Elections

Media Fights To Reveal Details Of Criminal Past Of Former Trump Business Partner

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A federal judge is urging officials to not release records related to how a former business partner of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was connected to organized crime, according to reports Monday.

Felix Sater pleaded guilty to a financial fraud scheme in 1998 before going to work for Trump in 2010. His court records were sealed after cooperating with investigators, but now the press wants access. U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan has given the Department of Justice until April 18 to decide whether to release the files, at which point he will make his own determination.

“It seems to me that the government has a unique interest in keeping documents that relate to cooperation agreements under seal,” Cogan wrote in his order, which was obtained by The Associated Press. “The government should speak and assert its position as to whether the public’s right to access each document in the record is outweighed by a compelling need for secrecy.”

The Associated Press renewed interest in the case in December while also asking for records in a related contempt case. Attorneys Frederick Oberlander and Richard Lerner began leaking information related to the fraud case when Sater was still working for Trump. The attorneys were charged with contempt and Cogan ordered the records remain sealed.

Sater moved to the U.S. from Soviet Russia early in his childhood. He became a successful stock broker but eventually ran afoul of the law due to connections to organized crime, according to ABC News. Along the way he was also reportedly buying antiaircraft missiles on the black market for the Central Intelligence Agency, The New York Times reported in 2007.

His records are difficult to unseal because he played such a crucial role in helping federal prosecutors investigate organized crime. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch argued February 2015 that his involvement was a matter of national security, in documents obtained by National Review. Lynch formerly worked as the top prosecutor in Cogan’s district.

“Mr. Sater shares and supports the court’s frustration and outrage as to why these rogue lawyers have not yet been criminally prosecuted,” Wolf said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Potentially saved tens of thousands, if not millions, of our citizens’ lives.”

Sater now works as a real estate developer in New York City. Trump has been the front-runner for the Republican primary throughout most of the election. The Trump campaign, Cogan and Sater did not respond to request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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