wash­ing­ton, D.C., a team of FBI agents work­ing for Mueller was there to meet him. He was relieved of his elec­tron­ic devices and lat­er agreed to coop­er­ate. It is unclear why Nad­er was detained, but he is a link between the Trump cam­paign and the Russ­ian investor who attend­ed the meet­ing in the Sey­chelles.

    While there is no evi­dence that Mueller is inter­est­ed in the lob­by­ing effort, Nader’s deten­tion kicked off a spi­ral of mis­for­tune for the two part­ners.
    ...

    And don’t for­get that much of this sto­ry is only avail­able because some source start­ed anony­mous­ly leak­ing Broidy’s hacked emails to news sources start­ing in Feb­ru­ary:

    ...
    In Feb­ru­ary, the AP, The New York Times and oth­er news orga­ni­za­tions began receiv­ing anony­mous­ly leaked batch­es of Broidy’s emails and doc­u­ments that had appar­ent­ly been hacked. News sto­ries linked him to plans to lever­age his White House access for clients in Africa, East­ern Europe, the Mid­dle East and Asia.

    Broidy fought back. He sued Qatar and its lob­by­ists, alleg­ing in a law­suit filed in March that the hack was a smear cam­paign.

    “We believe the evi­dence is clear that a nation state is wag­ing a sophis­ti­cat­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign against me in order to silence me, includ­ing hack­ing emails, forg­ing doc­u­ments, and engag­ing in espi­onage and numer­ous oth­er ille­gal activ­i­ties,” Broidy said in a state­ment at the time.

    Qatar respond­ed that it was Broidy who had engaged in a pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign.
    ...

    Also don’t for­get that Broidy is the same per­son who was recent­ly caught up in a scan­dal that sounds awful­ly famil­iar at this point: he had Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, Michael Cohen, pay a Play­mate $1.6 mil­lion for a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment over an affair that result­ed in an abor­tion:

    ...
    Then, on April 9, anoth­er blow.

    The FBI raid­ed the premis­es of Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, Michael Cohen, seek­ing infor­ma­tion on hush mon­ey paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels, who said she’d had an affair with the pres­i­dent.

    Broidy, it turned out, was also a Cohen client. He’d had an affair with Play­boy Play­mate Shera Bechard, who got preg­nant and lat­er had an abor­tion. Broidy agreed to pay her $1.6 mil­lion to help her out, so long as she nev­er spoke about it.
    ...

    And as recent reports point out, there’s grow­ing evi­dence that Broidy was actu­al­ly cov­er­ing for Trump and Trump was the one who actu­al­ly knocked up a Play­mate and had her get an abor­tion. And beyond being a typ­i­cal sala­cious sto­ry, it high­lights the extent to which Broidy may have been trust­ed by Trump’s inner cir­cle and Trump him­self. You don’t pick some­one you don’t trust to take that kind of fall for you. Espe­cial­ly in pol­i­tics.

    So, all in all, it’s look­ing a lot like the sto­ry of George Nad­er and Elliot Broidy is real­ly just the ‘dis­trib­ut­ing the spoils’ chap­ter in what is look­ing like the biggest for­eign col­lu­sion sto­ry of 2016. #Trump­Saudi­UAE #Swampy­Backchan­nels

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 23, 2018, 2:38 pm
  31. Here’s a pair of arti­cles that flesh out what we know about the efforts by Michael Cohen and Felix Sater to get a Trump Tow­er Moscow deal worked out: First, recall the pre­vi­ous sto­ries that made is sound like the Trump Tow­er Moscow efforts wound down in Jan­u­ary of 2016 after Michael Cohen’s com­i­cal out­reach to Krem­lin spokesper­son Dmit­ry Peskov’s using Peskov’s offi­cial email address went unan­swered. But then Sater appar­ent­ly kept try­ing to restart the deal and tried to get Cohen to attend the St Peters­burg Inter­na­tion­al Eco­nom­ic Forum in June of 2016.

    Well, accord­ing to the fol­low­ing two arti­cles, mes­sages between Cohen and Sater reveal that they both con­tin­ued to pur­sue a Trump Tow­er Moscow meet­ing after the Jan­u­ary 2016 rebuff until at least May of 2016. But many of those mes­sages were sent using the “Dust” app which auto­mat­i­cal­ly deletes them. So while we don’t know the con­tent of what Sater and Cohen were dis­cussing between Jan­u­ary and May of 2016, we now know they were indeed con­tin­u­ing to dis­cuss how to make the Trump Tow­er Moscow deal hap­pen.

