The Trump Organization was reportedly pursuing a deal in Moscow during the election
A Russia-born businessman who served as a real estate adviser to the Trump Organization was pushing for then-candidate Donald Trump to pursue a Trump Tower deal in Moscow in late 2015, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
The businessman, Felix Sater, told Talking Points Memo earlier this month that his "last Moscow deal for the Trump Organization was in October of 2015. It didn't go through because obviously he became president."
"Once the campaign was really going-going, it was obvious there were going to be no deals internationally," Sater said. "We were still working on it, doing something with it, November-December."
The deal apparently fell apart in January 2016 because the Trump Organization did not have the land or permits to pursue it. That summer, the Trump Organization renewed unused trademarks it had acquired from the Russian government between 1996-2007 for hotels and branding, according to the New York Times. Russia approved four of the requested trademarks on November 8.
Sater visited Trump Tower in July 2016 for reasons he said were "confidential," Politico reported at the time. He also donated $5,520 to the Trump campaign.
Sater's lawyer declined to comment. The White House referred questions to Stephen Ryan, the lawyer for Michael Cohen — Trump's personal attorney at the time the Moscow deal was reportedly pursued. Ryan did not respond.
Sater, who was accused nearly two decades ago of being a co-conspirator in a $40 million fraud and money-laundering scheme involving four Mafia families, began advising the Trump Organization while he was an executive at the real estate firm Bayrock in the early 2000s.
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Trump worked with Bayrock on at least four projects, including the Trump SoHo in Manhattan, and said in a 2007 deposition that Bayrock frequently brought Russian investors to Trump Tower to meet with him.
Bayrock's former finance director, Jody Kriss, alleged in a 2010 lawsuit against Sater and others that "for most of its existence [Bayrock] was substantially and covertly mob-owned and operated," engaging "in a pattern of continuous, related crimes, including mail, wire, and bank fraud; tax evasion; money laundering; conspiracy; bribery; extortion; and embezzlement."
The Post reported that Sater began pushing for Trump to visit Moscow in November 2015, and at the time was in touch with Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Trump never traveled to Moscow, but his organization signed a letter of intent, according to the Post.
Cohen and Alan Garter, the Trump Organization's chief legal officer, did not respond to a request for comment.
Sater was evidently still in touch with Cohen as recently as late January 2017. The two met at a New York hotel on January 27 to discuss a peace plan for Russia and Ukraine that was drafted by a Ukrainian politician, Andrey Artemenko, The New York Times reported earlier this year.
Cohen is said to have delivered the plan directly to Michael Flynn before he resigned as Trump's national security adviser on February 13, though Cohen has disputed that in subsequent interviews.
In a 2007 deposition, Trump said his organization would never have agreed to partner with Bayrock on the development of Trump SoHo had he known about Sater's checkered past. Trump also said he wouldn't be able to identify Sater if they were in the same room.
Bayrock's office was once two floors below Trump's in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. A person familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution by Sater or his associates, told Business Insider that Sater and Trump had standing meetings each week.
Sater said in a deposition that he met with Trump "on a constant basis," Bloomberg previously reported, and Kriss told the publication that Trump valued Sater's loyalty — and his Russia connections.
"It's ridiculous that I wouldn't be investing in Russia," Trump said in the 2007 deposition. "Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment."
Sater showed Ivanka Trump and her brother Donald Trump Jr. around Moscow in 2006 when their father was scouting real estate in Russia. They stayed for several days at the Hotel National Moscow opposite the Kremlin, according to The Times.
Sater also acted as a fixer to help the former Kazakh cabinet minister Viktor Khrapunov buy three apartments in Trump SoHo using shell companies, the Financial Times reported. The Kazakh government has alleged that Khrapunov stole the funds for those units from the state.