Trump: Their Boy
While Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, Felix Sater, who was then a broker for the Trump Organization, wrote a series of emails to Trump’s personal counsel, Michael Cohen, in which he promised to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of Putin, but that never materialized. Sater expected the project would highlight Trump’s deal-making skills and boost his pursuit of the candidacy for president. Sater said he had lined up financing for the tower with VTB Bank, which is 60.9% owned by the Russian government was under American sanctions for involvement in Moscow’s efforts in the Ukraine.
Although Trump has denied knowing him, Sater appeared in photos with Trump, and carried a Trump Organization business card with the title “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.” Sater had already served time prison for stabbing a man in the face with the stem of a margarita glass. Sater pled guilty in 1998 to one count of racketeering for his role in a $40 million stock fraud scheme involving the Genovese and Bonanno crime families.
Sater also served as a government informant on the mob and mysterious matters of national security, including by providing “significant intelligence with respect to nuclear weapons in a major country openly hostile to the United States.” In 2014 Sater was named Man of the Year by Chabad of Port Washington, NY. The award was presented by Sater’s rabbi, Shalom Paltiel, Port Washington Chabad’s founder, who is also close to “Putin’s rabbi” Berel Lazar, calling Lazar “my dear friend and mentor.” Paltiel explained the award was partly in response to a closed-door meeting he was invited to attend with Sater at the federal building in New York, where dozens of intelligence officers from many agencies praised Sater as a “national hero.”
Cohen, whose wife is Ukrainian, has maintained a relationship with Trump for many years operating in New York commercial real estate. According to the Dossier, Cohen’s wife is of Russian descent and her father a leading property developer in Moscow. The Dossier also reported that a Kremlin insider asserted that Cohen met secretly with several Russian Presidential Administration Legal Department officials in Prague in August 2016. The source went on to identify leading pro-Putin Duma figure, Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, as having possibly participated in the meeting. Its purpose was to clean up the mess caused by revelations of Paul Manafort and Carter Page’s dealings with the Ukranians and Russians. Cohen agreed to contingency plans for various scenarios to protect the operation, but in particular what was to be done in the event that Hillary Clinton won the election.
In an email to Cohen on November 3, 2015, referring to the time when he helped arrange a trip that Ivanka took to Moscow in 2006, Sater boasted:
Michael I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin. I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected. We both know no one else knows how to pull this off without stupidity or greed getting in the way. I know how to play it and we will get this done. Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.
According to the Trump Dossier, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure confided that the Kremlin has been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Hillary Clinton for several years. This was confirmed by Sergei Millian, referred to as “source D,” a close associate of Trump, who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow. Source E, a Russian close associate of Trump, admitted that there was a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between them and the Russian leadership, which was managed on the Trump side by Manafort and Carter Page.
Rumors maintain that source E is former senior Trump campaign advisor Boris Epshteyn, which Joseph Cannon was able to confirm from an anonymous informant. Epshteyn is a Jewish Russia-born American Republican political strategist, investment banker, and attorney. Epshteyn moderated a panel at an October 2013 conference in New York City called “Invest in Moscow!” The panel was mainly comprised of Moscow city government officials, like Sergey Cheremin, a city minister who heads Moscow’s foreign economic and international relations department. Epshteyn previously worked on the McCain-Palin campaign. Epshteyn had met Trump’s son Eric at Georgetown University, and following Trump's election, he was named director of communications for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and then assistant communications director for surrogate operations in the administration, until he resigned in March 2017.
Epshteyn was then hired by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, which is the second-largest television station operator in the United States (behind Nexstar Media Group) by number of stations, and largest by total coverage. Regarding the appointment, Scott Livingston at Sinclair said in part, “We understand the frustration with government and traditional institutions.” Jared Kushner told a private business luncheon in December 2016 that Sinclair executives worked with the campaign to spread pro-Trump messages in Sinclair newscasts, which reach 81 markets in key heartland regions that supported Trump, which Sinclair had “vehemently denied.”
