If it weren’t for the near constant and ever-growing scandals and corruption that have followed popular vote loser Donald Trump since his election to the American presidency, this story would probably be the kind of bombshell political news that brings down a whole administration.
As it stands now, it’s just another in a long list of impeachable offenses that Robert Mueller will likely use in his case against Trump, and Republicans in Congress will likely completely ignore it.
Nonetheless, it’s still worth reporting that during the 2016 election season, Donald Trump lied to conceal his Moscow business partner.
Recent reports show that Trump was in the process of pursuing a massive development deal in Moscow in 2015 and early 2016, which shows that during Trump’s campaign he committed a tremendous act of deception.
On December 2, 2015, Donald Trump was the GOP front runner and was asked in an Associated Press interview about his relationship with a man named Felix Sater. What Trump said next is a blatant lie and incriminating cover up.
Trump said, “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it. I’m not that familiar with him.”
Trump then directed questions of this nature to one of the Trump organization’s lawyers, Alan Garten, who went on to tell the AP that Felix Sater was merely a man who prospected for real estate deals for Trump and it only lasted about 6 months in 2010.
What neither Trump nor Garten said was that—at that very moment—Trump was in the middle of the deal to build a Trump Tower in the Russian capital and that Sater had put together the venture. As he was running for president, Trump was hiding this project from the American public, and he was insisting he barely knew the man at the center of it. This was serious deceit.
Of course, Trump’s claim that he wasn’t that familiar with Sater was blasted by journalists at the time for the absurdity of the claim. Sater is a man Trump was clearly trying to distance himself from. After all, Sater is a former felon and known Russian mob affiliate.
So it was no surprise that Trump acted like he didn’t even know the guy. But now it’s obvious that his dishonest response to the question about Sater was far more significant.
Sater approached Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, around September 2015 with a proposal to construct a luxury hotel, office, and residential condominium building in Moscow called Trump Tower Moscow.
Cohen noted, as discovered in a recent statement, that the project called for a Russian company named I.C. Expert Investment Company to develop the building, and Trump would license his name to the venture.
Cohen said he “primarily communicated” with the Russian firm through Sater. Cohen recalled, “Sater claimed to have appropriate relationships within the business community in Russia in order to obtain the real estate, financing, government permits, and other items necessary for such a development…Sater acted as a deal broker and would have been compensated by the licensee if the proposal had been successful. I have known Mr. Sater for several decades and I routinely handled communications with him regarding the proposal.”
This was Sater’s deal. This was in the fall of 2015, yet Trump claims he doesn’t even know Sater.
According to a source familiar with this aspect of the Trump-Russia investigation, Trump was fully aware that Sater had brokered the agreement. And around late October 2015, Trump himself signed a letter of intent with I.C. Expert Investment to proceed with the project.
The arrangement would have put $4 million in upfront fees in Trump’s pocket. Trump’s company solicited building designs from different architects and engaged in discussions regarding potential financing for the proposal. (I.C. Expert Investment projects were sometimes financed by Russian banks under US economic sanctions. Last month, Sater told the New York Times that he lined up financial support from VTB Bank, an institution partially owned by the Kremlin and now under US sanctions.)
Trump issued conflicting statements about his relationship with Sater in the following years, and there is no way that Trump wasn’t aware on some level of Sater’s past criminal history of money laundering and fraud.
When Trump spews his diarrhea of the mouth about “America First!” it’s very important to remember stories like this that show his real agenda is “Trump First!” through whatever means necessary.
At the very same time Trump was running a presidential campaign saying he only cared about US interests, he was negotiating a secret deal that could only happen with Putin’s government approval.
Congrats, Trump voters…you’ve been conned.