Was the Trump Organisation targeting Russian investors? You betcha, says @realDonaldTrump’s long-time business partner @felixsater. https://t.co/5LbACSeml5 Part one of #Trump/Russia starts tonight on #4Corners pic.twitter.com/xct57WDgej— 4corners (@4corners) June 4, 2018
There will be consequences.
The $1Bn per annum Australian taxpayer funded ABC going after a sitting US president won't go unnoticed.
Here's the transcript of last night's Part One, two more to come.
SARAH FERGUSON, PRESENTER: Hello and Welcome to Four Corners.
Tonight, we begin our special 3-part investigation into the story of the century - the election of US President Donald Trump and his ties to Russia.
Since his inauguration, President Trump has been caught up in a rolling series of allegations.
More than a year ago special prosecutor Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and whether Trump or his campaign officials helped them.
Also under investigation are Trump's business links with Russia, testing allegations that his deal-making has exposed him to compromise.
Over the next few weeks you will meet the characters at the centre of this extraordinary saga.
We begin by following the spies and the money trail...
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: It starts with a road trip across America in 2014.
Before the US Presidential campaign was underway, before Donald Trump was a serious candidate, two Russian spies were criss-crossing the country, gathering intelligence on the US political system, looking for and finding vulnerabilities.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, US DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Two of the defendants allegedly travelled to the United States in 2014 to collect intelligence for their American influence operations.
JAMES CLAPPER, US DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2010-2017: Initially, and traditionally, these kinds of operations are very innocent in their overt behaviour and appearance.
But that was just kind of foundation building.
Establish a presence, get online, and again, for a long time it would appear to be innocent. But it turns out after time that they weren't.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: The spies were the forward team from the infamous Internet Research Agency in Saint Petersburg the front-line organisation in Vladimir Putin's asymmetrical war against US democracy.
JAMES CLAPPER, US DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2010-2017: For me, I've seen a lot of bad stuff in 50 years in Intelligence, but it's very, very disturbing, just viscerally disturbing that an adversary country was aggressive, so aggressively meddling in our political process.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: What was different when you say viscerally disturbing? What was different?
JAMES CLAPPER, US DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2010-2017: I came to understand the magnitude and the aggressiveness and the dimensions of this, it was viscerally, you know, made me ill.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: It made you ill?
JAMES CLAPPER, US DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2010-2017: Yeah.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Did you share that with your colleagues?
JAMES CLAPPER, US DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2010-2017: Yes. I think it affected all of us that way.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: The spies left America undetected the intelligence they gathered would fuel the cyber war in the coming Presidential election.
SERGEY ALEKSASHENKO, FORMER DEPUTY CHAIRMAN, CENTRAL BANK OF RUSSIA: The idea, underlying idea of Mr Putin was to disturb the situation as much as possible.
To create different tensions, points of tensions, points of social discontent, of political fighting. So, to create turbulence in the stable society.
To make America weak.
The idea of Donald Trump to make America great again, the idea of Vladimir Putin to make American institutions weaker.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Do you have any doubt at all about Putin's authorship of the campaign against America?
JAMES CLAPPER, US DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2010-2017: I do not.
You have to remember, Putin's personal history.
He's a KGB officer.
And so, I think there's an innate resentment and aversion to the United States and what we stand for and our system.
ANNOUNCER, JUNE 16 2015: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, Ivanka Trump.
IVANKA TRUMP, JUNE 16 2015: Welcome everybody. Today I have the honour of introducing a man who needs no introduction.
His legend has been built and his accomplishments are too many to name, that man is my father.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: By the time Donald Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, Putin's plans to interfere with the US election were well underway.
DONALD TRUMP, JUNE 16 2015: Wow, woah, that is some group of people, thousands.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Even the best-informed spy could not have anticipated Donald Trump's success.
But if you planned to disrupt US politics, here was the perfect gift.
DONALD TRUMP, JUNE 16 2015: Well, you need somebody, because politicians are all talk, no action.
JAMES CLAPPER, US DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2010-2017: The Russians are famous for interfering in elections, theirs and other peoples.
When candidate Trump became very viable, particularly when he became the Republican nominee they were attracted to him because they thought he would be much better for them.
