Updated: Apr 30
A reader's job when reviewing this curious case of Felix Sater would be easier if this case were a short and simple one. However, this case is hardly short or simple, and if it were, it would hardly be considered curious. A reader tackling this "then vs. now" review should be forewarned this is a lengthy read which could be reviewed in one sitting like a mini-book or over an extended period of days. It has been broken out into sections which will begin by reviewing what Glenn Simpson (Fusion GPS) should have known in the public record regarding Felix Sater in the fall of 2015, what additional facts came out through a chronological review of the years and unearthed details since then, along with the four main points or ways Felix Sater came to be described in the media as the "heart" of the Trump Russia investigation and wrapped up in the Mueller investigation. The ending will summarize some of the main remaining questions.
There were many opportunities over the last decade, even before the 2016 presidential election race, for the American public to read or hear the name Felix Sater. This could have been in 2007, during the construction of Trump SoHo, when The New York Times published a story with a headline, ‘Real Estate Executive With Hand in Trump Projects Rose From Tangled Past.’ Or in 2008 when NYMag wrote in their article the Times story “outed” Sater as an “ex-con with possible Mafia connections.” It could have been even as late as September of 2012 when the Miami Herald linked Felix Sater to being referred to as “John Doe” in a pending legal case. Their article was titled ‘Strange bedfellows: Swindler, Stinger-missile brokers, the CIA.’
Any decent and critical researcher, and especially a company like Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS being paid handsomely to perform such work, should have established the following high-level summary timeline on Sater from 1991 - 2015. When reviewing this timeline, understand this sets the basis of what should have been gleaned of public court records and media articles by the time Fusion GPS admittedly began looking into Sater for his reported links to Russian organized crime. However, the conclusions Glenn Simpson and his company reached were arguably different than others may have drawn based on the same set of facts. While this by itself isn't very noteworthy considering people draw different conclusions based on the same facts all the time, what is interesting is how these conclusions never changed as new facts emerged with time, Mueller's Special Counsel investigation came and went, and Felix Sater was never indicted for a single lie.
1991 - bar fight; age 25 - same year Soviet Union collapsed
1993-96 - fighting appeal on bar fight conviction, resorted to partnering with three others with stock fraud scam common on Wall Street during this years (see: Operation Street Cleaner reference CNN, March 2000); in prison for bar fight between June 1994 and September 1995
1996-98 - Traveled to (and briefly lived in) Russia as consultant for AT&T with two of the partners in stock fraud scam, Salvatore “Sal” Lauria and Gennady “Gene” Klotsman, at a time when President Bill Clinton was in office and Russia was like the Wild Wild West with unbridled and unregulated capitalism
1998 - older article linking Felix Sater to opened rental storage locker with documents related to stock fraud scam and corresponding indictments
2000s -working at Bayrock licensing Trump brand on real estate deals with Tevfik Arif, Sapir Organization, while also doing consulting work for Rixos Hotels, Sembol Construction, and Mirax Group between 2005-2010
2003 - The book Scorpion and the Frog: High Times and High Crimes was published where Lex Tersa was the pseudonym for Felix Sater and described the 90s stock scam along with Sater and his partners' travel to Russia; described Sater's family having links to world organized crime
2007-08 - Sater was specifically named in articles in 2007 and 2008 as possibly having Mafia ties and having helped the CIA in the late 90s to hunt down Stinger missiles on the black market
2009 - Patrick Byrne's (then-CEO of Overstock) website Deep Capture linked Felix Sater to the "Milken network" and organized crime; the Michael Milken of naked short-selling 80s fame; Byrne also had associated Felix Sater to a death threat he believed he had received in prior years
2010 - Lawsuits started and continued for years beyond this point to have Sater's files being sealed by the government unsealed; public records indicated an ex-Bayrock IT employee, Josh Bernstein, had been asked to make a backup of the Bayrock system, and when he was later fired, had shown to other people files he had found which Sater had stored on the Bayrock system related to his criminal conviction from the stock fraud scam and related cooperation with the FBI
2012 - article in Miami Herald detailed how in the previous year (2011) files had been submitted to the court which had, per their reporting, “set off a reaction in the courts rarely seen, with one judge sealing the civil suit and another judge ordering a criminal probe of the lawyer who filed it.” Two lawyers had been given copies of these files Bernstein illegally obtained and even though they were marked as sealed information, submitted them in their motion publicly. They received the wrath of the Judge for taking this action. The lawyer representing Sater on behalf of the government, Kelly Moore, called keeping his files sealed important to “national security." (This was in 2011, over two years after he’d already faced sentencing for his role in the mid-90s stock scam.)
2013 - While Donald Trump is most often quoted in a deposition from this year as saying he wouldn't recognize Felix Sater if they were in the same room together, he also said three different times Sater "seemed close to the federal government"; this is the year then-CEO of Overstock's Deep Capture website linked Felix Sater to Mogilevich, a so-called "Russian mobster" on the FBI Most Wanted list
2015 - Supreme Court ruled against the request for unsealing of Sater's files; Obama Attorney General then-nominee Loretta Lynch was asked in her nomination hearing about the continued sealing of Felix Sater's records and made a personal and public statement on his behalf
By the fall of 2015, when Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS began digging into Felix Sater for their Republican client, at a summary level this is what they should have been reporting back. Trump Tower Moscow discussions had started by September of 2015 but it is fairly unlikely this was known by Fusion GPS at the time. By December of 2015, the first negative media reporting regarding Donald Trump's association to Felix Sater during the 2016 election was published by ABC News. What should be underscored here is even though Glenn Simpson should have had read an article only three years earlier which made it pretty evident the government was clamoring to get the private information which had been wrongly publicly submitted made private again as quickly as possible, it is odd they felt this was likely taking place if Sater was actually tied to Semyon Mogilevich. After all, in the same year 2011 the files were publicly submitted by these lawyers, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller had referred to the Mogilevich Network in a speech stating, "...we are also building a long-term strategy for dismantling these enterprises. Last year, we set up two units, called Threat Focus Cells, to target Eurasian organized crime. The first focuses on the Semion Mogilevich Organization; the second on the Brother’s Circle enterprise. For those of you not familiar with either group, their memberships are large, their reach is global, and their scope of operations is broad, from weapons and drug trafficking to high-stakes fraud and global prostitution. If left unchecked, the resulting impact to our economy and our security will be significant. Indeed, Semion Mogilevich is on the FBI Top Ten Most Wanted List, and he will remain so until he is captured."
