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Thomas Wood @Repoliticized
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(THREAD--91 tweets). “The Asset” is an in-depth profile of Felix Sater (my favorite subject) by BuzzFeed’s Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold.
1/ It’s an important contribution, with some interesting new details, but it must be read with caution. Some important parts of it are unreliable and misleading.
2/ The authors of this piece portray Felix Sater as a man who, since his early days as a Russian-Jewish NYC mobster and stock market fraudster, has been a true American patriot who dearly loves his country,
3/ and who for twenty years or more has acted continuously out of purely patriotic motives and in the interest of rehabilitating himself in the eyes of himself and his family.
4/ Sater is in fact a complex character. He has not been, and is not now, a “good guy,” and his motives have always been complicated and to some degree or other suspect.
5/ As his high school buddy and long-time partner in crime, Salvatore Lauria, has put it in *The Scorpion and the Frog* (S&F), a book Lauria wrote about his adventures in crime with Sater in NYC and Russia:
6/ On one very important point, Cormier-Leopold have it wrong, and Lauria (who has known Sater for most of his life) has surely gotten it right.
7/ According to the BuzzFeed article, Sater left for Russia in 1995 after working on what he called “the dark side of Wall Street” because he “didn’t want to do dirty shit anymore.”
8/ This does not square with anything we know about Sater, or with the account given by Lauria in S&F, who was closely involved with Sater in the pump-and-dump stock fraud scheme and who went to Russia with him.
9/ According to Lauria, the two of them left (with a third partner in crime, “Gene” Klotsman) because the heat was on them, and they knew their Wall Street scam was going to get busted.
10/ Why go to Russia, you ask? Well, Sater was born in Moscow, and Sater’s father was one of the local Russian ethnic mobsters in Brighton Beach, and worked there for Russia’s most dangerous and powerful criminal, the Red Mafiya “boss of bosses,” the dreaded Semion Mogilevich.
11/ And Klotsman’s family was reputed to be close to Sergei Yeltsin, the then president of the Russian Federation, and the man who picked Vladimir Putin to succeed him.
12/ In short, Sater went to Moscow because both Klotsman and Sater had valuable and important connections there.
13/ Sater would like the world to believe that he went to Russia because he “didn’t want to do dirty shit anymore” and to sell telecommunications contracts for AT&T in Moscow.
14/ This is entirely, or at least largely, bullshit. On hitting Moscow, the triumvirate immersed itself with gusto in the criminal underworld.
15/ Here is how Lauria described Sater at the time (S&F 243):
16/ Sater set about to capitalize on this wild, dangerous, free-wheeling market. I have highlighted one part of this excerpt because it is important to understand that Sater could not have succeeded at all in what he did without what is called in Russia *krisha* (protection).
17/ And the *krisha* that Sater had for his activities would have come from the criminals who had political connections at the highest levels of the Russian government--
18/ men like Semion Mogilevich, for example, who also worked both sides of many streets, was the principal mobster dealing in the black market sale of Russian arms, and who had been the capo di capo of Felix’s father in the US.
19/ (All this must be kept well in mind when we come to Sater’s interest in getting Michael Cohen interested in a project to get Trump elected; see below.)
20/ Sater’s story now as related to Andrew Rice in an Aug 2017 article in NY Mag and in the BuzzFeed article is that he was contacted by a US Defense Intelligence Agency contractor
21/ by the name of Blaine (BuzzFeed spells it Blane, but two different spellings are in print) to work as a patriot for nothing and at great risk to himself
22/ to get Stinger missiles and other dangerous weapons out of the hands of al-Qaeda (which was trying to purchase them from the Afghani mujahadeen) and back in the hands of the US.
23/ But Lauria tells a different story: Sater was already dealing *for profit* in such commodities, and it was Sater who contacted the CIA and the DIA, not the other way around.
24/ (Note: Sater must by then have already established *krisha* for his for-profit activities in this very dangerous market.)
25/ And the story gets even murkier when we learn from the BuzzFeed article that Sater communicated the intel he had through his then (and current) attorney in NYC, Michael Wolf, and not through any CIA or other US intelligence agent.
26/ According to Lauria, Sater also had the idea that he could help the two of them get out of their developing legal problems back in the US through these efforts.
27/ And in fact In 2009, the judge in the case fined Sater a mere $25,000 for the $40 million he and his friends had bilked out of Wall Street investors--a mere slap on the wrist as a reward for his services to as an operative and US intel asset.
28/ This is not to gainsay Sater’s claim that he saved many American lives and performed invaluable service to the country as a US counterintelligence operative and asset.
29/ The evidence for his claim is well-established in FBI, DOJ, and US attorney testimonials that are now part of the federal court records.(One of the most valuable contributions by BuzzFeed is the uploads of some of these documents to the Document Cloud.)
30/ Nevertheless, it is important to point out that Sater’s motives were, and undoubtedly continue to be, much more complicated and questionable than the “I am an American patriot and hero” story that he is peddling.
31/ The BuzzFeed line is that Sater has been on a high-minded program of rehabilitation and doing the right thing for decades--right up to the present time.