Businessman, negotiator, deal maker, someone who had been exposed to Russia.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Would Russian intelligence look at Trump's business career as a vulnerability to exploit?
JAMES CLAPPER, US DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2010-2017: Absolutely. That's kind of standard tradecraft.
Goes back to the Soviet era.
The stock and trade of Russian tradecraft is kompromat, compromising material of some sort whether real or contrived.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: I have arrived in Washington to find it in the grip of a sort of madness. A special prosecutor is investigating whether the US president colluded with a foreign power.
Whatever else emerges from that extraordinary investigation, Donald Trump's enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin and his refusal to condemn Russia's interference in the election are already on the record.
The question that follows is why?
Almost everything about Donald Trump is eventually about money, so is the answer to his bizarre attitude towards Putin lying in his business dealings?
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: For decades Trump and his family had made numerous attempts to launch the Trump brand in Russia.
DONALD TRUMP JUNIOR: I've spent quite a bit of time in Moscow looking at deals.
I've looked at everything from resort, to a hotel.
DONALD TRUMP: Russia wanted it, Moscow wanted it.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: He had always bragged about getting things done in Russia.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a relationship with Vladimir Putin?
DONALD TRUMP: I do have a relationship and I can tell you that he's very interested in what we're doing here today.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: He bragged on a number of occasions of being close to Putin when he wasn't, of having access to Putin when he didn't.
I suspect during most of the time, people in the Kremlin were filling up small glasses of vodka, clinking them with each other and laughing at Donald Trump's expense because I think they saw him as something of a clown.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Tim O Brien has been covering Donald Trump since the late 80's - including in his 2005 book Trump Nation.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: I spent a lot of time with him. We travelled around the country on his jet. I was in all of his homes with him.
He and Melania and I went to Palm Beach.
When the book came out, he didn't cotton to it.
He didn't feel very good about it and he ultimately sued me for defamation.
I think it's the biggest libel lawsuit in US history.
He sued me for five billion dollars.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Trump lost.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: It was injudicious because he was suing me for financial portions of the book, which in the litigation opened him up to discovery around his finances and his banking records and his business history.
So we got his tax returns, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Is he truthful?
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: No, he's a serial liar.
Donald Trump is almost a congenital liar.
He can't help himself in part because he's always creating his own reality.
He wants the world to believe he is a certain person, and he'll tell any fable or make up any fact to get there.
DONALD TRUMP: My name is Donald trump and I am the largest real estate developer in New York.
I own buildings all over the place, model agencies, the Miss Universe pageant, jet liners, golf courses, casinos and private resorts like Mar-a-Lago.
ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I saw Trump becoming a pop culture phenomenon, through just sheer promotion, and the willing to put his name on anything that didn't move.
Ah and in a relentless line of promotion about his products ah he became the best-known billionaire on the place ah planet of the Earth.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Donald Trump's long-time associate and sometime advisor Roger Stone says Trump's capacity for self-promotion made him irresistible to many.
ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: He lived a flashy New York you know my way lifestyle and I think people many people who are aspiring saw not as gaudy or garish but as, yeah!
Like if I was wealthy that's how I'd want to live, the planes, the the Spanish style mansion, the skyscraper with the extraordinary views of Manhattan, the beautiful wife.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: But Trump's business career has known extravagant success and failure.
In the early 1990's his business empire came close to collapse.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: He bought an airline.
He bought a major hotel.
He bought a football team.
He expanded his casinos beyond both his ability and the size of the market he was in.
He got overly leveraged on various important real estate properties he was involved with.
Suddenly the piper came calling.
NEWSREADER: Remember the 80s, the yuppies, the buyouts and the junk-bonds and especially the Donald?
The man who was the darling of the 80s, is seen in the 90s as a man in trouble and he knows it.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: Trump found himself on the financial precipice.
He had guaranteed personally almost 900 million dollars in loans.
He owed some of the biggest banks in the US about three point six billion dollars and he couldn't pay back any of it.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Here in New York, Trump's Town, is where you find the people who have jousted with him for decades and gotten to know the darker side of his deal making.
Attorney Ken McCallion fought Trump for underpaying contractors on the iconic Trump Tower - but his first experience with him was in the 1970s.