The sheer volume of articles from both mainstream, as well as independent and alternative media regarding Felix Sater, as well as the amount of misinformation and fake news amidst them is almost staggering. What has likely stuck in most Americans’ minds, if they even still recognize the name Felix Sater, is recalling him as the margarita-glass-wielding Russian gangster who slashed a guy’s face and played a role in a stock scam in the mid-90s, cooperated with the CIA and FBI at some point, and worked for a company which licensed the Trump brand on real estate deals. Then got himself wrapped up in the Mueller investigation by sending strangely-worded emails about getting Trump elected and building a Trump Tower Moscow. While this may now be the extent of what many Americans vaguely remember of Felix Sater from this Russian collusion hysteria, new and additional facts have come to light since the Mueller team released their report. A review of these new facts, as well as context where lacking, will highlight many remaining questions which remain to be answered.
The relentless focus on Sater's criminal past from the 90s by the mainstream media should also be pointed out considering the core of the mystery of Felix's story is what happened after those two unrelated events, and why the government had his files sealed for over two decades. The narrative was never framed to ask why the government would have this man's files sealed for such a length of time to end up being accused of colluding with a foreign government. During her nomination hearing in early 2015, Loretta Lynch stated, "At this point, the majority of the materials that remain sealed go to the heart of the nature of Sater’s cooperation in several highly sensitive matters."
There have been conspiracy theories regarding Felix Sater’s involvement with Donald Trump on both sides of the two major U.S. political parties, and yet none of these theories seem close to truth or reality. To the political left, Felix was a mobster linked to Semion Mogilevich, an asset for Russia or even a double agent working both sides, and helped get Trump elected President. To the political right, Felix’s ties to multiple members of Mueller’s team, his connections and prior known cooperation with multiple U.S. intelligence agencies meant he must have been a deep state plant dispatched to spy on Trump, the Trump Org, and helped to orchestrate this Trump Russian collusion conspiracy. Neither of these theories make complete sense or are remotely likely to be the truth.
In order to gain a fresh perspective of where things stand now in 2021, over two years after the completion of the Mueller Report and several months following the release of the Senate Report Volume 5, a review of some of these conspiracy theories compared with the facts is warranted and in fact, necessary. Is there any evidence Felix Sater is tied to organized crime, or more specifically Semyon Mogilevich? Is there any evidence supporting Felix Sater could have been some sort of deep state plant for the FBI, CIA, or DIA? Is there any evidence to support that he ever worked for Russia or was a double agent? Why was he described "at the center of Mueller's Russia investigation," yet also had connections to multiple members of the Mueller team, showed up in the Senate Intel Report as having the closest connections to Russia, and the Mueller Report never addressed any of it?
If a researcher trying to resolve these questions reviewed the Mueller Report to seek answers, they were hard-pressed to find any. Felix Sater is mentioned over a hundred times in the Mueller report but there is nothing there regarding his criminal past, or his prior cooperation with agencies like the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Interestingly, an article regarding Felix Sater published by BuzzFeed News in March 2018, ‘The Asset,’ offered far more details on Sater’s work for the U.S. government than the Mueller Report had ever pointed out (even though the report came out over a year after the article).
As stated, the Senate Report Volume 5 which didn't come out until the middle of 2020, was a completely different story. Sater was mentioned close to 500 times. In their report, it stated, “Sater told Cohen about high-level outreach to Russian businessmen and officials that Sater claimed to have undertaken related to the deal. While Sater almost certainly inflated some of these claims, the Committee found that Sater did, in fact, have significant senior-level ties to a number of Russian businessmen and former government officials, and was in a position, through intermediaries, to reach individuals close to Putin.”
Regardless of what one might feel about any of these intelligence agencies or even the level of trust an American may have in our government, it should be irrelevant in evaluating the case of Felix Sater. Before all of this Russian hysteria started, it was because Fusion GPS believed Felix could have been working to help Russia elect Trump as their candidate of choice. This constructed belief and described "research" later led to the hiring of Christopher Steele and the infamous Steele dossier. Though it is highly likely the hacking of the DNC would have warranted an investigation, the scope of the investigation broadened around Trump and within and outside of his campaign due to the actions of these individuals. The time has long past to begin to ask ourselves why.
PATRICK BYRNE’S DEEP CAPTURE WEBSITE LINKED SATER TO SEMION MOGILEVICH WITH NO EVIDENCE
In the middle of 2013, Patrick Byrne had already been paying Mark Mitchell, a journalist, to help him with what he has referred to as his war on Wall Street and the naked short-selling of stocks. Byrne had accurately predicted the 2008 Wall Street collapse and cracks in the system but the mainstream media made him sound like a crackpot until it actually happened. Regardless, Mitchell wrote the following in his Chapter 7 of the named “Milken network” series on the Deep Capture site in July of 2013:
“One of the people Silverman brought in to help run his brokerage – another of the select traders with special partnerships at Gruntal – was a fellow named Felix Sater, who was (and is) a Russian mobster and a member of the Mogilevich organization (controlled by Semion Mogilevich, often described as the “most dangerous mobster in the world”). While still at Gruntal, Sater was charged with stabbing a Wall Street trader in the face with the broken stem of a wine glass (actually, it was martini glass, according to a man who witnessed the attack).
While still at Gruntal, Sater and several other former Gruntal traders founded a brokerage called White Rock Partners. Most of White Rock’s employees were former Gruntal employees, and there is no doubt that White Rock’s partners all had ties to organized crime. In 1996, the FBI discovered a locker at a Manhattan Mini-Storage in Soho that belonged to Evgeny Klotsman, a White Rock principal who was formerly among the select traders who had effectively run the Milken-financed Gruntal & Company. The FBI announced that the locker contained guns and documents that linked Klotsman and Sater to a “global market manipulation and money laundering network controlled by Russian organized crime.”
