According to a report by the Washington Post, Felix Sater, a long-time business associate of President Donald Trump, visited Russia in order to seek a deal on a new Trump Tower in Moscow during Trump's campaign for president.
While the Post wrote that Trump's level of involvement in or awareness of Sater's business trip is unknown, the president's personal attorney confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that the president's company did pursue a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 election cycle.
What the report said
The Post report stated that Sater was instrumental in pitching a project to develop a "massive Trump Tower" in Moscow, Russia. Though the trip amounted to nothing — a Trump Tower was never built in Moscow — the report piqued the interest of many.
The Post wrote:
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.
It was reported that Sater visited Russia in 2005 with the Trump Organization's approval in order to work on an exclusive deal to develop the project in Russia. The Post wrote that email evidence was unearthed from the 2015-16 period when Sater visited Russia a second time — which was also reportedly at the Trump Organization's behest. The trip was characterized as a more aggressive push toward Trump real estate holdings in Moscow.
The details of the deal, which were not previously disclosed, were said to have provided evidence that Trump’s business was actively pursuing significant commercial interests in Russia at the same time he was campaigning to be president — and in a position to determine U.S.-Russia relations. The new details from the emails, which are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigators soon, also point to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid.
Additionally, the Post wrote that Sater "predicted in a November 2015 email" that he and the Trump Organization leadership would be celebrating what was projected to be "one of the biggest residential projects in real estate history" as well as Trump's 2016 election as U.S. president.
In the email, Sater reportedly wrote that the building of a Trump Tower in Moscow would help ensure the orchestration of Trump's presidency.
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater was said to have written in an email, according to the New York Times. “I will get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
Sater's unsavory history
The Russian-born Sater served jail time in 1993 for stabbing another man in the face with a broken martini glass. Additionally, Sater pleaded guilty in 1998 to charges stemming from his role in a $40 million Mafia-linked stock fraud scheme.
Sater avoided jail time for the fraud charges by working as an informant for the FBI on the mafia as well as matters of national security.
The Associated Press revealed that Sater and Trump had crossed paths prior to his criminal history coming to light, but began working more closely together in 2010.
Sater began marketing himself as Trump's "senior adviser," and as a result of his affiliation with Bayrock Development — where he was a principal for the Trump SoHo project — maintained an office in Trump Tower.
Monday saw the Trump Organization turn over emails to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees with regard to the reported Russian hack into the 2016 presidential election.
After the emails were turned over to the House Intelligence Committee, the Trump Organization issued the following statement about real estate holdings in Russia: “To be clear, the Trump Organization has never had any real estate holdings or interests in Russia.”
Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, issued an additional statement to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday that stated that the president's company pursued a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 election cycle, but added that "the plan was abandoned for a variety of business reasons."
Cohen verified the Post's claims that Sater was instrumental in working on the abandoned business proposal.