Is This Weird-Ass Moscow Trump Tower Thing The Key To The Whole Damn Trump-Russia Conspiracy?
Putin was workin' hard, y'all.
As we all absorb the latest breaking news in the Trump-Russia investigation, about how Trump people, during the campaign, were pursuing a Trump Tower Moscow deal, and how Trump's Russian-American buddy Felix Sater was openly bragging that they could use the deal as a sort of quid pro quo with Russia to get Trump elected, a few things are becoming clearer. First of all, as many have pointed out, these leaked emails between Sater and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen do not seem to be coming from Congress, as the Trump campaign has been in the process of delivering its fucktons of documents to the various Trump-Russia investigators. It seems more that Cohen (or somebody else in Trump World) is leaking them, trying to set the narrative that this is about nothing more than a failed real estate deal. No more, no less, he swears!
Weirdly, though, the emails, where Sater brags that he and Cohen will "get Putin's buy-in" and "get Donald elected," hardly mention a Trump Tower Moscow project. Are they talking about something else entirely?
First, some basics. Team Trump had discussed doing this sort of deal in 2014 with Aras and Emin Agalarov, the same father and son duo who set up Donald Trump Jr.'s Russian conspiracy meeting in Trump Tower in June of 2016. These are also the same folks Trump did Moscow Miss Universe with back in 2013, after which he may or may not have been covered in Russian hooker pee (which really isn't the point). The deal fell apart, in part, because of the sanctions the Obama administration put on Russia in response to its invasion of Crimea.
In January of 2016, as the new deal was dying, Felix Sater told Michael Cohen to reach out to Dmitry Peskov, the Sarah Huckabee Sanders of the Kremlin, begging for help in saving the project, but Cohen, who was executive vice president of the Trump Organization, says he killed the project because of problems getting all the money and government approvals it needed to build whatever ghastly piece of shit tower it surely would have been.
Now, the White House says Trump knew nothing about this, but we're skeptical, considering how the Washington Post reports that Cohen "discussed the deal three times with Trump and that Trump signed a letter of intent with the company on Oct. 28, 2015." As Digby points out, this means Trump officially was full of shit (you don't say!) every time he said on the campaign trail that he had nothing to do with Russia.
Digby sends us to Marcy Wheeler, who raises the possibility that, much like money laundering uses real estate deals as a convenient cover for other more nefarious activities, this Trump Tower Moscow thing could be the cover for a very different kind of deal. Is this, as Joe Scarborough suggested Tuesday morning, just a big scam where Trump was going to let Russians pay him millions for a real estate deal, and then run when he eventually lost the election? Did Trump's plans get fucked up when he "won"? Or is it possible the "real estate deal" was a cover for a very different kind of deal between Trump and Russia?
The Washington Post reports that the Russian company Trump was to partner with for the Moscow tower was called I.C. Expert Investment Co., and as Mother Jones notes, very little is known about who is behind that company, which really should have named itself Best Businessing Not A Scam Very Legitimate Company, LLC. Who are these people Trump was signing letters of intent with who just ... couldn't get the permits? We just don't know yet! We do know that their financing was supposed to come from a bunch of huge state-owned banks which ended up under massive sanctions, like Sberbank, which sponsored Miss Universe in 2013, and is one of Vladimir Putin's favorite banks to use FOR MONEY LAUNDERING.
We could mention here that Cohen's Ukrainian in-laws, the Shustermans, and his brother Bryan's Ukrainian in-laws, the Oronovs, are big real estate investors, all of whom have bought shitloads of Trump condos over the past decade. Moreover, the Steele Dossier refers to Cohen's father-in-law Fima Shusterman as a "leading property developer in Moscow." Should we mention that? From the dossier:
What is redacted right here?
What is redacted right there? If you read the dossier in its entirety, you get used to how Christopher Steele wrote his "summary" and "detail" sections. At the top, you see mention of Cohen's importance in the Russia cover-up, and specific mentions of his in-laws. Yet, in the corresponding "detail" section below, there is ... REDACTED.
We are just asking questions. We don't know if Michael Cohen's family is involved in this. SHRUGGIE EMOTICON!
Do also note that Cohen is described in the dossier as the one who came in after Paul Manafort's weird Ukrainian/Russian ties were exposed during the campaign, for the purpose of cleaning up all of Manafort's messes. If that's true, it sounds like he's in deep.