This reference of Sater with Mogilevich became more important years later during the 2016 election, and for the conspiracy theories which followed after. Felix Sater had been mentioned within Byrne's site's reporting years earlier in 2009 but this was the first time (2013) he had been linked to Mogilevich based on zero evidence.
In 2009, the following had been written regarding this alleged death threat which was described as being made with a Russian Matryoshkas doll which had an "F" on it with a cross at the center.
TRUMP QUESTIONED IN DEPOSITION ABOUT FELIX SATER
An oddity which has been counterintuitive to the entire claim Felix Sater helped work with Russia and Vladimir Putin to elect Donald Trump has been contained within this deposition when Trump was asked what he knew of Felix Sater. This was public record at the time Fusion GPS-owner, Glenn Simpson, testified he had already started researching Sater and explained to the House Intelligence Committee he was questioning Trump’s connections to Russia because of him. Why this is striking is, not only does it undermine the argument Felix Sater was actually spying on Trump in some capacity during the years he worked to license the Trump brand on real estate, because Donald obviously already knew Sater was close to the US government in 2013 in Donald’s own words, but he also told the interviewer he didn’t believe Sater was involved with the Mafia. It is also pretty unlikely the US government would trust a person enough to have their files sealed for this many years if they were really actually working in Russian interests or for Vladimir Putin. Regardless, conspiracy theories had spiraled out of control.
It’s hard to imagine a man like Donald Trump openly or even covertly, committing crimes with, or in front of, a man he already is aware by 2013 was close to our own federal government or intelligence agency(ies) in some unknown way, shape, or form. But if and when Glenn Simpson read this 2013 deposition during his research of Sater which began in fall of 2015, it apparently never once caused him to stop and question why Trump would have been indicating a guy he didn’t really know was actually “close to the government as a witness or something” in his first initial response. Instead, Glenn automatically assumed the government fought to keep Sater’s files sealed for over two decades because he was actually tied to Semion Mogilevich and Russian organized crime. This was Simpson’s testimony later in 2018, but by summer of 2019, Felix Sater accused Glenn Simpson of perjuring himself in front of reporters while he stood next to his lawyer, Robert Wolf. Even now in 2021, there is no one in mainstream media even placing any of this into context or asking serious and critical questions.
Notice the attorney questioning Trump for this Trump SoHo-related lawsuit brought up the most recent interview Trump had with BBC first, and then went back to the older articles in his review of exhibits. The BBC interview took place in July 2013 and the deposition quoted above occurred a few months later (Nov 2013). These articles had mentioned the fact Felix Sater might have in the past done work for US intelligence agencies like the CIA. The attorney questioning Trump was actually referring to articles referencing Sater’s known cooperation with US intelligence agencies, the fact the government had sealed records on him they were fighting to remain sealed (and only unsealed in August of 2019, months following the publication of the Mueller report), but at the same time were indicating to Trump through their questioning Sater may have been “mafia.” Trump disagreed.
Trump made it clear he did not personally fault Sater for any of the legal challenges then facing the Trump SoHo development. By this point in time in late 2013, Donald Trump has shown a clear pattern of trusting Felix Sater. In the mid-2000s, when he asked Felix to fly separately to Russia from where he was in London to meet both Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr. to keep them safe. Even after these articles used as exhibits had come out, Trump was not saying anything negative in regards to Sater, while at the same time remarking he wouldn’t know Felix if they were in the same room together. These two statements are definitely contradictory but Trump’s response from the get-go indicated a knowledge not of a Mafia-connected individual, but a person connected to the US government.
It is also worth noting less than two years after Trump stated this and in fall of 2015 during the election primaries, he still trusted Sater to be the intermediary with Michael Cohen to work on another effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow when there were other interested parties who had reached out to Michael Cohen. This is per Mueller Report as well as Cohen’s testimony in his transcript.
ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE LORETTA LYNCH
ASKED ABOUT FELIX SATER
In 2015, then-President Obama’s own Attorney General Loretta Lynch was asked about Felix Sater during her nomination hearing [p.142 of 221]. To provide some background, the two lawyers who had fought over several years to have Sater’s files unsealed by this point had in some unclear way, engaged Paul Cassell, a former Judge, to ask questions about the Sater case. This brought attention to the case and prompted Senator Orrin Hatch to pose the question and Lynch responded in the following way (below). There were specific human rights concerns in regards to restitution towards the stock scam victims and an insinuation the government was overstepping their bounds in keeping Sater’s files sealed since 1998. Keep in mind their sealing of his stock scam conviction enabled his career and employment with Bayrock most of the 2000's. While some media reporting did cover part of Lynch’s statement, they never reported her statement in its entirety.
QUESTIONS FROM SENATOR HATCH
1. On April 25, 2013, Professor Paul Cassell of the University of Utah College of Law testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution regarding implementation of crime victims’ rights statutes. These include the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act, 18 U.S.C. §3663A, and the Crime Victims Rights Act, 18 U.S.C. §3771, both of which I helped to enact. He suggested that your office had failed to follow these statutes in a sealed case involving a racketeering defendant who had cooperated with the government. Specifically, he cited documents appearing to show that your office failed to notify victims of the sentencing in that case and had arranged for the racketeer to keep the money he had stolen from victims, even though the law makes restitution mandatory. Please explain in detail how your office protected the rights of crime victims in this case and, in particular, how it complied with the mandatory restitution provisions of these two statutes.
RESPONSE: The defendant in question, Felix Sater, provided valuable and sensitive information to the government during the course of his cooperation, which began in or about December 1998. For more than 10 years, he worked with prosecutors from my Office, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and law enforcement agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies, providing information crucial to national security and the conviction of over 20 individuals, including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra. For that reason, his case was initially sealed. During my most recent tenure as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the Office’s only activity related to this matter was to address whether certain materials should remain sealed. My Office’s position has consistently been upheld by the courts.