KEN MCCALLION, ATTORNEY: I knew the Trump organisation back when I was a prosecutor.
His attorney was Roy Cohn.
Roy Cohn went on to become basically a mob lawyer, a very good one, but still an organised crime lawyer in New York.
He basically became a mentor for Donald Trump.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: A series of bankruptcies made Donald Trump a very unsafe bet.
KEN MCCALLION, ATTORNEY: When he had about four bankruptcies, particularly the New Jersey casinos, a lot of the traditional sources of cash or investment moneys, mainly US banks didn't want anything to do with the Trump organization with Trump at that point.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Not for the first time in his chequered career Trump got lucky - a new source of revenue was flowing into the international real estate market from Russia.
DIANA PILIPENKO, FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT, AMERICAN PROGRESS CENTRE: After the collapse of the Soviet Union, billions of dollars left Russia.
We see this incredible capital flight happening at this time and money is going into, across the globe, but really, a lot of it goes into international capitals, into real estate.
KEN MCCALLION, ATTORNEY: All the Trump projects were largely financed, predominately financed well over 50% with Russian and former Soviet Union financial and money cash sources.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: Donald Trump junior famously said most of the family's assets are coming from Russia, I think what he's talking about are condominium sales.
He's talking about units in these various Trump Properties that change hands and it's important to remember that Hong Kong, London and New York all in the real estate communities are the centre of a lot of this loose money.
Some of it's dirty, undoubtedly. Some of it's being laundered undoubtedly.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Do we know whether any of that laundered money ended up in Trump Properties?
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: Well, I think the biggest example of this and I think it's one of the most troubling is a project that used to be known as the Trump Soho, in lower Manhattan that is alleged in court papers to have been a conduit for money being laundered from Eastern Europe and through people who had organised crime backgrounds and people that Trump himself knew to have organised crime backgrounds.
I know he knew because we asked him about it in the deposition in our litigation.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Trump used his starring role in the Apprentice to spruik the 2006 launch of Trump Soho.
DONALD TRUMP: Located in the centre of Manhattan's chic artist enclave, the Trump international hotel and tower in SoHo is the site of my latest development.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: The first thing you need to know about Trump Soho is that it isn't in the "chic artists' enclave" of Soho, it's here in Hudson Square opposite the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, one of the most congested roadways out of New York.
The project was a failure that ended in receivership.
Now Trump's finances are usually obscured in layers of secrecy, but this troubled development gives us get a closer look at how the president did business.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: Trump Soho is a dangerous point for the President because there is so much public information available about his business partners, about where the money came from, and about the nature of the project that raised very serious questions about the President's judgement, his ethics, the kind of people he went into business with.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: One of Trump's principal partners in the Soho project was Felix Sater.
Trump and Sater have a long history of business partnerships which continued well into the Presidential campaign.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: Felix Sater is a career criminal born in the former Soviet Union. He moves to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn with his family.
He ultimately becomes a world class scammer and assault artist.
He goes to jail after sticking a broken Margarita glass into the face of someone in a bar with whom he had a disagreement.
He gets out of jail and he ends up in a what we would call in the United States a boiler room operation. It's an investing scam that targets vulnerable or ignorant people.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: The end of a long drive in the leafy suburbs of Long Island - seems a world away from Manhattan - it's home to Trump's notorious partner - Felix Sater.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: What's it like to be caught up, in the way that you are, in the story of the century?
FELIX SATER: It feels stranger than anything you can ever imagine. It's just wild. You wake up in the morning, you look in the mirror and say, "Wow, is this really happening?"
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Sater and his relationship with Trump are central to the allegations of Russian money laundering in Trump real estate.
FELIX SATER: The narrative that's being pushed around right now that real estate is a way to launder money, uh, possibly, but so is art, yachts, planes, cars.
Will we shut down all this commerce because certain people who do have dirty money do launder it, do sometimes use those avenues to launder them?
We try to sell a product. We try to find our customer, and if at that moment the Russians are good customers, then they're good customers.
But this whole conversation about Russia, Russia, Russia Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, if you really just peel it back and look at it, were we trying to sell to Russians?
