Though Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he has no business in Russia, it’s not because he wasn’t trying—even in the middle of his campaign.
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.
This project was being put together by Felix Sater, a longtime Trump associate who Trump sent to Moscow on multiple occasions to scout for properties. While working as a stockbroker, Sater once attacked a fellow broker with a broken glass. Later he was convicted of fraud in a “pump and dump” scandal in which he inflated the value of a penny stock to dupe investors. And then Sater pleaded guilty to racketeering in a case that involved organized crime and national security. Despite all this, Trump not only partnered with Sater as a principal in Bayrock Development for the Trump SoHo project, he gave Sater his own office at the Trump organization to act as an agent for Trump.
It was previously known that Trump sent Sater to Moscow in 2005, complete with Trump Organization business cards identifying Sater as a Trump employee. But previous accounting of Sater’s activities didn’t include the 2015-2016 efforts and an associated chain of emails.
… 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.
Despite working closely with Sater not just on the Moscow bids but also on a number of projects in the United States (including Trump SoHo, an Arizona hotel, and condo developments), Trump seemed to develop a memory hole around his felonious friend.
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.
The two men were in the same room often. Sater had rented a penthouse in one of Trump’s buildings since 1996, which was when he got to know Trump. He held the No. 2 slot at Bayrock since 2002 while that company—which was also headquartered in Trump Tower—worked with Trump on a series of projects. Sater joined Trump at a meeting with investors in Moscow in 2007.
Not only did the two men share a room on multiple occasions, but often enough that room was Donald Trump’s office.
Sater testified that after trips to Russia, he would “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.’ ”
But somehow, after a more than a decade of working together, Trump didn’t know Sater in 2013 … only to turn around and send Sater to Moscow again in 2015.
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.
The Sater trip to Moscow joins a long line of Russia connections that Trump has failed to acknowledge. That includes the Trump Tower meeting brokered by Donald Trump Jr. between Trump’s senior campaign staff and a team offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton provided by the Russian government, and meetings that went unreported by Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Jefferson Sessions, and others.