Trump's Criminal Ties

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How can you say you love us? You don't love us! You don't even love yourself. You just love your money. — Donald Trump Jr to Donald Trump

What kind of son have I created? — Mary Trump, in a question to Donald Trump's then-wife Ivana.

1990: Trump: "They Kiss My Ass in Palm Beach"

Celebrity, real estate mogul and aspiring presidential candidate Donald Trump angrily denies that when he bought the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida in 1986, the country club, the Bath and Tennis Club, did not immediately issue him an invitation to join. "Utter bullshit! They kiss my ass in Palm Beach," he tells Vanity Fair reporter Marie Brenner. "Those phonies! That club called me and asked me if they could have my consent to use part of my beach to expand the space for their cabanas! I said, 'Of course!' Do you think if I wanted to be a member they would have turned me down? I wouldn't join that club, because they don't take blacks and Jews." (Vanity Fair)


1990-1998: Trump Casino Cited for Violating Money Laundering Laws 106 Times

Donald Trump's Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City breaks anti-money laundering rules 106 times in its first 18 months of operation, according to a 1998 IRS settlement agreement.

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The casino repeatedly refuses to report gamblers who cashed out $10,000 or more in a single day to the Treasury Department, a classic money-laundering method. The violations take place between April 1990 and December 1991. The casino eventually settles with the IRS, and pays a $477,000 fine, though it is allowed to claim no liability or culpability in its violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. In 2017, the Trump Organization will state in response to an inquiry by CNN that it "has had no involvement with the Taj Mahal, or any other Atlantic City property, for over a decade and has no knowledge of the events referred to in your email." It is hard to believe that the organization has no knowledge of the IRS and Treasury Department findings and the settlement, which at the time was the largest fine ever imposed on an entity that broke the Bank Secrecy Act. During the 1990-91 period, the Taj Mahal is a favorite of Russian mobsters living in Brooklyn. The Russians begin frequenting the casino shortly after it opens; the casino opened deeply in debt, short of cash and for a time is on the verge of bankruptcy. In late 1991, the casino recovers, and Trump sells half of his share to bondholders. In 2015, the Taj Mahal will again be caught flaunting money-laundering regulations, and will be fined $10 million. That time, the casino will be forced to acknowledge that it "willfully violated" the Bank Secrecy Act's "reporting and recordkeeping requirements from 2010 through 2012." But Trump had left Atlantic City by 2009, and owned only a small stake in the casino's parent company. (CNN, photo of the Taj Mahal via ZeroHedge)

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Trump won't do a deal unless there's something extra – a kind of moral larceny – in it. — unnamed business rival to Donald Trump

2001-2014: Russians Own Over $98 Million in Trump Properties in Florida

At least 63 Russian oligarchs purchase $98.4 million in properties in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in South Florida. They include businessmen with deep ties to the Putin regime and suspected criminals.

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None of the buyers appear to be members of Vladimir Putin's inner circle. Alan Garten, the chief lawyer for the trump Organization, says the story of Russian oligarchs buying so much Trump property "is an overblown story that is media-created. I've been around this company and know the company's dealings." The Russian ownership may be much higher than is publicly known, as about a third of the owners are LLCs (limited liability companies) who routinely hide the identities of property owners. And the nationalities of some of the buyers is not publicly known. The South Florida area has a large concentration of Trump-owned and/or branded buildings. Sunny Isles Beach, which has six of the seven Trump-branded residential towers, has one of the highest concentrations of Russian-born residents in the US. Six of those seven Trump properties in Florida are the result of an agreement between Trump and the father-and-son development team of Michael and Gil Dezer. Gil Dezer says that the project generated some $2 billion in initial sales, of which Trump received a commission, likely between one and four percent, for an estimated profit of anywhere between $20 and $80 million. As recently as March 2017, one of those properties, the Trump International Beach Resort, will continue to generate profits for Trump. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) will say in 2017: "While [Trump] has denied having invested in Russia, he has said little or nothing about Russian investment in his businesses and properties in the United States or elsewhere. This should concern all Americans and is yet another reason why his refusal to release his tax returns should be met with considerable skepticism and concern." Some of the Russians who own Trump-branded property are using the properties to "stow cash," in the words of the team of Reuters journalists who authored the initial report. One buyer, Pavel Uglanov, is a former deputy minister for industry and energy in the Saratov regional government of central Russia. He buys a 3-bedroom apartment in Trump Hollywood for $1.8 million in 2012, and sells it for $2.9 million two years later. Uglanov has struggled to keep businesses running in America. In August 2016, Uglanov will post a photo of himself on Facebook standing with Alexander Zaldonostov, leader of a motorcycle gang calling themselves the "Night Wolves." Both the Night Wolves and Zaldostanov personally are made subject to US financial and travel restrictions. The US says Night Wolves stormed a Ukrainian government naval base and a gas facility during Russia's annexation of Crimea. The Night Wolves have strong ties to the Kremlin. (Reuters via the Huffington Post, Miami Herald)

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photo of Trump, Arif and Sater

2002-2003: Trump Begins Doing Business with Russian-Tied Real Estate Firm

Trump begins doing business with the Bayrock Group, a real estate development organization with its headquarters in the Trump Tower. He meets founder Tevfik Arif, a Russian born in then-Soviet Kazakhstan, and Russian-born American businessman Felix Sater, COO of Bayrock and a convicted felon, through a Trump Tower leasing agent. Bayrock arranges for the Trump Organization to become involved in multiple developments that will be marketed under the Trump name.

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Bayrock arranges for the Trump Organization to become involved in multiple developments that will be marketed under the Trump name. The first Trump-Bayrock deal, a 19-story condominium tower and hotel complex in Phoenix, falls through in 2005 after organized resistance from residents. A follow-up project in Fort Lauderdale also collapses after lawsuits and claims of criminal fraud tarnish the project's reputation. Trump dodges the lawsuit by asserting he is not the developer and bears no responsibility for the problems. Eventually, Trump and Bayrock engage in a series of deals leading to the construction of the Trump SoHo in New York, which will become the centerpiece of a RICO investigation. The firm's organizational structure is deliberately designed to make it difficult to determine how it works, or who profits from what business dealing.

Sater, Convicted Felon and FBI Informant

Sater, a licensed stockbroker who was born in Russia but grew up in the Russian emigre community of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, was convicted in 1991 of brutally assaulting a man in a Manhattan bar, and after going to prison, admitted being a major player in a $40 million securities fraud scheme that involved a number of members of the New York Mafia as well as another man, stockbroker Salvatore Lauria. Both he and Lauria worked closely with Mafia members for protection. (Lauria will later write a book detailing his financial crimes with Sater, and afterwards will renounce the book as mostly "fiction.") In 1998, Sater pled guilty to a single count of racketeering in a $40 million Mafia stock fraud case in return for becoming a confidential informant for investigations involving organized crime and national security, along with another member of the criminal fraud ring, Gennady Klotsman. Sater avoided prison time after FBI agents testified on his behalf. His court records were sealed for a decade, allowing him to keep his felonious past secret from inquisitive investors and potential business colleagues. In 2015, US attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch will praise Sater for providing information "crucial to national security" while working as an operative. Economic reporter James S. Henry will later write that Sater has "an informant relationship with the FBI and the CIA that is vaguely reminiscent of [famous Mafia informant] Whitey Bulger." The FBI apparently believes that Sater's father was a member of the Russian mob, and was involved in trafficking nuclear materials, selling illegal weapons, and money laundering. In 2008, after leaving Bayrock, Sater will testify that he pitches business ideas to Trump ("just me and him") and his team "on a constant basis." In 2015, his lawyer Robert Wolf will say that some of the information about Sater in public records and lawsuits is defamatory, and tells an Associated Press reporter to write about Sater's past "at your own risk." In 2017, Sater will add to his claims, saying he was a US intelligence agent as well, and boasting, "I was building Trump Towers by day and hunting Bin Laden by night." He claims to have worked in Afghanistan with the CIA. There is no independent verification of his claims to be associated with the US intelligence community. Like others in the CIA, former CIA operations officer Glenn Carle thinks Sater is a liar: "We should not take this guy's statements at face value. There are all sorts of people who seek protection by wrapping themselves in the American and CIA flags."

Arif, Former Russian Oligarch

Arif is a former Soviet government economist who grew rich after building luxury hotels in Turkey and Kazakhstan after the collapse of the Soviet Union.He will later be charged with teen prostitution by Turkish authorities, but will not be convicted.

Seeking Russian Bailouts After Bankruptcies

Trump turns to Bayrock after a series of six straight corporate bankruptcies devastated his portfolio; he is now essentially an entertainer portraying himself as a business mogul who is actually struggling to re-establish himself and his brand. Henry will later write: "[T]he massive illicit outflows from Russia and oil-rich [former Soviet Union states] like Kazahkstan and Azerbaijan from the mid-1990s provided precisely the kind of undiscriminating investors that he needed. These outflows arrived at just the right time to fund several of Trump's post-2000 high-risk real estate and casino ventures – most of which failed." His financing opportunities are severely limited, as most of the banks he previously did business with will have no further dealings with him. In 2016, Henry will write that while Bayrock will be considered, on the whole, "spectacularly unsuccessful," it provides a medium to considerably enrich Trump's own finances. (Forbes, Medium, New York Times, Financial Times, ABC News, American Interest, Los Angeles Times, 2007 photo of Trump, Arif and Sater via the Los Angeles Times)

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2005: Trump Works with Bayrock, Other Russians

Trump and his business associate Felix Sater work on a variety of projects, including an unsuccessful bid to redevelop Union Station in Denver, Colorado. The local press describes Sater as Trump's "associate" and calls Sater's firm Bayrock a member of Trump's "team."

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Trump also works closely with Sater and Bayrock founder Tevfik Arif on projects in Istanbul, Warsaw, Kiev and Moscow, including at least one meeting Trump later recalls that features two Russian colleagues of Arif's. Sater also receives a letter from Donald Trump Jr. stating that his father will be a partner in a proposed hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Trump gives Sater and Bayrock an exclusive deal to develop another Trump project in Russia. Sater later testifies: "I'd come back, pop my head into Mr. Trump's office and tell him, you know, 'Moving forward on the Moscow deal.' And he would say 'All right.' … I showed him photos, I showed him the site, showed him the view from the site. It's pretty spectacular." Trump will later testify, "Mr. Arif had the contacts " he's very international." In 2011, Trump will testify that he barely knows either Sater or Arif. (Forbes, Financial Times)

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2005: Trump Sells Mansion to Russian Billionaire at Vastly Overinflated Price

Donald Trump sells a mansion to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million, making a profit of over $53 million on the deal. Trump purchased the property for $41.35 million in 2004, from health-care magnate Abe Gosman's bankruptcy filing.

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The mansion, in Palm Beach, Florida, is in what Rybolovlev's lawyer Tetiana Bersheda calls "unlivable" condition. Rybolovlev never hired experts to ascertain the condition of the house, or its value as a likely teardown. Ryboloblev never occupies the house, and his daughter Ekaterina only stays on the property for a few days, living in the pool house while contemplating some rebuilding projects. It is unclear why Rybolovlev paid such an extraordinarily high amount for the house; it will be appraised for $78.2 million in 2009, and only $56.1 million in 2010. The mansion later becomes a bone of contention in Rybolovlev's contentious 2012 divorce from his wife Elena. Rybolovlev rose from a career as a doctor and then as a stockbroker and banker before becoming chairman of the Russian fertilizer production firm Uralkali. He served almost a year in prison on charges of murdering a competitor before the charges were dropped. Apparently the divorce will center on Rybolovlev's many affairs, some with very young women during yacht parties. It is unclear why Rybolovlev purchased the house; in 2017, he claims the purchase is for his family's trust, but that explanation is wanting. In 2008, his representatives called the purchase a company investment. In 2009, during their divorce proceedings, Elena Rybolovlev will say that her husband "has a history of secreting and transferring assets in order to avoid his obligations," and goes on to say that the purchase was in part to conceal his income from her. In 2011, Rybolovlev's company will flatly state as part of the divorce disclosures that "Mr. Rybolovlev has not purchased or managed any real estate in Florida for investment purposes, either directly or indirectly." Trump will respond by saying, "Somebody paid me $100 million" for the property. Throughout the divorce, Rybolovlev's lawyers will give Elena's lawyers wildly differing reasons for the purchase, including claiming it is intended as an investment, then an inheritance, then as a possible gift to his daughter Ekaterina. In 2014, the divorce will be finalized, with Elena eventually coming away with some $604 million. During and after Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, flight records will indicate Rybolovlev will travel to numerous locations that Trump is also at. Rybolovlev's spokespersons will deny that the two have ever met. (New York Times, Seattle Times)

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2006: Trump Children Escorted through Moscow by Trump Business Associate

Trump's son Donald Jr. and daughter Ivanka travel to Moscow, where Trump business associate Felix Sater agrees to show them around the city. "He [Trump] asked if I wouldn't mind joining them and looking after them while they were in Moscow," Sater testifies. Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten later says that it was a coincidence that Sater and the Trump children were in Moscow at the same time. (Forbes)


photo of Felix Sater

2007: Trump Business Partner Allegedly Threatens to Torture, Kill Investor

Trump and his business partners at the real estate development firm Bayrock work on a proposal for a 600,000-square foot Trump International Hotel and Residences in Phoenix, Arizona, that is to include a spa, swimming pools, "exquisite gardens," and "a world-class celebrity chef restaurant." The project never gets underway. In a lawsuit filed in state court against "the Trump/Bayrock Organization," the plaintiff alleges that Bayrock executive Felix Sater threatened one of the Arizona partners in the deal, Earnest Mennes.

