Quite a few legal experts have been saying that Kasowitz so far seems to be out of his depth as Trump’s lawyer in a potential criminal case.
Mr. Kasowitz has been central to Mr. Trump’s recent legal battles, helping his client keep divorce records sealed and representing him in the Trump University fraud lawsuit, in which Mr. Trump ultimately agreed to pay $25 million to settle claims from former students that the institution had cheated them out of tuition money.
In the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Mr. Kasowitz threatened to sue The New York Times for libel on Mr. Trump’s behalf over a story in which two women accused Mr. Trump of inappropriate touching years earlier. No lawsuit has been filed. A decade earlier, however, Mr. Kasowitz followed through on a similar threat, suing Timothy O’Brien, a Trump biographer and former reporter and editor for The Times, for libel and alleging that he had understated Mr. Trump’s net worth. That suit was dismissed by a New Jersey Superior Court judge.
But the most interesting former clients of Mr. Kasowitz, are not Trump.
Also raising eyebrows are two of Mr. Kasowitz’s other clients — Sberbank, the largest state-owned bank in Russia, on which the Obama administration imposed sanctions, and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian tycoon who is close to President Vladimir V. Putin and had business dealings with Paul Manafort, once Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman.
Oleg Deripaska is the Russian Oligarch who paid Manafort tens of $Millions to secretly push the agenda of Putin in the U.S.
"According to documents that we've reviewed, Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian oligarch who wanted him to promote Russian interests," the AP's Chad Day tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "And in particular, he wrote a memo that outlined this kind of vast plan for him to promote Russian interests in the former Soviet republics — and also to specifically benefit the Putin government."
The financial arrangement dates to at least 2006, when Manafort signed a $10 million yearly contract with Russian aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally, Day says. Their business relationship lasted through at least 2009, according to Day's story for the AP.
Sberbank is even more interesting because one of the former members of it’s executive board was Sergei Gorkov.
Previously, Gorkov was the deputy chairman of the executive board of Sberbank, Russia’s largest state bank, most recently in the news for hiring Trump’s longtime lawyer to defend it in court. Gorkov graduated from Russia’s Academy of the Federal Security Service — that is, of the FSB — in 1994, and is also a recipient of the Medal of the Order of Merit for Services to the Fatherland, second class.
Gorkov has received recent notice because he was the person that Russian Ambassador choose for Trump Son-in-Law Jared Kushner to meet when he wanted to continue talks about establishing a secure back channel to the Kremlin.
Kushner met with Kislyak he was a member of the Trump transition team and still a private citizen. After that meeting, which took place in early December, Kislyak requested a second, to which Kushner sent a deputy, to whom Kislyak conveyed he wanted Kushner and Gorkov to meet. Kushner and Gorkov met at a later date.
Gorkov is the head of the Moscow-based Vnesheconombank [VEB], a government owned development bank that is sanctioned by the United States for Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Vnesheconombank describes itself as funding “major investment projects” — like Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pet project, the 2014 Sochi Olympics — and “provid[ing] support” for Russian enterprises.
The White House has said that Kushner took this meeting to facilitate “sensitive communications” while VEB says it was to discuss new business strategies — which is ironic since as a sanctioned bank, it’s illegal for anyone in the U.S. to set up “new business strategies” with them.
It’s in the next bit that Preet Bharara suddenly appears in the mix.
[VEB] is also the bank at which Evgeny Buryakov worked under “non-official cover” as a banker while actually working for Russian intelligence (the U.S. attorney who announced he pled guilty back in March 2016 was Preet Bharara, whom the White House fired earlier this month).
Just last year, in 2016, Preet Bharara prosecuted a Buryakov as a Russian spy who was working at VEB as his cover. And what’s even funnier is the charge:
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “An unregistered intelligence agent, under cover of being a legitimate banker, gathers intelligence on the streets of New York City, trading coded messages with Russian spies who send the clandestinely collected information back to Moscow. This sounds like a plotline for a Cold War-era movie, but in reality, Evgeny Buryakov pled guilty today to a federal crime for his role in just such a scheme. More than two decades after the end of the Cold War, Russian spies still seek to operate in our midst under the cover of secrecy. But in New York, thanks to the work of the FBI and the prosecutors in my office, attempts to conduct unlawful espionage will not be overlooked. They will be investigated and prosecuted.
Oh, and one of the people that Buryakov and his associates were attempting to gain information from, and potentially recruit as an asset was Carter Page.
In a transcript of the conversation included in the court documents, Mr. Podobnyy tells his Russian colleague that Mr. Page frequently flies to Moscow and is interested in earning large sums of money. Mr. Page was apparently interested in striking a deal with Gazprom, the Russian state-run oil firm, according to the transcript. Mr. Podobnyy called Mr. Page an “idiot” but said he was enthusiastic.
Russian intelligence officers had been given the task of gathering information on potential United States sanctions against their country, according to the F.B.I., and the three men were focused on economic issues in particular. The third Russian spy, Evgeny Buryakov, posed as an employee of a Russian bank. Mr. Sporyshev worked as a trade representative of the Russian Federation in New York.
Mr. Podobnyy promised through his contacts with Russian trade officials to steer contracts to Mr. Page.
“I will feed him empty promises,” he was overheard saying, according to the transcript.
But all this was in the past, what future risks might Bharara have presented for Trump, particularly considering the ongoing Russia probe? Well, at the time he was fired Mr. Bharara was looking into the following as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The Southern District of New York conducts some of the highest profile corporate investigations in the country. According to news reports, it is currently probing Fox News over payments made to settle sexual harassment charges against the network’s former chairman, the late Roger Ailes. The office is also looking into Russian money-laundering allegations at Deutsche Bank, Trump’s principal private lender.
After Bharara was fired, possibly because his looking into the fact that Trump owes $350 Million to Deutsche bank that investigation was in fact abruptly settled.
The case aimed to expose how Russian mobsters allegedly stole $230 million and hid some of the cash in New York City real estate. Also sure to come up was the suspicious death of the Russian lawyer who exposed the alleged fraud, though US prosecutors weren't alleging that the defendants were behind it.
The trial was set to start on Monday, but late Friday night, federal prosecutors in New York announced they settled the case with Prevezon, the company accused of buying up "high-end commercial space and luxury apartments" with laundered money.
The abrupt conclusion has some involved in the trial wondering why this Russian investigation had been cut short.
"What most concerns me is: Has there been any political pressure applied in this?" asked Louise Shelley, an illicit finance expert who was set to testify in support of the US government on Tuesday.
Now this settlement might be because two of the key witness were murdered, while one “fell out of a window” or it might be because key witnesses decided to cooperate and become informants for the FBI. At the moment it’s difficult to tell, but it does seem according to the NYTimes that Mueller has taken up the financial corruption investigation.
A former senior official said Mr. Mueller’s investigation was looking at money laundering by Trump associates. The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial payoff, and that there would have been an effort to hide the payments, probably by routing them through offshore banking centers.
Either way does it make sense that Bharara had nailed the Russians before, and Kasowitz felt that if he did it again with his Deutsche Bank and money laundering investigations he was ultimately “going to get” Trump for his involvement in all that.
If so that means Kasowitz has essentially admitted to a second case of attempted Obstruction of Justice by Trump, by firing Bharara in order to cover his own ass which also makes one wonder just what funky money transaction are hiding somewhere between VEB, Russian Intelligence, Deutsche Bank — which has already been fine $630 Million for $10 Billion in money laundering transactions involving Russia — and Trump.