Were we trying to sell to Brazilians?
Were we trying to sell to people in El Salvador?
You know why?
They don't have as much money.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Trump's partner rejects the label "career criminal."
FELIX SATER: I was involved in a Wall Street Stock Fraud.
I got into a bar fight, lost my license uh, didn't have any means of supporting myself, my young child, my wife or paying for the attorneys trying to fight the case and I unfortunately made the wrong choice.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: When you ask people 'who's Felix Sater' they'll say mob background uh, glassed a guy with a Margarita um got involved in a stock fraud. That's who he is.
FELIX SATER: Well um, I was 25 years old and I'm 52 years old right now.
I don't understand how somebody could characterise a 52-year-old man by what a 25-year-old kid did.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: That kid grew up here, when his family fled the Soviet Union in the 70s. The southern end of Brooklyn is home to so many Russian emigres, its known as Little Odessa.
The neighbourhood is also famous for its concentration of Mafia families.
FELIX SATER: Growing up in Brooklyn there was, there were a lot of people who were involved.
Mob guys and not mob guys, so you sort of knew who they were and it was the epicentre of, you know we're talking about Brighton Beach, Brooklyn which was sort of a main place where a lot of them are.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: He might have grown up here amongst the Mafia and the Russian mob but after his run-ins with the law, he secretly turned against the gangsters.
Investigations in the American media recently revealed that Sater led an extraordinary double life for two decades as an asset for US intelligence and law enforcement.
JOURNALIST: I am trying to tick through in my head, your potential enemies - Al Qaeda, Cosa Nostra, Russian mob, Russian criminals, North Koreans.
FELIX SATER: In 20 years I think I've done a variety of many, many different things with the US government both with DIA, CIA, FBI, Secret Service.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: If like me you find this plot twist hard to believe....
FELIX SATER: He's a Russian gangster.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: But he is not the Russian gangster?
FELIX SATER: No, no. Not even close.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Don't just take our word for it, his role as a government asset was described by President Obama's Attorney General Loretta Lynch like this -
Felix Sater provided information crucial to National Security and the conviction of over 20 individuals - including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra.
FELIX SATER: I assisted them in a significant way in the war against crime in the United States. especially organised crime.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Against which crime families?
FELIX SATER: All.
SARAH FERGUSION, REPORTER: The full extent of his work for government agencies remains secret but court documents unsealed this year confirm its scope stating:
(he) relayed specific detailed information to several intelligence agencies, passed on specific information about key leaders in Al Qaeda and affiliated groups including information that could help the United States locate those individuals.
In his own account one his first missions was tracking down missing weapons.
FELIX SATER: There was a gigantic fear that Al Qaeda was trying to buy these Stinger missiles and with them they could take out any commercial or military or US government plane.
I started identifying Stinger missiles on the market. And then through that that was my relationship with the CIA and they started asking for information about Bin Laden and his whereabouts.
SARAH FERGUSION, REPORTER: At that time, we are talking about the most sought-after information in the world, that is the whereabouts of Bin Laden. How do you make a contribution to that?
FELIX SATER: Not only did I contribute to finding his location, I delivered his satellite phone numbers.
Which we used to then listen in on him and subsequently President Bill Clinton used the coordinates off those satellite phone numbers to hone in and authorise the bombing of his camps in I believe it was 98.
For the most part I couldn't tell anybody and it was very sensitive work so for the most part I kept it to myself and it was an interesting life I was literally building Trump Towers by day and hunting Bin Laden by night.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Sater is cautious about how much of this remarkable saga he shared with his business partner, but Donald Trump did reveal some knowledge of it, in a video deposition.
DONALD TRUMP: I don't think he was connected to the Mafia. He got into a barroom fight and in fact he was supposedly very close to the government of the United States as a witness of something.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: He did know that you were working for the government because he mentioned it in one of his depositions, so he knew that much about you?
FELIX SATER: He may have, I'm sorry I don't remember the exact details.
But he may have, I may have, generally said something but I was never specific on anything that I did.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Felix Sater argues that in some ways this was, it's more like he was expiating for, expiation for his sins and that he was a reformed man from that point. Do you buy that?
