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Friday, August 05, 2016

The company he keeps

by digby

I've been surprised that there has been so little attention paid to Trump's ties to organized crime. He was in the casino business in New Jersey fergawdsakes. There was one big story in the National Memo, but little follow up. But here's one in Bloomberg today by Timothy O'Brien:

"Donald Trump and the Trump Organization are masters of opportunity recognition," noted "Entrepreneurship 101," a slender volume published almost a decade ago under the Trump University imprint. One path to success, the book advised aspiring tycoons, is to cultivate "relationships with the best business partners."

In his own career, alas, Trump hasn't often followed this strategy. Instead, he has routinely relied on his own instincts and operated impulsively both at home and abroad, sometimes corralling business partners who haven't been A-listers.

Consider the Trump SoHo, a swanky hotel in lower Manhattan that offers, the Trump Organization says, "world-class hospitality," "sophistication and style," and "true decadence."

One of Trump's partners on the project was the Sapir Organization. That company's founder, the late Tamir Sapir, arrived in New York from the Soviet Union as a cab driver before striking it rich trading Russian oil and local real estate. Six years ago, Forbes described him as a "tough, unloved landlord, a pariah to many brokers."

Trump's other partner on the project was the Bayrock Group, based in Trump Tower, which was controlled by a former Soviet official and Kazakh named Tevfik Arif.

(Trump also asked Arif to testify as a trusted business partner and character witness when he sued me for libel 10 years ago, claiming that my biography, "TrumpNation," had damaged his business prospects in Russia and elsewhere. He lost the case.)

The man who played a pivotal role connecting Trump and Arif, bringing Trump into the mix on the SoHo hotel and other projects, was a Bayrock employee of Russian descent named Felix Sater. Over the years, Sater had repeatedly drawn the attention of law enforcement officials for, among other things, money laundering, helping organized crime families defraud stock investors, and stabbing a man in the face with the stem of a broken margarita glass.

Trump has repeatedly denied knowing that anything was amiss with Sater during the years they worked together, though he maintained a relationship with Sater even after news accounts about his sordid background surfaced.

During a deposition of Trump in late 2007, my lawyers asked him whether he planned to sever his relationship with Sater because of his organized crime ties. Trump said he hadn't made up his mind.

"Have you previously associated with people you knew were members of organized crime?" one of my lawyers asked.

"No, I haven't," Trump responded. "And it's hard to overly blame Bayrock. Things like that can happen. But I want to see what action Bayrock takes before I make a decision."

In fact, Trump had knowingly associated with mob figures before.

Indeed he did. Read on.

The Republicans could have put all this together during the primaries. It's all on the public record. But they didn't because Trump is a symptom of their dysfunction not a cause.