No smoke. No fire. Nothing to see here. Just keep moving.
Right. These things just keep turning up by coincidence.
Given that Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, the alleged Russian mob fixer, left the campaign under the heavy fog of suspicion, regarding his ties to rather unsavory, pro-Russia figures, including having reportedly received hefty payments from those same sources, it makes this all the more curious.
A Russian-born, mafia-linked businessman whose ties to both Donald Trump and loyalists of Russian President Vladimir Putin have sparked scrutiny, visited Trump Tower last month for undisclosed business, he told POLITICO.
The businessman, Felix Sater, also donated the maximum allowable contribution to Trump’s presidential campaign, according to the campaign’s most recent FEC filing.
The relationship between Sater and Trump apparently developed when Sater’s firm worked on a Trump-backed project in New York, leading to Trump hire Sater to help him garner business in the former USSR.
Trump now claims he doesn’t know Sater, but Sater claims a closer relationship.
Sater told POLITICO that he has not seen the candidate recently and that the purpose of his visit to Trump Tower last month is “confidential.” Sater declined to say whether he’s had recent contact with the Trump Organization or Trump’s children. “I don’t see the relevance of that,” he said.
Sater gave the campaign $5,520 in three donations in July, according to the campaign’s August FEC filing. Because the maximum allowed individual contribution is $5400, the campaign refunded the $120 difference.
Sater’s business relationship with Trump has been the subject of sworn testimony by both men and has come under scrutiny because of Sater’s past associations and the Trump campaign’s unusual stances on Russia. Sater was convicted for stabbing a man in a bar fight in the early ’90s, and pleaded guilty to racketeering in 1998 for his role in a mob-orchestrated stock fraud, according to The Washington Post. His racketeering sentence was reduced for cooperating with American intelligence officials on undisclosed matters related to national security.
This is the appropriate place to go wide-eyed and say out loud, “Are you serious?”
In the late 90s, Sater worked with Bayrock, a real estate firm that had offices in Trump Tower and also dabbled in business ventures with Trump, at that time.
Fast forward to today and Bayrock is in the middle of a lawsuit brought by a former executive, involving unexplained cash moving into the company from Russia and Kazakhstan. Then, of course, there was financing from a firm that was favorable with Putin.
Sater went to work for Trump, directly, in 2010, and even carried business cards that listed his title as a “senior advisor to Donald Trump.”
But Trump doesn’t know him.
Under oath, Trump has described his ties to Sater as distant, saying during testimony for a case related to a Trump development in Fort Lauderdale that he would not recognize Sater if the two were sitting in the same room.
In testimony related to a libel suit brought by Trump against a book author and first revealed by the Post, Sater said under oath that he met frequently with Trump in the billionaire’s office over a period of several years, flew with him to Colorado, and entertained a request from Trump to show Ivanka and Donald Jr. around Moscow in 2006.
So who is telling the truth? Sater and Trump seem to have varying shades of that truth, in regards to their relationship.
There is a reason these issues continue to bubble to the surface, and are doing so with increasing frequency, as we draw closer to November. Firing Manafort isn’t the same as covering up a past that is straining to see the light of day, again.
Trump and Bayrock partnered with the Sapir Organization, led by the now-deceased Tamir Sapir and his son Alex, in the development of the Trump SoHo high-rise in Manhattan a decade ago. During the Cold War, Tamir Sapir, an émigré from the Soviet Union, sold electronics to KGB agents from a storefront in Manhattan. Alex Sapir’s business partner Rotem Rosen is a former lieutenant of the Soviet-born Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, an oligarch with longstanding ties to Vladimir Putin who counts the Russian president as a “true friend.”
The facts are, rumors of Trump’s involvement with the Russian mob are not new. These stories were available to anyone with an inkling of curiosity, willing to do a quick Google search from before he ever announced his candidacy a year ago.
That, of course, is the problem. Many of those who are driving the train of democracy over a cliff have not the patience to vet a candidate, and most frightening, many do not care.
I will concede that every report, rumor, and backdoor whispering about Trump’s disturbing acquaintances could be false, or at the very least, misunderstood and overblown. It’s possible. Possible… but not entirely likely, given the sheer volume and consistency of the reports.
This will go down as the most shameful election season in American history. If we survive the next four years, I pray the dullards that have gotten us here are capable of learning that if they can’t think, at least they should stay home during primaries.