The initial sealing of the records related to Sater—which predated my tenure as United States Attorney—occurred by virtue of a cooperation agreement under which Sater pled guilty and agreed to serve as a government witness. In 2013, following proceedings before United States District Judge I. Leo Glasser of the Eastern District of New York, roughly three-fourths of the materials in this case were unsealed. At this point, the majority of the materials that remain sealed go to the heart of the nature of Sater’s cooperation in several highly sensitive matters. Judge Glasser has ruled that these remaining materials should remain sealed on the basis of, among other things, the “safety of persons or property” and the “integrity of government investigation and law enforcement interests.”
In addition to Judge Glasser’s 2013 ruling, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals twice rejected efforts to reconsider the decision to keep certain materials sealed in this case. The judges reviewing Judge Glasser’s order concluded that “given the extent and gravity of Sater’s cooperation,” continued sealing of select materials was appropriate. In a separate instance, the court went out of its way to warn the plaintiffs behind the lawsuit to cease any further “frivolous” motions or else risk court-imposed sanctions. Finally, just last month, the Supreme Court declined to hear any further arguments from the parties behind this lawsuit. In terms of restitution, there has been speculation that my Office pursues restitution from cooperating defendants differently than it does from other defendants. It does not. With respect to Sater’s case, the information in the record that concerns the issue of restitution remains under seal. As a matter of practice, however, the prosecutors in my Office work diligently to secure all available restitution for victims, whether the defendants convicted in their cases cooperate with the government or not. In fact, since June 2010, in EDNY cases, judges have imposed nearly two billion dollars in restitution to individual and government victims.
Loretta Lynch’s reply was worded to guide an assumption Felix Sater may have ceased cooperating with the government in late 2009 when he was finally faced sentencing for his role in the stock scam, received leniency, zero probation, and a $25,000 fine. Perhaps Glenn Simpson had read this deposition as part of his research and still considered it plausible (along with many others) Felix Sater went from cooperating with the US government to committing financial crimes with Donald Trump, but one must agree it becomes murky to consider Simpson seemingly not once considered if he might be incorrect in his analysis of Sater, or consider perhaps any acquaintances Felix had with known organized crime elements might have been in order to assist US intelligence agencies. Either way it should be crystal clear by this point in February of 2015, before Glenn Simpson had ever been hired later that fall to look into Donald Trump and said he honed in on Felix Sater, then-President Obama's own nominee for Attorney General had acknowledged the court decisions regarding keeping Sater's files sealed were upheld twice. Did Glenn Simpson miss this information or ignore it?
(Note that the Supreme Court case Loretta Lynch referenced in her statement had concluded only the prior month and they had declined to hear any further argument regarding the matter. What’s interesting, however, is these same lawyers who had been referred for criminal investigations based on their actions had written in their Supreme Court writ of certiorari--which had been publicly filed--about Sater having this connection to Semion Mogilevich. Yes, they sourced this detail from Patrick Byrne’s website article from 2013--a fact Mark Mitchell had claimed with zero sources or data to back up the claim. More on this later.)
DONALD TRUMP ANNOUNCED HIS CANDIDACY
Donald Trump announced his run for the Presidency and the general consensus at this point in time was there was no real expectation he could win.
FELIX SATER AND MICHAEL COHEN START DISCUSSING TRUMP TOWER IN MOSCOW / FUSION GPS’S SATER RESEARCH STARTED
By the fall of 2015, both Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS had started their research into Felix Sater as he related to Bayrock, Trump Org, and Donald Trump. Also, Felix Sater was chosen by Trump to pursue Trump Tower in Moscow similar to his earlier effort back in 2005, and Michael Cohen was to be the intermediary when a non-binding letter of intent (LOI) was signed by October of 2015.
TRUMP’S FELIX SATER MEDIA RISK BECOMES REALITY
In December of 2015, ABC News published an article written by Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross. During Felix Sater’s testimony, he is asked about an exchange between himself and Cohen about this particular reporting. Felix was upset about the article at the time and Cohen was telling him it would basically be a story for about a day and amount to nothing and to get over it, more or less. But in his transcript, Sater referred to Ross as the “recently suspended Brian Ross.” Felix Sater was married at the time and his children, he explained to Cohen, were very upset by the story, with the headline linking him to the mafia. When reading the article, it is understandable Felix may have been upset to see descriptions of his bar fight from when he was 25 years old splashed across the ABC News website when he was then the age of 51, married, settled down with a family, and not indicted of a single crime the prior two decades. His crime at the time was being associated with Donald Trump through the Trump SoHo development and Bayrock. Below is an excerpt of what Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross reported:
“Sater had already served prison time for a grisly 1991 assault at the El Rio Grande restaurant and bar in New York. According to court documents, Sater allegedly told a man at the bar, “I’ll kill you. I’ll rip your f****** head off and stick it down your throat.” Sater then allegedly grabbed a frozen margarita from the bar, flung the contents in the air, smashed the glass on the bar, and stabbed the man in the cheek and neck, breaking his cheek and jaw, lacerating face and neck and severing nerves. He was convicted of first degree assault.
As he began his work with Bayrock, Sater was also awaiting sentencing for his role in what authorities called a $40 million “pump and dump” stock scam. Federal prosecutors announced in a March 2, 2000 press release that Sater had pleaded guilty in the federal racketeering case, and was found to have been collaborating with members of four New York mob families. Sater and others had “planned and carried out a series of fraudulent securities schemes and then laundered tens of millions of dollars in illicit profits,” the release said.
Prosecutors said Sater and others had “enlisted the help of individuals affiliated with organized crime families of La Cosa Nostra to protect and promote their criminal activities.”
Sater avoided prison after FBI agents testified at his sentencing hearing that he had become an important government witness on both mob-related and national security matters, heralded by federal agents for his cooperation. His lawyer, Robert Wolf, told the Associated Press that some of the information about Sater in public records and lawsuits is defamatory. Wolf told the AP that credits Sater's stint as a government cooperator with potentially saving American military lives, although he did not provide details. Wolf told the AP to write about Sater's past "at your own risk" but did not cite specific concerns.”