32/ But this is not credible, because we know that from 2003-2007 Sater worked as the CEO for the Bayrock Corporation, which was involved in money-laundering of Russian-Kazakhstani money. In other words, Sater never really went straight and clean.
33/ According to reliable public reporting, Sater has turned state’s witness against an oligarchic Kazakhstani family accused by the government of that country of stealing billions from the state treasury. Sater is also a defendant in one of the lawsuits involving Bayrock.
34/ The Bayrock story is important, because it must be taken into account in trying to understand Sater’s role in Russiagate.
35/ One of the most important disclosures in the Cormier and Leopold reporting is that Sater has cultivated close relationships with at least six members of the Mueller team,
36/ and that he has been interviewed by that team as a cooperating informant (CI) about Trump’s business dealings and connections with Russia.
37/ But it doesn’t follow (though the authors seem to me to imply this) that Sater has *always* been an FBI informant *on Russiagate* (i.e., Trump-Russia relations) as long as Russiagate has been an issue.
38/ (@SethAbramson, BTW, seems to have reached a similar conclusion in a thread yesterday “ and in an earlier thread dated Jan 2.
39/ I believe that Sater is a CI for Mueller *now* on Russiagate, but the notion that he has been uninterruptedly a reliable CI informant about all of his doings and contacts, including Trump-Russia relations over the last two decades, is almost certainly false.
40/ For one thing, that claim would require us to suppose that the FBI knew about and disregarded Sater’s illegal money laundering as the CEO of Bayrock.
41/ It is also impossible to reconcile that notion with Sater’s email to Michael Cohen in November 2015, which said: “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” “I will get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
42/ Was Sater cooperating with the FBI on Russiagate (at its origins, as it were) when he sent this and other related emails to his high school buddy MIchael Cohen? Hmmm…. I don’t think so. (If so, it would have been a set-up or sting operation.)
43/ And if not, then Sater was clearly not disclosing everything about his activities that would have been of interest to US intel and law enforcement agencies.
44/ More likely, this is yet another instance (like Bayrock) where Sater could not stay away from the dark side of the force. That can clearly be said of Bayrock (since money laundering is illegal), but can be said in a weaker sense about Sater’s proposal to Cohen--
45/ even putting the most favorable interpretation on it, which is that Sater was only saying that it would ensure Trump’s election because it would show that he was a negotiator who could work a deal with Putin--and that this would be a good thing.
46/ Sater must have known that most Americans--especially most Republicans (and Sater was and is a Republican)--would have found such a proposal and its language very disquieting if not outright disloyal, given everything that was known even then to the public about Putin.
47/ The language “we can engineer it” is particularly incriminating--particularly when one keeps in mind the kind of contacts Sater had in Russia--something well known to US intel and law enforcement. (See, e.g., tweet /15 above from Lauria’s *The Scorpion and the Frog*,)
48/ Are we to suppose that Sater’s FBI contacts knew about Sater’s interest in “engineering” Trump’s election, but didn’t care? Of course not. And if they did care about it, why didn’t they do something?
49/ Most importantly, the notion that Sater was from the outset a CI on Russiagate is impossible to fit into any plausible Russiagate timeline.
49’/ We cannot suppose that Sater was a CI or “mole” for the FBI even as late as July of 2016, for we know that it was Papadopoulos, and not Sater, who triggered the formation by Comey of an investigation of Trump campaign ties to the Kremlin
50/ --and in late July, Steele had already written memo #095, in which Source E (Sater) gave the whole Russiagate narrative in a nutshell.
51/ (One of the most curious things about Russiagate is that the FBI and Steele investigations ran for as long as they did on quite separate tracks.)
52/ And this is important, because if Sater was *not* disclosing to anyone in the FBI what he was disclosing in confidence (ie. unwittingly) to Steele’s informant(s)--whoever he, she, or they were--then we need to ask WHEN and HOW he became an informant to Mueller on Russiagate.
53/ Though it is not possible be precise about this, it must have been about the time that the FBI and the Steele investigations merged, and when (as I believe and as I have argued)
54/ the Steele dossier, especially memo #095, became the case theory or road map for the Comey-Mueller investigations into Russiagate.
55/ There are many other issues around Sater that remain to be covered and clarified, but for now, I will have to let the following remarks suffice.
55/ I noted in a previous thread that Sater had recently put his $2.5 million home in NY up for sale. Sater’s reason for selling the home was that he wanted to move into a better home in the area.
56/ We now know that this is false. (A point I am trying to drive home here is that nothing Sater says can be taken at face value.)
57/ We learn now from the BuzzFeed article that Sater’s marriage of 29 years has collapsed--according to Sater, b/c of the toll taken on his marriage by the Trump-Russia investigation.
58/ So the sale of his home must have had something to do with his divorce, as well as legal expenses and difficulties connected with the divorce and attorney’s fees dealing with all things Russiagate.
59/ Cormier and Leopold also tell us: “[Sater] hopes that by revealing the extent of his cooperation [with federal authorities], he will be able to change how the public — and his own family — thinks about him.”