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Sater allegedly told Mennes he would call in a relative to "electrically shock Mr. Mennes' testicles, cut off Mr. Mennes' legs, and leave Mr. Mennes dead in the trunk of his car." Sater's lawyer will call the accusation "an outright fabrication" made as part of a lawsuit demanding a financial settlement. In 2015, Mennes will refuse to comment on the lawsuit, as it has been settled out of court. He will say he is proud of his association with the project, and considers Trump a masterful businessman. (ABC News, photo of Felix Sater by Wikipedia)

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2007-2008: Trump and Bayrock Engage in Financially Ruinous Deal with Icelandic Firm, Kazakh Billionaire

Bayrock, a real estate company closely tied to Donald Trump, strikes a deal that involved trading anticipated profits from the Trump SoHo launch and other projects in return for $50 million in financing from the FL Group (FLG), an Icelandic company.

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Trump, his son Donald Jr, and his daughter Ivanka all sign off on the deal. Some Bayrock officials push back on the deal; Bayrock finance director Jody Kriss files a lawsuit alleging the deal cheated him and other employees, and instead diverted money to people outside the company, including an associate of Bayrock executive Felix Sater, Salvatore Lauria, who was convicted in the same fraud prosecution that caught Sater. Lauria is the one responsible for brokering the deal with FLG, in part because FLG is popular with wealthy Russian investors who are close to Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin. A financial analyst who sues the company who is likely Kriss later says: "Felix Sater was Bayrock. They paid his personal expenses, they paid his living expenses. They bought him a house. … Felix always held himself out as owning half the company … held himself out to everyone. And he said it to me." The analyst also will state that Sater repeatedly physically threatened him, once telling him, "If you don't write this e-mail, I'll kill everyone you love." Sater will deny this allegation. Bayrock describes FLG as one of its two "strategic partners" along with Alexander Mashkevich, a Kazakh billionaire who will be caught up in a corruption investigation in London, and his business partners in his Eurasia Group, Patokh Chodiev and Alijan Ibragimov. (Mashkevich, Chodiev and Ibragimov are called "The Trio in Kazakhstan, where they have allegedly associated with several known Russian and Kazakh criminal organizations. It is unclear whether "The Trio" have ever contributed money to any Trump projects. Chodiev has denied any connections to Trump, the Trump Organization, or Bayrock.) FLG collapses shortly thereafter when Iceland's national economy crashes. One of the seamier details of the FLG details later emerges in the Kriss lawsuit: apparently FLG and Sater crafted another deal committing them to another $2 billion in Trump-related deals, and structuring some of the FLG investments to avoid paying taxes on some $250 million in potential earnings – conspiracy to commit tax fraud. In 2007, Bayrock's executive vice president Julius Schwarz pens a letter to Bayrock's chairman saying that "there were at least a hundred times when the deal could not have closed, among them because of the risk of discovering Felix's past." Schwarz later says the letter is legitimate, but he never delivered it. Trump says during this period that he is considering severing his ties with Bayrock because he just recently learned about Sater's criminal background from news reports: "I'm looking into it, because I'm not happy with the story. … He changed the spelling in his name, so people trying to find things out about him were unable to." (Sater had changed his name to "Satter" while working at the company, but did not change his name on all of his documents and filings. An investigator hired by a Bayrock law firm later tells Forbes that it was easy to find out information about Sater/Satter. Sater leaves Bayrock shortly thereafer.) Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, will later state that Trump never had any involvement with either Mashkevich or the FL Group. As for Sater, Garten will say that Trump "had no idea" about Sater's criminal past. The news report "was the first time that both the Trump organization and Bayrock learned of Mr. Sater's background. … When you go into business with another company, you're going to vet that company certainly, but you're not going to vet every employee, it's just not appropriate." (Forbes, Financial Times, Forbes, ABC News, New York Times, American Interest)

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We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia. — Donald Trump Jr, to a real estate conference in 2008

February 2009: Trump Hosts "Farewell Breakfast" for Russian Foundation Head

Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the Hermitage Museum Foundation in St. Petersburg, Russia, has what the Foundation's newsletter describes as a "farewell breakfast" at Donald Trump's Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago. Piotrovsky and his entourage are flying from Houston to St. Petersburg, and stop for a weekend's relaxation in Florida. Trump hosts the breakfast event. The newsletter describes Mar-a-Lago as the "former home of Russophile and collector, Marjorie Merriweather Post." (Hermitage Museum Foundation (PDF))

Sater's business card

2010: Sater Becomes "Senior Advisor" to Trump

Former Bayrock employee Felix Sater, a Russian-born American with deep ties to Russian business and criminal interests, becomes a "Senior Advisor to Donald Trump," and is given a Trump Organization email address, business cards, and an office in Trump Tower. The phone number on the cards previously belonged to a lawyer in Trump's general counsel's office. (Forbes)


2010: Russian Invests in Trump Toronto

Russian-Canadian developer Alexander Shnaider puts $15 million into the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto (Trump Toronto), after receiving hundreds of millions from a separate asset sale involving the Russian bank Vnesheconombank (VEB).

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Shnaider sells his company's share in a Ukrainian steelmaker for about $850 million to a buyer working on behalf of the Russian government. VEB initiated the sale and provided the funding. Shnaider originally paid $70 million for the stock via his company, Midland Resources Holding, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The chairman of VEB's supervisory board is Vladimir Putin. Shnaider immediately invests some $15 million into Trump Toronto, which is experiencing severe financial difficulties. (The property will be declared insolvent in 2016, and will be sold to a California investment firm in March 2017.) After the story breaks in May 2017, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization will say that Donald Trump had no involvement with the deal, and that the organization "merely licensed its brand and manages the hotel and residences." Slate Josh Voorhees will observe that despite Trump's repeated denials of having any dealings with Russia, "he appears to have benefited from the actions of a Russian bank with clear ties to the Russian government." Not only does Putin currently sit on VEB's supervisory board, but, the Wall Street Journal will note, VEB "has long been viewed by Russian analysts as a vehicle for the Russian government to fund politically important projects, including the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi." In 2016, a VEB executive in New York will be convicted of conspiring to act in the United States as a Russian agent without alerting US authorities. Shnaider's lawyer Symon Zucker will accuse the Journal of falsifying its reporting, and will say that Midland "has never had any relationship with VEB." Of Trump, he says: "Trump was never a partner. He never had an equity interest. We licensed his name and there was a contract for him to manage the hotel." Zucker will also deny that Shnaider received any money or conducted any business with VEB. VEB will function as a cover for Russian spy Evgeny Buryakov, who will try to recruit Americans and South Africans as intelligence sources. (Slate, Business Insider, Business Insider, Talking Points Memo)

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2010 and After: Trump SoHo Project Completed, Fails Shortly Thereafter

The lavish Trump SoHo project, a hotel/condominium in New York, reaches completion. The Trump SoHo is a mutual project of the Trump Organization; Bayrock, a New York-based real estate development company that Trump has worked with since 2003 and headed by Tevfik Arif, a Russian citizen; and the Sapir Organization, another New York real estate firm with Russian ties headed by Georgian native Tamir Sapir.

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(During the Cold War, Sapir sold electronics to KGB agents from a storefront in Manhattan. A Sapir business partner, Rotem Rosen, is a former colleague of Soviet-born Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, a close friend of Vladimir Putin's.) As Trump and his family attempted to secure financing for the SoHo project, they often boasted about their connections to Russian money. His son Donald Jr. told a reporter in 2008: "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets, say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo. … We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." But the Russian financing is not enough. Trump also promoted the project on his reality TV show The Apprentice. The opening is lavish, and Trump's celebratory speech takes place with Arif and another Bayrock executive, Felix Sater, flanking him. However, sales of units at the hotel/condo are disappointing, and many angry buyers later sue for damages. Trump SoHo settles the claims out of court. Bayrock, Sapir and Trump are unable to pay back their creditors, and the Trump SoHo is sold under foreclosure. In 2016, economic reporter James S. Henry will call Trump SoHo a "white elephant" Trump performed little to no due diligence on his SoHo partners, Henry will write. In August 2007, the SoHo project executives filed an offering plan with the names of Trump and his children Donald Jr. and Ivanka that falsely claimed there were "no prior felony convictions of Sponsor [the Bayrock/Sapir Organization], or any principals of Sponsor." Felix Sater is a principal for Bayrock in the SoHo deal, though Bayrock will later deny that fact. (Forbes, Financial Times, American Interest, Politico, New York Times, Financial Times)

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November 2011: Trump Settles Trump SoHo Fraud Lawsuit

Donald Trump and the Trump Organization settles a lawsuit involving his Trump Tower SoHo project, generally considered a failure rife with allegations and indications of fraudulent, criminal activity.

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The 46-story luxury condominium/hotel combination was built in Lower Manhattan. Buyers of units in the development filed the suit, alleging that they had been defrauded by inflated and false claims made by Trump, his family, and members of the Trump Organization, who claimed to have sold most of the units in the development. The terms of the settlement require Trump and his organizatin to refund 90% of $3.16 million in deposits. They are not required to admit wrongdoing. Many observers feel that Trump, who famously insists that he never settles lawsuits, settled in order to avoid bad publicity. A separate lawsuit claims that Trump SoHo was developed with the involvement of convicted felons such as Felix Sater as well as funding from possibly criminal sources in Russia and Kazakhstan. Moreover, an unreported criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney was seeking to determine whether the fraud alleged by the buyers constituted criminal activity. The terms of the settlement require the plaintiffs to withdraw their cooperation with the criminal investigation; that case is soon dropped. Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten later claims that the lawsuit did not involve Trump "in any material way" and the settlement "was solely a function of returning deposits." The settlement cost Trump nothing, Garten will say, and the case was merely a case of "buyer's remorse." Perhaps the most questionable aspect of the Trump SoHo project is the involvement of the Bayrock Group, a real-estate development firm housed in Trump Tower Manhattan. Bayrock was headed by former Soviet government official Tevfik Arif. Sater, a convicted felon, worked closely with Trump during the development of the SoHo project and many others, though Trump will later claim he barely knew Sater and wouldn't recognize him if he saw him. The other group involved, the Sapir Organization, is headed by a former citizen of Georgia, Tamir Sapir. Sapir was hired to manage the property. Trump was drawn to Bayrock and Arif because of its connections to Russian business interests and investors. In a deposition for the lawsuit, Trump says: "Bayrock knew the people, knew the investors, and in some cases I believe they were friends of Mr. Arif. And this was going to be Trump International Hotel and Tower Moscow, Kiev, Istanbul, etc., Poland, Warsaw." (New York Times)

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2011 and 2013: Trump Denies All but Vague Knowledge of Former Business Partners

Under oath, Trump denies knowing his longtime business partner and associate Felix Sater in any but the vaguest terms. Trump has been engaged with the New York City real estate organization, Bayrock, for years.

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Sater is Russian-born and has deep ties to that country's business and criminal organizations, while Bayrock founder Tevfik Araf is a Russian citizen. One of the biggest deals put together by Trump and Bayrock was for the Trump SoHo, a 46-story New York hotel and condo completed in 2010. Both Bayrock and the Trump SoHo have become the focus of a massive RICO corruption and fraud investigation. When he testifies as a part of that investigation, Trump claims to barely know Sater and little more about Arif. "I don't know who owns Bayrock," he tells the court. "I never really understood who owned Bayrock. I know they're a developer that's done quite a bit of work. But I don't know how they have their ownership broken down." Arif was arrested in 2010 in Turkey on charges that he helped arrange an orgy; those charges will later be dropped and Arif will continue to live and work in Turkey. Trump will later testify that "it could have been Felix Sater" who gave him the idea for the Trump International Hotel and Tower project in Fort Lauderdale. Both the Trump SoHo and Fort Lauderdale hotels will eventually be sold under foreclosure. In 2007, Trump testified that he had frequent interactions with Bayrock and said, "I dealt mostly with Tevfik … and very little with Sater," but by 2011 his memory has changed; he testifies: "I don't know him very well, Mr Arif. I've met him a couple of times." By 2013, Trump's memory will have almost completely faded; he will testify that Arif "was there at Bayrock a long time ago. I don't know if he still is. I don't think so." In 2010, Sater worked closely with the Trump Organization, and handed out business cards identifying himself as a "senior advisor" to Trump. In 2013, Trump will express sympathy for Sater, going into detail about his personal tribulations, and then pronounce him a near-stranger: "He got into trouble because he got into a barroom fight, which a lot of people do. I don't because I don't drink. But I don't think he was connected to the Mafia and I don't know him very well. … If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like." In that same 2013 testimony, he will reply "Not many" when asked how many times he had spoken with Sater. When asked about a previous BBC interview where he discussed Sater's Mafia connections and then cut the interview short by leaving, Trump says he doesn't remember the interview. (Forbes, Financial Times, ABC News)

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— 2013 —

2013-2015: Trump Tower Surveilled by FBI as Part of Effort to Catch Russian Mobsters

The FBI conducts a lengthy surveillance operation at Trump Tower, including wiretapping and other methods, attempting to gain information on a Russian organized crime money-laundering network operating out of Unit 63A in the building. The opulent apartment is owned by Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov (or Tokhtakhounav), a notorious Russian mafia boss.

