How does a personal injury attorney from Queens and the owner of a failed casino boat venture become an international player and confidant to a sitting president? With a little help from his friends, in Cohen’s case, his old buddy Felix Sater, whom he met while they were both working at the Trump Organization. Felix Sater has been speaking with Buzzfeed News, who just released a long, must-read article on the almost-building of Trump Tower Moscow, and all the interesting characters and anecdotes associated therewith. Here’s just a sketch. Buzzfeed News:
The building, originally called Trump World Tower Moscow, was supposed to be the tallest in Europe at well over 100 stories. Sater said he intended to negotiate an even split between himself and the Trump Organization: as much as $100 million or more, which would have amounted to 30% of the sales. “But first I needed to get more meat on the bones and show the Trump Organization that they needed me,” he told BuzzFeed News.
Sater used a network of contacts from his days in both business and intelligence to line up potential suitors. On Oct. 9, he emailed Cohen to say he planned to meet with Molchanov, the billionaire developer, to try to persuade him to provide the land on which to build Trump Moscow. Molchanov did not return a message seeking comment.
On Oct. 12, he again emailed Cohen. Their surrogates in Moscow would be meeting with Putin and a “top deputy” just two days later, and they had financing: VTB Bank President and Chairman Andrey Kostin was on board to fund the project, Sater said in an email.
And guess what? Ivanka was in town too, and she was so apparently enchanted with Putin that she asked to sit in his chair.
For Ivanka and Donald Jr., Sater arranged a tour of the Kremlin. Sater, as would be the case over and over in his life, had an inside connection. He phoned an old friend, a Russian billionaire, whom he knew through his Bayrock connections. The billionaire sent a fleet of cars and guards to escort them through the Kremlin, and when a tour guide pointed out Putin’s office, Ivanka Trump asked if she could sit in his chair at an antique desk. One of the guards said, “Are you crazy?”
“I said, ‘What is she going to do, steal a pen?’” Sater recalled. “He let us in. She sat behind the desk, spun in the chair twice, and that was that.”
Cohen and Sater got excited and the more excited they got the more intimately connected with Russian oligarchs they became.
“Everything will be negotiated and discussed not with flunkies but with people who will have dinner with Putin and discuss the issues and get a go-ahead,” Sater wrote to Cohen on Nov. 3. “My next steps are very sensitive with Putin’s very, very close people. We can pull this off.”
On Dec. 1, Sater emailed Cohen, asking him to send him photographs of his passport to facilitate a trip to Moscow.
The following day, reporters for the Associated Press met with Trump on the campaign trail and asked him about Sater. “I’m not that familiar with him,” Trump replied.
Negotiations for Cohen to visit Russia began to heat up. On Dec. 13, Sater emailed that he had an old friend on the phone with him right then, who was trying to arrange the trip. This friend is a former member of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence unit that the US intelligence community believes interfered during the 2016 election.
Both Cohen and Sater were simultaneously making plans to attend both the Republican National Convention and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where they intended to transact crucial business. You may remember Sater being quoted in the Steele dossier saying, “We can get our boy elected.”
In essence, Felix Sater has flipped and Michael Cohen is in up to his eyeballs.