If you’re like me you’ve never heard of a guy named Felix Sater before, maybe, yesterday. He’s hardly a household name and the first time, to the best of my knowledge and belief, that I ran across it was in a rather bizarre story in The New York Times that I wrote about here.
A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.
Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul D. Manafort.
The story is bizarre because it is nearly Seinfeldian in that it is about nothing. A proposal was sent to Mike Flynn, after he was gone. The proposal hasn’t been acted on. Every White House gets hundreds of these things. Nearly all of them are either bizarre, bogus, corrupt, self-interested or some combination thereof. There is no crime (usually) involved unless the result in an illegal act.
I was (and am) dismissive of the whole story until Felix Sater began trending as an item of discussion last evening.
The first shot was this by Josh Marshall at TPM. It is important to keep that in mind because the lefty hive-mind will go after whatever Marshall tells them is important. It is called A Big Shoe Just Dropped.
The backstory to all this is amazingly byzantine and murky. Let me try to cover the key points as simply as I can.
Having spent some time studying the matter, the biggest red flags about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia and businessmen around Vladimir Putin have always been tied to the Trump SoHo building project in Lower Manhattan, from the first decade of this century. I base my knowledge of this on this rather cursory but still quite good April 2016 article from the Times and my own limited snooping around the Outer Boroughs Russian and Ukrainian emigre press. (I summarized the most salient details of the earlier Times article in Item #3 of this post.) This was a key project, perhaps the key project in the post-bankruptcy era in which Trump appeared heavily reliant on Russian funds to finance his projects. Sater was at the center of that project. The details only came to light after the project got bogged down in a complicated series of lawsuits.
After the lawyers got involved, Trump said he barely knew who Sater was. But there is voluminous evidence that Sater, a Russian emigrant, was key to channeling Russian capital to Trump for years. Sater is also a multiple felon and at least a one-time FBI informant. Bayrock Capital, where he worked was located in Trump Tower and he himself worked as a special advisor to Trump. Again, read the Times article to get a flavor of his ties to Trump, the Trump SoHo project and Russia. For my money there’s no better place to start to understand the Trump/Russia issue.
On its own, Trump’s relationship with Sater might be written off (albeit not terribly plausibly) as simply a sleazy relationship Trump entered into to get access to capital he needed to finance his projects. Whatever shadowy ties Sater might have and whatever his criminal background, Trump has long since washed his hands of him. (Again, we’re talking about most generous reads here.)
Bottom line is that Sater appears to be one of the standard genre of Russian mobsters ended up around Trump at some point. He’s done a prison stint for jamming the broken stem of a margarita glass into a man’s face. He is awaiting sentencing on stock fraud but is not in prison because he was an FBI informant. He has claimed he and Trump are close friends but Trump, in depositions, has said he barely knows the guy. He has apparently tried to serially name-drop as Trump’s friend but no one can find where it actually got him anything. (Very good WaPo write up.) Sater has billed himself as a “senior advisor” in the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization says, yeah, we gave him business cards as a courtesy but that’s it:
The “senior advisor” title stands in sharp contrast to how Trump and his aides have repeatedly described the nature of their connection with Sater, including in response to questions from ABC News.
Alan Garten, Trump’s General Counsel, initially told ABC News that Trump “had no real direct relationship with Felix Sater” and that Sater was not an advisor to Donald Trump “in my mind, and not in anyone at the Trump Organization’s mind.”
A few days later, Garten confirmed the authenticity of Sater’s Trump business card with the “senior advisor” title which included a Trump Organization email address and phone number. But the lawyer said the title was not reflective of Sater’s actual role. It was common practice in the real estate industry, he said, to provide business cards and bestow titles “in order for brokers to be able to make initial introductions.”
Read the whole article, and I wish you good luck in separating the wheat from the chaff in the whirlwind of crap that everyone interviewed has thrown up.
By the way, did I mention that this deal is supposed to create peace in Ukraine but the Ukrainians have said it is a Russian inspired ploy to do them in?
What is significant?
A. Felix Sater is a thug, an ex-con, and a general criminal. He’s not someone who should be around the president in person or even in telephone or written communications with him.
B. Sater has partnered with Michael Cohen, Trump’s long time attorney. Where have we heard Cohen’s name? Well it popped up in the alleged intelligence dossier that featured Trump having Russian hookers pee on the bed that Obama had slept in (I can’t even believe I wrote that) as Trump’s bag man.
C. The Sater-Trump connection has made its way into the consciousness of a national media that is set on destroying Trump.
D. To add to the amusement factor, Sater is Jewish and his very existence has the Stormfront and Pepe boys screaming in rage.
One hopes that Priebus and Bannon, whatever their competing aims, are bright enough to keep these clowns far away from the White House and never let them anywhere close to Trump. Because nothing good will come out of it.