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The surveillance is used to arrest and prosecute over 30 people. Tokhtakhounov is the only one to escape arrest, and in 2017 will still be considered a fugitive by American law enforcement officials. Seven months after the April 2013 indictment and after being named in an Interpol "red notice," Tokhtakhounov appeared near Donald Trump in the VIP section of the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. FBO agent Mike Gaeta, who ran the initial FBI investigation of Tokhtakhounov and his money-laundering and gambling ring, tells a reporter: "He is a major player. He is prominent. He has extremely good connections in the business world as well as the criminal world, overseas, in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, other countries." Gaeta and the FBI believe Tokhtakhounov and his ring have moved over $50 million in illegal money into the US. He notes: "Because of his status, we have kept tabs on his activities and particularly as his activities truly enter New York City. Their money was ultimately laundered from Russia, Ukraine and other locations through Cyprus banks and shell companies based in Cyprus and then ultimately here to the United States." Donald Trump himself is not a subject of the investigation, but Trump Tower is under close watch. Another member of Tokhtakhounov's ring, Vadim Trincher, also lives in Trump Tower. He will be convicted of racketeering and will be sentenced to a five-year prison term. Former FBI official Rich Frankel says of Trump Tower: "Everything was moving in and out of there. [Trincher] would have people come in and meet with them. He would use the phones. He would also communicate, whether it was through e-mail or other communications through there. His base of operations was in the Trump Tower." One recording by the FBI has Trincher threatening to have a debtor tortured and murdered. One tenant, Eduard Nektalov, a diamond dealer from Uzbekistan, was gunned down in broad daylight on Sixth Avenue in a gang-related assassination. Nektalov was cooperating with federal investigators at the time of his murder. Trump Organization spokespersons deny that unusually large numbers of Russian citizens have living spaces in Trump properties, but an ABC News review of property records show that is a lie. ABC will report: "Trump-branded developments catered to large numbers of Russian buyers, including several who had brushes with the law. Russian buyers were particularly drawn to Trump licensed condo towers in Hollywood, Florida, and Sunny Isles. Local real estate agents credited the Russian migration for turning the coastal Miami-area community into what they called Little Moscow." Tokhtakhounov is enjoying a life of luxury in Moscow, and is regularly observed in public. Daily Kos writer Mark Sumner will note that the three floors between Tokhtakhounov's apartment and Trump's penthouse suite was occupied by Bayrock, a shady company "owned by post-Soviet oligarchs and operated by securities fraudster Felix Sater." Sumner will write: "It looks like Trump Tower was a one-size fits all money-laundering superstore. … Was there a wiretap at Trump Tower? Damn right there was. Because Trump Tower is a hotbed of illegal activity, and it's just part of the 'open for business' sign Trump hung out for Russian mobsters." (ABC News, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos)

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On the one hand this may seem like guilt by association. Trump has a bunch of buildings. Some tenants must be crooks. But the context is important. When you start piecing together the Trump story, basically everywhere you look, whether it's residents in his Trump-branded buildings, or his business associates or investors in his projects, Trump is – there's simply no other way to put it – tied up with it not just Russians but in many cases Russians tied to the criminal underworld and money laundering. — Josh Marshall

April 16, 2013: Alleged Russian-Connected Criminals Arrested in Trump Tower

Federal agents raid a $6 million Trump Tower apartment as part of a larger operation that rounds up 34 suspected members of two global gambling rings. The gambling rings are supposedly overseen by Russian billionaire and fugitive Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov.

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Later in the year, Tokhtakhounov will be photographed with Trump at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Tokhtakhounov is under indictment in a separate US case accusing him of bribing Olympic figure skating judges at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The FBI raids are part of an investigation into a Russian mob-run money laundering operation. Trump Tower residents Vadim Trincher and art dealer Helly Nahmad are arrested in the raid. Trincher, whose lawyer says he earns a living as a legal gambler, is accused of directing the international racketeering operation from his Trump Tower apartment. The gambling rings allegedly ran illegal high-stakes poker games that included pro athletes, Hollywood celebrities and Wall Street executives, none of whom have been charged. George Venizelos, head of the New York FBI office, says the charges "demonstrate the scope and reach of Russian organized crime. … The defendants are alleged to have handled untold millions in illegal wagers placed by millionaires and billionaires, laundered millions, and in some cases are themselves multimillionaires. Crime pays only until you are arrested and prosecuted." New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly says proceeds from the games and online gambling were allegedly funneled to organized crime overseas. The indictment alleges that the rings operates "an international gambling business that catered to oligarchs residing in the former Soviet Union and throughout the world." The proceeds are laundered through shell companies in Cyprus and in the United States by a criminal enterprise with strong ties to Russia and Ukraine, prosecutors say. Wiretaps of Trincher's calls show him threatening one customer who owed money that "he should be careful, lest he be tortured or found underground," according to Fischman. (Fox News, Medium)

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— 2014 —

Well, we don't rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. — Eric Trump, speaking about investments in the Trump Organization, early 2014

— 2015 —

March 6, 2015: Trump Casino Fined $10 Million for Money Laundering

After a lengthy investigation, the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) fines Donald Trump's Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey $10 million for what it calls the "willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)." The federal agency found that the Trump casino had been involved in money-laundering schemes for well over a decade. The penalty was agreed upon by FinCEN and Trump's legal team.

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THIS STORY IS UNDER DEVELOPMENT. (FinCen, Fortune)

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September 2015: Trump Foundation Receives Illicit Donation from Ukrainian Billionaire

Donald Trump's private charity receives a "payment" of $150,000 from Ukrainian steel magnate Victor Pinchuk. The donation makes Pinchuk the single largest donor to the Trump Foundation for 2015.

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In return, the charity gives a 21-minute video to Pinchuk made up of the recording of an interview given by Trump to Fox News pundit Doug Schoen, who also represents Pinchuk's interests in the US. The question-and-answer session with Schoen is titled "How New Ukraine's Fate Affects Europe and the World." The segment of the interview provided to Pinchuk centers on a personal meeting Trump had with Pinchuk and his positive relationship with the billionaire. "Victor I have known for a long time and he is a tremendous guy, a tremendous guy so it is a great honor to be with everybody," he says. Trump also says that Russia invaded Ukraine because of President Obama's "weak" leadership. "Putin does not respect our president whatsoever. The fact is that Ukraine is an amazing place. You know, I've known so many people, so many years in the Ukraine. These are people that want what's good. They want what's right. And they're not being treated right by the United States. And also by the way, and I hate to say this, they're not being treated right by Europe itself." The donation may be a violation of tax laws, according to legal experts, as the donation amounts to Trump using his private foundation to enrich himself and his businesses instead of fulfilling a charitable mission. During the 2016 presidential election, Trump's campaign will learn that the Clinton Foundation accepted a legal donation from Pinchuk, a fact that will lead Trump to label Hillary Clinton as "crooked." Lawrence Noble, chief counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, will say upon learning of the Trump Foundation donation: "This is at the time that he's making a big deal about the Clinton Foundation getting money from foreign sources. … I don't know how he explains that his attacks on Clinton doing it were fair." Of the Trump Foundation donation, Noble will say: "If it's hard to assess the purpose of the video, why are they giving his foundation $150,000? Was this just a way that they were giving his foundation some money?" Pinchuk also has a relationship with campaign advisor Carter Page, whose ties to the Kremlin will be probed by US intelligence officials. (Daily Beast)

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Early November 2015: Former Trump Business Parter Says Moscow Business Deal, Putin's Blessing Will Help Trump Get Elected

Trump's former business associate Felix Sater writes a series of emails to Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, promising to engineer a real estate deal with the assistance of Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin that, Sater says, will help Trump win the presidency.

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Discussions about the Trump Tower Moscow project began moving forward in September 2015. The plan is to have a Moscow investor, I.C. Expert Investment Company, actually build the agreement, and place Trump's name on the building under a licensing agreement. Cohen is a lead negotiator for the Trump Organization in the discussions. In the series of emails, Sater boasts of his ties to Putin, and says the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow will emphasize Trump's negotiating skills and boost his nascent presidential candidacy. "Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it," Sater writes. "I will get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this, I will manage this process. … I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected." In August 2017, the New York Times will write, "The emails show that, from the earliest months of Mr. Trump's campaign, some of his associates viewed close ties with Moscow as a political advantage." Sater tells Cohen he has financing for the tower set up through a Russian financial institution, VTB Bank, which is under American sanctions for its involvement in Russia's attempts to sabotage Ukrainian elections. Sater says he is eager to show video clips to his Russian contacts of Trump publicly praising Russia, and says he can arrange for Putin to praise Trump's business acumen. "If he says it we own this election," Sater writes. "Americas [sic] most difficult adversary agreeing that Donald is a good guy to negotiate." Sater says it would be "pretty cool to get a USA President elected," and says he wants to be named US Ambassador to the Bahamas: "That my friend is the home run I want out of this." As the talks progress, Trump repeatedly lavishes praise on Putin, setting himself apart from the other Republican candidates for the presidential nomination. By the end of 2015, when the deal negotiations are well underway and not long after Sater's email exchange with Cohen, Putin will begin praising Trump in return. Shortly after, the deal begins to collapse. In January 2016, Cohen will write to Putin's spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, asking for assistance in restarting the Trump Tower Moscow project. But Cohen does not have Peskov's personal email, and instead writes to a general inbox for press inquiries. The deal fails weeks later, and Cohen will claim that despite Sater's exhortations, he never travels to Moscow to discuss the deal. Trump signed a nonbinding "letter of intent" on October 28, 2015 for the project, and Cohen will admit to discussing the project with Trump three times, but in 2017 the Trump Organization will state, "To be clear, the Trump Organization has never had any real estate holdings or interests in Russia." Sater and Cohen have long maintained a relationship, mostly involving their mutual work in the realm of New York City's commercial real estate. Sater tells the media, through his lawyer, that he brought the Trump Tower Moscow project proposal to Cohen's attention in late 2015, but was not working for the Trump Organization and "would not have been compensated" by them. "During the course of our communications over several months, I routinely expressed my enthusiasm regarding what a tremendous opportunity this was for the Trump Organization," Sater states. Sater is a longtime associate of Trump's, mostly through the now-defunct Bayrock real estate firm, which has long been suspected of illegal deals and criminal connections. Sater also brags that he has such access to Putin that, when Trump's daughter Ivanka visited Moscow in 2006 – a trip Sater helped arrange – "I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins [sic] private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin." Ivanka Trump later denies any involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow discussions other than to recommend possible architects. She will say that she has not spoken to Sater since 2010, will say she may have sat in Putin's chair though she does not recall doing so, and will deny ever meeting Putin. Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten later says that Sater's presence in Moscow at the same time that Ivanka Trump and her coterie were in Moscow was merely a coincidence, and that Sater did not accompany them to Moscow. Donald Trump began trying to build a Trump property in Moscow for decades, starting in 1987 with a failed proposal to partner with the Soviet government on a hotel project. In 2007, he said in a court deposition that "Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment. … We will be in Moscow at some point." Sater and Bayrock worked in 2005 to develop a Moscow Trump Tower, and the partnership found a site for the project, an abandoned pencil factory. Although Trump was closely involved in the deal, the deal did not go through. During the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, Trump told an audience: "We've met with a number of people and we may do something in Moscow and in various parts of Russia but we have had some meetings while I'm here and we could very well do something. We're thinking about doing a Trump Tower Moscow. So we're talking to a group of people about doing that." (New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Post via Philadelphia Inquirer, Forbes via Scott Dworkin)

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December 10, 2015: Trump Continues to Distance Himself from Mob-Connected Business Associate

Donald Trump continues to distance himself from any connections to his former business associate Felix Sater, a Russian emigrant who was twice convicted of felonies and has documented connections to US and Russian organized crime.

