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Who is Felix Sater and what's his role in Michael Cohen's plea deal?

Michael Cohen pleads guilty to lying to Congress

Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen's second guilty plea, filed Thursday morning in New York, contains an admission that he lied to Congress about work he did on the development of a Trump Tower in Russia. And it also mentions that he had some help from someone identified in the special counsel's criminal information only as "Individual 2." The text of the information points to a man named Felix Sater.   

"'I primarily communicated with the Moscow-based development company...through a U.S. citizen third-party intermediary, [Individual 2],'" the information reads, quoting a letter written by Cohen to lawmakers about the project.  

Cohen's letter, written in August 2017 to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, says, "I primarily communicated with the Moscow-based development company...through a U.S. citizen third-party intermediary, Mr. Felix Sater."

The Moscow-born Sater was the managing director of the Bayrock Group, a real estate conglomerate, while the Trump SoHo building in Manhattan was being built. Bayrock was involved with the construction of the building. Sater also has a more colorful past. He was also an FBI informant in the late 1990s after pleading guilty to a $40 million stock fraud scheme put together by the Russian mafia. That was a few years after Sater got into a bar fight and stabbed a man in the face with a broken margarita glass. He went to prison for a year.

It was Sater who suggested to Cohen he should contact Russian officials about developing a building in Russia. At one point in 2015, Sater told Cohen, "Our boy (Mr. Trump) can become president of the USA and we can engineer it." He boasted, "I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process" and said, "I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected."

What does Cohen's plea mean for Trump?

Cohen said in his letter he worked on the project "within my capacity as Executive Vice President and Special Counsel to the Trump Organization," and he wrote, "Mr. Sater constantly asked me to travel to Moscow as part of his efforts to push forward the discussion of the proposal."

"Despite overtures by Mr. Sater, I never considered asking Mr. Trump to travel to Russia in connection with this proposal. I told Mr. Sater that Mr. Trump would not travel to Russia unless there was a definitive agreement in place," Cohen wrote.

For his part, the president has repeatedly claimed he has little memory of Sater. 

Although Cohen initially told Congress he had stopped working on development of the project in January 2016, he and Sater were communicating about the deal until June 2016, after Mr. Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee for president. Cohen and Sater had also discussed traveling to Russia multiple times, according to the plea deal.

Cohen agreed to attend a meeting coordinated by Sater with an unnamed Russian official in June 2016, which would potentially involve meeting the Russian prime minister or president. However, "on or about June 14, 2016, Cohen met Individual 2 in the lobby of the Company's headquarters to inform Individual 2 he would not be traveling at that time."