    Anoth­er thing to keep in mind with all this is that we recent­ly learned that George Nad­er — the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the UAE and Saud­is at the heart of the Sey­chelles ‘backchan­nel’ sto­ry and the Saudi/UAE offer to help the Trump cam­paign win with a sophis­ti­cat­ed social media cam­paign — appar­ent­ly start­ed try­ing to con­tact the Trump cam­paign short­ly after it appeared Trump locked up the GOP nom­i­na­tion. And Trump was already look­ing like the like­ly nom­i­nee by Jan­u­ary of 2016 even if he was­n’t tech­ni­cal­ly the nom­i­nee until the con­ven­tion. So this peri­od when Cohen and Sater switched to using “Dust” for their com­mu­ni­ca­tions prob­a­bly over­laps with the same peri­od with Nad­er was approach­ing the Trump cam­paign and rep­re­sent­ing inter­ests who were effec­tive­ly try­ing to lob­by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment to shift its alliances in the Mid­dle East.

    And as we’ll see in the sec­ond arti­cle below, Sater had anoth­er fig­ure help­ing him with this deal: an unnamed for­mer GRU offi­cer who worked with Sater when Sater was help­ing the FBI and CIA on its anti-ter­ror oper­a­tions. Specif­i­cal­ly, this is the indi­vid­ual who deliv­ered to Sater Osama bin Laden’s satel­lite phone num­bers in 1998 and, lat­er, hand­ed over pho­tographs of a North Kore­an offi­cial seek­ing nuclear weapons. So when Sater brags about his Russ­ian con­tacts, this mys­te­ri­ous for­mer GRU appear with a his­to­ry of work­ing with the US gov­ern­ment to be one of the indi­vid­u­als. Also recall that pre­vi­ous reports on this chap­ter of Sater’s life indi­cat­ed that it was a rela­tion­ship Sater devel­oped with a North­ern Alliance offi­cer in Afghanistan that result­ed in Sater obtain­ing bin Laden’s satel­lite phone num­ber, so this for­mer GRU offi­cer was pre­sum­ably involved with that.

    Ok, so let’s take a look an arti­cle from Yahoo News about text mes­sages and emails show­ing Cohen and Sater con­tin­ued to work on the Trump Tow­er Moscow scheme as late as May 2016, con­tra­dict­ing Cohen’s pre­vi­ous sto­ry that the ini­tia­tive was dropped in Jan­u­ary 2016:

    Yahoo News

    Michael Cohen’s efforts to build a Trump Tow­er in Moscow went on longer than he has pre­vi­ous­ly acknowl­edged

    Hunter Walk­er and Brett Arnold
    Yahoo News•May 16, 2018

    WASHINGTON — Pros­e­cu­tors and con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors have obtained text mes­sages and emails show­ing that Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney, Michael Cohen, was work­ing on a deal for a Trump Tow­er in Moscow far lat­er than Cohen has pre­vi­ous­ly acknowl­edged. The com­mu­ni­ca­tions show that as late as May 2016, around the time Trump was clinch­ing the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, Cohen was con­sid­er­ing a trip to Rus­sia to meet about the project with high-lev­el gov­ern­ment offi­cials, busi­ness lead­ers and bankers.

    Cohen has said that, begin­ning in Sep­tem­ber 2015, he worked with a Russ­ian-born devel­op­er named Felix Sater to build a lux­u­ry hotel, office, and apart­ment com­plex called Trump World Tow­er Moscow. In a state­ment to Con­gress, Cohen claimed he gave up on the project in late Jan­u­ary 2016, when he deter­mined the “pro­pos­al was not fea­si­ble for a vari­ety of busi­ness rea­sons and should not be pur­sued fur­ther.”

    How­ev­er, Yahoo News has learned that text mes­sages and emails that Sater pro­vid­ed to the gov­ern­ment seem to con­tra­dict Cohen’s ver­sion of events. The com­mu­ni­ca­tions show Cohen was dis­cussing the deal until at least May 2016.

    Mul­ti­ple sources have described to Yahoo News the texts and emails with Cohen that Sater has pro­vid­ed to the gov­ern­ment. Sater con­firmed to Yahoo News that he pro­vid­ed all of his texts and emails with Cohen to spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s team as well as to the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee and the Senate’s Intel­li­gence and Judi­cia­ry com­mit­tees.