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Trump worked extensively with Sater during Sater's time with Bayrock, a New York-based real estate development firm with deep ties to Russia. In 2010, Sater worked directly for the Trump Organization, billing himself as Trump's "senior advisor." Two years ago, Trump said under oath for a civil lawsuit, "If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like." Last week, Trump told an Associated Press reporter: "Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it. I'm not that familiar with him." Sater refuses to be interviewed about Trump, but his website touts his connections to Trump. He called his involvement with the failed Trump SoHo hotel his "most prized project." He identified himself on his LinkedIn profile as a "senior advisor" to Trump in 2010-2011, until a reporter asked Trump's attorney about Sater, which apparently led Sater to delete that reference from his online resume. Trump's general counsel Alan Garten initially said Trump "had no real direct relationship with Felix Sater" and had not been an advisor to Trump "in my mind, and not in anyone at the Trump Organization's mind." Garten now confirms the authenticity of the "senior advisor" position, but says the title is not reflective of Sater's real role in the Trump Organization: it is common practice in real estate, he says, to give independent agents titles and business cards "in order for brokers to be able to make initial introductions." Garten says Sater was "never employed by or on the payroll of the Trump organization" and that "no deals ever came from those activities"” in 2010. However, Garten refuses to comment to questions about Sater's office space in Trump Tower, or any other compensations he may have received. ABC News notes that "[i]mages of Sater's business card were wiped from the internet shortly after ABC News asked Garten about it." Garten notes: "To be clear, Mr. Sater's involvement in the projects, the projects that went forward, SoHo and Fort Lauderdale, may have existed in the beginning, but long term there was very little involvement." Garten says that while Trump "cut all ties" with Sater in 2007 after learning of Sater's criminal past, the Trump Organization continued to listen to pitches for deals from Sater. He explains why Trump would listen to a deal pitched by a felon with ties to organized crime: "You're going to look at the deal, you're not going to look at the broker." Recently, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was asked about Sater; Lewandowski replied: "I have no idea who Felix Sater is, he has nothing to do with the Donald J. Trump for President presidential campaign. I've never heard of the guy." Fort Lauderdale healthcare consultant Cathy Cather says she lost the money she invested in the project Trump pitched in her home town. "I invested because it was Trump," Cather says. (ABC News)

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— 2016 —

January 2016: Trump Lawyer Reaches out to Senior Russian Government Official for Help in Moscow Business Deal

After Trump business partner Felix Sater told Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that he would help Trump get elected by using his connections to Vladimir Putin, Cohen attempts to contact Putin's personal spokesperson Dmitri Peskov in an attempt to resuscitate Sater's stalled Trump Tower Moscow project.

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In the email, which will later be turned over to Congressional investigators, Cohen writes: "Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower &ndash Moscow project in Moscow City. Without getting into lengthy specifics the communication between our two sides has stalled. As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon." The Washington Post later observes: "Cohen's email marks the most direct interaction yet documented of a top Trump aide and a similarly senior member of Putin's government." The Post will also report that Cohen lacks Peskov's personal email address, and instead sends his inquiry to a general inbox for the use of the press. Cohen will admit to writing the email at Sater's recommendation. Cohen will say that Sater advises him that the Trump Organization would need Russian government approval, and will claim he never heard back from Peskov. In a statement, Cohen will say: "It should come as no surprise that, over four decades, the Trump Organization has received and reviewed countless real estate development opportunities, both domestic and international. The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected." Cohen will claim that he himself turns down the project, because he has no confidence that the Moscow developer could complete the project: "It was a building proposal that did not succeed and nothing more." Cohen has been involved in negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow since September 2015. The Trump campaign will say nothing about the project during the campaign, and Trump will repeatedly, and falsely, deny having any business interests or involvement with Russia. Cohen will also claim in his statement: "The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump's presidential campaign. The decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it were unrelated to the Donald Jr. Trump for President Campaign." (Washington Post via Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post)

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April 5, 2016: Criminal Investigation into Trump SoHo Project Closed

The New York Times reveals that Donald Trump's agreement to settle the lawsuits surrounding the failed Trump SoHo project resulted in the closing of a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into whether the fraud alleged by the plaintiffs – mostly condo buyers who lost most or all of their investments – violated any criminal statutes.

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The settlement offer came with an agreement that the plaintiffs would no longer aid in the investigation. Without their assistance, the DA's office could not pursue the case. Alan Garten, the general counsel for the Trump Organization, says that the lawsuits did not focus on Trump himself "in any material way," and that it cost Trump nothing to settle: "It was solely a function of returning deposits." Garten says that the lawsuits were simply instances of "buyers' remorse," and says the plaintiffs used the court system to recoup investment losses that were incurred merely because of economic factors. Garten refuses to discuss the criminal case. After an initial flurry of purchases triggered by the splashy publicity surrounding the hotel/condominium (including frequent exhortations by Trump during the broadcasts of his television show The Apprentice), sales of units in the Trump SoHo drop precipitously. The lawsuits cited false claims by Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. saying sales of the units were far higher than were actually being made. The lawsuits also allege that Trump himself engaged in deceptive behavior, claiming during the unveiling that some 3,200 prospective purchasers had either signed up to see the units or had requested applications to buy them, a figure that the plaintiffs argued was far higher than it should have been given how few units had actually been sold at the time. Lawyer Adam Leitman Bailey says the deceptive claims constituted fraud with the intent to deceive prospective purchasers into believing they were making better investments than they actually were making. The Manhattan DA's office opened a criminal investigation shortly after Bailey's lawsuit was filed. A second lawsuit by a former employee of Bayrock, the firm Trump worked with to construct the hotel, alleged that Trump and Bayrock conspired to conceal the criminal record of Bayrock executive Felix Sater, and that the project was funded in part by mysterious and possibly criminal infusions of cash from Kazakh and Russian investors. Bailey's lawsuit was settled in 2011 and the criminal investigation was dropped shortly thereafter. The Trump SoHo went into foreclosure, but is now a popular luxury hotel still managed by the Trump Organization. (New York Times)

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photo rendition of Trump Tower Baku

June 4, 2016: Trump Involved in Corrupt Azerbaijan Hotel Deal

As Donald Trump ramps up his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, the Trump Organization is diligently scrubbing all references to its Trump International Hotel project in Baku, Azerbaijan. One reason: links between corrupt government officials who supported the project and Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

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Just weeks before, Trump's daughter Ivanka released a publicity video touting the nearly finished project. The reason: Trump's business partner in that project, Anar Mammadov, is the son of an Azerbaijani government minister, Ziya Mammadov, suspected of laundering money for Iran's military and of being "notoriously corrupt." The Trump Organization's general counsel Alan Garten says the project is suspended due to economic reasons, and claims the only relationship the organization has with the project is a licensing agreement. However, many involved in the project later say the Trump Organization was far more involved in the project that Garten admits. "We were always following their instructions," one Azerbaijani lawyer later tells a reporter. "We were in constant contact with the Trump Organization. They approved the smallest details." Garten says the organization did vet all the partners, but did not research Ziya Mammadov as he was not involved in the deal. Garten says of the allegations against Mammadov, "I've never heard that before." The Associated Press notes that the allegations have been widely known since they were leaked in 2010. It is also unclear whether Mammadov was actually involved in the Baku deal, as some of his son's businesses regularly work with Mammadov's Ministry of Transportation. The State Department advises all Americans doing business in Azerbaijian to be wary of what it calls "endemic public corruption." Moreover, the State Department also considers the country to be a crossroads for terrorist financiers, businessmen trying to dodge Iranian sanctions, and Afghan drug lords. Garten says the company's background screenings were adequate and Trump should not be held responsible for any lapses or errors. But experts on Azerbaijan tell a different story. According to the AP: "Anar Mammadov is widely viewed by diplomats and nongovernmental organizations as a transparent stand-in for the business interests of his father. Anar's business has boomed with regular help from his father's ministry, receiving exclusive government contracts, a near monopoly on Baku's taxi business and even a free fleet of autobuses." Former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich says: "These are not business people acting on their own – you're dealing with daddy. … Whatever the Trump people thought they were doing, that wasn't reality." Law school dean and government corruption expert Jessica Tillipman will say: "The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag – the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious." The elder Mammadov is considered "notoriously corrupt, even for Azerbaijan," according to US State Department dipomatic cables, and is well known to be involved with the Iranian military. Trump has gleaned between $2.5 million and $2.8 million in hotel management fees, even though the hotel has yet to open. A few weeks before his inauguration, Trump will order the shutdown of the Baku project even though it will be in its final stages. (Associated Press, Business Insider, photo of Trump Tower in Baku from Wikimapia)

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July 2016: Lawsuit Claims Trump Engaged in Money Laundering Scheme

A private lawsuit against real estate development firm Bayrock, former Bayrock partner Felix Sater, and others is unsealed by a New York court after being filed on behalf of the State of New York in 2015.

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The lawsuit alleges that the defendants conspired to launder as much as $250 million in profits on Trump projects outside the US in order to evade taxation and keep secret the projects' true foreign owners. The attorneys behind the lawsuit, Frederick Oberlander and Richard Lerner, will tell a reporter that Trump himself misrepresented his knowledge and involvement, and was actively involved in the schemes. No evidence of government action on the case is publicly available. Trump's lawyers call the case "completely frivolous," while Sater's lawyer says the lawsuit is "false and defamatory." (Forbes)

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July 2016: Former Business Associate Contributes to Trump Campaign, Visits Trump Tower

Former Bayrock partner and Trump associate Felix Sater, a Russian-born American with deep ties to Russian business and criminal interests, contributes the maximum allowed, $5,400, to Donald Trump's presidential campaign while visiting Trump Tower for undisclosed reasons.

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(Sater actually donates $5,520 in three donations in July, according to the campaign's August FEC filing; the campaign will refund $120 to bring the donation into compliance with the maximum allowance. Sater will say he is unaware of the refund.) Sater tells a reporter his visit to Trump Tower is for "confidential" reasons. The campaign later says at the time that they were unaware of Sater's donations: "We are not aware of a contribution or visit to Trump Tower," Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks will state. Alan Garten, the lawyer for the Trump Organization, later says he knows nothing of Sater's visit to Trump Tower, that Sater is not advising the Trump Organization, and the Trump Organization is not seeking business in Russia. Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. will refuse to respond to questions about Sater. (Forbes, Politico)

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November 1, 2016: Trump Hotel in Brazil Under Criminal Investigation

Brazil opens a criminal investigation into investments made by two state pension funds in a luxury Rio de Janeiro hotel that is partly owned by Donald Trump, the Trump Hotel Rio de Janeiro.

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Court filings show that the investments broke several Brazilian laws and open the door for accusations of favoritism on the part of the fund managers, perhaps stemming from "illicit payments and bribes" allegedly made by the Trump Organization and the Brazilian organization that actually owns the hotel, LSH Barra Empreendimentos Imobiliários SA. The investigation is part of a larger investigation into bribery allegations surrounding pension fund investments. Both the Trump Organization and LSH Barra deny any wrongdoing. Trump's company manages the property, but his organization invested no money into the project itself. Trump lawyer Alan Garten says: "We have no relationship or involvement with these pension funds. We have an arm's length agreement with the developer where we were hired to provide a service. In time, I think the investigator will realize that these types of things wouldn't involve us and don't involve us." Jacques Silva, who took over as head of one of the pension funds after the investments were made, says the hotel was a poor investment for his fund due to its risky nature. He says, "I hope the police and prosecutors get to the bottom of it. … It's public workers' money." (Reuters)

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November 1, 2016: Trump Hotel in Toronto Goes into Receivership

The lavish Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto, Canada goes into receivership, four years after its grand opening. It will eventually be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

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Donald Trump is not the project developer or even an investor; one of his partners, Russo-Canadian billionaire Alex Shnaider, who made his fortune in Ukraine's steel industry, controls the firm, Talon International, that is now in default. Trump himself will feel little financial impact from the loss. But the Trump Organization, which still manages the hotel, is locked in litigation over Shnaider's management issues, and is a party to lawsuits filed by investors who say they were fraudulently gulled into buying wildly overpriced time-shares in the hotel. The hotel itself is the target of protests by people who find Trump's campaign positions repugnant. And the hotel itself is being dramatically outperformed by its local competitors. A source familiar with the bankruptcy proceedings says: "The whole business model has been overpromise and underdeliver, and it's Trump's name on the thing. You can't put all the blame on him and his people. But if they did a terrific job, do you think it would be in bankruptcy?" The deal for the Toronto hotel/condo began in 2001, with plans to build a new Ritz Carlton in Toronto's downtown district, but the deal fell apart after the public learned that Trump's partner was a fugitive convicted in the US for bankruptcy fraud and embezzlement. Trump then partnered with Shnaider and another Russo-Canadian, Val Levitan, to build the tower. Levitan was forced out after the 2007 global financial crisis saw many buyers backing out of their pre-sale agreements. A judge has called Talon's prospectus and other "deceptive documents … a trap to these unsurprisingly unwary purchasers," and ruled that Trump as well as Talon could be sued. Talon and Trump have sued one another for multiple reasons, most of which may become moot as the property is now in receivership. Trump himself is not popular in Toronto, with one city councilor calling for his name to be stripped from the property and Hollywood stars boycotting the hotel. A similar Trump-licensed hotel in Vancouver has had its opening delayed until after the US presidential election, if not further into the future. Politico reporter Michael Grunwald writes: "[T]his is Talon's bankruptcy, not [Trump's]. The project was built with other people's money; he just got paid for the use of his name and his hotel management team. It's not clear how much he ever knew about Talon's high-pressure sales tactics. It's also not clear how much he ever knew about his Russian-Canadian partner's business activities in Eastern Europe." For his part, Trump said of Shnaider in 2005: "We heard fantastic things about [Shnaider]. But sometimes people say wonderful things whether they mean them or not." Shnaider built his fortune with the help of another Russian expat, Boris Birshtein, founder of a "trading" company called Seabeco. Birshtein is, according to the FBI, a close business associate of Sergei Mikhaylov, reputedly the head of Solntsevskaya Bratva, the Russian mob's largest branch. He also has close business ties to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Patokh Chodiev and Alexander Mashkevich. Mikhaylov has been particularly active in Ukraine. Shnaider began working for Birshtein at Seabeco's Zurich headquarters, and from there entered the Ukrainian steel market. Economic reporter James S. Henry will speculate that Shnaider and Mikhaylov may have had some dealings with one another. In October 2016, Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin granted Shnaider's partner Eduard Shifrin Russian citizenship. (Politico, American Interest, The Improper, Toronto Globe and Mail)

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November 14, 2016: Trump Profited Handsomely from Russian Investors in Florida Properties

The Washington Post publishes an examination of Donald Trump's rescue by Russian investors eight years ago, who paid him to build six condominiums in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida during the height of the real estate crash. Many analysts credit the Russians for saving Trump's crumbling real-estate empire.

