Howard Lorber, Don Jr and the Steele Dossier

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According to ABC News, the ‘blocked numbers’ Donald J Trump Jr called about his meeting with the Russian FSB asset Natalia Veselnitskaya include Howard Lorber. Donald Trump is gloating about this on Twitter this morning:

The trouble Messers. Trump and Trump Jr have about this revelation is that Howard Lorber fits extremely neatly into what we know about Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russian state. A name not much floated in the mainstream press after 2016, but familiar to followers of the citizen journalism research group #TeamPatriot on Twitter, Lorber was a major contributor to the ‘Trump Victory’ Fund, and, more significantly, he was linked to Trump Moscow, and to Michael and Bryan Cohen.

The best mainstream reporting we have on Lorber is Josh Rogin’s piece of August 2016 for the Washington Post. Rogin made it clear that that Lorber was tied to Russia in general and Trump Tower Moscow in particular. Rogin’s piece also dwells on the fact that Lorber brought Trump to Russia as far back as 1996, and was an initial mover of the Trump Moscow project.

Businessman and investor Howard Lorber already donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory fund, has been named as one of Trump’s “best friends” and even appeared once on “The Apprentice.” He is also president and chief executive of the Vector Group, a holding company that has various business interests in Russia. In 1996, Lorber brought Trump to Moscow to look for opportunities for Trump to lend his famous name to development projects there….

At that time, Trump and Lorber were discussing Trump building a huge luxury residential tower in Moscow as part of a project owned by a subsidiary of Lorber’s firm. 

Michael Cohen’s guilty plea of lying to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow, and Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous admission that negotiations on the project had gone on ‘until November’ of 2016, make the Lorber name, in connection with Don Jr, extraordinarily significant.

The facts suggest that whatever Donald Trump Jr said to Mr. Lorber when he called him on this occasion, that the Russian meeting about offering dirt on Hillary Clinton’s campaign – part of the Russian government’s support for Trump, as Don Jr was told – the call was placed to Lorber by Don Jr because Lorber was going to help launder Russian financial help into the Trump campaign.

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When I broke the story that the FBI were investigating the Trump campaign on Nov 7th, 2016, I reported that the FISA was targeted on ‘two Russian banks’ but covered ‘any US person’ in relation to these specific activities. For that, one may read ‘packet data’, as what was being sent between the Trump Tower server and Alfa Bank involved US persons to do with the campaign. The warrants in some way also sought permission for the FBI to listen to “intelligence provided by friendly foreign agencies” on US persons, I reported.

Both the Guardian and the BBC subsequently said that my accounts of the FISA warrant, and the turning down of James Comey’s attempts in the summer to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter Page, Boris Epshteyn, and Paul Manafort, were correct. (The Guardian took two separate stories to do so; first they acknowledged that my account of the failed summer FISA applications on Trump campaign personnel was correct, and later, that my account of the granted FISA targeted on the two Russian banks was correct.)

The BBC’s Paul Wood reported in January 2017. His piece was much wider than my own. Here are some of the relevant passages:

At the same time a joint taskforce, which includes the CIA and the FBI, has been investigating allegations that the Russians may have sent money to Mr Trump’s organisation or his election campaign…. a joint intelligence and law enforcement taskforce has been looking at allegations that the Kremlin paid money to his campaign through his associates.

Howard Lorber donated to Trump Victory; Howard Lorber was instrumental in Trump Tower Moscow.

(This joint Taskforce was separately reported by McClatchyDC.)

Wood’s seminal piece continues:

The former MI6 agent’s report detailed alleged attempts by the Kremlin to offer Mr Trump lucrative “sweetheart deals” in Russia that would buy his loyalty.

Again, this sounds much like Trump Tower Moscow, started by Howard Lorber, about which Michael Cohen pled guilty about lying to Congress?

Last April, the CIA director was shown intelligence that worried him. It was – allegedly – a tape recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign.

As I have reported, this intelligence was supplied by Estonia’s world-class intelligence agency, Teabeamet. When the history of Trump Russia is eventually written, Teabeamet’s role will loom large.