    Sater also con­firmed that his com­mu­ni­ca­tions chron­i­cled his exten­sive efforts to get the tow­er built.

    “I was try­ing to build the tallest tow­er in Europe. For me, it was a busi­ness trans­ac­tion,” Sater told Yahoo News.

    “I have ful­ly coop­er­at­ed with every inves­ti­ga­tion and every com­mit­tee. I have pro­vid­ed absolute­ly every­thing vol­un­tar­i­ly, and not under sub­poe­na, that was asked of me and will con­tin­ue to will­ing­ly coop­er­ate. All my com­mu­ni­ca­tions show I was tena­cious­ly try­ing to get a super­tall tow­er built and noth­ing else.”

    ...

    The emails and texts show Cohen and Sater began dis­cussing a poten­tial tow­er in Moscow in the sec­ond half of 2015. Sater said he could intro­duce Cohen to high-lev­el fig­ures in Rus­sia, includ­ing bankers, busi­ness peo­ple and politi­cians. In emails that were pub­lished by the New York Times, Sater sug­gest­ed that he could get the back­ing of Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and that the project could ben­e­fit both Trump’s chances of being elect­ed and America’s rela­tions with Moscow.

    “I will get Putin on this pro­gram, and we will get Don­ald elect­ed,” Sater wrote in a Novem­ber 2015 email.

    The emails and texts described to Yahoo News, which have not pre­vi­ous­ly been made pub­lic, show Sater and Cohen con­tin­ued dis­cussing the deal into 2016. Sater was explic­it that high-lev­el fig­ures in Rus­sia need­ed to be involved because a project of this mag­ni­tude could not be com­plet­ed with­out Putin’s approval. Around the start of that year, Cohen became frus­trat­ed because Sater had not been able to set up the nec­es­sary meet­ings. Cohen swore at Sater and said he would make his own high-lev­el con­tacts in Rus­sia.

    As part of his efforts to pur­sue the Moscow project on his own, Cohen emailed top Krem­lin spokesman Dmit­ry Peskov in mid-Jan­u­ary 2016 request­ing “assis­tance” for the tow­er devel­op­ment.

    “With­out get­ting into lengthy specifics, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion between our two sides has stalled,” Cohen wrote.

    The email was sent to a gener­ic Krem­lin press address, and Cohen has said did not receive a response. In a state­ment to the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Cohen said he aban­doned the Moscow project “for busi­ness rea­sons” in Jan­u­ary 2016 when the com­pa­ny couldn’t get nec­es­sary gov­ern­ment per­mis­sions. Cohen fur­ther said the deci­sion to give up on the Moscow tow­er was not relat­ed to Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    But the com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sater pro­vid­ed to Mueller’s team and three con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees paint a dif­fer­ent pic­ture of the deal. After Cohen made his own attempts to pur­sue the plan in Jan­u­ary, the mes­sages indi­cate that he con­tin­ued to com­mu­ni­cate with Sater about the poten­tial project.

    The pair con­tin­ued talk­ing between Jan­u­ary and May of 2016, when Sater began press­ing Cohen to trav­el to Rus­sia to work on the deal. Sater encour­aged Cohen to go to the St. Peters­burg Inter­na­tion­al Eco­nom­ic Forum in mid-June 2016. Sater pre­sent­ed the event as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for Cohen to meet top Russ­ian offi­cials, busi­ness lead­ers and bankers in one place. He obtained an invi­ta­tion for Cohen, who indi­cat­ed he was con­sid­er­ing the trip but ulti­mate­ly said any trav­el to Rus­sia would have to take place after the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion, which took place in July 2016.

    They did not dis­cuss the project fur­ther. In his state­ment to the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Cohen said that Sater “con­stant­ly” encour­aged him to go to Rus­sia and that he declined to make the trip. The Wash­ing­ton Post pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that Sater invit­ed Cohen to the forum. Cohen told the news­pa­per he “did not accept this invi­ta­tion.”

    Accord­ing to Sater, he even­tu­al­ly gave up on the project in Decem­ber 2016 when Trump, who had just been elect­ed, said his com­pa­ny would do “no new deals” while he was in office.

