Rewriting 2013: Organized Crime, Trump and the sumptuous feast at Nobu. How Donald Trump met Russia.
Beyonce’s lip sync of the national anthem at Barack Obama’s inauguration was what passed for political scandal in 2013. There was the IRS scandal, gay marriage and Edward Snowden but it was a sheepish year for Washington’s favorite sport of bloodletting.
The historical record may need some adjusting now that we can reveal that Donald Trump not only began running for President that year, Russia was already deeply intertwined in the Trump organization even then.
Trump had flirted with a White House run for years. His most convincing effort until then was a 2011 challenge to President Barack Obama built on the back of a fake claim that Obama was not a U.S. citizen.
Obama was forced to release his birth certificate and publicly roasted Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The President took the stage to a music video flashing Obama’s birth certificate and set to the song of “I am a real American”.
“Mahalo,” the President quipped.
“Donald Trump is here tonight!,” Obama announced to a mix of laughter and applause.
“Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald,” Obama told the gathered journalists, celebrities and beltway insiders.
“And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter –- like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”
Donald Trump squirmed in his chair as the President persisted: “Say what you will about Mr. Trump,” Obama said. “He certainly would bring some change to the White House. The President looked up at a screen that showed the White House as a gilded Trump casino and resort.
Trump scurried out of the dinner, appearing bruised, according to the New York Times although he later proclaimed: “I loved that dinner.”
Trump was actually a leading contender in 2012 but a month after Obama’s speech, Trump announced he would sit out the 2012 election cycle.
There was another reason Trump was deterred from running in 2012. In an expose just published by the New Yorker, the Manhattan DA’s office was on the verge of indicting Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr. on felony larceny and fraud charges. The Trump siblings had allegedly inflated sell-out figures while luring buyers to the Trump-branded SOHO Tower in 2008. The New Yorker discovered DA Cyrus Vance killed the case in August 2012 after Trump’s attorney donated $25,000 to Vance’s re-election campaign.
Obama ended 2012 by signing the Magnitsky sanctions act. Russia’s wealthiest kleptocrats were now at risk of being sanctioned and their stolen billions frozen. The move infuriated Putin. He responded by banning adoption of Russian children to the U.S., but he also set into place a secret plan to get back at Obama and end sanctions.
Donald Trump began to assemble his political forces as soon as the clock struck Midnight on New Year’s Day, 2013.
Trump reached out to his friend and political adviser, Roger Stone, on January 1 to let him know he was running.
Stone warned Trump the media would be deeply skeptical of a campaign after Trump’s previous false starts. After all, Trump had flirted with running more times than he’d been bankrupt (four) or married (three).
“That will disappear when I announce,” Trump assured Stone.
Trump’s campaign was indeed going to be different this time. He curried favor with Republican Party officials and donated to GOP groups. He also began to deepen his connections to Russian oligarchs.
Donald Trump’s properties around the world are often home to some of the world’s biggest criminals. That’s true for the Trump SOHO but even more so for Trump’s headquarters.
Donald and Melania occupy the multi-floor penthouse at Trump Tower in Manhattan. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort lived in the Tower while under surveillance for crimes committed in the Ukraine and so did one of “the world’s most notorious Russian mafia bosses, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov,” according to ABC News. Tokhtakhounov also goes by his mob moniker of “Little Taiwanese”.
The FBI had wiretapped Tokhtakhounov’s Trump Tower apartment for over two years and discovered it was being used as a home base for organized crime. The investigation culminated in his 2013 indictment for laundering $50 million in the U.S.. Despite being a fugitive from justice and the issuing of an Interpol warrant for his arrest, ‘Little Taiwanese’ is still a regular feature in Moscow’s social scene.
Another Russian mobster Anatoly Golubchik ran a gambling ring on the 51st floor at Trump Tower with the Little Taiwanese.
Felix Sater was another regular at the building. Sater is a convicted mobster and FBI informant and was Trump senior adviser and partner on Trump-branded towers around the world, including the Trump SOHO.