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In return, the Post writes, Trump aided "wealthy Russians looking to move their money out of the volatile ­post-Soviet economy." Jose Lima, who was a top salesman for the company that developed the Trump condos and marketed the units, says, "They were trying to save their butts, but in fact, they were saving ours." About a third of the 500 units Lima sold were to Russian speakers. Sunny Isles, a suburb of Miami Beach, has so many Russian residents and businesses that the locals call it "Little Moscow." The Post notes that Trump, the newly elected US president who has closely aligned himself with Russia and Vladimir Putin, has deep if murky financial ties to that country, and writes, "While he has denied having investments in Russia, the experience in Sunny Isles and other Trump-branded communities shows how Russians have invested in him." Trump does not actually own any of the buildings in Sunny Isles. Instead, he licensed the use of his name for the buildings and took a percentage of profits from the initial sale of units. Local real-estate agents say that there have been fewer Russian investors in Florida since the US imposed sanctions on that nation in 2014, but if Trump lifts the sanctions, the agents expect the Russian investors will come flocking back. "When Russians get here, the first thing they ask is, 'Where is the Trump building?'" says Ilya Masarsky, a Russian-born real estate developer who works with Russian executives investing in the US. "They know the Trump brand; they know Trump. They want to live where he lives." Masarsky adds: "Russians compare him to Putin. They like a strong personality." The Georgia-born chief executive of Miami Red Square Realty, Roman Bokeria, says that Russian investors like the Trump buildings because "[t]They don't trust stocks or bonds. They want real estate, something they can see and touch and feel. And for Russians, where is the best real estate? It's Miami and South Florida. It's Trump. That is the dream." Miami real estate agent Monica Gorban, who was flown to Moscow in 2011 to discuss plans for decorating units purchased from Trump, says of the Russians: "You never find out what kind of business they're in. All I knew was that the checks came, they closed, and life was good." She adds, "To really sum it up, in all fairness, why do the Russians come here? For the weather, for the lifestyle and because it's a good place to bury their money." (Washington Post)

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December 19, 2016: Trump Organization Announces Cancellation of Projects in Azerbaijan, Georgia

The Trump Organization has withdrawn from a licensing agreement on the Trump Tower Baku project in Azerbaijan, and is planning on withdrawing from a similar agreement in Georgia.

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Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten says the project partners in the two nations are unable to comply with the terms of the contracts. Garten says the withdrawals are part of "normal business," and have nothing to do with any potential conflicts of interest due to Trump's recent ascendancy to the presidency. An Associated Press report says, "Both projects either involved or were associated with people tied to politics, partnerships that could have raised problems once Donald Trump becomes president." The Baku project is in its final stages when Trump orders the project terminated, just weeks before his inauguration. The Trump Organization has canceled another licensing deal for a construction deal in Brazil, and has closed four subsidiaries that were likely created to implement Trump-linked projects in Saudi Arabia. (Associated Press via US News, Russian Construction, Business Insider)

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December 19, 2016: Trump in Business with "Network" of Russian "Mobsters, Oligarchs, Fraudsters and Kleptocrats"

Economic reporter James S. Henry pens an extensive examination of Donald Trump's business and financial ties to Russian (and other) billionaires and criminals for The American Interest, and concludes: "[W]hatever the nature of President-elect Donald Trump's relationship with President Putin, he has certainly managed to accumulate direct and indirect connections with a far-flung private Russian/FSU network of outright mobsters, oligarchs, fraudsters, and kleptocrats. Any one of these connections might have occurred at random. But the overall pattern is a veritable Star Wars bar scene of unsavory characters, with Donald Trump seated right in the middle."

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He writes that no mainstream American media source "has pulled the connections together, used them to identify still more relationships, and developed an image of the overall patterns. Nor has anyone related these cases to one of the most central facts about modern Russia: its emergence since the 1990s as a world-class kleptocracy, second only to China as a source of illicit capital and criminal loot, with more than $1.3 trillion of net offshore 'flight wealth' as of 2016." The common perception is that Trump rebuilt his empire after his late-90s crash due to his own personal brilliance, enthusiasm, and "gold-plated brand," but in reality, Henry writes, "this official story is hokum. The truth is that, since the late 1990s, Trump was also greatly assisted by these abundant new sources of global finance, especially from 'submerging markets' like Russia." Henry goes into heavy detail about the accumulation of criminals, hucksters, and scam artists that have called Trump Tower their home, some for a very long time, and some with extensive ties to the seedier elements of Trump's own financial and political empire. Henry concludes: "First, the President-elect really is very 'well-connected,' with an extensive network of unsavory global underground connections that may well be unprecedented in White House history. In choosing his associates, evidently Donald Trump only pays cursory attention to questions of background, character, and integrity. Second, Donald Trump has also literally spent decades cultivating senior relationships of all kinds with Russia and the FSU. And public and private senior Russian figures of all kinds have likewise spent decades cultivating him, not only as a business partner, but as a 'useful idiot.' … Third, even beyond questions of illegality, the public clearly has a right to know much more than it already does about the nature of such global connections. [T]hese relationships are probably a pretty good leading indicator of how Presidents will behave once in office. Unfortunately, for many reasons, this year American voters never really got the chance to decide whether such low connections and entanglements belong at the world's high peak of official power. In the waning days of the Obama Administration, with the Electoral College about to ratify Trump's election and Congress in recess, it is too late to establish the kind of bipartisan, 9/11-type commission that would be needed to explore these connections in detail. Finally, the long-run consequence of careless interventions in other countries is that they often come back to haunt us. In Russia's case, it just has." (American Interest)

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— 2017 —

January 6, 2017: Trump Deal to Build Luxury Tower in Georgia Abandoned; Part of Larger Scheme to Dot Former Soviet Republics with Trump Properties

A deal to build a Trump-owned luxury tower in the Black Sea resort town of Batumi, Georgia, falls through weeks before Donald Trump's inauguration.

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The Trump Organization had contracted with a company called Silk Road Group, which would actually build the tower, using Trump's name, and would pay Trump royalties. Silk Road Group (SRG) is a highly problematic business partner for Trump. It has close, and suspicious, ties with companies in both Russia and Iran. It supplies fuel to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. And it had partnered with a Kazakh bank whose former president is accused of stealing billions and laundering much of that stolen money through real estate deals in the US, including Trump-branded condominiums. The vast majority of Americans do not know any of this, McClatchy reporters Kevin Hall and Ben Wieder note, because Trump continues to refuse to release his tax returns. In fact, the US public knows virtually nothing about Trump's enormous push into Georgia and Eurasia. Few Americans know how aggressively Trump and his organization worked to capitalize and build in the countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union. Trump even tried to purchase a trademark in Iran, a nation that Americans are almost completely forbidden to do business with. Hall and Wieder write: "Trump now makes policy decisions with the potential to affect the Trump Organization and its associates in any number of ways, and the questions multiply. Deals that may not have been problematic for a celebrity developer look far different when he is also the US commander-in-chief, with his sons still running the family named business." For the 2017 Georgia deal, the Trump Organization and SRG offer wildly differing reasons as to why the deal was abandoned. The Trump Organization says the decision to walk away from the deal was "purely business related." However, SRG says the deal collapsed in part due to "intense media scrutiny" after the American press revealed that SRG's chairman, George Ramishvili, has close ties to militia groups. Alexander Cooley, an expert on Russia and Eurasia, says: "The whole aesthetic of Trump goes very well with Central Asia – the emphasis on 'the personal is political,' the use of personal connections … this kind of murky world of transnational relations in real estate, relatively unregulated and unmonitored." The Georgia project came about from a relationship between Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and one of SRG's partners, Giorgi Rtskhiladze. Rtskhiladze is a Kazakh-American oligarch with ties to the energy, banking and media industries. He is married to a Kazakh movie star and helped sell clothing lines throughout the former Soviet republics by an array of American entertainers, including Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani and Beyonce. Rtskhiladze and Ramishvili formed a Delaware-incorporated company, Silk Road Transatlantic Alliance, with the aim of using the Trump name to build opulent casinos in Georgia. Cohen traveled to Georgia twice to oversee potential site choices. The Trump Organization envisioned the Batami tower as the first of many Trump constructions throughout the regions. Cohen and Rtskhiladze worked together to push the Trump Diamond project. Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili planned to turn Batami "into the Las Vegas of the Black Sea," says author Paul Rimple, an expert on Georgian politics. "For Saakashvili, having the Trump name gave him legitimacy." But voters kicked Saakashvili out of office in 2012, and his successors had little use for the Trump projects. SRG itself is suspected of deep and murky ties to the criminal world, and is believed to have made a fortune in smuggling and money laundering, claims that SRG spokespersons deny. In 2012, Trump negotiated a deal with then-Prime Minister Karim Massimov of Kazahkstan to have an enormous obelisk-shaped tower, to be known as the Trump Diamond, built near the presidential palace. The deal was not completed. In December 2016, the organization backed out of a deal in Azerbaijan, where his business associates had ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard. His organization sought trademarks that same year for use in hotels and real estate in Armenia, Belarus, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. (McClatchy, McClatchy)

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photo of Michael Cohen

February 10, 2017 and After: Pro-Russian Colleagues Present Trump with Unsolicited "Peace Plan" for Russia and Ukraine

Newly appointed National Security Advisor Michael Flynn is given a sealed proposal for enabling Trump to lift US sanctions against Russia. The proposal contains a putative "peace plan" to be implemented between Russia and Ukraine. The proposal comes from, and was apparently written by, Andrii Artemenko, an ambitious, pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, with the help of Felix Sater, a former business associate of Trump's with a seedy past.

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The proposal is delivered by Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who also helped craft the proposal and is staunchly supportive of it. Cohen says the plan is merely a way to settle the bloody three-year conflict between the two nations that began when Russia invaded and occupied the Crimea region of Ukraine. "Who doesn't want to help bring about peace?" Cohen asks. For his part. Artemenko sees himself as a Trump-like leader, and says he has evidence of corruption on the part of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko that could help bring down Poroshenko, perhaps clearing the path for Artemenko or another pro-Putin figure to seize power. Artemenko says he has been given encouragement for his plans by senior Russian governmental officials. He says: "A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a US agent, a CIA agent. But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?" Cohen and Sater say they have not spoken to Trump about the proposal. Neither has any experience in foreign policy. Like many other Trump associates, Cohen is being scrutinized by the FBI for his links to Russia, though he denies any illegal connections with that country's government. Sater is a Russian-American real estate developer and a convicted felon; Artemenko served time in a Kiev jail in the early 2000s on embezzlement charges, though he says the charges were politically motivated. Ukrainian officials are livid about the proposal; Ukraine's ambassador to the US, Valeriy Chaly, says Artemenko "is not entitled to present any alternative peace plans on behalf of Ukraine to any foreign government, including the U.S. administration." Poroshenko has warned the West against "appeasement" of Russia, and many American experts say that offering Russia any real concessions in place of the economic sanctions currently in place would be a mistake. Former US ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst says he fears Trump is too eager to give in to Russia at the expense of Ukraine's national security.

