Monday, August 28, 2017

What Secrets Is Mueller Finding As He Investigates Trump's Shady Foreign Deals?-- Part III


[Last night Valley Girl outlined, in Parts I (here) and II (here), some of the corrupt business practices that have long been at the center of the Trump Organization's dealings with the former Soviet Union. This evening's segment is about Trump's shenanigans in Moscow itself... and in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign.]

-by Valley Girl

Scanning the news this morning, I found this WaPo article. The Washington Post breaking news is: While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers.” The article goes on to mention Felix Sater and the Bayrock Group, among other principals. (remember that these names are just a Google search away.) OK, the fact that Trump was pursuing the idea of a Trump Tower in Moscow is news.

But far more damning as to Trump’s Russian connections are reports from May, 2017, which likewise report on Felix Sater and the Bayrock Group, and more. The damning information comes in May 2017 from ZEMBLA, a Dutch organization that specializes in producing documentaries for Dutch TV. I’d long ago watched their two-part documentary via youtube: ZEMBLA-- The dubious friends of Donald Trump: the Russians (part 1- 45 minutes) and ZEMBLA-- The dubious friends of Donald trump: King of Diamonds (part 2- 36 minutes).

In court, Trump, lying with impunity, pretended to not know Sater

Part 1 is discussed here, at Huff Post and at Salon. From Huff Po:
A ZEMBLA investigation suggests that the American real estate company Bayrock, through which Donald Trump constructed hotels and apartment complexes, siphoned off $1.5 million by setting up a corporate structure in the Netherlands in 2007. ZEMBLA discovered that the corporate construction was established on the advice of an external legal counsel, namely Bracewell & Giuliani, also known for Rudi Giuliani, former mayor of New York and Trump confidante. The ultimate beneficiary owners of the Dutch business construction: the director of Bayrock and the Khrapunov family from Kazakhstan. Head of the family is Viktor Khrapunov, a former mayor and governor from Kazakhstan, who has been accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of state assets. In 2013 the Khrapunov family bought three apartments in Trump SoHo: Bayrock and Donald Trump are owners of that hotel-condominium.

One of the Bayrock owners is the Russian born Felix Sater, Trump’s former business partner. Though Sater spent years trying to line up deals with Donald Trump’s real estate organization all over the world, Trump has denied knowing Sater. The two met in 2003 when Trump was looking to expand his business globally. Because Sater failed to divulge his criminal history to Trump, he became a liability, putting the president’s financial interest at substantial risk. Should civil or criminal misconduct be proven in the care of Bayrock, Trump could be found complicit, possibly costing him millions of dollars in fines and/or penalties. The president has announced he will get to the bottom of the matter, but documents from the Bayrock corporation show otherwise: Trump actually tried to benefit from the situation, even risking leverage from anyone who knew of his jeopardy.
Russian Mafia figure Felix Sater with shady business associate

And from Salon:
Nearly every newsworthy story about the White House this week (May 2017) has contained one common thread: Russia. Whether it involves President Donald Trump facing backlash for sharing highly classified information with Russian diplomats or encountering fallout from the firing of FBI Director James Comey amid the bureau’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election with possible ties to Trump, his relationship with Russia is proving to be ever relevant.

In examining Trump’s business partners, the filmmakers encounter the Russian mafia, including business and personal connections to oligarchs in Russia. The documentary takes a close look at Trump’s connections to the country, starting with his first trip to Russia in the 1980s.

The Zembla filmmakers interview some of Trump’s controversial friends, a former CIA agent, fraud investigators and attorneys, as well as U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat representing Rhode Island.

In the film, Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. intelligence officer, discusses Trump’s tendency to shy away from negative assessments of Russians: “If you’re a gambling addict and you owe someone a lot of money, you will never insult your bookie,” Nance says.
Also read ZEMBLA post from May 3, 2017, about part 1 of their documentary. Part 2 of the Zembla documentary is discussed at Alternet on May 15, 2017:
Dutch Documentary Part II: Blood on Trump and Kushner's Hands from Deals with Africa War Zone Diamond Mines Lev Leviev's diamond empire stretches from Angola to Moscow, London and Amsterdam.