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: I think Felix would say anything he needs to in the moment to spin the person he's talking to and make him seem more important than he really is.
In that regard, he's Donald Trump's twin.
FELIX SATER: The government seems to think that I've paid my debt. The judges seem to think that I've paid my debt.
The Justice Department seems to think that I've paid my debt - they seem to think that I've paid more than my debt, that I've gone above and over.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Felix Sater first ventured into the New York real estate business in 2000, he joined a property development company called Bayrock and set up offices in Trump Tower - two floors below Donald Trump.
FELIX SATER: Once we were there I decided to stop and knock on his door and tell him that we should start doing business together.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: And how did he respond?
FELIX SATER: He laughed because I walked in and told him I'm going to be the biggest developer in NYC and you should get in early now before it's too late and he laughed and introduced me to some other members of his staff.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: Felix and his other partners at Bayrock, end up going out to the town with Donald Trump Junior and Ivanka. Felix ends up escorting Donald Trump Junior and Ivanka around Moscow as the Trumps look for potential deals there.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Why Moscow? What is the appeal of Moscow?
FELIX SATER: Like any other capital. Wealthy place with people who can afford to buy units at a very good price and we could make money and have a beautiful building.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Sater's timing was good.
He arrived with Russian connections exactly when Donald Trump was targeting Russian customers for his US real estate ventures.
KEN MCCALLION, ATTORNEY: They had very close Russian Connections through Sater, through Sater's partners in Bayrock.
And it not only a lot of the Russian...when I say Russian, former Soviet Union money went not only in buying some apartments and units in Trump Soho, but also went to the directly into the organization itself.
DIANA PILIPENKO, FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT, AMERICAN PROGRESS CENTRE: We know with Trump Soho, they marketed directly to the Russian consumers, consumers from the post-soviet states who had a lot of cash on hand.
They provided a means to circumvent traditional banks, because these are the consumers who don't need mortgages, who don't need to go through bank checks.
They show up with a lot of cash, millions of dollars and they purchase the unit.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: There was a very sophisticated program with marketing to Russians. Obviously, there's a lot of money in the -
FELIX SATER: Not true. Not true.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Brochures are pretty posh.
FELIX SATER: They're very posh, but we were just as sophisticated about marketing for South America.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: They end up pursuing three deals together. A real estate project in Phoenix that fails. A project in Florida that fails.
Then ultimately the Trump Soho in Manhattan, which opens the great fanfare but also ultimately fails.
Why did Bayrock keep having so much money pour into it when all the projects it was touching were failing?
There's sort of a classic warning signal when, when law reinforcement investigators are looking at a business that is cash rich but the businesses themselves keep failing as to whether or not that business is trying to turn itself into a washing machine for dirty money.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Specific allegations against Bayrock and the Trump Soho project were made by a former executive in the company, Sater and Bayrock's founder, a Soviet born Kazak named Tevkif Arif, were both sued.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: Felix Sater's own partner, a man named Jody Kriss, whom I've interviewed, who also sued Sater has alleged in court filings that in fact that's what Bayrock was.
It was a pure money laundering operation that Felix and his other partners in the business were skimming money.
It's alleged in court papers that a big chunk of the money came in from Kazakhstan, former Soviet Union from a chromium plant that was being run by the brother of one of the principles at Bayrock.
That essentially money was getting stripped out of the chromium plant in Kazakhstan and whoosh flown into these failing projects in the United States.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: And whoosh, does Donald Trump know about it?
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: I think those are some of the questions that Bob Mueller is going to ask Donald Trump about it. It's clear that this is now part of Mueller's investigation.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: The allegations made by Jody Kriss in relation to the use of laundered money in Bayrock, is there any justification and truth in that?
FELIX SATER: Um, no, that was an extortion and it was an eight-year legal extortion using stolen documents, which had nothing to do with money laundering whatsoever. All of the cases were thrown out of court, but, uh, as you know, the US legal system is interesting, and you could sue anybody for anything, and it was a straight up extortion.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: am I right in saying it was settled in the end?
FELIX SATER: Um, unfortunately, yes.
Not by me, but I had to settle, but it wasn't my choice.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: As Trump Soho was preparing to launch, the New York Times broke the story of Sater's criminal past, the bar-room violence and the mafia backed stock fraud.