Source E also corroborated the most explosive allegation that the dossier says originally came from source D [Sergei Millian], which is the claim that Trump had hired prostitutes at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton and that the Kremlin has kept recordings of the encounter. According to the dossier, source E [Epshteyn] and several of the staff were aware of the incident. Source E had provided an introduction for a company Russian operative to source F, a female staffer at the hotel. An additional source, with direct knowledge, said that Trump’s minimal investment profile in Russia was not for want of effort. Trump had made efforts in the real estate sector in St. Petersburg and Moscow, but, according to the source, he had to settle for the extensive use of the sexual services of the local prostitutes.
Epshteyn, or source E, also confirmed that Russia was behind the DNC leak, which used Wikileaks as plausible deniability. The operation was conducted with the full knowledge and support of the Trump and senior members of the campaign team. An associate of Sergei Ivanov said that the hackers were paid by both Trump’s team and the Kremlin.
On June 16, 2016, the day after the Washington Post broke the news that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Speaker Paul Ryan met in Washington with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undermine Eastern European democratic institutions. In a subsequent recorded conversation with Ryan and Rep. Steve Scalise, the current House of Representatives Majority Whip, McCarthy reflected on how Russian meddling might impact the United States, and observed with a laugh, “I’ll guarantee you that’s what it is… The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp [opposition] research that they had on Trump.” He then added, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” drawing laughter, “Swear to God.” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.
“This is an off the record,” Ryan then said. “No leaks, all right?,” Ryan said, adding: “This is how we know we’re a real family here.” Scalise said, “That’s how you know that we’re tight.” Ryan added, “What’s said in the family stays in the family.” On June 14, 2017, Scalise and three other people were shot and wounded by James Hodgkinson, who opened fire with a rifle during a baseball practice of the Republican team for the annual Congressional Baseball Game.
What one senator called one of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s “most important” hearings involved a deposition by William Browder, an American who founded and ran one of the largest investment firms in Russia, Hermitage Capital Management, from 1996-2005. When he and his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky discovered a massive corruption scheme, they went to the authorities. However, instead, Browder was denied access back into the country while Magnitsky tortured and killed. Following advocacy by Browder, in 2012, Congress passed the Magnitsky Act. The law targets Russian human rights abusers by freezing their American assets and banning them from entering the U.S.
Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya has become what Browder called “the point person” for Russia’s fight to repeal the law and has been lobbying against the act for years. She gained notoriety when it was revealed she met at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manfort and Jared Kushner on June 9, 2016, about repealing the law should Trump become president. But in a series of emails exchanged prior to the meeting, Trump Jr. was told Veselnitskaya would have incriminating information about Hillary Clinton supplied by the Russian government in an effort to help his father’s presidential campaign.
Also in attendance was Rinat R. Akhmetshin, a former Soviet military officer who served in a counterintelligence unit, is also a well-known Washington lobbyist who worked for an organisation run by Veselnitskaya. Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence but he denies the allegations, calling them a “smear campaign.” Upon arriving in the U.S. in the 1990s, Akhmetshin launched his own think tank called the International Eurasia Institute with Akezhan Kazhegeldin, a former prime minister of Kazakhstan. In 2010, he submitted an op-ed to The Washington Times on behalf of Viktor Ivanov, one of Putin’s closest allies and the former head of the Narcotics Service of Russia. When asked by a lawyer if he knew that Ivanov had worked for the KGB, Akhmetshin responded: “I might have.”
“I think I just have a talent for media,” Akhmetshin told lawyers in 2012. “Living in the United States, I observed political life, especially in Washington. And I think I understand this political system quite well. And news cycle, I understand it better, probably, than most Americans.” According to the New York Times, Akhmetshin, boasts about his skill with computers, was accused of being involved in two hacking campaigns and reportedly had a web of Russian connections. Akhmetshin was employed by an alliance of businessmen led by Suleiman Kerimov, a financier close to Putin who was in a dispute with competitor Ashot Egiazaryan. Akhmetshin pushed negative stories on Egiazaryan in the American and Russian press, and looked into political firms that might help manipulate internet search results. In 2015, International Mineral Resources (IMR), a Kazakh mining company alleged it had been hacked by Akhmetshin who stole sensitive and confidential materials as part of an alleged black-ops smear campaign against the company.