    ———-

    “Michael Cohen’s efforts to build a Trump Tow­er in Moscow went on longer than he has pre­vi­ous­ly acknowl­edged” by Hunter Walk­er and Brett Arnold; Yahoo News; 05/16/2018

    “Cohen has said that, begin­ning in Sep­tem­ber 2015, he worked with a Russ­ian-born devel­op­er named Felix Sater to build a lux­u­ry hotel, office, and apart­ment com­plex called Trump World Tow­er Moscow. In a state­ment to Con­gress, Cohen claimed he gave up on the project in late Jan­u­ary 2016, when he deter­mined the “pro­pos­al was not fea­si­ble for a vari­ety of busi­ness rea­sons and should not be pur­sued fur­ther.”

    That’s what Cohen claimed: he gave up in Jan­u­ary of 2016. But text mes­saged and emails tell a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. And Felix Sater appar­ent­ly pro­vid­ed them to US inves­ti­ga­tors :

    ...
    How­ev­er, Yahoo News has learned that text mes­sages and emails that Sater pro­vid­ed to the gov­ern­ment seem to con­tra­dict Cohen’s ver­sion of events. The com­mu­ni­ca­tions show Cohen was dis­cussing the deal until at least May 2016.

    Mul­ti­ple sources have described to Yahoo News the texts and emails with Cohen that Sater has pro­vid­ed to the gov­ern­ment. Sater con­firmed to Yahoo News that he pro­vid­ed all of his texts and emails with Cohen to spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s team as well as to the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee and the Senate’s Intel­li­gence and Judi­cia­ry com­mit­tees.

    Sater also con­firmed that his com­mu­ni­ca­tions chron­i­cled his exten­sive efforts to get the tow­er built.

    “I was try­ing to build the tallest tow­er in Europe. For me, it was a busi­ness trans­ac­tion,” Sater told Yahoo News.

    “I have ful­ly coop­er­at­ed with every inves­ti­ga­tion and every com­mit­tee. I have pro­vid­ed absolute­ly every­thing vol­un­tar­i­ly, and not under sub­poe­na, that was asked of me and will con­tin­ue to will­ing­ly coop­er­ate. All my com­mu­ni­ca­tions show I was tena­cious­ly try­ing to get a super­tall tow­er built and noth­ing else.”
    ...

    And those texts and emails show Cohen and Sater dis­cussing the deal well into 2016, with Sater insist­ing that high-lev­el Rus­sians need­ed to be involved and that he could make that hap­pen:

    ...
    The emails and texts show Cohen and Sater began dis­cussing a poten­tial tow­er in Moscow in the sec­ond half of 2015. Sater said he could intro­duce Cohen to high-lev­el fig­ures in Rus­sia, includ­ing bankers, busi­ness peo­ple and politi­cians. In emails that were pub­lished by the New York Times, Sater sug­gest­ed that he could get the back­ing of Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and that the project could ben­e­fit both Trump’s chances of being elect­ed and America’s rela­tions with Moscow.

    “I will get Putin on this pro­gram, and we will get Don­ald elect­ed,” Sater wrote in a Novem­ber 2015 email.

    The emails and texts described to Yahoo News, which have not pre­vi­ous­ly been made pub­lic, show Sater and Cohen con­tin­ued dis­cussing the deal into 2016. Sater was explic­it that high-lev­el fig­ures in Rus­sia need­ed to be involved because a project of this mag­ni­tude could not be com­plet­ed with­out Putin’s approval. Around the start of that year, Cohen became frus­trat­ed because Sater had not been able to set up the nec­es­sary meet­ings. Cohen swore at Sater and said he would make his own high-lev­el con­tacts in Rus­sia.

    ...

    But the com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sater pro­vid­ed to Mueller’s team and three con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees paint a dif­fer­ent pic­ture of the deal. After Cohen made his own attempts to pur­sue the plan in Jan­u­ary, the mes­sages indi­cate that he con­tin­ued to com­mu­ni­cate with Sater about the poten­tial project.

    The pair con­tin­ued talk­ing between Jan­u­ary and May of 2016, when Sater began press­ing Cohen to trav­el to Rus­sia to work on the deal. Sater encour­aged Cohen to go to the St. Peters­burg Inter­na­tion­al Eco­nom­ic Forum in mid-June 2016. Sater pre­sent­ed the event as an oppor­tu­ni­ty for Cohen to meet top Russ­ian offi­cials, busi­ness lead­ers and bankers in one place. He obtained an invi­ta­tion for Cohen, who indi­cat­ed he was con­sid­er­ing the trip but ulti­mate­ly said any trav­el to Rus­sia would have to take place after the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion, which took place in July 2016.