The Participants

Cohen, Artemenko and Sater meet in the lobby of the Loews Regency, a luxury hotel on Manhattan's Park Avenue. Cohen lives nearby, on Trump Park Avenue. He has been a legal associate of Trump's since 2007, and is widely viewed an an intensely loyal "fixer" for Trump and his organization. Some of the deals he has worked with include a short-lived proposal for a Trump-branded tower in the Republic of Georgia and a never-made mixed martial arts venture featuring a Russian fighter. The FBI is investigating allegations that Cohen traveled to Prague during the presidential campaign to meet with a Russian representative to discuss Russian efforts to hack Democratic computer networks, allegations that Cohen denies. Cohen is also married to a Ukrainian native and once worked with her relatives there to establish an ethanol business. Artemenko, a wealthy businessman and sports agent who has weathered numerous accusations of corruption, knows Trump through his wife, who is an acquaintance of Trump's wife Melania while they were both models. He has been a vocal supporter of Trump in social media. Artemenko entered Ukraine's Parliament in 2014, the year the pro-Putin president Viktor Yanukovych abandoned his office and fled to Moscow. Paul Manafort, a lobbyist who once headed Trump's presidential campaign and helped Yanukovych win the presidency in 2010, helped create the Russia-friendly opposition to Poroshenko that Artemenko aligns himself with; it is unclear whether Manafort had any role in developing the proposal. Artemenko flew to Cleveland to take part in the Republican National Convention where Trump was nominated, and met with Trump officials during the ceremonies. On October 7, 2016, Sater and Cohen met with Artemenko at the St. Regis Hotel, a block from Trump Tower, to discuss crafting a proposal. Sater later says that it is clear Artemenko aspires to become the president of Ukraine. The meeting was facilitated by Republican operative Robert Armeo, who worked with Sater on both political and real-estate development projects. "I think they had visions of kingmaking, and making Artemenko president of Ukraine," Armao later says, "Then you'd really be in business." According to Sater, Artemenko "came to me." Initially they discussed the idea of banning nuclear weapons and reactors, in hopes of avoiding another Chernobyl-level accident, but the talk quickly turned to using Trump to facilitate a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine. Sater will say: "I got friendly with Artemenko over that deal, and he said, 'Look, it's killing me, we've got people dying every day between all the bombings and killings.' I mean they're killing kids over there. 'There's a new administration coming in, you got access to the administration. I know how to end the war in eastern Ukraine.' He goes, that's the idea, let's end the war. Let's get peace going. Peace sounds good, right? How does the word peace not work?" Sater will continue: "I think it sounds like a good idea. Politically, it would be an opportunity to break the situation that is currently going on with Russia. 'Cause I am a very firm believer that Vlad the Terrible – no matter how poised he is and how well he controlled himself in the Oliver Stone interview – that crazy fucker has got 10,000 nuclear warheads pointed at us. Not a good guy to get into a pissing match with. So I figured, hey, things could work out all around, and probably give Donald, who wants to get on better relations with Putin, an opportunity to break this logjam. So I picked up the phone, and called Michael Cohen." Artemenko says "a mutual friend" brought he and Sater together to pitch the proposal to Trump. "I want to stop a war, number one," Artemenko says. "Number two, I absolutely believe that the US and Russia need to be allies, not enemies. If I could achieve both in one stroke, it would be a home run." After meeting with Artemenko and Sater at a hotel on Park Avenue, Cohen agrees to deliver the plan, contained in a sealed envelope, to the White House. He leaves the proposal in Flynn's office.

Details of the Plan

The plan itself is straightforward, and almost entirely favorable to Putin and Russia. Russia, the plan states, will withdraw its military forces from eastern Ukraine, and allow Ukrainian voters to have a referendum to decide whether Crimea will be "leased" to Russia for a term of either 50 or 100 years. Chaly is absolutely opposed to such a plan, telling reporters in a written statement: "It is a gross violation of the Constitution. … Such ideas can be pitched or pushed through only by those openly or covertly representing Russian interests." Cohen says he knows nothing of any Russian encouragement for the plan, as Artemenko claims, but he understands there was a promise of proof of Poroshenko's corruption that went along with the Russian blessing. Sater denies he or the others are attempting to do anything other than resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. "I was not practicing diplomacy and I was not having clandestine meetings," he says, and adds that his discussions with Cohen and Artemenko were not "a back channel to the Kremlin or anything like that." It is later learned that the "peace plan" also contains compromising information about Ukrainian leaders, and that the delivery of the plan to the White House coincided with Trump officials' attempts to implement secret modes of communications with the Kremlin, and their attempt to unilaterally lift sanctions against Russia.

Changing Stories

Shortly after the media begins reporting on the plan, Cohen dramatically changes his story. He says in a statement given to the Washington Post and other media sources: "I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn. Despite the multitude of statements issued denying any nexus between Presidents Trump and Putin, the main stream media just keeps on trying to perpetuate this lie." Cohen tells the Post that the earlier reports are "fake news." Cohen says he never did anything with the proposal except encourage Artemenko to mail the proposal to the White House. The New York Times, which originally broke the story, stands by its reporting, saying Cohen told their reporters "in no uncertain terms that he delivered the Ukraine proposal to Michael Flynn's office at the White House." The Times also says Sater confirmed the original story. Cohen also denies the FBI is investigating him for his alleged meeting with a Russian official in Prague during the campaign.

"A Big Shoe"

The editor of Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall, says that the involvement of Sater "is one of the biggest shoes I've seen drop on the Trump story in some time." Marshall writes that to his mind, "the biggest red flags about Donald Trump's ties to Russia and businessmen around Vladimir Putin have always been tied to the Trump SoHo building project in Lower Manhattan … This was a key project, perhaps the key project in the post-bankruptcy era in which Trump appeared heavily reliant on Russian funds to finance his projects. Sater was at the center of that project." Marshall notes that after the lawsuits began flying, Trump all but forgot who Sater was, but, Marshall notes, "there is voluminous evidence that Sater, a Russian emigrant, was key to channeling Russian capital to Trump for years." One could dismiss Trump's relationship with Sater "as simply a sleazy relationship Trump entered into to get access to capital he needed to finance his projects," he says, but now that Sater's involvement in the Ukrainian "peace proposal" has come to light, it is clear "that Sater is still very much in the Trump orbit and acting as a go-between linking Trump and" tje pro-Putin Artemenko. Moreover, Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer and "fixer," "is in contact with Sater and hand delivering political and policy plans from him to" Trump. Cohen's involvement proves Sater is not just attempting to "hustle" Trump into granting him some unwarranted access or influence. "Cohen hand delivering his messages to the President changes the picture considerably." This may explain why Cohen so abruptly changed his story about delivering the proposal to Flynn. (New York Times, LawNewz, Mediaite, New York Magazine, Politico, Raw Story, Talking Points Memo, Talking Points Memo, Vanity Fair, Washington Post, New York Magazine, image of Michael Cohen from CNN)

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February 17, 2017: Plans for Trump Tower Moscow are Scrapped, Agalarov Tells Press

The plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow have been scrapped due to Trump's election to the US presidency, according to the holding's director, longtime Trump colleague and oligarch Aras Agalarov.

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Agalarov tells a Russian journalist for RIA Novosti, "The tower is now irrelevant, because Trump is now unable to do any business." The project has been planned for construction in the Crocus City exhibition center since 2013. The American media does not report on the Trump Moscow project until August 2017. Former law professor Seth Abramson will later write: "Agalarov did NOT announce the end of the project in June 2015, when Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Nor could he have done so, as we now know, from Washington Post reporting, that the project was alive and active in both 2015 and 2016. Just to underscore this: Trump was working on a real estate deal with a KNOWN Kremlin agent for SEVEN MONTHS while running for president." Abramson will note that Trump has admitted that he believed as recently as Election Day that he would not win the US presidency. He believed he would return to being a "private citizen free to do big international business deals. So all of Trump's historically pro-Russia foreign policy was developed at a time he thought he was making a pitch for Trump Tower Moscow. … So Agalarov waiting 85 DAYS after Trump's election as president to announce the end of the Trump Tower Moscow project is no coincidence." (Russian Construction, Seth Abramson)

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February 23, 2017: Ukrainian Lawmaker Tied to Trump Lawyer Charged with Treason

Pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko faces charges of treason from the Ukrainian government. Artemenko is accused of conspiring with Russia to commit "subversive acts against Ukraine."

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Artemenko worked with former Trump business partner Felix Sater to formulate a pro-Russian peace plan for Ukraine which they presented to Trump via Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. Artemenko's deal would, the Ukrainian government says, "legitimize the temporary occupation" of the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed by force in 2014. Artemenko is quoted by CNN as saying he knew the proposed deal would anger some Ukrainian officials. "That's why I feel pressure, and for sure today I can see people accusing me," he says. "And I see the prosecutor of Ukraine is trying to do something, to open a new case, to do an investigation about me." Artemenko's plan would give Ukrainian voters the choice of leasing Crimea to Russia for either 50 or 100 years; in return, the proposal said, the Trump administration could lift US sanctions against Russia. (Talking Points Memo)

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March 10, 2017: Dems Ask for Congressional Oversight in Investigation of Money Laundering Scheme by Bank that Owns $300M in Trump Debt

Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, writes a letter with four other House Democrats to Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the committee chair, asking that he open a committee assessment of the Justice Department's investigation into a global money-laundering scheme involving Deutsche Bank, a German institution that holds some $300 million in loans to Donald Trump.

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Waters writes: "Consistent with your past practice of monitoring the Department of Justice's ("the Department") investigations, we write to request that the Committee conduct a formal assessment of the Department’s investigation into Deutsche Bank’s Russian money-laundering scheme, including a review of the new Attorney General’s role in continuing the investigation. We also urge the Committee to initiate its own investigation, using the full range of the Committee's oversight authorities, to determine the nature of the Russian money-laundering scheme, including who participated in the arrangement and whether violations of US Law, beyond the failure to maintain appropriate anti-money laundering controls, may have occurred." Waters continues that she and her co-signers are concerned "about the integrity of this criminal probe … given the President's ongoing conflicts of interest with Deutsche Bank" and that "suspicious ties between President Trump's inner circle and the Russian government … raise concerns that the Department may fail to implicate those who benefited from Deutsche Bank's trading scheme." Waters is referencing an investigation by US and British regulators into a huge money laundering scheme called "the Global Laundromat" or the "Moldovan Scheme" that centers on Deutsche and other Western banks laundering billions in criminally obtained monies owned by Russian criminals with deep ties to the Putin government. Deutsche paid $630 million in fines over another money laundering scheme dubbed the "mirror trades scandal." The Justice Department is investigating both schemes, but, Waters's letter implies, that investigation may have either been stalled or obstructed. (New Yorker, Guardian)

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March 20, 2017 and After: German Bank that Loaned Trump $300M at Center of Russian Money Laundering Scheme

Deutsche Bank, the German bank that loaned $300 million in outstanding debt to Donald Trump, is at the center of a massive investigation into a money laundering scheme run by Russian criminals with deep ties to the Putin government, media outlets report.

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Deutsche Bank and other Western financial institutions, including HSBC, Barclays, Bank of China, Bank of America, Danske Bank, and Emirates NBD Bank, processed over $20 billion in money of "criminal origin" from Russia, in a scheme that has been nicknamed "the Global Laundromat" or the "Moldovan Scheme." The scheme operated from 2010 through 2014. Russian oligarchs with strong ties to the Kremlin were able to use British-registered companies to launder billions of dollars in criminally obtained cash. The companies made fictitious loans to one another, underwritten by Russian businesses, and then default on the loans. Judges in Moldova would then render court rulings against the firms, thus allowing Russian bank accounts to transfer huge sums to Moldovan financial institutions legally. From there, the "laundered" monies would be transferred to banks in Latvia, most prominently Trasta Komercbanka. Deutsche Bank acted as a "correspondent bank" for Trasta until 2015, providing dollar-denominated service to Trasta's non-resident Russian clients, who would then move their laundered monies around the world. Several Wall Street firms, including JP Morgan Chase, stopped working with Latvian banks, citing worries that Latvian banks had become key players in an international money laundering scheme. Trasta was shut down in early 2016 by Latvian regulators. Latvia's deputy finance minister Maija Treija says the money sent via Trasta was "either stolen or with criminal origin." Trasta was being used as a vehicle to funnel money out of Russia and "into the EU financial system," she says. Much of the money found its way to Russian businessmen who own companies involved in construction, engineering, information technology, and banking. All those companies hold hundreds of millions of US dollars in state contracts either with the government directly, or with state-owned entities. Several major companies received laundered funds, including Samsung, Ericsson and Black & Decker. $500,000 went to Total Golf Construction, the company that renovated a Trump golf course in the Grenadines. Some individuals, including Hungarian-born psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, also received laundered money. Some of the Russians involved in the laundering scheme include businessman Alexey Krapivin, who has close ties to Putin; Georgy Gens, who owns an IT distributor that works with Apple, Samsung, ASUS and other giant computer firms; and Sergey Girdin, another IT businessman. Some of the monies were funneled to companies owned by Russians in other countries, such as Trident International, owned by Pavel Semenovich Flider, who was indicted in the US in 2015 for smuggling stockpiles of US electronics components to Russian defense technology firms. Deutsche Bank says it has tightened its systems and controls to avoid future issues with money laundering. Deutsche ceased working with the other key "Laundromat" bank, Moldova's Moldindconbank, in 2012. Deutsche reviewed Trump's loans to determine if there were any connections to Moscow; sources say the bank discovered no such connections. Deutsche Bank has outstanding loans for other members of the Trump family, including senior advisors Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner (Trump's daughter and son-in-law, respectively), and Kushner's mother, Seryl Stadtmauer. Deutsche Bank has already been fined $630 million by US and British regulators over an unconnected money laundering scheme, dubbed the "mirror trades scandal," involving $10 billion of Russian money. Trump uses Deutsche's Private Bank, the division that was active in the Global Laundromat scheme. Most of the Private Bank's clients are wealthy Russians. Much of the Russian money coming through the Private Bank has disappeared into untraceable foreign accounts. Many of the explanations for high-volume purchases have been proven to be fake. The two schemes appear to be linked, in part through Alexander Grigoriev, a "shadow banker" with deep ties to the FSB, Russia's security agency. Grigoriev, who apparently masterminded the Moldovan scheme, was a shareholder in a Russian bank called Promsberbank, which was involved in both the "mirror trades" and Moldovan laundering operations. A major shareholder of Promsberbank, Alexei Kulikov, was arrested in Russia in 2016 for "large-scale fraud" related to the mirror trades scheme. (Igor Putin, Vladimir's cousin, sits on the boards of both RZB, a bank owned by Grigoriev, and Promsberbank. RZB was also involved in the Moldovan operation.) The investigation into the two related schemes may be hindered by the November 2012 death of Alexander Perepilichnyy, who died, ostensibly of natural causes, near his home in Surrey, England. The British government has kept Perepilichnyy's autopsy reports from the public. Perepilichnyy was suspected of being involved in massive fraud and money laundering schemes, but turned whistle-blower in 2012, giving information and documentation to investigators at Hermitage, the firm owned by American billionaire Bill Browder. Hermitage was at that time investigating the suspicious death of Sergei Magnitsky, who died after uncovering a large scheme to defraud the Russian tax office of $130 million. Perepilichnyy was involved in the scheme, according to Browder. In December 2012, then-President Obama signed into law the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which blocks criminals and corrupt government officials associated with criminal financial schemes from entering their country and from using US banking systems. The law infuriated Putin. Recently, a lawyer representing the Magnitsky family, Nikolai Gorokhov, was seriously injured after "falling" from the fourth floor of his home in Russia the day before he was due to testify in a hearing about a Russian court's failure to investigate organized crime. Moldovan investigators say they have been frequently harassed, abused and obstructed by Russians determined to derail the investigation into the Moldovan laundering scheme. (Guardian, New Yorker, Organized Crime and Corruption Project)