SPOILER ALERT: FELIX SATER WORKED FOR US GOVERNMENT AND INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES FOR ALMOST TWO DECADES
To skip ahead to one of the lesser-known facts and the biggest punchlines to the Russian collusion narrative, it has become clear Felix Sater did not stop cooperating with US intelligence agencies after his late 2009 sentencing. As he stated in his testimony which has since been made public, his cooperation lasted “almost two decades.” However, both Sater and Trump endured conspiracy theories by the Left and the mainstream media all during and even after the Mueller investigation due to Felix’s alleged involvement with Russia. After this information was made public in 2020 in Sater’s opening remarks of his transcript, and confirmed Buzzfeed’s earlier reporting in August of 2019 he had cooperated “until at least late 2017,” there were really no follow-up media articles questioning how the guy now confirmed to have been cooperating with the U.S. government now for all of this time ended up in conspiracy theories about colluding in order to have Trump elected on behalf of Putin. It also raised the question of what the government reaction had been internally and privately when they realized their asset who had been described by former U.S. State Attorney Todd Kaminsky as “key to opening a hundred different doors” was caught up in a Special Counsel investigation and being insinuated by the media as being involved along with Donald Trump in Russian organized crime.
AP QUOTED TRUMP LAWYER REGARDING SATER: IF HE WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO WORK WITH GOVERNMENT, WHY NOT WITH TRUMP?
In December of 2015, an Associated Press article quoted Trump’s lawyer Alan Garten stating, “If Mr. Sater was good enough for the government to work with, I see no reason why he wasn’t good enough for Mr. Trump.” There is not a single media organization which had called into question why Donald Trump should have been smeared with Felix Sater’s criminal past from the 90’s when the US government had obviously sealed his files and criminal record for unknown reasons and it wasn’t to put Felix Sater in prison for colluding with Russian President Vladimir Putin to get Trump elected into office.
Regardless, there was hardly anyone in late 2015 who was really taking Trump’s run for the presidency all that seriously, even though he was polling pretty well in the Republican party of voters. The assumption was really always Hillary Clinton would become the next President of the United States.
FELIX SATER FORMED LITCO
Felix Sater also formed a new company in 2015 named Litco which later became part of a lawsuit by BTA Bank years (March of 2019). BTA Bank is related to the major Ablyazov and Khrapunov money laundering case. Sater's lawyer negotiated the Litco terms which kept Sater's identity secret.
TRUMP DID BUSINESS WITH BAYROCK & SATER DURING KNOWN YEARS SATER WAS COOPERATING WITH U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES AS WELL AS SUPERVISED BY FBI AND TRUMP KNEW HE WAS CLOSE TO FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Remarkably, even in October of 2016, Richard Behar of Forbes wrote: “It wouldn't have taken much vetting to get the scoop on Sater. FORBES retained a highly regarded global-risk-assessment firm to conduct a background check, using only what was available to it in 2007--the year the Trump-Bayrock relationship was promoted. The investigative firm (it asked not to be named for fear of political repercussions) discovered many facts that we're revealing here and others that have come out before, including felony convictions and organized crime ties. Such due diligence on Sater could have been done for $5,000.”
Yet he never once in his lengthy and detailed article mentioned or outlined the government’s lengthy fight to keep Sater’s files sealed at this point, or questioned if Sater could have still been cooperating with the FBI while employed at Bayrock. Interestingly, and perhaps more noteworthy, is Richard Behar never submitted, or at least had approved, an updated article for Forbes after more of Sater’s files were unsealed in 2019. This at least provided him with new information as to why the government had sealed Sater’s records for that length of time.
EVEN IN LATE 2016, HINTS OF KAZAKHSTAN LINK
In October of 2016, the Financial Times reported:
"One former executive at a developer that worked with Mr Trump accused him of “wilful obliviousness” to the details of his partners’ dealings. But a spokesman for the Trump Organisation said it conducted “extensive” background checks on its partners, including hiring outside investigators. One of those partners, Bayrock, has already been a source of controversy. Now the details of Bayrock’s association with the family of Viktor Khrapunov, a former Kazakh energy minister and ex-mayor of the city of Almaty, show it was connected to an alleged laundering scheme at the same time as it was collaborating with Mr Trump. Lawyers for Almaty told a US court in March that Mr Khrapunov and his family “conspired to systematically loot hundreds of millions of dollars of public assets . . . and to launder their ill-gotten gains through a complex web of bank accounts and shell companies . . . particularly in the United States.”
Three of the dozens of companies the Khrapunovs and Ablyazov were accused of using to purchase property in Trump SoHo were named Soho 3310, Soho 3311 and Soho 3203. They had been structured as limited liability companies, or LLCs. It was in April of 2013 these companies were created and within a week had purchased three apartments which corresponded with their names for a total of $3.1 million. The ultimate beneficiary behind the purchases was shown to be Elvira Kudryashova, Mr Khrapunov’s California-based daughter. Another excerpt from the article below made it unclear if Trump was one of the beneficiaries to these apartment sales:
"On the face of it, Mr Trump was not a beneficiary of the apartment sales. The vendor was another limited liability company, Bayrock/Sapir Organization LLC. It was named after the developers that jointly built Trump Soho: the Sapir Organisation, founded by Tamir Sapir, from Georgia, and Bayrock, founded by Tevfik Arif, a Kazakhstan-born former Soviet official. According to regulatory filings, however, Bayrock/Sapir Organization LLC had a third co-owner — the man who licensed his personal brand to the project."
Yet it was the first real indication in the media toward the end of 2016 Sater was involved in the major money laundering case associated with Muhktar Ablyazov and the Khrapunov family, Kazakhstan and BTA Bank. However, keep in mind the company, Arcanum, a private intelligence firm, had already been accused of phishing and bugging the Khrapunovs and Ablyazov in 2014, and were later accused by EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) of doing the same to their clients, this is the company Litco signed the agreement with in 2015.