    They did not dis­cuss the project fur­ther. In his state­ment to the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Cohen said that Sater “con­stant­ly” encour­aged him to go to Rus­sia and that he declined to make the trip. The Wash­ing­ton Post pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that Sater invit­ed Cohen to the forum. Cohen told the news­pa­per he “did not accept this invi­ta­tion.”
    ...

    And yet Cohen told the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that the project was aban­doned in Jan­u­ary 2016, so these rev­e­la­tions prob­a­bly did­n’t do great things for Cohen’s legal jeop­ardy:

    ...
    As part of his efforts to pur­sue the Moscow project on his own, Cohen emailed top Krem­lin spokesman Dmit­ry Peskov in mid-Jan­u­ary 2016 request­ing “assis­tance” for the tow­er devel­op­ment.

    “With­out get­ting into lengthy specifics, the com­mu­ni­ca­tion between our two sides has stalled,” Cohen wrote.

    The email was sent to a gener­ic Krem­lin press address, and Cohen has said did not receive a response. In a state­ment to the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Cohen said he aban­doned the Moscow project “for busi­ness rea­sons” in Jan­u­ary 2016 when the com­pa­ny couldn’t get nec­es­sary gov­ern­ment per­mis­sions. Cohen fur­ther said the deci­sion to give up on the Moscow tow­er was not relat­ed to Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.
    ...

    And it sounds like we have a new date on when Sater final­ly gave up on the project: Decem­ber 2016:

    ...
    Accord­ing to Sater, he even­tu­al­ly gave up on the project in Decem­ber 2016 when Trump, who had just been elect­ed, said his com­pa­ny would do “no new deals” while he was in office.

    So keep in mind that, if Sater was actu­al­ly pur­su­ing this Trump Tow­er Moscow deal through Decem­ber 2016, that would heav­i­ly over­lap with the Ukrain­ian ‘peace’ negotiations/nuclear pow­er deal he and Michael Cohen were try­ing to work with Ukrain­ian politi­cian Andreii Arte­menko start­ing in the Fall of 2016.

    Ok, now let’s take a look a recent Buz­zfeed arti­cle that expands on the dis­cov­ery of these new texts and emails show­ing the Sater/Cohen Trump Trump ini­tia­tive went well into 2016. As the arti­cle notes, Cohen and Sater were using the “Dust” app with self-delet­ing mes­sages for many of their com­mu­ni­ca­tions as Cohen’s request. That’s why Cohen and Sater’s con­ver­sa­tions dur­ing this peri­od appear to “go dark”. So while Sater claims to have turned over all of these com­mu­ni­ca­tions to inves­ti­ga­tors, those com­mu­ni­ca­tions are gone.

    The arti­cle also notes that one of Sater’s main con­tacts in try­ing to get Cohen and Trump in con­tact with high-lev­el Rus­sians was an unnamed for­mer GRU agent who hap­pened to work with Sater when he was help­ing the FBI and CIA on anti-ter­ror oper­a­tions and deliv­ered to Sater Osama bin Laden’s satel­lite phone num­bers in 1998 and, lat­er, hand­ed over pho­tographs of a North Kore­an offi­cial seek­ing nuclear weapons. CIA offi­cials say his life could be in jeop­ardy if named:

    Buz­zFeed

    The Defin­i­tive Sto­ry Of How Trump’s Team Worked The Trump Moscow Deal Dur­ing The Cam­paign

    On the day of the third Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial debate, Trump per­son­al­ly signed the let­ter of intent.

    Antho­ny Cormi­er
    Buz­zFeed News Reporter
    Jason Leopold
    Buz­zFeed News Reporter
    Post­ed on May 17, 2018, at 11:18 a.m.

    All through the hot sum­mer cam­paign of 2016, as Don­ald Trump and his aides dis­missed talk of unseem­ly ties to Moscow, two of his key busi­ness part­ners were work­ing furi­ous­ly on a secret track: nego­ti­a­tions to build what would have been the tallest build­ing in Europe and an icon of the Trump empire — the Trump World Tow­er Moscow.

