Attorney Steven Harper appeared on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on Aug. 28, 2017 to talk about new information about the plan to build a huge Trump Tower in Moscow that was pursued as Donald Trump campaigned to become US president.
Harper, author of our Trump-Russia timeline, appeared after The Washington Post reported that “while Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal.”
A follow-up report by The New York Times detailed exchanges between Felix Sater, a Trump business associate, and Michael Cohen, a lawyer for Trump, about the proposal:
Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Mr. Putin. He predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would highlight Mr. Trump’s savvy negotiating skills and be a political boon to his candidacy.
‘Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,’ Mr. Sater, a business associated of Trump’s, wrote in an email. ‘I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.’
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: Many countries. The Washington Post reports, quote, “while Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump organization lawyers.”
The New York Times reported “more details of those emails today, and Trump associate Felix Sater who was born in Russia wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Mr. Putin and predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would highlight Mr. Trump’s savvy negotiating skills and be a political boon to his candidacy.
Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it, Mr. Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this. I will manage this process.” In another e-mail to Michael Cohen, Felix Sater wrote, “I will get Putin on this program, and we will get Donald elected.”
Felix Sater was hired by Donald Trump to broker real estate deals. The Times also reports “Felix Sater helped arrange Ivanka Trump`s 2006 trip to Moscow and that he said, quote, “I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin’s private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin.”
Joining us now, Steven Harper, he’s an attorney and author. He’s an adjunct professor at Northwestern University and contributor to BillMoyers.com.
He created the Trump-Russia timeline. Also with us tonight, Tim O’Brien, executive editor of “Bloomberg View” and author of Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald.
And Steve, on the timeline, here we have what will be on your timeline, the entry of some new e-mails. This new e-mail discovery that’s now been published first by The Washington Post and then details — more details by The New York Times.
And this is a very direct communication about getting Vladimir Putin himself involved in helping Donald Trump win this election.
STEVEN HARPER: It’s certainly interesting, and the interesting thing about it to me is that it really fits into a broader narrative, I think.
And this is one of those situations where, you know, you can analyze the event and the e-mails in a micro sense.
And then when you take a step back and look at it in a macro way and realize that what’s really going on here is that while a man is running for the presidency of the United States, his company is simultaneously trying to enter into a business deal which is reported to be one of — would be one of the largest real estate projects of its kind in the world.
Pretty stunning stuff, I would think.
O’DONNELL: And Tim, I want to take a look at the sourcing for these emails in The New York Times article.
It says, “the Trump organization on Monday turned over emails to the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election and whether anyone in Mr. Trump’s campaign was involved.
Some of the emails were obtained by The Times. Now, Tim, there’s a consistent pattern here that when the Trump lawyers find emails as they do involving Jared Kushner and others, that they turn over to any of the investigators, whether it’d be the House, Senate or the special prosecutor.
Those e-mails are almost instantly revealed to the press, and it seems to me that what we have here are defense lawyers saying to their clients, look, these are going to become public.
You don’t want them to become public the day you’re sitting there on the witness stand or — you know, in a Senate hearing. You want them to become public now so that they are old news by the time you testify.
TIM O’BRIEN: It’s also every man for himself in this thing. So you’ve got different members of the Trump organization with their own counsel figuring out how to save themselves because what Mueller is doing and what the congressional investigators are doing is they’re picking off the weak members of the pack at the back of the pack, and they’re going to move up the food chain toward Donald Trump. That’s the ultimate end game here.
And what’s interesting about the emails today, Lawrence, is that Felix Sater has had a relationship with Donald Trump going back to about 2002. He wasn’t just a broker for the Trump organization. He was a principal at Bay Rock.
They developed the Trump SoHo Hotel together. Felix Sater is a career criminal with organized crime ties, and the president maintained a relationship with him for over a decade and routinely said in public, I don’t know him well. I’m distancing myself from him.
And now with these emails, you see one, the president is not distant from Felix Sater and in fact Felix Sater is the point person on a deal the Trump organization is trying to do in Moscow. And it raises this quid pro quo issue that’s going to be really I think central to the Mueller investigation, going beyond just collusion in the election. It were there favors sought from the Kremlin in return for certain quid pro quos?
O’DONNELL: And Felix Sater kept an office in Trump Tower during some of this period where Donald Trump says, “Oh, I didn’t see him very much.” And Steve Harper, on this release of what is basically evidence in the case, could it be that some of the defense lawyers involved with some of the Trump associates want this information to become public as a way of communicating it to other possible defendants and other people involved in the case so that they know what evidence the other side already has on them?
HARPER: Perhaps. You know, it’s always hard to figure out the timing on these kinds of things. The one thing we know for sure is that they were under a deadline to produce this stuff, and these came out, as I understand it, at the very end of the trail, some 20,000 or so documents had already been produced. I would add two other data points to the ones that Tim suggested, which I think are exactly correct.
Remember there was that June 2016 meeting. Well, in July of 2016, according to an interview that Sater gave to Politico, he visited Trump Tower on what he said was confidential business, refusing to disclose what it was. And then in January, at the end of January 2017, Sater again — he’s sort of like the Forrest Gump of this administration. You know, Sater again then shows up, this time at the Lowe’s Regency Hotel in Manhattan with Michael Cohen and Artemenko, a pro-Putin Ukrainian with a so-called peace plan, the essence of which would cede Crimea to Russia and lift the sanctions.
It’s a stunning — that’s what I mean if you sort of draw back and start connecting all of the Sater dots, Tim is exactly right. This isn’t just about a couple of e-mails which frankly, to me, some read rather squirrely. It’s a larger story.
O’DONNELL: Just a note to audience. If you are struggling at any point connecting these dots, there is Steven Harper’s timeline. You can find it at BillMoyers.com. It’s the timeline of all of this with all of these characters that we are all relying on every day as we research these stories. Steven Harper and Tim O`Brien, thank you for joining us tonight.