Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman with a checkered past, has emerged as a central figure in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.
Here’s a rundown of Sater’s background and why his name continues to pop up in relation to Mueller’s ongoing probe.
Felix Sater, 52, was born in Moscow, but his family moved to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York, when he was 8 years old.
Sater has an extremely colourful history, involving bar fights, prison time, mob ties, and work as an FBI informant.
Sater, the former managing director of the real-estate development firm Bayrock Group, has close ties to the Trump Organisation.
Sater is a felon and spent a year in prison after stabbing a man in the face with a broken margarita glass during a bar fight. He was 27 at the time. The man he stabbed suffered nerve damage and required 110 stitches to close the laceration on his face.
Source: The Nation
“I got into a bar fight over a girl neither he nor I knew,” Sater said in a 2007 interview. “My life spiraled out of control.” Sater was a Wall Street broker at the time and lost his stockbroker’s licence after the fight.
Source: The New York Times
In the late 1990s, Sater became an FBI informant after pleading guilty to involvement in a $US40 million stock-fraud scheme orchestrated by the Russian mafia.
Source: CBS News
In a statement Sater provided to government investigators in March, he claimed to have “provided extraordinary assistance to our government involving serious matters of National Security, posing tremendous risks to my safety and the safety of my family.” This included allegedly providing information on al-Qaida after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Sater was also once reportedly involved in a plan to buy antiaircraft missiles on the black market for the CIA in either Russia or Afghanistan.
Source: The New York Times
Sater met Trump in 2003 while working for the Bayrock Group, which had its offices in Trump Tower in Manhattan. In the mid-2000s, he was involved in a failed effort to purchase land and build a high-end skyscraper for Trump in Moscow.
Source: The Daily Beast
In 2006, Sater travelled to Russia with Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, giving them a tour of the Kremlin.
In 2015 and 2016, Sater worked with Michael Cohen on a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. He pitched the idea to Cohen, telling him it would help get Trump elected. Sater told Cohen, “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.”
Sater told Cohen he would manage the project and get Russian President Vladimir Putin’s team on board. “I will get Putin on this program, and we will get Donald elected,” Sater told Cohen.
Cohen on Thursday pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his involvement in the Trump Tower plan. The president’s former personal lawyer said he and Sater discussed getting approval from the Russian government for the project up until June 2016, well into the 2016 presidential campaign season. Previously, Cohen claimed the discussions ceased in January 2016.
In court documents linked to Cohen’s bombshell revelations on Thursday, which came after a new plea deal with Mueller, Sater is referred to as “Individual 2” in relation to the Trump Tower discussions.
Source: Department of Justice
As part of the discussions, Cohen was at one point reportedly in contact with Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary.
Sater said that as part of the Trump Tower plan they wanted to offer Putin a $US50 million penthouse in the tower to make it more appealing to other rich Russians.
“My idea was to give a $US50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $US250 million more for the rest of the units,” Sater said. “All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.”
The scrapped Trump Tower plan is at the center of Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the US election and allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin.
Trump has vehemently denied the collusion allegations and routinely refers to the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt.” He’s also claimed he wouldn’t recognise Sater if they were sitting in a room together, despite their well-documented history of working together.
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