Sater had become an embarrassment to Donald Trump.
REPORTER: Why didn't you go to Felix Sater and say your connected with the Mafia, your fired?
DONALD TRUMP: Well first of all we were not the developer there. That was a licensing deal.
REPORTER: But your name is on it, Mr Trump.
Excuse me but I don't know, you are telling me things I don't even know about, about -
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Sater had to leave Bayrock.
But Trump's sensitivity to questions about him never went away including this encounter with the BBC.
REPORTER: But for a year you stayed in bed with Felix Sater and he was connected with the Mafia
DONALD TRUMP: Again John, maybe you're thick but when you have a signed contract you can't just break it. And by the way John, I hate to do this but I do have that big group of people waiting so I have to -
REPORTER: Hold on, one last question please sir
DONALD TRUMP: I have to leave.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: After 2 years in Moscow, Sater was back at Trump Tower.
This time working directly for Donald Trump, with an office and a Trump organization business card.
FELIX SATER: I stepped up to say hello to Mr. Trump and he asked me to come onboard and, uh, made me his senior advisor.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Despite their renewed partnership Donald Trump repeatedly said he barely knew him.
In 2013, investors who'd lost money in Trump's Florida project took Trump to court.
Their lawyers wanted to know about his relationship with Felix Sater.
DONALD TRUMP: I do.
LAWYER: How many times have you conversed with Mr Sater?
DONALD TRUMP: Over the years?
LAWYER: Over the years.
DONALD TRUMP: Not many if he was sitting in the room right now I really wouldn't know what he looked like.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Why does Donald Trump say at certain points in his career that he doesn't know you when he does?
FELIX SATER: You should ask him.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Sure, but there are certain times when you've gone a little bit further, which is to acknowledge that it has been somewhat painful for you, that it has been painful for you, for him to do that.
FELIX SATER: Yes.
SARAH FERGUSON: So does it cause you discomfort?
FELIX SATER: Well it's uncomfortable. I agree with you.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: I don't think Donald Trump wants to admit what he actually knows about Felix Sater, which is that Felix Sater had a mob background and a troubled legal history because it then raises the question of why Donald Trump as a business person would get into bed with partners like that.
I think the answer to why he does is that if you've got a big enough bag of cash and you plant it on Donald Trump's desk, he'll do business with you, no questions asked.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Despite the maestro's aggressive spruiking Trump Soho was a financial disaster - it was foreclosed on in 2014.
The Trump name was recently removed from the building's facade.
But the facade around the Trump's financing of the deal seems destined for the scrutiny of a Grand Jury.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: It's clear that this is now part of Mueller's investigation.
I think the reason behind that is, there's a clear issue as to whether or not Donald Trump had financial quid pro quo's where in his business past he did favours or had relationships for people that were tied into foreign powers who might benefit from Trump making policy changes like for example lifting economic sanctions once he became president.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: The failure of Trump Soho and the exposure of Felix Sater's past criminal activities were not enough for Trump to sever his connections.
FELIX SATER: Like Forest Gump, Felix Sater keeps popping up in all these strange ways in different places of Trumplandia including until very recently.
REPORTER: Mr Cohen why do you think they raided your office and hotel room? Have you talked to Mr Trump.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen is a pivotal player in Trumpland.
Michael Cohen and Felix Sater are childhood friends.
FELIX SATER: He was a teenager, you know, he was a good guy, and I don't know, he was like everyone of my other friends.
We were all pretty, uh, um, aggressive and ambitious.
ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Cohen is not the most not the smoothest political operator you've ever met and he has a fondness for organised crime metaphors and sounding like a thug and he likes to threaten people.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: In 2015, when Donald Trump was a candidate for president.
Trump, Sater and Cohen were working together on a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
DONALD TRUMP, AUGUST 29 2015: Putin hates us, he hates Obama.
He doesn't hate us, I think he'd like me.
I'd get along great with him I think, if you want to know the truth.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, AUTHOR 'RUSSIAN ROULETTE': This is October of 2015.
The debates are beginning, it's the run up to the primary.