During the start of Trump Tower Moscow talks.
During the 2016 election.
With BTA Bank having subsidiaries and representative offices in the following countries: Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, China, Georgia, Belarus, Armenia
SPECIAL COUNSEL MUELLER INVESTIGATION
When late summer 2017 finally rolled around, Robert Mueller had already been named the Special Counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS had already pushed in all of their chips to the center of the table. They had gone “all in” on this idea Felix Sater and his ties to elements like Tevfik Arif, Fettah Tamince, Maxim Temnikov, among others, automatically meant he likely had ties to organized crime and Donald Trump could, too. Their research, their engagement with the media, their hiring of Christopher Steele and his related infamous source network and infamous “Steele dossier” had created such a turmoil factored in with the known meddling of Russians in the election, the Special Counsel investigation was kicking into full gear.
(Notably, Felix Sater is known to have been interviewed by the Special Counsel team twice in 2017, once in 2018, and another time in July of 2019. Of these four transcripts, only two have been publicly released. While they may be likely more of the same, the other two--both the april 2018 and July 2019 transcripts--have not been included in any of the document releases.)
FELIX SATER REPORTED AS COOPERATING IN BTA BANK MONEY LAUNDERING CASE
In July of 2017, the Financial Times reported Felix Sater was cooperating with a massive money laundering case into alleged billions of dollars stolen from BTA Bank by Muhktar Ablyzov and the Khrapunov family. This case was associated with Donald Trump due to this stolen money being reported as used to purchase Trump SoHo real estate. The lawyer of Boies Schiller Flexner who is representing BTA Bank, Matthew Schwartz, was quoted in the article as saying, “The alleged Kazakh launderers, not the US president or Mr Sater, are the main focus of the investigation.” The FT article had also informed readers: “Mr Sater has now agreed to co-operate with an international investigation into the alleged money-laundering network,” and sourced this information by adding it was per five people with knowledge of the matter. Sater’s cooperation was described as including “working with a team of lawyers and private investigators pursuing civil cases across three continents.” Mr. Sater, the article reported, had declined to comment.
“TEN YEARS OF CONSTANT UNDERCOVER WORK”
The following month in August of 2017, The Guardian, a UK publication, was the only one to write a quote from Dem U.S. Attorney Todd Kaminsky in a 2011 court document which had only been recently unsealed by the Judge. Kaminsky had been fighting in 2011 to make sure Sater’s files remained sealed, even though Sater had already faced sentencing late 2009 (and was presumed to be no longer cooperating with US intelligence agencies) and described Sater’s work in this way to the Judge. This quote really should have added another huge crack in the Simpson and Fusion GPS narrative. The Guardian’s article was headlined, ‘Felix Sater: the enigmatic businessman at the heart of the Trump-Russia inquiry.’ This court document has a filed date stamped on it indicating it was unsealed in July of 2016, but wasn't being quoted in any U.S. media reporting. It took a national newspaper in the UK to reference it and this was over a year later.
KAMINSKY: “Mr. Doe’s cooperation was of an extraordinary depth and breadth, almost unseen, at least in this United States Attorney’s Office. He [Sater] cooperated, unlike some cooperators who cooperate within one type of organized crime family or over one type of crime, Mr. Doe’s cooperation runs a gamut that is seldom seen. It involves violent organizations such as Al Qaeda, it involves foreign governments, it involves Russian organized crime. And, most particularly, it involves various families of La Cosa Nostra. By that specifically I mean an individual on the ruling board of the Genovese crime family, a captain in the Bonanno crime family, a soldier in the Gambino crime family, the list goes on and on.”
But though the journalists for The Guardian did review this newly unsealed document and included the quote by Kaminsky describing the level and extent of Sater’s effort for the US government to the Judge, they failed to include another Kaminsky quote in their article. He told the Judge Sater’s work was “ten years of constant undercover work.”
What this meant in reality was 1) the FBI was fully aware of where Sater had been employed for the past decade and that he was licensing the Trump brand on real estate deals from Trump Tower while acting in some form of undercover role for them, and 2) their concealment of his bar fight record and his role in the stock fraud scam is what enabled this Bayrock employment to even happen in the first place. Otherwise, Sater wouldn’t have been able to work at McDonald’s with a felony conviction.
DURING STEELE’S FBI DEBRIEFING, HE MENTIONED FELIX SATER, KAZAKHSTAN, AND CYPRUS
While this did not become public information until years later in 2020, it is now established Christopher Steele showed the FBI a PowerPoint presentation during his debriefing in September of 2017. The FBI debriefing states:
Notably, the related FBI notes about this debriefing with Steele regarding this particular part did not mention Felix Sater at all. This is what they wrote
Keep in mind it was the company Arcanum which provided Steele with this presentation "explaining the Sater connection."
“ARCANUM IS JUST ONE PIECE OF A CHESS BOARD THAT SPANS FOUR CONTINENTS”
The same month Christopher Steele was giving the FBI a presentation supplied to him by Arcanum (which had something to do with Felix Sater), the Financial Times had published an article describing the BTA case in this way:
"Those London meetings represented the early exchanges in perhaps the most remarkable battle the secrets industry has yet fought. A Financial Times investigation based on dozens of interviews and thousands of pages of court documents, leaked emails and confidential contracts exposes a saga in which Arcanum is just one piece on a chessboard that spans four continents. It reveals how the mercenaries of the information age are shaping the fate of nations."
It was when Buzzfeed News published an article entitled ‘The Asset’ in March of 2018 when it became apparent there was much more of this story remaining to be reported on. Journalists Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier inspired more questions than they did answers reviewing what they had confirmed Felix Sater’s work on behalf of the US government had entailed. They wrote:
“In the sprawling Trump-Russia investigation, one name constantly pops up: Felix Sater. In story after story, Sater is described as Donald Trump’s former business partner, a convicted stock swindler who was born in the Soviet Union, worked in Russia, tried to win Trump a deal in Moscow, and even helped broker a Ukrainian peace plan that Vladimir Putin would have loved.
