After months of speculation on whether or not Donald Trump or his associates colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential elections, a revealing piece of information by Russia-born businessman and former Trump partner Felix Sater could significantly alter the course of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Sater, who was outed as a U.S. spy just a few days ago by BuzzFeed, appeared on various cable news channels to answer questions about his past, friendship with Donald Trump, and whether or not he had been a central figure in any collusion effort from Moscow’s side to influence the Trump campaign. But perhaps most importantly, Sater was questioned about his involvement in an alleged effort by the Trump Organization to do business with a U.S.-sanctioned Russian bank — VTB Bank — which is backed by the Kremlin.
The details of this reported relationship between the Trump Organization and the bank were fleshed out in a status report that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released in response to the Republican decision to shut down the investigation. According to the Business Insider, “the report outlined dozens of leads including witness testimony, document requests, and subpoenas” which Democrats said they were unable to pursue because of the shut-down of the investigation.
VTB Bank was sanctioned by the Obama administration back in 2014, freezing its assets in the country. The sanctions effectively meant that no American individual or company could do business with the bank. But according to Sater, he was involved in an effort by the Trump Organization to do business with VTB to secure financing for a Trump Tower in Moscow at the height of the 2016 presidential election. If this is true, it would mean that the Trump Organization broke the law by doing business with a sanctioned bank, something that will be drawing sharp scrutiny from Bob Mueller.
“I had a local developer there [in Russia], and I had the Trump Organization here [in the U.S.], and I was in the middle And the local developer there would have gotten financing from VTB and/or another Russian bank, but VTB at that point was the go-to bank for real-estate development,” Sater told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
In his defense, Sater claims that he was unaware of the sanctioned status of VTB Bank. Yet, that may be difficult to believe considering he has been a U.S. spy working extensively on Russia for years.
Moreover, the New York Times has previously reported that Sater and Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had pushed for a deal with VTB, as was also proven when Sater bragged about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and told Cohen he would “get all of Putin’s team to buy in” on the deal.
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”
President Trump has said that he does not know Felix Sater well at all, a fact disputed by the Russia-born businessman who says he has talked to Trump “hundreds of times,” as reported by Vice News, and even took Ivanka Trump for a tour into Putin’s palace when she visited Russia back in 2006.