The BBC asked Trump about Sater during a TV interview on July 8, 2013. Trump was visibly angry when Sater’s name came up.
“Shouldn’t you have said: ‘Felix Sater, you’re connected with the mafia and you’re fired’?,” the interviewer asked Trump.
“Maybe you’re thick but when you have a signed contract, you can’t in this country just break it… Sometimes we’ll sign a deal and the partner isn’t as good as we’d like but that does happen, and by the way, I hate to do this but I do have that big group of people waiting so I have to leave…,” Trump said and walked out.
Eric Trump bragged his father’s had access to $100 million in Russian funds while playing a round of golf with journalist James Dodson at a Trump branded golf course in North Carolina sometime in 2013.
“Eric, who’s funding?” Dodson asked. “I know no banks — because of the recession, the Great Recession — have touched a golf course.”
“Well, we don’t rely on American banks,” Dobson recalls Eric’s answer. “We have all the funding we need out of Russia. “We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs, we just go there all the time,” Eric Trump said.
A Vegas deal and a tweet about Putin.
On June 15, Trump traveled to Vegas where he and his entourage dined with Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov and his family including his pop star son, Emin. They agreed to bring the Miss Universe contest to Moscow later that year.
While Trump was in Vegas, Vladimir Putin was at a five-star luxury resort on the Irish shoreline meeting with Obama and the heads of state of the G8. It would be Putin’s last G8 conference as a member of the exclusive club of industrialized nations. By the following year, Russia was disinvited by the group because of the annexation Crimea and the attack on Ukraine.
Trump mentioned the Russian leader in a tweet as Putin left the G8. “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow[?],” Trump posted. “If so, will he become my new best friend?”
Trump then went public about his intention to run. “I really don’t think it’s a popularity contest; I think they like what I’m saying,” Trump told the National Review after announcing he’d invested a million dollars into political research. “We’ll see what happens. People want to see this nation be great again.” He told ABC News ‘This Week’ he was ready to back up his talk with cash: “If I did it, I’d spend whatever it took.”
Even in those early days of pre-campaigning, Trump could not resist flattering Vladimir Putin. He heaped praise on Putin during an interview with Larry King.
“You’re an admirer of the Russian…?,” King asked.
“I think he’s done really a great job outsmarting our country,” Trump replied.
In October, David Letterman asked Trump:
“Vladimir Putin, have you ever met the guy?” Trump said, “He’s a tough guy. I met him once.”
Eighty-six women representing the world nations descended on Moscow on November 9th, along with Russian oligarchs and Kremlin insiders.
As they rehearsed for the live televised event and competed in contests from swimsuits to congeniality, Trump was feted behind the scenes by the Agalarovs and Russian officials, bankers, oligarchs and mobsters.
Putin never attended the pageant but sent gifts and reached out to Trump. “When I went to Russia with the Miss Universe pageant, he contacted me and was so nice,” Trump told Fox News. “And, you know, I mean the Russian people were so fantastic to us. I can say this. They are doing — they’re outsmarting us at many turns.”
Miss Universe Moscow was sponsored by sanctioned Russian bank, Sberbank. Its CEO Herman Gref and Agalarov hosted a feast for Trump at Moscow’s Nobu which included “top-level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top-of-the-government people,” Trump later revealed.
One of the key findings of the 2016 Steele Dossier was that the Russians “had been cultivating and supporting Trump for five years.” Current and former Kremlin officials told the report’s author, Christopher Steele: “the Trump operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
Journalists have been able to verify many of the claims in the Steele Dossier and the intelligence community has vouched for Steele’s credibility. Our investigation has found a long list of criminal activity linked to the two Trump Towers in Manhattan, its Russian occupants and Trump’s business partners and children. The sequence of events between June and November 2013 seems to corroborate the key finding in the Trump dossier that Russia had been cultivating Donald Trump from at least as early as 2013.
Was there more than just a crowning of a Miss Universe in Moscow in November 2013? A coronation perhaps of the man who would lead Russia’s payback for the sanctions imposed by President Obama in 2012? That is precisely what investigators want to find out.