Investigative reporting is a lot like hunting dangerous wild game, except you’re unarmed, the forest is populated with documents instead of trees, and you’re competing with a lot of other hunters for the same trophy buck. The mystery of President Donald Trump’s Russian connections has brought out some of the best big-game reporters.
They smell blood, and with good reason. Why, every time a new revelation between a Trump surrogate and an unsavory Russian connection hits the headlines, does the President tweet out an unrelated distraction? Or orders a lackey to become a distraction? Logic suggests that if Trump and minions had nothing beyond the merely embarrassing to hide, they would not go to such extreme lengths to change the subject every time Moscow comes up. What could possibly be so important to keep buried?
Two words: Russian Mafia. And two more words: FBI informant.
Anyone really interested in the Trump-Russia connection needs to read this whole report by former Village Voice investigative reporters Jonathan Larsen and Russ Baker, and their associate at news website WhoWhatWhy, C. Collins:
In his March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey said that he could not go into detail about its probe into the Trump administration’s Russian connection.
If he had, we might have learned that, for more than three decades the FBI has had Trump Tower in its sights. Many of its occupants have been targets of major investigations, others have been surveilled, and yet others have served as informants. One thing many of them have in common is deep ties to organized crime — including the Russian mafia.
Felix Sater fits all of these categories. A convicted felon, Sater worked in Trump Tower, made business deals with Donald Trump through Sater’s real estate firm, Bayrock, cooperated with the FBI and CIA and was subsequently protected by the DOJ from paying for his crimes. And the Moscow-born immigrant remains deeply linked to Russia and Ukraine…
The resulting picture is not a pretty one for Donald Trump. However, because of its efforts to neutralize the organization of perhaps the world’s most powerful mobster — a man considered a serious national security threat — the Bureau might just have compromised its own ability to provide to Congress or inform the American public about all of the ties that exist between Trump, his presidential campaign and the regime of Vladimir Putin.
Apparently, WhoWhatWhy’s authors published their bombshell while USA Today’s Oren Dorrell was piecing together something similar, which USA Today published the next day:
To expand his real estate developments over the years, Donald Trump, his company and partners repeatedly turned to wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics — several allegedly connected to organized crime, according to a USA TODAY review of court cases, government and legal documents and an interview with a former federal prosecutor.
The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.
Among those 10: Felix Sater.
While given not much more than passing notice by a few news outlets during the run-up to the election, Forbes editor for investigations Richard Behar found the Trump-Sater relationship of interest, and dug up a few fascinating documents in October:
Felix Sater is not a name that has come up much during the presidential campaign. That he has a colorful past is an understatement: The Russian-born Sater served a year in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a margarita glass during a bar fight, pleaded guilty to racketeering as part of a mafia-driven “pump-and-dump” stock fraud and then escaped jail time by becoming a highly valued government informant.
He was also an important figure at Bayrock, a development company and key Trump real estate partner during the 2000s, notably with the Trump SoHo hotel-condominium in New York City, and has said under oath that he represented Trump in Russia and subsequently billed himself as a senior Trump advisor, with an office in Trump Tower.
President Trump and his top aides have spent months trying to cultivate a hatred of the American news media. Trump himself has repeatedly called the media “the enemy of the American people.” But the truth is that an uncensored media is the friend of democracy. And we are all the media.