Michael Cohen lied about Trump Tower Moscow, Howard Lorber started Trump Tower Moscow – surely real estate will be seen as a major vehicle by which Russia both laundered money to Trump and had its money laundered by Trump. Michael Cohen, according to the Wall Street Journal, purchased an apartment he had no real means to buy while the developers – including Lorber – held the note:

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer who is under federal investigation, bought a $6.7 million apartment in April in a new Manhattan skyscraper that is being developed by two of Mr. Trump’s longtime friends, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Located at 111 Murray Street in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, the project is being developed by a partnership of real estate companies Fisher Brothers, Witkoff and New Valley. New Valley is headed by Howard Lorber, a real estate developer and longtime friend of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen financed the purchase by securing a $3.5 million short-term mortgage from the developers, rather than getting financing from a bank, according to public records. While developers occasionally offer to finance purchases in their projects, such developer financing is unusual in Manhattan, real-estate attorneys say.

Howard Lorber defended Trump paying no taxes in 2016. He was also singled out by Trump in his victory speech in his New York primary in April 2016 – exactly the time that Estonian intelligence were passing the ‘money laundering’ tape to the director of the CIA.

But there is more. Howard Lorber, according to reporting, is also involved with Douglas Elliman. (Yes, I know, I enjoy their listings too). Lorber’s company Vector Group is the parent company of the famous real estate broker. Cohen’s younger brother, Bryan, was reported to have received $7m in payments after he started working for Elliman, and thereby Howard Lorber, from a Ukranian “agribusiness. “

It was Bryan Cohen’s father in law, Alex Oronov, who died after arranging Michael Cohen’s meeting with Ukranian pro-Putin politician Andrey Artemenko and Felix Sater. Oronov was shown to have an apartment in Trump Hollywood. Buzzfeed News’s Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier rubbished the reporting of Oronov’s death as suspicious:

Some commentators have drawn a link between Oronov and the president by noting that Oronov owns property in Trump Hollywood, a condo tower in South Florida. But the Trump Organization has no connection to sales in that development, which merely leases the Trump name.

Sadly the Trump Organization did not get the Leopold-Cormier memo, as it quite literally lists Trump Hollywood as among its ‘Real Estate Portfolio’, devoting an entire page to it on the organisation’s website.

Alex Oronov, father in law of Howard Lorber employee Bryan Cohen, lived here at some time before his untimely death.

If the Trump Tower meeting was ‘a bust’, as NSA veteran John Schindler has argued – the Russian side expected a commitment on sanctions, Don Jr and Paul Manafort expected immediate dirt on Hillary Clinton – it makes no difference to the Trump-Russia prosecutorial path. The attempt to collude and intent to collude is what counts. A call placed by Don Jr to Howard Lorber on a blocked number fits the idea that Russia was offering incentives, including money laundering via Trump Tower Moscow. It fits the description in the GRU’s indictment by Mueller of multiple failed attempts to deliver the DNC emails to Wikileaks starting in June 2016:

After failed attempts to transfer the stolen documents starting in late June 2016, on or about July 14, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, sent Organization 1 an email with an attachment titled “wk dnc link1.txt.gpg.”

The Lorber-Cohen-Trump Moscow connection is extremely strong, and it ties Donald Trump Jr directly to the events described in the Steele Dossier.

It was reported that Spanish intelligence had intercepted Alexander Torshin’s calls to the money launderer Alexander Romanov and ‘Mr Trump’s son’ “should be concerned”. While most reporting concentrated on the NRA donor and Russian agent Maria Butina’s mentor Mr. Torshin, it is worth noting what Romanov was convicted of. His money laundering was done through property purchases – exactly what Mr. Lorber specializes in.

If nothing of substance happened at the opening meeting, but Donald J Trump Jr believed he was going to get “dirt on Clinton” and Russia believed they were going to get “sanctions relief”, Don Jr’s call to Lorber may be seen as something suggested by those present to get the ball rolling in terms of Russian money to the campaign. We will have another post shortly on the Mueller Mystery Case and what it means to Don Jr.

Let’s finish by noting that Donald Trump threw his own son under the bus on Twitter. Howard Lorber is first and foremost Trump Sr’s friend, but his dad described Lorber only in terms of knowing Junior. Patribotics own earlier reporting was not that anybody called Donald Trump, but that Donald Trump directly called into a Trump Tower meeting with Russians – whether it was this meeting or another, sources did not specify.

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