Basically, he’s portrayed as something just short of a Russian spy.
Effectively, he has been a spy — but for the United States. For the first time, BuzzFeed News has verified the surprising sweep of Sater’s undercover work and many of his specific exploits. He worked as an asset for the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (or DIA) and tracked Osama bin Laden. Then he worked for more than a decade for the FBI, providing intel on everything from the mob to North Korea’s drive for nuclear weapons. He still operates as a source for the bureau, according to two current FBI agents.”
Their article outlined a summary of Felix Sater’s work at least covering the approximate years of 1999-2008:
He obtained five of the personal satellite telephone numbers for Osama bin Laden before 9/11 and he helped flip the personal secretary to Mullah Omar, then the head of the Taliban and an ally of bin Laden, into a source who provided the location of al-Qaeda training camps and weapons caches.
In 2004, he persuaded a source in Russia’s foreign military intelligence to hand over the name and photographs of a North Korean military operative who was purchasing equipment to build the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Sater provided US intelligence with details about possible assassination threats against former president George W. Bush and secretary of state Colin Powell. Sater reported that jihadists were hiding in a hut outside Bagram Air Base and planned to shoot down Powell’s plane during a January 2002 visit. He later told his handlers that two female al-Qaeda members were trying to recruit an Afghan woman working in the Senate barbershop to poison President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney.
He went undercover in Cyprus and Istanbul to catch Russian and Ukrainian cyber criminals around 2005. After the FBI set him up with a fake name and background, Sater posed as a money launderer to help nab the suspects for washing funds stolen from US financial institutions.
It was shortly after the publication of this article which both Leopold and Cormier had “interviewed him [Sater] extensively, and corroborated many details of his spy-thriller account through legal documents, emails, letters, and interviews with 10 current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with his undercover work,” when Sater began to be explained as more of a Whitey Bulger-type of situation by the mainstream media. (More on this later.)
There was no real journalistic curiosity shown in the mainstream media about any of this new information, specifically related to bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and 9/11. There was no attempt to go back and place it into context of prior 9/11 research by investigators. Nor was any interest shown in the fact in 2005 (same year the media was fixated he had attempted to also build a Trump Tower in Moscow), he had also been helping the FBI hunt both Russian and Ukrainian cybercriminals. (He was also "crucial" to two international money laundering networks originating from Russia during this time but this information was not confirmed or public until his pre sentencing letter was unsealed in 2019.)
MUELLER REPORTING FINDINGS
When March 22nd, 2019 rolled around, the news headlines were of the Mueller team report’s findings, conclusions, and the statement no additional indictments were anticipated was met with a mix of public emotions. Despite breathless media reporting for years and an insinuation there had been some form of collusion to help Vladimir Putin install his favored candidate, Paul Manafort charged with crimes dating back to the 2000s, and others ended up in trouble, Sater whom The Guardian had called “the heart of the Trump-Russia inquiry” was never charged with a single minor offense like lying to prosecutors, a fate met by both General Flynn and George Papadopoulos. And by this time, it was almost like the media wanted the public to forget about Felix Sater instead of asking more questions about this strange twist of events.
Almost is the operative word being used here because within three days of Mueller report summary headlines, BTA Bank had filed a lawsuit against Felix Sater which prompted new headlines unrelated to the Mueller probe. Their suit was filed on March 25, 2019 (and is still ongoing as of April, 2021). This lawsuit prompted again the conspiracy claims of BTA Bank monies allegedly stolen by Muhktar Ablyazov and Ilyas Khrapunov ended up purchasing property in Trump SoHo. Even though the public record to this point showed a lengthy fight by the US government to keep Sater’s files sealed during this same period of time, repeated media reporting he may have at some point assisted US intelligence agencies, and an unsealed court record which detailed a decade of undercover work. But no one ever said it was a narrative which was supposed to make complete sense, or any sense at all.
SATER’S PRE SENTENCING LETTERS UNSEALED AUGUST 2019
Towards the end of August in 2019, the records and presentencing letter (PSR) which had been written to the Judge (dated August 27, 2009) prior to his sentencing were made public. The details within the 5k1 letter, as well as the letter written to the judge by Leslie Caldwell confirmed the Buzzfeed News reporting from 2018, as well as providing new facts and context to the mix.
Leslie Caldwell represented Felix in 2009 for his sentencing for his role in the crimes which occurred between 1993-1996. She was a well-placed person to speak to Felix’s character and integrity at this time, given her work history and contrasted with his known cooperation details. Caldwell was recruited by then-US Attorney Robert Mueller to serve as Chief of the Criminal Division and Chief of the Securities Fraud Section of the United States Attorney's office for the Northern District of California; a role she served from 1999 to 2002. 1999 was the year immediately following Sater’s signed cooperation with the FBI in December of 1998, and the period of time describing Sater educating the FBI on how these securities fraud schemes were being organized and how organized crime was involved with Wall Street.
When she wrote her letter and was representing Felix, she had moved into private practice at the law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. (She later went on to serve as the US Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division in the Obama administration between May of 2014 to January of 2017.) When this became public record in late 2019, an honest media would have reported an accusation of Mr. Sater helping Donald Trump collude with Russia to get Trump elected President therefore meant the person who had later served in Asst. Attorney General role in the Obama administration fought to lessen the sentencing of someone who actually was working in Russian interests. Which is nonsensical.
Leslie wrote in fall 2009 to the Judge in her letter:
The fact she wrote “every agent and prosecutor with whom Felix worked considered him an ‘exemplary cooperator’” should also be considered. There was no indication even after his many years at Bayrock as of this point of time in 2009, he had ever committed any criminal acts or they had ever considered him untrustworthy. There was definitely no hint they ever thought this guy would end up in a liberal-mainstream media conspiracy theory he colluded with Russia to get Donald Trump elected.
Leslie also wrote to the Judge, “Felix was more than simply honest and forthcoming--he was proactive and in fact risked his life numerous times in ways not normally seen in the criminal justice system.” She described Sater’s undercover operation in Cyprus which took place in 2005 as him meeting with “Russian criminals in Cyprus and Turkey.” She told the Judge Sater’s “...extraordinary cooperation merits extraordinary recognition by the criminal justice system and the Court.”