The Trump family’s business partners have blood on their hands owing to deals with notorious diamond brokers who operate mines in war torn Africa and own jewelry stores in London, Moscow and Amsterdam.

That's the premise in Part Two of a documentary series by the Dutch TV network Zembla, The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump: King of Diamonds. It shows how the U.S. president and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have apparent partnerships with an Israeli billionaire who is tied to “trading in blood diamonds,” as the film's description notes, and how this relationship overlaps with power circles in Russia reaching President Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs.

“In the second part of our program about Donald Trump’s controversial friends, we will set our sights on the Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, who is controversial because he is suspected of trading in blood diamonds,” says the documentary's YouTube summary. “He is one of the world’s biggest diamond traders and owns prestigious stores in New York and Moscow, but he is also the owner of Siebel, the Netherlands’ biggest jewelry chain. Leviev has ties with Russian president Putin, U.S. president Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Trump, however, claims he hardly knows this ‘King of Diamonds.’ Zembla investigates Lev Leviev’s business empire.”

The first part of the documentary series focused on Trump’s ties to Russian mobsters and oligarchs. That eye-opening report showed how Trump nurtured deals with oligarchs seeking to get their riches out of Russia and revealed how Trump signed off on international money-laundering schemes, including one set up by the law firm of ex-New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. In the second part, we see how Trump is willing to make deals with anyone who can offer him a return, regardless of the suffering involved. The documentary also shines a light on Kushner’s relationships, which blend business, politics and religion.

There are a half-dozen takeaways from Part II, said James S. Henry, a corporate lawyer-turned-financial investigative reporter who has written lengthy exposés of Trump’s Russian connections and is featured in the film.

“I think the real news and interest in Part Two involves the exposure of apparent Trump partner Leviev's reported deep involvement in (a) trafficking in Angolan blood diamonds by way of his special arrangement with Eduardo dos Santos and family, the country's long-time dictator and chief kleptocrat; (b) Leviev's close ties to Putin; (c) Leviev's extensive business dealings with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner; (d) the extensive financial support that both Leviev and Kushner have given to extremist Israel settlers—support that appears to be inconsistent with the role that Kushner has apparently been given by the Trump administration with respect to the peace process; and (e) Leviev's alleged extensive use of non-transparent Dutch and other offshore holding companies to facilitate all these dodgy practices,” Henry wrote in an email to AlterNet.

Sander Rietveld, the documentary’s lead reporter, said Part Two is relevant for American audiences and lawmakers because it raises questions about Trump’s business relationships that can only be answered by examining his tax returns. Congressional Democrats have said Trump’s returns must be fully released before any consideration of federal tax reform.

“I think this is an excellent example of why President Trump needs to disclose his tax returns,” Rietveld said in an email. “Only when he does so, we'll know if and how he was engaged in a business deal with Lev Leviev [beyond the public relations materials shown in the film]. Given the extensive business empire of Leviev, Trump and he could have been together in real estate in the U.S., in Russia or in Eastern Europe. Or in some kind of diamond operation. According to well-established experts and investigators these kinds of operations in Africa and specifically in Angola are related to severe human rights abuses committed by security firms hired by mining companies.”

The film also examines the business circles Kushner travels in, showing overlapping ties between conservative Jewish groups and clerics and politically powerful Russians and Israelis, including Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The overlap of business and ideology and politics is another takeaway from this story,” Rietveld said. “Jared Kushner, the president's man for the Middle East, and Leviev's company AFI USA not only made a multimillion-dollar deal; they also seem to share a political view on Israel and the Palestinian territories. Both of them have been active in supporting settlements on the West Bank, which according to international law are illegal. And both of them have a very good relationship with the current, very right-wing Israeli government, and more personally with Bibi Netanyahu.”
For my money (that’s an idiom) part 2 of the documentary is by far the most explosive, and provides damning information about Jared Kushner and his “circle of friends”

Here’s another twist from the New York Times today.  
A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.

The associate, Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Mr. Putin and predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would highlight Mr. Trump’s savvy negotiating skills and be a political boon to his candidacy.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

The emails show that, from the earliest months of Mr. Trump’s campaign, some of his associates viewed close ties with Moscow as a political advantage. Those ties are now under investigation by the Justice Department and multiple congressional committees.

American intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election to try to help Mr. Trump. Investigators want to know whether anyone on Mr. Trump’s team was part of that process.

Mr. Sater, a Russian immigrant, said he had lined up financing for the Trump Tower deal with VTB Bank, a Russian bank that was under American sanctions for involvement in Moscow’s efforts to undermine democracy in Ukraine. In another email, Mr. Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Moscow.

“I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Mr. Sater wrote.

“To be clear, the Trump Organization has never had any real estate holdings or interests in Russia,” the Trump Organization said Monday in a statement.

The Trump Organization on Monday turned over emails to the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election and whether anyone in Mr. Trump’s campaign was involved. Some of the emails were obtained by The Times.

None of the emails obtained by The Times include any responses from Mr. Cohen to Mr. Sater’s messages.

In a statement on Monday, Mr. Cohen suggested that he viewed Mr. Sater’s comments as puffery. “He has sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to ‘salesmanship,’” the statement said. “I ultimately determined that the proposal was not feasible and never agreed to make a trip to Russia.”

Mr. Sater was a broker for the Trump Organization at the time of his messages to Mr. Cohen, which means he was paid to deliver real estate deals and had an incentive to overstate his business-making acumen. He presents himself in his emails as so influential in Russia that he helped arrange a 2006 trip that Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, took to Moscow.

“I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin,” he said.

Ms. Trump said she had no involvement in the discussions about the Moscow deal. In a statement, she said that during the 2006 trip, she took “a brief tour of Red Square and the Kremlin” as a tourist. She said it is possible she sat in Mr. Putin’s chair during that tour but she did not recall it. “I have never met President Vladimir Putin,” she said.
The story is worthy, but really doesn’t give away much about Felix Sater. In fact, Sater is/ was a Russian Syndicate Crime Boss, and is part of a Moscow-organized crime family. Sater becomes an FBI informant. The American government covers up his fraud, and Sater’s trial transcripts are closed. In Congressional hearings, the then FBI Director James Comey has “no comment” to questions about Sater.

Watch part 1 of ZEMBLA’s investigative report below. But skip ahead to 16:03 and listen until 24:05. The information above is in this part.

I'd like to know exactly when Felix Sater became an FBI informant. That may be unknowable. But, the question is: were his emails sent before or after that. Over and out!

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At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, nothing here is secret.

If the us had any journalists, as the Dutch evidently have, all this would have been exposed the week after the pos declared and maybe he and Kushner-in-law would be in prison.

But Reagan repudiated the equal time and fairness doctrines; and several admins have eroded other FCC regs to nothing so we now have nothing but corporate for-profit media, which is anathema to good journalism.

Can you believe that "Rolling Stone" is our main source of political journalism??

At 12:45 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Ring Of Fire talked about Sater here.

At 4:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that Mueller has subpoenaed John Podesta, HRC campaign chair. (carefully buried herein

The Podesta group aided the transfer of 20% of the company "Uranium One" to Russia with the approval of HRC, yes, among others, as Sec State. Details here:

It's a NYT article entitled: "Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal"

John Puma

At 6:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Mueller is inoculating himself from being sacked by going after $hillbillary and/or their corrupt foundation.

I would not lament findings against the royals of the democrap party as long as they also "find" everything else that is already known about the trump crimes.
In fact, indictments on everyone would be a perfect validation that **ALL** American politics is more filthy than anywhere else.

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

When will enough be enough? Trump has clearly participated in criminal enterprises for many years and yet, nothing happens and it goes on and on. His abuse of the office of the President is beyond belief. Trump is morphing further, if that is even possible, into monstrous proportions and the USA will sink (is already sinking) fast. As DT says, "Sad."

Congress does NOTHING. The Republicans do NOTHING. They are all traitors to democracy and our Constitution.

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, to be fair, the democraps did nothing about any of it for 8 years before. And they did nothing to remedy reaganism and iran/contra for 8 years between '92 and 2000.

So don't just focus on Rs. Your Democraps haven't done shit either. "impeachment is off the table" still.

At 9:00 AM, Blogger VG said...

Two recent posts well worth reading- discussing the emails and Sater and more- one by Digby and another by Emptywheel.


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