    Talks to con­struct the 100-sto­ry build­ing con­tin­ued even as the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date alter­nate­ly bragged about his rela­tion­ship with Vladimir Putin and reject­ed sug­ges­tions of Russ­ian influ­ence, and as Russ­ian agents worked to sway US pub­lic opin­ion on Trump’s behalf.

    While frag­ments of the Trump Moscow ven­ture have trick­led out — most recent­ly in a report last night by Yahoo News — this is the defin­i­tive sto­ry of the Moscow tow­er, told from a trove of emails, text mes­sages, con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny, archi­tec­tur­al ren­der­ings, and oth­er doc­u­ments obtained exclu­sive­ly by Buz­zFeed News, as well as inter­views with key play­ers and inves­ti­ga­tors. The doc­u­ments reveal a detailed and plau­si­ble plan, well-con­nect­ed Russ­ian coun­ter­parts, and an effort that extend­ed from spearfish­ing with a Russ­ian devel­op­er on a pri­vate island to plan­ning for a mid-cam­paign trip to Moscow for the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date him­self.

    ...

    Even before the appoint­ment of Mueller as spe­cial coun­sel in May 2017, FBI agents inves­ti­gat­ing Russia’s inter­fer­ence in the elec­tion learned that Cohen was in fre­quent con­tact with for­eign indi­vid­u­als about Trump Moscow — and that some of these indi­vid­u­als had knowl­edge of or played a role in 2016 elec­tion med­dling, accord­ing to two FBI agents. The agents declined to name those indi­vid­u­als. Both agents have detailed knowl­edge about the bureau’s work on the col­lu­sion inves­ti­ga­tion that pre­dat­ed Mueller’s appoint­ment.

    In pub­lic state­ments, Cohen has said that he informed Trump the deal was dead in Jan­u­ary 2016, but new records show he was still work­ing on it with Sater at least into June. In May, six weeks before the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Cleve­land, Sater asked Cohen when he and Trump would go to Moscow. In a text mes­sage, Cohen replied: “MY trip before Cleve­land. Trump once he becomes the nom­i­nee after the con­ven­tion.”

    Through­out the nine-month effort, Sater, who was born in the Sovi­et Union and worked for years as an under­cov­er source for US intel­li­gence agen­cies and the FBI, told Cohen he had con­nec­tions to top Russ­ian offi­cials and busi­ness­men: Arkady and Boris Roten­berg, broth­ers who grew up with Putin and were con­sid­ered his “shad­ow cab­i­net”; Andrey Molchanov, a bil­lion­aire Russ­ian politi­cian Sater was intro­duced to by a close per­son­al friend, who pro­posed build­ing the tow­er on his prop­er­ty; and a for­mer mem­ber of Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence to whom Sater passed pho­tographs of Cohen’s pass­port to obtain a visa.

    What­ev­er the sig­nif­i­cance of the nego­ti­a­tions to the elec­tion, the men took mea­sures to keep the plans secret. Text mes­sages often end­ed with a sim­ple “call me.” They com­mu­ni­cat­ed, at times, via Dust, a secure, encrypt­ed mes­sag­ing appli­ca­tion. Sater once warned that they “got­ta keep this qui­et.”

    But now, the sto­ry can be told.

    —–Spin­ning in Putin’s chair—–

    For three decades, Don­ald Trump came up short in Moscow.

    The first attempt to build a sig­na­ture tow­er in the Russ­ian cap­i­tal was in 1987, when he vis­it­ed the Sovi­et Union to scout loca­tions. In 1996, his com­pa­ny announced anoth­er “explorato­ry trip” that came to noth­ing. In 2005, he set his sights on an aban­doned pen­cil fac­to­ry before that deal flick­ered and failed. In 2013, after host­ing the Miss Uni­verse pageant there, Trump tweet­ed, “TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next.”

    His chil­dren tried, as well. Don­ald Trump Jr. vis­it­ed six times dur­ing an 18-month peri­od begin­ning in 2008, describ­ing it as a “scary place” to do busi­ness because of what he saw as inher­ent cor­rup­tion in Rus­sia. Dur­ing a 2006 vis­it, Don­ald Jr. was joined by his sis­ter Ivan­ka and Sater, who said Trump Sr. asked him to chap­er­one. At the time, Sater was with a devel­op­ment com­pa­ny called Bay­rock Group, which helped scout loca­tions and secure financ­ing for the Trump Organization’s licens­ing deals across the globe.

