ALBANY — Former Port Washington resident Felix Sater served as a dealmaker and cheerleader for Donald Trump’s Moscow tower project and was among the first to see the opportunity as a potential boost to Trump’s nascent presidential campaign, according to the report released Thursday by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“All we need is Putin on board and we are golden," Sater wrote to Trump counsel Michael Cohen on Oct. 12, 2015, according to the report. A "meeting with Putin and top deputy is tentatively set for the 14th.”
It was the kind of high drama and name-dropping that for decades has marked Sater’s career, which included 10 years as an FBI informant on organized crime and terrorism cases.
The Mueller report mentions Sater 104 times.
According to the report, Sater was an early go-between for the Trump Organization and Russian business operators. The Trump Organization enlisted Sater’s help in making contacts with Russians as the company considered building a Trump tower in Moscow.
Sater had worked with Trump on several smaller domestic and international projects, and in September 2015, as Trump made early steps toward a presidential campaign, Sater contacted Cohen.
Sater was working for a Russian real estate company, I.C. Expert Investment Co., which was controlled by Andrei Vladimirovich Rozov. Rozov had hired Sater to help buy a Manhattan building in 2014, according to the report.
In September 2016, Trump gave Cohen authority to negotiate a Moscow tower project. I.C. Expert would build the structure, and would pay to license Trump’s name.
By November 2015, the report said I.C. Expert had finished a complicated “letter of intent” to build a Trump tower in Moscow.
The mammoth project would contain a mix of residential and commercial, including 250 “first-class, luxury residential condominiums” and a 15-floor hotel. The Trump Organization would receive $4 million in an “upfront fee” before ground was broken.
Sater told Cohen the project could produce even greater results.
“Buddy, our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater emailed Cohen on Nov. 3, 2015, the report said.
“I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage the process. … Michael, Putin gets on stage with Donald for a ribbon cutting for Trump Moscow, and Donald owns the Republican nomination," Sater said. "And possibly beats Hillary and our boy is in. … We will manage this process better than anyone. You and I and Donald and Vladimir on a stage together very shortly. That (is) the game changer.”
In a subsequent email to Cohen, Sater spitballed a potential campaign pitch: “Donald doesn't stare down, he negotiates and understands the economic issues and Putin only wants to deal with a pragmatic leader, and a successful businessman is a good candidate for someone who knows how to negotiate. Business, politics, whatever it all is the same for someone who knows how to deal."
Sater said: “I think I can get Putin to say that at the Trump Moscow news conference. If he says it, we own this election. America’s most difficult adversary agreeing that Donald is a good guy to negotiate. … We can own this election. Michael, my next steps are very sensitive with Putin’s very, very close people; we can pull this off, Michael."
In his written statement to Mueller, Trump downplayed the prospects of getting the Moscow tower built: “I do not recall being aware at the time of any communications between Mr. Cohen or Felix Sater and any Russian government official regarding the letter of intent.”
The Moscow project was abandoned in 2016 as Trump focused on the White House. Cohen was sentenced in December 2018 on charges including breaking campaign finance laws, tax evasion and lying to Congress.