Jefferson Morley, AlterNet
23 APR 2017 AT 06:35 ET
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks as he stands surrounded by (L-R) his daughter Ivanka, his son Eric, Eric Trump's wife Lara Yunaska and his wife Melania (R), during a campaign victory party after rival candidate Senator Ted Cruz dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 3, 2016.
The words were positively polite, at least for a man convicted of assault and racketeering. It was the implied target of his blackmail threat that was unusual: the president of the United States.
The threat came from Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who partnered with Donald Trump in launching the Trump Soho, a hotel-condominium project in New York City. The building was funded by Sater’s boss, Tevfik Arif, a mogul from Kazakhstan. In 2007, Trump’s children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka attended the unveiling ceremony for the 46-story luxury tower in Manhattan.
Trump, Arif and Sater were photographed standing next to one another at that event. Since then, the three men have parted ways in a haze of recriminations, lawsuits and amnesia.
Sater’s attorney came right to the point in a February 2 letter to Arif’s attorney about $3.5 million in disputed legal fees, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
“Clearly, if this matter between Mr. Sater and Mr. Arif escalates to public litigation, the media spotlight will be negatively cast on Mr. Arif and his past relationship with President Trump and the Republic of Kazakhstan,” the attorney wrote.
In the correspondence reviewed by the Journal, Sater warned he might file another lawsuit in which he would allege wrongdoing in Arif’s dealings in the post-Soviet metals business in Kazakhstan. “The headline will be, ‘The Kazakh Gangster and President Trump,’” Sater warned.