As I have continued to try to peel the onion that is the layered life of Felix Sater, I discovered an excellent article by Newsweek reporter Bill Powell, Donald Trump Associate Felix Sater Is Linked to the Mob and the CIA—What’s His Role in the Russia Investigation?. One of the surprising revelations from Powell, especially in light of recent events, is that Felix Sater was a childhood friend of Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer. Let that sink in for a moment. The FBI informant, Felix Sater, was a long time friend of Cohen. This now provides another explanation for how Michael Cohen became to be a part of the Trump orbit. Felix Sater appears to have brokered the introduction (Sater and his company, Bayrock, started working with Trump in 2003 while Cohen did not start working for Trump until 2006).
The most important take away from the Powell piece is that it gives us some critical pieces of evidence for evaluating the Steele Dossier and exposing that document as a fraud. I want to focus on the what Christopher Steele claimed about Trump and a Trump Tower project in Moscow. This information is contained in the very first of the reports submitted by Steele to Fusion GPS. It is dated 20 June 2016.:
Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016 sources A and B, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP for at least 5 years. . . .
In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years (see more below). . . .
The Kremlin's cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament. How ever, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.
Here are the key take away from this portion of the Steele Dossier. First, Russian authorities had been "cultivating and supporting" Donald Trump since at least 2011. Second, these prescient Russians allegedly fed him "valuable intelligence on his opponents " and offered him real estate deals. While Hillary Clinton is named specifically as one of those being targeted by the Russians, no one knew in 2011 or 2012 or 2013 or 2014 that Trump was going to run for President. I do not have Alzheimers. I recall clearly how many expert pundits dismissed reports that Trump was running for the 2016 nomination as utter nonsense.
The claim that the Russians were "feeding" Trump valuable intelligence should be easy to prove. Why? Because Trump's principal liaison with Moscow were Felix Sater and Michael Cohen. Let's focus on the specific claim about real estate deals in Russia by Trump. Bill Powell reported the following in Newsweek:
[Felix Sater] and his childhood friend, Michael Cohen—then a lawyer and dealmaker for the Trump Organization—had been working for more than a decade, on and off, to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The New York real estate mogul had long wanted to see his name on a glitzy building in the Russian capital, but the project had never materialized.
In other words, Sater and Cohen were the ones trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and this effort started in 2006. No indication from Powell that the Russians were ponying up lucrative, tempting offers that could have ensnared Donald Trump. Powell reported that:
In , Sater says he met Trump, thanks to his work for Bayrock, the real estate company. . . Sater raised money for Bayrock from, among others, a wealthy businessman from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, and he persuaded people in Trump’s orbit—including Cohen, his old friend—to bring his deals before the boss. Two of the ideas worked out. Sater and the New York real estate mogul eventually worked on the Trump SoHo in Manhattan and a hotel and condo project in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which failed after the 2008 economic crisis. He and Trump, Sater claims, were friendly but not particularly close.
Powell does not report the Russians offering up any "lucrative" real estate deal.
This tracks with the information in the Charging Indictment of Michael Cohen. While the Steele Dossier makes the claim that the Russian Government was offering up "lucrative projects" to the Trump organization, Michael Cohen never made such a claim. The details in the charging document show otherwise; i.e., that Felix Sater and Michael Cohen were pushing the projects:
The Moscow Project was discussed multiple times within the Company and did not end in January 2016. Instead, as late as approximately June 2016, COHEN and Individual 2 discussed efforts to obtain Russian governmental approval for the Moscow Project.
Why does the Trump organization need to "obtain Russian governmental approval" if, per the Steele Dossier, the Russians are offering up a slew of "lucrative" deals?
The charging document provides further detail on Cohen and Sater's interaction with Russian officials. In early January 2016, Michael Cohen sent an email to Vladimir Putin's Press Secretary. The Secretary responded:
On or about January 14, 2016, COHEN emailed Russian Official 1’s office asking for assistance in connection with the Moscow Project.
On or about January 20, 2016, COHEN received an email from the personal assistant to Russian Official 1 (“Assistant 1”), stating that she had been trying to reach COHEN and requesting that he call her using a Moscow-based phone number she provided.
Shortly after receiving the email, COHEN called Assistant 1 and spoke to her for approximately 20 minutes. On that call, COHEN described his position at the Company and outlined the proposed Moscow Project, including the Russian development company with which the Company had partnered. COHEN requested assistance in moving the project forward, both in securing land to build the proposed tower and financing the construction. Assistant 1 asked detailed questions and took notes, stating that she would follow up with others in Russia.
Notwithstanding these communications, the Moscow project was terminated in June 2016. And it was Felix Sater aka "Individual 2", not the Russians, pushing for going to Russia and making a deal. No evidence of Russians offering up "lucrative deals."
From on or about June 9 to June 14, 2016, Individual 2 sent numerous messages to COHEN about the travel, including forms for COHEN to complete. However, on or about June 14, 2016, COHEN met Individual 2 in the lobby of the Company’s headquarters to inform Individual 2 he would not be traveling at that time.
If the Steele Dossier was true, Trump should have had multiple project going on in Russia, especially Moscow. Steele paints a picture of Putin's people feeding Trump information and opportunity. So where is the evidence of such activity? Sure looks like Steele was fabricating "facts."
The facts presented by journalist Bill Powell about Felix Sater are backed up, ironically, by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of Michael Cohen. It is not illegal to do a real estate deal in Russia (at least it was not illegal in the summer of 2016). Yet no sign of any "lucrative" deals floated to hook Trump. Not one.
The biggest twist that needs some light shed on it is the long time relationship between Sater and Cohen. When I wrote my last piece I did not realize that they were childhood buddies and that Sater preceded Cohen in dealing with Trump by almost three years. Did the FBI direct Felix Sater to broker the introduction of Cohen to the Trump Organization? Did the FBI view the Trump Organization as a potential criminal target from 2006 thru 2015? Still lots of questions to be answered. But one thing is clear–if there really was evidence of Trump collusion with Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence sources then the FBI should have uncovered those facts long ago. That has not happened.