August 14, 2017 3:52 pm -

While the natuion has been quite rightfully preoccupied with a terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Va., some important news about Independent Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into all things Trump barely made the radar.

Late yesterday, Vanity Fair‘s Craig Unger revealed why Mueller has the Trump SoHo Hotel in his sights:

The Russian money trail leads right through the president’s troubled project in downtown Manhattan. A series of e-mails reveals new details.

Trump SoHo, the gleaming 46-story condominium and hotel that bears the president’s name in Lower Manhattan, was a troubled project even before it broke ground. It was initially marketed to wealthy foreigners enthralled by the Trump brand and the building’s opulent hotel-style amenities, but it never attracted nearly as many buyers as its developers had anticipated. Then, a few years before it was set to open, in 2010, an unusual complication came out of the blue. On December 17, 2007, veteran New York Times reporter Charles Bagli revealed that Felix Sater, managing director of the Bayrock Group, one of the building’s developers, had a hidden sordid past.

In 1991, Sater, then a stockbroker, got into a bloody bar fight with a commodities broker, stabbing him in the face with a broken margarita glass. The resultant wounds caused nerve damage and required 110 stitches. Then, in 1998, Sater pleaded guilty to participating in a “pump and dump” stock fraud. The maneuver, which was tied to the Mafia, involved laundering money, and eventually defrauded investors of $40 million. This checkered history appeared to catch his latest partner by surprise. “We never knew that,” Bagli quoted Donald Trump as saying about Sater’s criminal past. “We do as much of a background check as we can on the principals. I didn’t really know him very well.”

As the meeting approached, Bayrock counsel, Julius Schwarz, was so apprehensive that he sent a cautionary e-mail to Sater and other Bayrock employees on January 21, 2008. “I think it is a trap,” he wrote, adding that the meeting with the Trumps was likely to become “a royal ass fucking.” But half an hour later, Sater, who appears to have talked with Trump about the crisis, sent a reply that was intended to calm things down. “I agree with all,” he e-mailed, “but we can’t cancel the meeting. They will still show up and tear is [sic] apart. . . . Go to the meeting but stand our ground and be prepared.” Sater’s criminal record, it seemed, did not appear to be a deal breaker for Trump. “Donald is happy with me,” Sater said in one of a series of e-mails obtained by Vanity Fair from a lawsuit against Bayrock. “I will explain when I see you.” (Some of the Bayrock e-mails are exclusive to Vanity Fair, but others were first published last October by Richard Behar in Forbes.)

A decade later, of course, much has changed. Bayrock, which was once located in Trump Tower, is now defunct. Trump SoHo has been involved in ongoing litigation, including a lawsuit claiming that it was partly financed from “questionable sources,” as the Times would put it, from Russia and Kazakhstan. More recently, it has again found itself at the center of a new scandal.

As Bloomberg News reported on July 20, Trump SoHo is among the targets special counsel Robert Mueller is scrutinizing in his probe into ties between the president and Russia. Mueller’s mandate, of course, is investigating possible collusion relating to the 2016 presidential election. The fact that Bayrock, which began working with Trump nearly 15 years ago, is now in his sights suggests that he understands that Russian-intelligence tradecraft is often indistinguishable from business, with its operatives navigating international flows of capital. In Vladimir Putin’s regime, business and organized crime and intelligence are often intertwined, and can all be used as weapons of the state. Mueller’s investigators are looking to unravel this web by following the money. And one company that potentially questionable Russian money flowed through was Bayrock.

When Bayrock began to develop Trump SoHo, Sater led the way, now spelling his name “Satter,” as he told the Times, to “distance himself from a past” and to throw off anyone searching his name on Google. Two days after Bagli’s piece appeared in the Times, on December 19, 2007, Trump gave a deposition in a lawsuit he filed against author Timothy O’Brien. When Trump was asked, under oath, if he had learned about Sater’s criminal past, Trump testified that he was “looking into it because I wasn’t happy with the story. So I’m looking into it.”

“The responsible course of action would have been to have Sater resign and to disclose Sater’s past to interested parties,” said [attorney Richard] Lerner. But, according to Sater’s e-mails, rather than extricate himself from the deal with Bayrock, Trump apparently saw the predicament as an opening to renegotiate his fees; in an e-mail written to two investors sent a few days later, Sater wrote: “Donald . . . saw an opportunity to try and get development fees for himself.”

The full Vanity Fair article is detailed and makes sense out of a convoluted e-mail trail.

But wait – there’s more!

Grant Stern, a Medium writer, mortgage broker, and activist based in Miami, got his hand on what appear to be genuine e-mails that are very damning:

We’ve obtained leaked copies of those emails which are embedded below.

These leaked emails are the first evidence that proves that Donald Trump and his family personally knew of Sater’s crime and participated in a meeting about covering it up.

Donald Trump hawked the Trump SoHo Condo Hotel extensively on NBC’s The Apprentice, but committed a bank fraud to keep the project afloat the following year, and dragged his family into it.

The newly leaked emails from the Sapir Organization’s attorney document a “time sensitive and should not be pushed back” meeting the Trumps demanded on January 21st, 2008.

The meeting happened soon after the New York Times publicly revealed in mid-December 2007 that the Trump Organization’s investor and SoHo partner Bayrock Company’s manager-member Felix Sater had secretly entered financial felony plea deal in the late 1990s.

Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka and sons Don Jr. and Eric collectively demanded and presumably attended the important meeting to chew out Bayrock about the project, and specifically Felix Sater about his felony past.

We know because Sater wrote Bayrock’s investors complaining that his own company wanted to fire him after meeting the Trumps.

Hiding a financial felon’s involvement is a form of criminal bank fraud. The Trump SoHo project ultimately failed and was foreclosed by lenders.

Instead of informing banks and buyers about Sater’s criminal past, as was the Trump Organization’s obligation, the Trump family proceeded to keep the felony secret as Sater engaged in a scheme to hide his interests in the deal.

The Trump family proceeded to squeeze their partner Sater to take his financial stake in the deal.

There are major legal ramifications for the Trump-Sater meeting because the project is already the subject of an ongoing RICO civil trial by a whistleblower who worked inside the Bayrock Company; that is, the Trump SoHo hotel is being accused of operating a criminal enterprise.

Here’s the e-mail that’s likely causing full-throttle panic in Trumpville:

As Stern explains,

Here is the smoking gun email showing that the Trump family and all partners in the venture attended the meeting to discuss Sater’s felony past, which they then kept secret.

The complete e-mail link obtained by Stern can be found here.

If the e-mails are genuine, that would go a long way to explaining why the Trump clan has so heavily lawyered up in the last couple of months.

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.