Another interesting thing: Remember how Michael Cohen reached out to Dmitry Peskov to save the alleged "real estate deal"? According to sources in the dossier, Peskov was the guy in charge of all of the dirt Russia had on Hillary Clinton. Indeed, it refers to him as "main protagonist in Kremlin campaign to aid TRUMP and damage CLINTON." What kind of help was Cohen really asking for?
It's weird how a Trump Moscow project that was supposed to be some sort of quid pro quo for help getting him elected falls apart in February, partially because of sanctions, and then by June, Trump Junior and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner are meeting with a Russian lawyer and her Russian spy friend in Trump Tower, set up by weird British dude Rob Goldstone on behalf of the Agalarovs on the pretense of handing over dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of "Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." Part of? As in, this is something Junior already probably knew about? The meeting then turned into a conversation about BOUNCY RUSSIAN BABIES, which is code for repealing the Magnitsky Act and lifting the sanctions. (The Agalarovs' representative at that meeting? Irakly "Ike" Kaveladze, a vice president of their real estate company who back in the 1990s was "at the center of a $1.4 BILLION RUSSIAN MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME," according to ALL CAPS JUDD LEGUM from Think Progress on Twitter.)
Or should we say, this sequence of events is weird if the Trump Moscow project was actually the quid pro quo. We just don't think it is.
Did Jared Kushner meet with the Russian ambassador about saving a real estate deal? No, but he sure did talk to him about setting up back channels with Russia, and he also sure did take meetings with the guy who used to run Sberbank, which is, again, Vladimir Putin's favorite bank, FOR MONEY LAUNDERING.
Meanwhile, we're learning that disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn may have been working directly with Russian hackers trying to get Hillary's "deleted emails" from Russia. And Russia did send hacked Hillary/DNC dirt to WikiLeaks. And Michael Flynn did tell the Russian ambassador not to worry about mean Obama with all his ugly sanctions, because we can just deal with that after the election, OK?
And then there was Trump's big foreign policy speech in April of 2016, attended by the Russian ambassador, where he gave Russia a foreign policy tongue bath. And then there was the thing where Paul Manafort got all the GRRR ARGH language about Russia's incursions into Ukraine removed from the Republican platform.
As Brian Beutler notes at The New Republic, Michael Cohen and Felix Sater also worked together to broker a "peace deal" for Ukraine that Cohen handed to Michael Flynn during the six and a half seconds he was national security adviser.
Let's go back where we started, with these new revelations about the "Trump Tower Moscow" project. Is it possible Felix Sater sent Michael Cohen to Dmitry Peskov (remember, he's the Huckabee Sanders of Russia) not because the Trump Tower project was stalled, but because another kind of Trump deal with Russia was stalled? What if the whole deal really was that Russia will launder gabillions of dollars in Trump's general direction and will assist in a massive hacking operation involving operatives in Russia and America to get Trump elected, and in exchange, Trump as president will get rid of all those pesky sanctions that make it impossible for Putin and his band of merry oligarchs to do business, and moreover Trump will reorient American foreign policy away from meddling in Russia's business and just let it do whatever it wants with its sphere of influence?
If so, wethinks Russia has not gotten the quid in exchange for its quo.
As far as Felix Sater goes, Donald Trump is constantly like, "I don't know her," but that's weird, since they've worked together for years and years. Interestingly enough, there are "rumors" that Sater, an actual criminal who has also been known to be an actual FBI and CIA informant, may have already flipped, according to Paul Wood from The Spectator:
For several weeks there have been rumours that Sater is ready to rat again, agreeing to help Mueller. ‘He has told family and friends he knows he and POTUS are going to prison,’ someone talking to Mueller’s investigators informed me. Sater himself added fuel to this fire when he told New York magazine: ‘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.’
Say it with us: WHOA IF TRUE. And if it is true, that could be why Trump is distancing himself, just like he's doing with Paul Manafort.
We don't know if this Trump Tower Moscow real estate deal will be ultimately the thread that, once pulled, unravels the whole thing. But it sure as fuck seems like it might be, because for the first time, we feel like we can actually see the vaguest hint of an outline of what this Trump-Russia conspiracy looks like, and it looks like "HOLY SHIT."
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