Akhmetshin was linked to Fusion GPS in Washington, D.C., the same firm which retained Christopher Steele who produced the Trump Dossier. Fusion GPS was founded by Glenn R. Simpson, an American former journalist with The Wall Street Journal and co-author of Dirty Little Secrets: The Persistence of Corruption in American Politics with Larry Sabato, the founder and director of the Center for Politics. Bill Browder accused Simpson and Fusion GPS of evading registration as foreign agents for campaigning to influence and overturn the Magnitsky Act.
In 2013, the US Department of Justice, represented by Preet Bharara, sued Prevezon Holding, a corporation from Cyprus registered in the US as a foreign business corporation, under the Magnitsky Act for money-laundering. The sole shareholder of Prevezon is Russian citizen Denis Katsyv, whose father is Petr Katsyv, vice president of Russia’s state-run rail monopoly and a business associate of Vladimir Yakunin, a confidant of Putin. Because Katsyv’s Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is not licensed to practice in the US, Katsyv hired the law firm of BakerHostetler to represent Prevezon, who in turn hired Fusion GPS early in 2014 to provide research help. In May 2017, two months after Trump had dismissed Bharara, the lawsuit was settled for $6 million, without Prevezon admitting to any wrongdoing and with both sides claiming victory.
On July 27, 2017, Fusion GPS accused the White House of trying to “smear” it for investigating the president's alleged ties to Russia. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pointed to Browder's testimony as vindication of Trump's claims that ongoing investigations into potential ties between his campaign and Moscow are political ploys to undermine his presidency. But Fusion GPS countered that it worked only with a law firm in New York "to provide support for civil litigation" unrelated to Russian efforts to do away with the Magnitsky Act, saying it had no reason to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein made arrangements in July 2017 for Fusion GPS cofounder Glenn Simpson to testify before their committee. Senators were expected to also use the hearing “to press Justice Department officials on what they know about Veselnitskaya, Prevezon, Fusion GPS and their connections to both the Trump campaign or the Russian government.”
Miss Universe Pageant
The meeting was arranged by publicist Rob Goldstone on behalf of his client Russian pop star Emin in his June 3 2017, email to Trump Jr., Goldstone wrote, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.” Agalarov. Goldstone is a British music publicist whose association with the Trumps dates back to the Miss Universe 2013 pageant held in Moscow that was co-owned by Donald Trump. Emin’s father, is Aras Agalarov, the founder of Crocus Group, one of Russia’s largest real estate developers, sometimes called the “Trump of Russia,” who is close to Putin. Agalarov had a contract with Putin to build the first section of a vital new ring road around Moscow. In November 2013, Putin awarded Agalarov the Russian Order of Honor. Agalarov paid Trump $20 million to host the pageant, which was held at his Crocus City Hall, where his son Emin performed. Trump then appeared in a music video with Emin alongside many of the contestants.
Emin, who is known for being accompanied by beautiful women, and was once married to the daughter of the president of Azerbaijan, reportedly offered to send prostitutes to Trump’s hotel room, coinciding with the claims of the Trump Dossier, “but the repeated offers were rejected by Keith Schiller, Trump’s longtime bodyguard.” Nevertheless, according to the Trump Dossier, two knowledgeable St. Petersburg sources claim Trump has paid bribes and engaged in sex parties there, and believe that Aras Agalarov knows the details.
The pageant put Trump in contact with influential people in Russia, as he explained in a September 2015 interview on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.” “I called it my weekend in Moscow,” said Trump. He added: “I was with the top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top-of-the-government people. I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.” Aras Agalarov told the Washington Post in 2016 that Putin was planning to meet with Trump during his visit to Moscow, prior to which Trump conjectured on Twitter, “If so, will he become my new best friend?” MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts asked Trump at the time if he had a relationship with Putin. “I do have a relationship and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today,” Trump answered. “He’s probably very interested in what… I am saying today, and I’m sure he’s going to be seeing it in some form.” Instead, Putin had to cancel due to a scheduling conflict and the Agalarovs passed along a friendly note from Putin and a traditional Russian box as a gift.
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