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Spring 2017: Trump's Attempt to Interfere in Arpaio Investigation Possible Obstruction of Justice

Donald Trump asks Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he could force the Justice Department to drop its case against Arizona county sherrif Joe Arpaio, who is facing contempt of court charges for defying a federal judge's order to stop detaining people whom he suspected, without cause, of being undocumented immigrants. Sessions tells Trump that for him to interfere in such a manner would be inappropriate. Experts later determine that Trump may have attempted to obstruct justice by engaging with Sessions on the matter.

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Instead, Trump will pardon Arpaio after he is convicted. Trump will be described as "gung-ho" about the prospect of pardoning Arpaio, who joined him in his five-year efforts to smear Barack Obama's citizenship and patriotism after Trump became the de facto leader of the "birther" movement. After the press learns of Trump's discussion with Sessions, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will dismiss the issue, saying: "It's only natural the president would have a discussion with administration lawyers about legal matters. This case would be no different." Trump will issue the pardon without reviewing the case or consulting with the Justice Department. The Washington Post will write that, according to experts, "His effort to see if the case could be dropped showed a troubling disregard for the traditional wall between the White House and the Justice Department, and taken together with similar actions could undermine respect for the rule of law …" Robert Bauer, who served as White House counsel under President Obama, will say that Trump's pardon of Arpaio "was his backhand way of doing what he wanted to do at the front end. He just wanted to kill the prosecution off. He couldn't do it the one way, so he ended up doing it the other way. This is just another vivid demonstration of how far removed from an appropriate exercise of the pardon power this was." Chiraag Bains, a former senior counsel in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, will say that for Trump to ask Sessions to interfere in the case is "beyond the pale." He will add that Trump "has a sense that the chief executive controls everything in the executive branch, including the exercise of criminal power. And that is just not the way the system is set up." (Washington Post, Just Security)

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June 2, 2017: "Peace Plan" Dossier Contained Compromising Information about Ukrainians, Linked to White House's Attempts to Unilaterally Lift Russia Sanctions

Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall writes a followup to the recent reports that in February, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen joined former Trump business partner Felix Sater and Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko to present a pro-Russian peace plan for Russia and the Ukraine to Trump, a plan that would have resulted in the US lifting its sanctions against Russia. The "peace plan," which was reportedly never accepted by anyone in the Trump administration, has several aspects to it that were not known in initial reporting.

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Cohen's repeated and ever-changing lies about not having given the plan to then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn have been debunked. More importantly, the "peace plan" also included compromising information about a number of top Ukrainian government officials. Marshall observes that the rather obvious and puerile "peace plan" has "been the obvious plan for pro-Russian advocates since 2014. It doesn’t require a packet of papers or a personal meeting." Why would such a document need to be secretly hand-delivered to Flynn, after Artemenko flew them from Ukraine to New York and gave them to Cohen? It's now known that Flynn and other members of the Trump transition team were assiduously trying to set up secret modes of communications with Russian officials – modes of communication that would have been hidden from the rest of the US government. It's also interesting that Artemenko has confirmed he has worked with Cohen for years, first when Cohen was trying to set up an ethanol business in Ukraine. One of Cohen's colleagues in the Ukraine business sector helped facilitate the meeting between Artemenko, Cohen and Sater. And, Artemenko says he began crafting the "peace plan" with Cohen during the Republican primaries, in the early months of 2016. Marshall connects the dots: the Trump team was trying to set up secret means of communication between the White House and Russia in the weeks before the inauguration. Days after the inauguration, White House officials began trying to facilitate the lifting of all sanctions against Russia. Marshall then asks: "What was in that dossier? Perhaps it was just flotsam and nonsense. But remember this was a set of physical documents which Cohen said he delivered to the White House, specifically to Mike Flynn. What was in them? Where's the dossier now? Was it thrown away? Does Flynn still have it? Is it still at the White House? With all we've learned over the last four weeks about the Trump team's efforts to conduct covert communications about a rapprochement with Russia, I think we need to know." (Talking Points Memo)

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photo of Spetsnaz motorcycle gang member

June 22, 2017: Media Reports on Flamboyant Russian Owner of Trump Properties in Florida

Russian government official Igor Zorin has spent some $8 million in waterfront homes in South Florida, a notable feat considering his yearly salary is only equivalent to $75,000, and including two at Trump Palace in Sunny Isles Beach.

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Zorin operates a small state-owned broadcasting company. He apparently paid cash for most or all of his properties. His Miami business associate, Svyatoslav Mangushev, a former Russian intelligence officer who now makes a career as a Miami real-estate investor, helped found a motorcycle "club" called Spetsnaz MC, after any of a number of Russian special forces organizations. Spetsnaz has asked for recognition from Russia's largest biker gang, the Night Wolves, an organization that has strong ties to Russia's security services. The Wolves played a small but key role in Russia's invasion of Crimea, have had their flag flown in outer space by Russian cosmonauts, and are under US sanctions. It appears that the wealthy Mangushev is something of a financial supporter of Zorin's. Zorin sold one of the three Trump Palace apartments, but still owns two others along with a $3.3 million home in Bal Harbour. Zorin has failed to disclose those properties in his Russian public disclosure forms, a crime under Russian law. White Mangushev's lawyer says he has no business relationship with Zorin, that appears to be a lie. In 2011, Zorin wrote a letter of recommendation for a security firm then owned by Mangushev, a letter that appeared on the firm's website. Mangushev has said he no longer owns the firm, Alpha-Anticriminal, but that also appears to be a lie, at least as of this writing; the company may be in the process of being dissolved. The firm is listed as a "partner" in Mangushev's Miami real estate firm, Alpha Realty. Zorin is not officially a member of the Spetsnaz biker gang, though he owns two motorcycles. The political views of many Spetsnaz members aligns with American white nationalism, even though its charter paperwork claims that the organization is comprised of "family-oriented motorcycle enthusiasts from [the] former Soviet Union who served in [the] armed forces and like-minded individuals" who wish to promote motorcycle safety in Russia and the United States. Spetsnaz is reportedly shutting down its Florida chapter, but has opened another chapter in Moscow. Experts note that South Florida is a haven for Russians who want to launder criminally gotten monies, and Zorin and Mangushev may both be heavily involved in such schemes. (Miami Herald, image of a Spetsnaz biker gang member from same source)

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July 6, 2017: Former Trump Business Partner Cooperating in International Money-Laundering Investigation

Felix Sater, the former business partner of Donald Trump with a shady past, has agreed to cooperate with an international probe that involves the infamous Trump SoHo project. Sater was deeply involved in that project, which has spawned a number of lawsuits and accusations of criminal actions.

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The probe will examine former Kazakh government minister Viktor Khrapunov and his family's involvement in million-dollar real estate deals in the US through front companies. Kazakh officials allege that Khrapunov has embezzled public funds and hidden them in secret accounts around the world, including money from oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, who they say stole "billions from a bank," according to press reports. The Khrapunovs purchased three luxury apartments in the Trump SoHo in April 2013 at a total price of $3.1 million. Sater helped the Khrapunovs obtain US visas, buy properties, and conceal their money in the US real estate market, and helped them create the front companies they used to launder their ill-gotten gains. Sater also helped Ablyazov launder the money he stole, according to the Kazakh government. (Son Ilyas Khrapunov is married to Ablyazov's daughter.) For their part, the Khrapunovs say they are the targets of a political vendetta launched by Kazakh autocrat Nursultan Kazarbayev. Ilyas Khrapunov says: "Many people have been intimidated, coerced, and otherwise incentivised to turn against me and my family. It is sad but it is a reality of life when you are dealing with a regime as corrupt as Kazakhstan." Neither Trump nor Sater are alleged to have committed any crimes that are under investigation in this probe, which has been going on for eight years. The Financial Times writes: "[T]he eight-year investigation has already offered a rare glimpse of the inner workings of a US real estate market that US Treasury Department officials warn is awash with dirty money. It has raised questions about what steps Mr Trump has taken to check whether tainted funds are coursing through his properties. Mr Trump's Kazakh connection also adds to the emerging picture of the president's enigmatic relationship with the former Soviet Union. Questions about that relationship have dominated the early months of his presidency as multiple investigations examine claims his campaign colluded with Russian attempts to manipulate the 2016 presidential election. It is unclear how much money has flowed from the alleged Kazakh laundering scheme to Mr Trump." Although Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten has said that he is sure "every legal requirement" had been followed by the organization in its dealings with the Khrapunovs, it is also clear that Trump's dealings in Kazakhstan go back well before the Khrapunovs, and run primarily through Sater. Trump has engaged in multiple business dealings in Russia and its former client states for decades, but since launching his presidential campaign, has denied any interest in Russian investments. (Financial Times, Newsweek)

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August 3, 2017: Sater Promises Bombshell Revelations in Trump Financial Investigations

New York Magazine reporter Andrew Rice reports on a lengthy interview with former Trump business partner Felix Sater, who for a time was a senior business advisor to Trump.