The most telling excerpt of Leslie’s letter is when she made it clear Felix had been under FBI supervision for nearly 11 years, which would have encompassed his entire length of time working at Bayrock. Below is what she wrote:
Leslie’s letter goes into further detail regarding Felix’s prior work on behalf of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and CIA before the FBI became involved, writing:
“Felix learned in 1998 that the FBI was looking for him in connection with an investigation into the activities of State Street. At the time, Felix was in Russia, where he was working as a consultant for AT&T. Without any assurance that his efforts would result in any leniency from the U.S. government, Felix immediately began to cooperate. Through a Russian contact, Felix arranged to meet a high ranking U.S. military intelligence officer and former military attache at the U.S. embassy in Moscow (the “Officer”). At the Officer’s request, Felix began to gather sensitive intelligence information for the U.S. government. Specifically, the Officer asked Felix to help the U.S. purchase a particular high-end anti-missile system from Russia. Through Russian contacts, Felix was able to enter covertly a closed Russian military installation, where he located the missile system, and provided details to the Officer. Again, at the Officer’s request, Felix assisted in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s efforts to repurchase U.S.-manufactured Stinger missiles from members of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Felix traveled to Central Asia and obtained the location and serial numbers of approximately 10 Stinger missiles, which he provided to U.S. authorities.”
Testament to the fact there was a lot of new information there which should have prompted an intellectually curious media, the detail in Leslie’s letter which specified “Felix delivered Bin Laden’s satellite phone numbers to the FBI in September 1998” was never placed in the context of Operation Infinite Reach which took place on August 20, 1998 where then-President Clinton ordered strikes in Khost, Afghanistan. In 2018, Buzzfeed News had already reported “...Sater … supplemented US intelligence by providing location coordinates for al-Qaeda camps that the US military ultimately bombed in Khost, Afghanistan.” The details of this timeline in the years leading up to 9/11 are still murky considering President Bill Clinton’s own remarks after leaving the Presidency. He referred to a missed opportunity in May of 1998 (when we know Sater was already in Central Asia seeking intel on Bin Laden) to capture or kill Bin Laden). This was also described further in a 2018 Newsweek article: (Note: “E” in the article excerpt below is in reference to Evgeny Shmykov, who was an ex-Senior Soviet military intelligence officer and had established a relationship with the leader of the Northern Alliance, Ahmad Shah Massoud, during this post Soviet-Afghan war period in time; Shmykov is also referenced in the Senate Report Volume 5.)
“One bizarre episode stood out, he claims: In the spring of 1998, he, E and about 15 or 20 ex–Soviet special forces fighters went to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic that borders Afghanistan. They had information from Hamid's sources in the Northern Alliance about bin Laden's location—a camp in the mountain range called Tora Bora. Hamid had proved his bona fides, so 'we had no reason to doubt what he was telling us,' Sater claims. And E and his men were going to try to take out bin Laden—for a price. They drove from Dushanbe across the border to Mazar-i-Sharif, where they rendezvoused with Northern Alliance fighters.
Sater claims he called Langley, saying he had real intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts and soldiers who were willing to move on the camp. What he needed to know was how much the agency would pay. 'Greed was always my go-to weapon,' Sater says. Getting E into potentially lucrative telecom deals, as well as Sater's background as a Russian-speaking former Wall Street guy, had cemented his relationship with the former military intelligence officer.
The CIA, Sater says, told him the bounty on bin Laden was $5 million. He claims he told the agency that wasn't going to cut it: 'These guys were walking into a potential bloodbath. There were about 50 of [them] total. They needed at least a million dollars each.' The CIA balked, Sater claims, and the group retreated to Dushanbe, then back to Moscow.”
This chain of events clearly showed Felix cooperating and operating in dangerous areas months before he ever signed a cooperation agreement with the FBI, or had any idea any of these efforts would help him when he returned to the States and faced the consequences for his role in the stock scam.
"NOT A JIT OR TITTLE THAT MENTIONS THE PRESIDENT IN RELATION TO SATER"
When Judge Leo Glasser in July had ordered the unsealing of these files, his "Sater Order" made it clear nothing which remained sealed had anything to do with then-President Trump.
CYPRUS REPEATS ITSELF
Sater’s 5K1 DOJ presentencing letter also referred to him having a meeting in Cyprus related to an international money laundering case originating from Russia.
What is worth mentioning here is a similarity between the case where Sater was sent undercover in 2005 by the FBI to Cyprus to infiltrate a cybercriminal ring, posing as a money launderer, to in this redacted section of the PSR, mention of a meeting in Cyprus but regarding the money laundering case. Why this continues to be a mystery as far as its significance (or lack of--it’s unclear) is because of a cryptic quote Sater gave to a reporter back in 2018 in the same Newsweek article; it referenced where Sater was in spring of 1998 when the group he was with had discussed attacking Bin Laden’s camp. Sater was asked about this cybercriminal ring from St. Petersburg and if it had anything to do with the hackers who had leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee. Below is the particular quote in the context of the article. Sater doesn’t really indicate one way or the other if it is related, but there is a remark to some of the information that had been gathered was still “actionable”:
Law enforcement officials say that beginning in 2005—and continuing for several years afterward—Sater helped break up a Russian ring in St. Petersburg that was hacking into the U.S. financial system. Taddeo, the FBI agent who had summoned Sater back to the U.S. in the pump-and-dump case, worked with him on the case. The two men traveled to Limassol, Cyprus, a popular post-Soviet vacation spot for Russians. Under the FBI's watch, Sater had infiltrated the hackers, helping them launder money, and even met with the group's ringleader in Cyprus.
The irony of this operation is not lost on Sater. According to an indictment brought by Mueller, it was allegedly a St. Petersburg outfit, the Internet Research Agency, that spread ‘fake news’ in the U.S. before the 2016 election. I asked Sater whether the FBI has indicated that the cases he worked on were link