    For Ivan­ka and Don­ald Jr., Sater arranged a tour of the Krem­lin. Sater, as would be the case over and over in his life, had an inside con­nec­tion. He phoned an old friend, a Russ­ian bil­lion­aire, whom he knew through his Bay­rock con­nec­tions. The bil­lion­aire sent a fleet of cars and guards to escort them through the Krem­lin, and when a tour guide point­ed out Putin’s office, Ivan­ka Trump asked if she could sit in his chair at an antique desk. One of the guards said, “Are you crazy?”

    “I said, ‘What is she going to do, steal a pen?’” Sater recalled. “He let us in. She sat behind the desk, spun in the chair twice, and that was that.”

    The tallest tow­er in Europe

    After Trump announced his can­di­da­cy in July 2015, Sater saw the oppor­tu­ni­ty of a life­time: Why not par­lay the pres­i­den­tial run into a busi­ness deal?

    “I fig­ured, he’s in the news, his name is gen­er­at­ing a lot of good press,” Sater told Buz­zFeed News. “A lot of Rus­sians weren’t will­ing to pay a pre­mi­um licens­ing fee to put Donald’s name on their build­ing. Now maybe they would be.”

    The first step was to get the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion to sign on, so Sater arranged a meet­ing some­time in Sep­tem­ber 2015 with Cohen in Man­hat­tan. The two men were old friends who had hung out as teenagers in Brook­lyn. Their paths inter­sect­ed again in the 2000s at Trump Tow­er, where Sater was an advis­er and Cohen lat­er became one of Trump’s attor­neys. (Sater had once occu­pied the same office, three doors down from Trump, that Cohen used in Trump Tow­er.)

    The plan was fair­ly sim­ple. Trump no longer built tow­ers, but he licensed his name and exper­tise to give real estate projects an air of lux­u­ry. These licens­ing deals were espe­cial­ly lucra­tive for the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion, pulling in mil­lions in fees and, often, a cut of the sales. At the meet­ing in late Sep­tem­ber, Sater said he agreed to line up the devel­op­er and the financ­ing; Cohen would get Trump to sign on the dot­ted line.

    The build­ing, orig­i­nal­ly called Trump World Tow­er Moscow, was sup­posed to be the tallest in Europe at well over 100 sto­ries. Sater said he intend­ed to nego­ti­ate an even split between him­self and the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion: as much as $100 mil­lion or more, which would have amount­ed to 30% of the sales. “But first I need­ed to get more meat on the bones and show the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion that they need­ed me,” he told Buz­zFeed News.

    Sater used a net­work of con­tacts from his days in both busi­ness and intel­li­gence to line up poten­tial suit­ors. On Oct. 9, he emailed Cohen to say he planned to meet with Molchanov, the bil­lion­aire devel­op­er, to try to per­suade him to pro­vide the land on which to build Trump Moscow. Molchanov did not return a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment.

    On Oct. 12, he again emailed Cohen. Their sur­ro­gates in Moscow would be meet­ing with Putin and a “top deputy” just two days lat­er, and they had financ­ing: VTB Bank Pres­i­dent and Chair­man Andrey Kostin was on board to fund the project, Sater said in an email.

    ...

    The licens­ing agree­ment came togeth­er rel­a­tive­ly quick­ly. Sater turned to a wealthy Moscow devel­op­er he knew from the days when Ivan­ka spun around in Putin’s chair: Andrey Rozov. His com­pa­ny, IC Expert, became the devel­op­er, and the sides trad­ed pro­pos­als. At one point, as the let­ter of intent was passed back and forth dur­ing the nego­ti­a­tions, the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion changed an upfront fee from $100,000 to $900,000. On Oct. 28, 2015, the day of the third Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial debate, Trump per­son­al­ly signed the let­ter of intent.

    ...

    —–“No such thing as a for­mer Russ­ian spy”—–

    About a week after Trump signed the doc­u­ment, Sater and Rozov, the devel­op­er, went on vaca­tion to the Bahamas. Rozov rent­ed Lit­tle Whale Cay, a pri­vate island, for $175,000, and the two men went div­ing and spearfish­ing. In an email, Sater told Cohen that anoth­er, uniden­ti­fied friend was fly­ing in to join them. This mys­tery indi­vid­ual, who is not named in the doc­u­ments and whom Sater would not iden­ti­fy, knew two of the rich­est and most pow­er­ful men in Rus­sia, the Roten­berg broth­ers.