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In recent years, Trump has claimed he had few dealings with Sater and would not recognize him if they were in the same room together; in 2013, he abruptly walked out of a BBC interview when Sater's name was broached. Sater is the subject of a federal criminal proceeding in a Brooklyn courtroom, where he has been characterized as a veteran money launderer, though most of the details of the case remain redacted. One aspect of the case hinges on Sater's lengthy and complex relationship with Trump. Rice calls Sater "Donald Trump's original conduit to Russia." Sater was heavily involved in the failed 2010 Trump SoHo project, which is now the subject of civil investigations that have hinted at massive bank fraud that may involve Trump himself. Sater contracted with developers from the former Soviet Union to build the gaudy, blocky edifice. Sater has repeatedly escorted Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump around Moscow. And he has what appears to be a close, if murky, relationship with Vladimir Putin. Rice writes, "[L]ong before [Donald Trump] struck up a bizarrely chummy relationship with Vladimir Putin, Sater was the one who introduced the future president to a byzantine world of oligarchs and mysterious money." Sater, a convicted felon and a known FBI informant, has been called by another federal prosecutor "the key to open a hundred different doors." Now, it seems, he may be the key to uncovering the depth and breadth of Trump's collusion with Russia to win the presidency. (Weeks after Rice's article is published, the media reveals that Sater promised to use his influence with Putin to help Trump secure the presidency.) Sater worked with Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen on a number of real estate projects, including a secretive deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and recently tried to present Trump with what he characterized as a "peace deal" the US could promote between Russia and Ukraine, a deal he tried to transmit to Trump via Cohen. The June 2016 meeting between Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign/business officials, and a number of Russians with close ties to the Putin government, was facilitated by Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, who had also been involved in a Trump Tower Moscow proposal. In a series of email exchanges, Sater tells Rice that he is "the epitome" of a dealmaker, just like his idol Trump. "I work on deals," he says. "Deals in real estate, liquid natural gas, medicine. I am currently working on bringing a – don't laugh, do not laugh – a cure for cancer using stable isotopes. … I own a significant piece of it for doing the work. I'll find investors, and eventually, God willing, we will be able to deliver the cure for cancer. But as my lawyer, Robert Wolf, says, 'Felix, if you announce that you've found the cure for cancer, tomorrow's papers are going to be, 'Trump's Gangster-Related Ex-Partner Looking to Steal Money from Medicaid.' That'll be the headline for the cure for cancer." Like others, Rice notes that Sater's claims cannot always be trusted. He refuses to make any comments about Trump, saying, "No comment on anything related to the president of the United States," but then says, "But back in '96, I rented the penthouse suite of 40 Wall Street," a Trump-owned skyscraper. He says he first connected with Trump by brashly approaching him and saying, "I'm gonna be the biggest developer in New York, and you want to be my partner." Sater, after spending his teen and young adult years involved with Russian gangs in Brighton Beach, New York City, went to college and then to Wall Street, where he worked his way up the ladder. His former friend and partner Salvatore Lauria later said the two met Trump when Trump sent a bodyguard to them to obtain the phone numbers of their wives. Sater lost his Wall Street position after being convicted of viciously attacking a man in a bar with a broken margarita glass and going to jail for a year. He then moved to the "shady side of Wall Street," as Rice writes, involving himself in criminal stock fraud schemes. Both he and Lauria cultivated ties to Mafia figures, in part through Sater's father, who knew people in the Genovese family hierarchy. After law enforcement cracked down on his fraud schemes in the mid-90s, Sater moved to 40 Wall Street, where he opened a small investment company and began working with Russian business figures in the chaotic years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lauria later wrote, "We were dealing with ex-KGB generals and with the elite of Russian society." Sater tells Rice about his contacts with Russian intelligence officials and at least one American arms dealer, Milton Blane, who eventually recruited him to work with US intelligence. While some of his claims are beyond grandiose, much of them have been proven to be true. The FBI caught Sater in a money-laundering investigation, and Sater pled guity and turned state's evidence in a 1998 plea agreement. While continuing to work as an informant for the FBI, Sater began cultivating contacts in the world of New York's real estate market. He joined his neighbor, former Soviet official Tevfik Arif, in a new real estate venture, Bayrock Group. Bayrock had offices in Trump Tower, one floor below the Trump Organization. Trump's business career was stalled, and as Bayrock's office employed a bevy of lovely women, the firm caught the eye of Trump officials and eventually to Trump himself. Trump and Sater soon formed a business relationship. Sater and his longtime pal Lauria, also a Bayrock associate, routinely boasted of being "white collar criminals;" Sater reportedly threatened to kill one of his subordinates, Joshua Bernstein. and to torture and murder another Bayrock associate. The Trump SoHo project was ambitious and doomed to failure, though Trump parleyed his celebrity success as host of NBC's Apprentice into promoting the SoHo tower. Trump and his children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, were also involved in the project, and all three worked closely with Sater. Sater tried to engage deals with Trump and Bayrock in a number of former Soviet satellites and allies, including Ukraine, Poland and Turkey. He later proposed the Trump Moscow project. Sater was booted out of the company after the media revealed some of Sater's criminal history; Sater accused Trump of using the media reports as "an opportunity to try and get development fees for himself." The SoHo project crashed, and Bayrock eventually went under. Multiple lawsuits were filed regarding the SoHo project, and Arif was charged with human trafficking in Turkey (he was later acquitted). Sater began working more quietly, still out of Trump Tower, with a small investment firm called Swiss Capital, and focusing on deals in Kazakhstan, France and Switzerland. He also began cultivating Russian oligarchs with close ties to Putin. Sater claims he still worked on a number of business deals with Trump, writing to Rice: "I know you're gonna be able to spin it as 'He doesn't care and will do business even with gangsters,' [but w]ouldn't it also show extreme flexibility, the ability not to hold a grudge, the ability to think outside the box, and it's okay to be enemies one day and friends the next?" Recently, Trump characterized Sater as a distant business acquaintance and in 2013 said of him: "In general, [you] go into a deal, you think a partner is going to be good. It happens with politics. It happens with everything. You vote for people, they turn out to be no good." Sater still works on real-estate deals, largely with a variety of Russian investors. He is also involved as an informant in a number of federal investigations. Sater worked on the sidelines to promote the Trump presidency; in August 2016, he chatted up veteran Republican operative Robert Armao, who found Sater fascinating. Sater then cultivated Armao as a political asset and intermediary for his Eastern European deals. Now, Sater finds himself embroiled in an ever-widening investigation into Trump's collusion with Russia. "I know there is a huge movement to find the there there," he told Rice in June. "I got it. But unfortunately, I'm not going to be the one." He said he would be happy to talk to federal or Congressional investigators: "God bless them if they do" question him, he says. "We could talk about bin Laden and Al Qaeda and cyber-crime convictions and operations of over fucking 12 years, no problem." But then, Sater tells Rice: "In about the next 30 to 35 days, I will be the most colorful character you have ever talked about. Unfortunately, I can't talk about it now, before it happens. And believe me, it ain't anything as small as whether or not they're gonna call me to the Senate committee." He then backpedals: "The next three years of hearings about Trump and Russia will yield absolutely nothing. I know the man, they didn't collude. Did a bunch of meetings happen? Absolutely. The people on the Trump team who had any access to the Russians wanted to be first in and be the guys that ran the whole detente thing. Michael Flynn wanted to be the detente guy, and then [Paul] Manafort, I'm sure, wanted to be the detente guy. Shit, I wanted to be the detente guy, why not? But was it really a conspiracy between Putin and Donald to get him elected? A little bit of a stretch." (New York Magazine)

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August 16, 2017: Emails Show Trump Family Involved in Bank Fraud

Former mortgage broker turned citizen journalist Grant Stern writes that newly leaked emails implicate Donald Trump and his three eldest children in a massive bank fraud scheme centered around the failed 2010 SoHo project, which is the subject of multiple lawsuits.

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Stern writes that the emails "outline the Trump family's complicity in a major financial crime." According to Stern, the emails "show that Donald Trump and his three eldest children participated in a cover up in order to keep borrowing massive construction loans on the hotel they pitched on NBC’s Apprentice from failing during the financial downturn. The Trump Organization earned $3 million dollars from the fraud just last year alone, even as the hotel's fortunes have sunk post-election." Bloomberg News has reported that the Mueller investigation is probing the Trump SoHo deal, and Vanity Fair has reported that newly revealed emails prove the Trump family's participation in a potential criminal enterprise surrounding that project. The emails Stern is referencing have also been reported on by Germany's ZDF public television, who interviewed American financial fraud expert William Black. According to ZDF, their reporter told Black of the SoHo project without revealing the names of the participants. Black responded by saying that the Trump SoHo deal likely constituted bank fraud in a manner that violates the RICO Act. Additionally, Stern writes, former Trump business partner Felix Sater is involved in a lawsuit that ties Trump's New York City real estate development activities to funds originating from Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin. Former Bayrock executive Jody Kriss is suing Sater and Bayrock, accusing them of operating a criminal (RICO) enterprise. Sater was heavily involved in the Trump SoHo agreement. On January 21, 2008, the emails claim, Trump and his three children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, met with one of Bayrock's partners, the Sapir Organization, a meeting which the Trumps reportedly demanded in order to criticize Bayrock for the failing project as well as to quiz Sater about his felonious past. The Trumps failed to notify authorities of either Sater's criminal past or the fraudulent activities surrounding the SoHo project. Stern writes, "[I]nstead of doing the right thing, the Trump family proceeded to squeeze their partner through Bayrock, Felix Sater, to take his financial stake in the deal." (Washington Journal)

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August 17, 2017: Former Trump Business Partner Says He and Trump Are Going to Jail

Former Trump business partner Felix Sater tells British reporter Paul Wood that he expects both he and Donald Trump will spend time in prison for their criminal business proceedings.

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The Mueller investigation, he says, is uncovering proof of a possible money laundering scheme. Wood points to a recent statement by Trump that might point to such a scheme: "I mean, it's possible there's a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?" Sater is cooperating with federal authorities. Wood's sources indicate that Sater is providing key information to investigators. Wood says that a source close to the investigation tells him of Sater, "He has told family and friends he knows he and POTUS are going to prison." In an earlier interview with New York Magazine, Sater said: "In about the next 30 to 35 days, I will be the most colourful character you have ever talked about. Unfortunately, I can't talk about it now, before it happens. And believe me, it ain't anything as small as whether or not they're gonna call me to the Senate committee. … I know you're gonna be able to spin it as 'He doesn't care and will do business even with gangsters.' Wouldn't it also show extreme flexibility, the ability not to hold a grudge, the ability to think outside the box, and it's okay to be enemies one day and friends the next?" Wood writes that other sources suggest former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort may have also provided damning information to the Mueller investigation. The Sater information may hinge on the failed 2010 SoHo project, which is now the target of a $350 bank fraud investigation. Sater is also cooperating in that investigation. (SOURCE, Raw Story)

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August 28, 2017: Media Reveals Trump Business Partner Tried to Work with Putin to Facilitate Trump Presidential Victory

The New York Times and Washington Post report that in November 2015, former Trump business partner Felix Sater told Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen that he will work with Vladimir Putin to help get Trump elected. Sater said that the business deal he is involved in, a deal to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow, can be used as a springboard to impact the 2016 US presidential election in Trump's favor.

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The deal failed. The Times writes, "The emails show that, from the earliest months of Mr. Trump's campaign, some of his associates viewed close ties with Moscow as a political advantage." The Post writes that "the details of the deal, which have not previously been disclosed, provide evidence that Trump's business was actively pursuing significant commercial interests in Russia at the same time he was campaigning to be president – and in a position to determine US-Russia relations. The new details from the emails, which are scheduled to be turned over to congressional investigators soon, also point to the likelihood of additional contacts between Russia-connected individuals and Trump associates during his presidential bid." Trump signed a nonbinding "letter of intent" for the project in 2015, and Cohen admits to discussing the project with Trump three times, but the Trump Organization now states, "To be clear, the Trump Organization has never had any real estate holdings or interests in Russia." The Trump Organization has turned over some emails regarding the activity to the House Intelligence Committee; sources provided some of those emails to the media, and spoke with reporters. The emails provided to the Times do not contain any of Cohen's responses. Cohen says that Sater was bragging about something he had no ability to provide. "He has sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to 'salesmanship,'" Cohen says in a statement. "I ultimately determined that the proposal was not feasible and never agreed to make a trip to Russia." In February 2017, Sater and a Russian colleague submitted an unsolicited "peace plan" for Russia and Ukraine to Trump via Cohen. Sater is a longtime associate of Trump's, mostly through the now-defunct Bayrock real estate firm, which has long been suspected of illegal deals and criminal connections. Cohen denies that the Trump Tower Moscow project had any connection to the Trump presidential campaign. Cohen's lawyer Stephen Ryan wrote to Congressional investigators earlier in the month that Cohen never colluded with Russian operatives despite what the Steele dossier claimed. "We do not believe that the committee should give credence to or perpetuate any of the allegations relating to Mr. Cohen unless the committee can obtain independent and reliable corroboration," Ryan wrote. Trump has repeatedly lied about having no business connections or interests in Russia. He has repeatedly lied about his association with Sater, stating in a court deposition in 2013 that he wouldn't recognize Sater if he were in the same room with him. Trump has yet to explain why in 2015 he would send Sater as his business representative to Moscow for the Tower deal. (New York Times, Washington Post)

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August 30, 2017: Kremlin Confirms Trump Lawyer Reached Out for Help in Building Trump Tower in Moscow

Dmitry Peskov, a personal spokesman for Vladimir Putin, confirms that he received a request for assistance in building a Trump Tower project in Moscow from Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in 2016, but says he did not respond to it.

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Peskov says: "I confirm that among a number of emails one from Mr. Michael Cohen came to us. This indeed happened. But as far as we don't respond to business topics, this is not our job, we did not send a response." In mid-January 2016, Cohen asked Peskov for help in reviving a stalled deal to build the Moscow tower, which involved the Trump Organization licensing its brand to a Moscow-based development company, I.C. Expert Investment. Trump signed a letter of intent with the company in October 2015, but Cohen now says the project was abandoned in 2016 for "business reasons." Peskov says that Cohen's email described a "Russian company together with certain people [who] had the goal of creating a new skyscraper in Moscow city, but the deal is not moving forward, and they were asking for some recommendations and help advancing this deal." He adds, "We cannot discuss the hundreds and thousands of various requests from different countries we get with President Putin." The media first reported on the deal in late August. (Washington Post, CNN, Reuters)

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September 1, 2017: Trump Tower in Georgia Scrapped, May Be Revived

A Trump Tower project in Batumi, Georgia has been terminated, according to Georgia's Silk Road Group. That organization was partnered with the Trump Organization for the Batumi project. However, the project may be revived by Silk Road Group in the form of a luxury residential compound on the Black Sea coast. According to a statement issued by the organization, "That ambitious project masterminded by Mr. Trump during his visit to Georgia in the year 2012 will reinforce Georgia's standing as one of the attractive international tourist directions." (Russian Construction)