As you may recall, six months ago I wrote a series of articles, beginning here, about Trump's connection with a Russian Mafia figure, Felix Sater, who was convicted of a felony in a racketeering case, but never served prison time by being a cooperating witness. He also has been a business partner of Trump's, with an office in Trump Tower and was one of the forces behind the proposed Trump Moscow plan.
Buzzfeed just published a very long, minutely-detailed article yesterday on Sater, which you can read in full here. It's an impressive piece of journalism written by Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold. It's "The Asset: How a Player in the Trump-Russia Scandal Led a Double Life as an American Spy." Not everyone will want to make their way through the whole thing -- I even had to skim -- but I'll provide some notable excerpts below, and also note that the article explains a far-deeper level of trouble he presents for Trump. All of his criminal activity is there in the article, but what was missing from earlier stories is the lengths he gone to (so he has) "rehabilitate" himself and served as a highly-valuable asset for U.S. national security and investigative forces. All of which means he's been a wide-open resource as a cooperation witness.
Putting the Buzzfeed article in perspective is a companion piece by Slate. The headline alone should give you some idea -- "Bonkers Profile of Trump Crony Felix Sater Suggests He is the Kind of Guy Who Wouldn't Mind Working with Robert Mueller." You can read the article here. It's substantially shorter -- only six paragraphs -- and summarizes the value of the profile.
Make no mistake, Felix Sater is not only a guy up to his neck in money-laundering and criminal activity on the one end, but also deeply involved with the government as a spy on the other. And not by his bragging words, but by those of the government. As Slate notes, "10 current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials said [that Sater] supplemented US intelligence by providing location coordinates for al-Qaeda camps that the US military ultimately bombed in Khost, Afghanistan."
That's connected. With deep inside information. He passed along five phone number for Osama bin Laden. This is not someone Trump wants testifying against him. The problem for Trump is...that Sater already has.
Here are some of those highlights from Buzzfeed. To start with, a description of the impact when he initially turned state's witness for the government --
"Two federal prosecutors and four FBI agents showed up to vouch for him. A transcript of that hearing is heavily redacted, but it makes clear that Sater was no ordinary cooperating witness.
“'There was nothing he wouldn’t do,' former assistant US attorney Todd Kaminsky, now a New York state senator, told the judge. 'He was really helpful and was the key to open a hundred different doors.'
"[Leo] Taddeo, his main FBI handler, said that Sater’s work damaged the Bonanno crime family and helped the FBI take La Cosa Nostra out of the Wall Street stock business.
“'The length of his cooperation is extraordinary,' said Marshall Miller, another assistant US attorney. 'And I wanted to be here to express from the office’s perspective just how capable a cooperator he was, how important a cooperator he was, and how effective he was.'”
The article later notes that this wasn't a one-time bit of cooperation, which of course is central to his importance in the Mueller investigation --
"To this day, Sater continues to cooperate with the FBI and Justice Department, he said in his statement to the House Intelligence Committee. He wouldn't disclose additional details, except to say that he works on 'international matters.' Two US officials confirmed Sater continues to be a reliable asset.
Additionally, there is this long passage which deals with Sater involving himself with Trump during the course of the election, some of which lies at the center of the criminal charges being investigated --
"When Trump won the presidency, Sater saw an opportunity to do what he does best: make deals. But his ambition backfired, putting Sater in the middle of the Trump-Russia scandal.
"In early 2017, Sater told BuzzFeed News he was trying to close a deal with a Ukrainian politician and others on an energy deal in Eastern Europe. Sater estimated he and his partners could earn billions. But as they closed in, the Ukrainian, Andrey Artemenko, asked Sater for a favor: Could he broker a meeting with Trump’s team to discuss a 'peace plan' for Ukraine and Russia?
"The deal, which Sater said set out a way to lift sanctions on Russia, surely would have pleased the Kremlin, but it would have been a sharp departure from previous US policy. Still, Sater summoned Trump’s personal lawyer, Cohen, to a Midtown Manhattan hotel in February 2017, and Artemenko gave him a letter about the plan. Cohen has denied passing the plan to the White House and told BuzzFeed News he threw it out.
"Where some see the meeting as foreign interference in US policy, Sater sees opportunity. If he could grease the skids with a potential business partner while bringing peace to a war-torn region, Sater said, who could argue with that? 'No more war,' Sater said. 'People not getting killed. Beautiful situation.'
"But the encounter is now reportedly part of the special counsel’s investigation, and Sater finds himself in the spotlight. Of the Ukrainian plan, Sater said, 'I thought everybody wins. Turns out, I lost.'
"Sater has already been summoned by congressional investigators, and he is expected to speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee in April. He also has been questioned by Mueller’s team, several of whom he knows from his past undercover work. It’s almost certain that Sater has sensitive information about Trump’s business dealings, but he won’t say what he was asked or what information he provided. The special counsel’s office declined to comment for this story."
I will only note that in the initial article I wrote, Sater was reported to have told his family and friend that "I am going to jail." Whether he does is one matter. More to the point is that he is in the middle of important parts of Trump business dealings, he believes he has taken actions which are criminal, he has been a government witness in the past, and has continued to be an open cooperating witness for the government in subsequent years,
Felix Sater is serious trouble for Trump. We tries nots to steers you wrong...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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