    In the 1960s, Arkady Roten­berg joined the same judo club as a young Putin, and they have remained close ever since. Arkady Roten­berg now con­trols a wide swath of inter­ests in Rus­sia, from bank­ing to con­struc­tion. His younger broth­er, Boris, con­trols SGM Group, a mas­sive con­struc­tion com­pa­ny. Sater saw the mys­tery man, who had worked with the Roten­bergs, as his entrée to the broth­ers.

    Over cock­tails and cook­outs on the island, Sater told Buz­zFeed News, he “was pitch­ing the sh it” out of the mys­tery man. Trump had recent­ly praised Putin on TV, so Sater emailed Cohen say­ing, “Get me the clip.” His plan was to have the mys­tery man pass it to the Roten­bergs. Nei­ther the broth­ers nor Rozov returned mes­sages seek­ing com­ment.

    “Every­thing will be nego­ti­at­ed and dis­cussed not with flunkies but with peo­ple who will have din­ner with Putin and dis­cuss the issues and get a go-ahead,” Sater wrote to Cohen on Nov. 3. “My next steps are very sen­si­tive with Putin’s very, very close peo­ple. We can pull this off.”

    On Dec. 1, Sater emailed Cohen, ask­ing him to send him pho­tographs of his pass­port to facil­i­tate a trip to Moscow.

    The fol­low­ing day, reporters for the Asso­ci­at­ed Press met with Trump on the cam­paign trail and asked him about Sater. “I’m not that famil­iar with him,” Trump replied.

    Nego­ti­a­tions for Cohen to vis­it Rus­sia began to heat up. On Dec. 13, Sater emailed that he had an old friend on the phone with him right then, who was try­ing to arrange the trip. This friend is a for­mer mem­ber of the GRU, Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence unit that the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty believes inter­fered dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion.

    Sater had known the spy for decades. He was one of Sater’s most reli­able con­tacts dur­ing the two decades he worked as a con­fi­den­tial source for US law enforce­ment and intel­li­gence agen­cies. The man, who is not being named because CIA offi­cials say his life could be in jeop­ardy, deliv­ered to Sater Osama bin Laden’s satel­lite phone num­bers in 1998 and, lat­er, hand­ed over pho­tographs of a North Kore­an offi­cial seek­ing nuclear weapons.

    The man is no longer for­mal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the GRU, but Sater told Sen­ate inves­ti­ga­tors he under­stands that “there is no such thing as a for­mer Russ­ian spy.” The for­mer spy declined to com­ment.

    On Dec. 17, Cohen for­ward­ed a Google alert to Sater. Putin had described Trump as “tal­ent­ed” and “a very col­or­ful man.” Cohen wrote: “Now is the time. Call me.”

    Two days lat­er, Sater told Cohen that their invi­ta­tions and visas were being arranged by VTB Bank, and that Kostin, the bank’s pow­er­ful pres­i­dent and chair­man, would meet Cohen in Moscow. Key to get­ting VTB on board was the for­mer GRU spy; Sater told con­gres­sion­al and spe­cial coun­sel inves­ti­ga­tors that the for­mer spy said he had a source at VTB Bank who would sup­port the deal.

    “Kostin will be at all meet­ings with Putin so that it is a busi­ness meet­ing not polit­i­cal,” Sater wrote to Cohen. “We will be invit­ed to the Russ­ian con­sulate this week to receive invite and have visa issued.”

    But the Rus­sians still need­ed Cohen’s pass­port. That after­noon, Cohen sent iPhone pho­tographs of his pass­port, includ­ing the first page with his pass­port num­ber, pho­to­graph, and oth­er iden­ti­fy­ing details. The pages match those shared with Buz­zFeed News last May. Sater told Buz­zFeed News that he sent them to the for­mer GRU spy.

    On Dec. 19, Sater asked for Trump’s pass­port as well.

    Cohen wrote: “After I return from Moscow with you with a spe­cif­ic date for him.”

    Sater: “What do you mean?”

    Cohen: “It’s pre­ma­ture for his and I am the one going.”

    —–“I will not let you fu ck with my job”—–

    Around Christ­mas 2015, polls had Trump at the top of the Repub­li­can tick­et.

    But Cohen was antsy. He trav­eled to St. Barts with h