Everybody has been baffled at this point, or many people in the press have been baffled by why Donald Trump keeps saying nice things about Vladimir Putin.
He's a repressive dictator.
What is this strange infatuation that Trump has for Putin?
Nobody could figure it out, but it is worth knowing which nobody did at the time that Trump was trying to do a business deal in Russia, and you needed Putin's approval.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: So how enthusiastic was Donald Trump about the project?
FELIX SATER: You'll have to ask Donald Trump because I didn't speak to him about it directly.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: But you must've got a, you must've got a read from Michael Cohen, otherwise you wouldn't, you wouldn't put your reputation on the line to start picking up the phone and making the calls if you didn't think you had his buy-in?
FELIX SATER: Oh, I knew I had the buy-in. I spoke to Michael, he said, "Let's go."
That was it.
That's all it takes.
TIM O'BRIEN, BLOOMBERG: We do know that Trump as a candidate signed a letter of intent on the Moscow project indicating he had knowledge that it was something that was going to be done in Moscow.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Sater and Cohen's emails about the Moscow proposal are freighted with excitement.
FELIX SATER (EMAIL): Dear Michael, please have Mr. Trump counter-sign, signed and sent back.
Let's make this happen and build a Trump Moscow.
And possibly fix relations between the two countries. That should be Putin's message as well. Sincerely, Felix Sater.
Trump's previous attempts to build in Moscow had failed.
FELIX SATER: Because of the campaign obviously he sas very well-known worldwide and I thought that that would put it over the over the top.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: In November Sater emailed Cohen -
FELIX SATER (EMAIL): Michael...Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it.
I will get all of Putin's team to buy in on this.
FELIX SATER: I needed support and approval in Russia by the mayor as well as all the way up to Vladimir Putin.
Um, so there was a, um, important component of needing to get his buy-in to get this building built, and finance because it had to be financed by local Russian banks.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Sater's most audacious move was to propose a joint event in Moscow with Putin and Trump during the campaign.
FELIX SATER: Well, we were hoping that he would go for the ribbon cutting of the project and we would try to get both him and Putin on stage for the ribbon cutting, which, you know, we hoped that, yes, they would go off and start negotiating peace in our time.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: In July 2016 the most unlikely presidential candidate secured the Republican nomination.
As his links with Russia became a controversial topic of the campaign, the prospect of a business deal with Putin evaporated.
DONALD TRUMP JULY 27 2016: But zero. I will tell you right now, zero. I have nothing to do with Russia.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Questions about collusion with Russia have swirled around Trump ever since.
His long winter of discontent continued through spring with the steady drip of allegations and a widening investigation by the special prosecutor into the business affairs of the Trump organization.
Among the dozens of questions Mueller now wants to put to the President: what dealings did he have about the Moscow project during the campaign?
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Have you spoken to special prosecutor Robert Mueller?
FELIX SATER: No comment.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Do you believe that Trump or his associates colluded with the Russians?
FELIX SATER: Absolutely not.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Why are you so sure?
FELIX SATER: Cause I don't believe that, uh, Donald Trump would collude with a foreign power to the detriment of ours.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Do you think that Mr Trump is vulnerable in terms of his business history and Mueller's investigation?
ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: as Alan Dershowitz has written, the average American commits three felonies and maybe five felonies a day inadvertently.
Ah the awesome power of an unbridled Federal Prosecutor, who doesn't have to just look at Russian collusion but can look at every molecule of your being, your business, your, ah it's, it's, it's chilling.
The Russian collusion delusion is the greatest political dirty trick of all.
It's a hoax.
It's a fairy-tale.
SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: Next week on Trump-Russia, secrets, spies useful idiots and the case for collusion.
JAMES CLAPPER, US DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2010-2017: They clearly were interested in, the Russians were, I think in penetrating the Trump campaign.
SIMONA MANGIANTE, WIFE OF GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: I really heard a different person.
It was not George anymore, he was scared to death.
DAN HOFFMAN, FORMER CIA STATION CHIEF MOSCOW: I think Vladimir Putin realised is he could inject this virus into our political system and set us fighting against each other.
CARTER PAGE, FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: It's similar to the Salem witch trials many centuries ago. In every way it's a witch hunt.