60/ But this raises an important question: Which cooperation? What cooperation? It cannot mean Sater’s cooperation with US intel and law enforcement *before 2009,* where he has been successful in portraying himself as a patriotic hero,
61/ for his family and religious community (Chabad, Port Washington) have been well informed about THAT. (See this video
62/ So if there is anything to what BuzzFeed says on the point, it must mean that he is hoping to reveal the extent of his cooperation with federal authorities *since* 2009
63/ --and all of that implicates Trump and therefore Russiagate, because from 2010 until a couple of years ago Satter was in close communication with Trump and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
64/ So if Sater is trying to rehabilitate himself, it must be that he is trying to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of his family about what they have been able to discern about his financial and likely political relations with Trump and Russia during this later period of time.
65/ (Keep in mind that veteran journalist Paul Wood reported in 18 Aug 2017 that Sater “‘has told family and friends he knows he and POTUS are going to prison,’ according to someone who has been talking to Mueller’s investigators.”
66/ (Note also that this “someone” could very well be Christopher Steele, who has also been contacted by Mueller’s investigators, and whose Source E in the dossier is undoubtedly Felix Sater.)
67/ There is more likely evidence that Felix has fallen on hard times. Although BuzzFeed reports that Sater has moved to Los Angeles, it does not report that Sater is engaged in a movie project there
68/ --apparently a documentary on his life, and apparently with an emphasis on his life as a mobster.
69/ According to “The Asset,” Sater complains that “his reputation is mud among his business friends,” so the Hollywood movie project is probably an effort by Sater to gin up some much-needed income.
70/ And on Sater’s Congressional testimony: I have pointed out in two previous threads how odd it was that Sater was interviewed by the House Intel committee at some then undisclosed location in NYC rather than on Capitol Hill in the House Visitor Center
71/ --such offsite locations for House committee intel hearings being almost unheard of.
72/ From the BuzzFeed article we have the startling info that the hearing in NYC was held at the law offices of Sater’s personal attorney, Michael Wolf! (How often has that kind of venue ever been used, I wonder?)
73/ We also learn that Sater is expected to be interviewed by the Senate Intel Committee sometime in April.
74/ BuzzFeed also provides the written testimony that Sater presented to the House Intel committee staff members on Dec 20 of last year In NYC.
75/ This document is purely exculpatory and emphasizes Sater’s patriotic contributions as an undercover agent for the US. There is nothing in the document about Trump’s finances or about Russiagate.
76/ In fact, I think it is almost certain that Sater didn’t say ANYTHING about Russiagate of any importance or interest at his “hearing.” Here is what BuzzFeed says on the matter:
77/ It is maddeningly unclear from this wording whether BuzzFeed means that Sater “wouldn’t disclose additional details” to the *committee,* or to the *authors.* (It makes a difference.)
78/ But I think it probably means that Sater was silent on the matter to both the committee and to the authors. After all, if Sater had said anything ONE WAY OR THE OTHER on Russiagate, that would have surely been leaked
79/ --by the Ds if Sater had said anything that incriminated Trump or his campaign in any way, and by the Rs if Sater had said anything exculpatory. Instead, we have heard nothing.
80/ Furthermore, it would not have been in the interest of either the Ds or the Rs on the committee to have pressed Sater very hard about Russiagate, especially because we now know that Sater has been cooperating with Mueller for some time.
81/ As a CI for Mueller, Sater could have simply responded to any pointed questions from the committee staff (apparently no Congressmen on the committee were present at the “hearing” in NYC)
82/ by saying that that was a matter he could not disclose to the committee, as he was a CI for Mueller, and that it was a matter best left to that investigation.
83/ At that point, House Intel staff members who were present at the hearing could have compelled Sater’s testimony on any questions materially relevant to their investigations, but likely didn’t.
84/ Rs on the committee would have been terrified to think what Sater could disclose about Trump and his campaign (particularly given the very real possibility that Sater was the Source E of the “infamous” Steele dossier)
85/ and would have felt relieved to be able to punt and let Mueller handle any potentially explosive material.
86/ The Democrats on the committee would have been content to pass the buck to Mueller at the hearing in NYC as well. As I have argued in previous threads, it is not in Mueller’s interest at this time to let Sater disclose publicly what he has told him as a CI.
87/ And if Sater told them that at the hearing, the Dems would have acceded to it.
88/ But Sater’s public testimony will come eventually.
89/ As I said at the end of one of my recent threads on Sater (“Mueller, the FBI, and the dog that hasn’t barked.”):
90/ The Blast, video, 7 Jan 2018.
I have written a number of threads on Sater that might be helpful in following this one, including in particular
The book *The Scorpion and the Frog* by Salvatore Lauria is very useful.
Robert I Friedman’s *The Red Mafiya* is indispensable for background on the extraordinarily violent milieu in Brighton Beach in which Russian ethnics like Felix Sater and Michael Cohen grew up.
And a final note on The Blast Video. Note that as Sater exits from the building and realizes that a crowd is eager to see him, he gets a glint in his eye and starts to swagger. “You want gangsters?” he says. “I’ll give you gangsters--bigger than Bugsy [Siegel].”
I would say from this clip alone that Sater has a lot more work to do to get himself separated psychologically from his criminal past.
Felix Sater isn’t a “good guy” yet.
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