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Confirmed: Trump Organization did negotiate with a sanctioned Russian bank in 2016

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
“Putin, Trump, and if I knew people in China, I would have tried to get the premier of China and have a trifecta.”
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Felix Sater, a Soviet-born former Donald Trump advisor and real estate dealer, confirmed last night to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that the Trump Organization negotiated with sanctioned Russian bank VTB to build Trump World Tower in Moscow:

Sater, a longtime US intelligence and defense resource, has been under scrutiny for an email exchange with his friend and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, in which he boasted that the subsequently failed real estate deal to build Trump World Tower Moscow “will get Donald elected” (paywall). “Buddy our boy can become President of the US and we can engineer it. We will get all of Putins (sic) team to buy in on this,” read an email sent to Cohen in November 2015.

Sater denies knowing of any outright collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign and maintains the emails were purely “giddy” exchanges between friends excited by the real estate business opportunity and having a common friend run for president. Sater told Hayes he put together a deal to build the real estate project and connected the Trump Organization to a local real estate developer who “would have gotten financing from VTB and/or another Russian bank.”

At the time of the attempted deal, VTB, one of Russia’s biggest banks, had been sanctioned since 2014, and subject to restriction in funding because of its role in Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In January, the US proposed expanding the sanctions to limit it from access to US finance market and to seize their American assets.

Although Sater concedes the optics of the deal are suspicious, he says the size of the deal justifies trying to get high-profile involvement—which would explain his mentioning Putin in the email exchange. “From my side, I’m trying to build a billion dollar deal,” Sater says. “Putin, Trump, and if I knew people in China, I would have tried to get the premier of China and have a trifecta.”

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