I wrote most comprehensively about Felix Sater in a piece we published in February called Trump’s SoHo Project, the Mob, and Russian Intelligence and in an April piece entitled Trump, Felix Sater, and the FBI. I also mentioned him and his relationship with Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen in How Did Alex Oronov Die and Why Does It Matter?, a piece I wrote in March. You might also be interested in the Mobbed Up article that Mike Lofgren published with us in February. In any case, if you’ve been following along, the name Felix Sater should be somewhat familiar to you. If you haven’t been keeping up with Sater here, perhaps you’ve been following the coverage at Talking Points Memo where Josh Marshall has been on the case like white on rice.
As a brief recap, Felix Sater was born in Moscow in 1966. His Russian Jewish family briefly emigrated to Israel before coming to the United States and eventually settling in 1974 in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn that is known for its large Russian population. As a child be became acquainted with Michael Cohen, who would go on to represent Donald Trump. In 1991, Sater was arrested for stabbing a commodities trader “in the cheek and neck with the stem of a margarita glass, breaking his jaw, lacerating his face, and severing nerves, creating a wound that would require 110 stitches to treat.”
In 1998, “Sater was convicted of fraud in connection to a $40 million penny stock pump and dump scheme conducted by the Russian Mafia.” The scam may have served as inspiration for a storyline in the HBO show The Sopranos where mafia “soldier” Christopher Moltisanti ran the same kind of racket.
Sater decided to become an FBI informant after the latter arrest, and that’s a Forrest Gump story all on its own. I’m not going to describe the whole saga of Sater’s life for you again right now (that’s what the links above are for) but it’s important to know the basics of what kind of guy he is. He’s a violent criminal with long associations with the Russian mob who somehow managed to be an informant against that mob for the FBI for more than a decade without winding up in a shallow grave. He’s also someone who has worked extensively with Donald Trump on various projects, including the SoHo development and “the Trump International Hotel & Residence in Phoenix, Arizona, the Conrad Fort Lauderdale and Midtown Miami in Florida, and Cornwall Terrace and 1 Blackfriars in London.” Trump once stated under oath that he wouldn’t know Felix Sater’s face if he walked into the room, but that was perjury.
This will all become painfully obviously soon.
Trump has been telling a lot of lies, and maybe foremost among them has been the lie that he has had no business deals in Russia or anything to do with Russia at all. Felix Sater’s testimony and his documents will prove otherwise.
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.
There’s a tremendous amount of stuff to unpack here, and the intelligence committees in Congress will have to pore over Sater’s documents and question him carefully. Special Counsel Bob Mueller will be looking, too, although we won’t hear anything from him unless and until someone gets indicted or there is an impeachment referral.
For now, let’s just try to remember why Trump denied having business deals in Russia. He denied it because he demonstrated an abnormal tendency to praise Vladimir Putin that was hard to understand absent some financial incentive for doing so. That he either had Russian deals that were vulnerable or wished to pursue Russian deals and didn’t want to jeopardize them was such an obvious inference that it didn’t need to be explained to anyone. He was asked if these were the explanations for his behavior and he said the whole idea was made up and ludicrous.
But people’s suspicions were 100 percent accurate. He was lying the entire time.