Felix Sater, a twice-convicted felon and former senior business advisor to Donald Trump, was granted access to visit the Obama White House in 2010 as part of a delegation of Hasidic Jews.
Sater’s name appears on the list of 100 White House visitors associated with American Friends of Lubavitch, which represents the international Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Washington.
The Obama administration released logs of White House visitors, a practice that the Trump administration has discontinued.
Sater has come under scrutiny for his relationship to Donald Trump. Sater worked for Bayrock, a development firm with offices in Trump Tower that partnered to build Trump SoHo. For six months in 2010, Sater went to work for Trump directly, carrying a Trump Organization business card that described him as a “senior advisor to Donald Trump.”
According to the White House visitor log, Sater’s 100-member delegation visited the Old Executive Office Building in the White House complex on June 17th. The group gathered in the South Court Auditorium where Sater and the rest of the delegation were addressed by Vice President Joe Biden.
Sater’s attorney, Robert S. Wolf, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The decision by the Secret Service to grant Sater access to the White House grounds is noteworthy. Every visitor to the White House Complex undergoes a comprehensive security check, and Sater’s criminal past would surely have raised red flags.
In 1993, Sater was convicted of felony assault and sentenced to prison for stabbing a commodities broker in the face with the broken stem of a margarita glass. In 1998, Sater pleaded guilty to racketeering for his role in a corrupt stock brokerage that ran “pump-and-dump” schemes with help from the Mafia.
Other ex-convicts have reported that they were denied access to the Obama White House. Even those who received a formal invitation were handed pink badges that read “Needs Escort” and were not allowed to move freely around the White House grounds. (See Glenn E. Martin’s open letter to President Obama.)
The White House visit may have been another favor the federal government did for Sater. Over the previous decade, he had become a prized government informant. Sater helped the FBI thwart attempts by the Mafia to muscle in on Wall Street and also aided in the hunt for terrorists overseas. As a result prosecutors took the highly unusual step of requesting that Sater’s entire federal racketeering case was sealed.
Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, whose oversaw Sater’s case in her previous role as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, told Congress that he provided valuable and sensitive information. Sater’s cooperation led to the conviction of 20 individuals, including members of the Mafia. In addition, Lynch said, Sater provided information “crucial to the national security.”
The White House visitor log shows Sater’s appointment was made June 15th, two days before his visit.
The White House visit was the highlight of the annual “Living Legacy” conference organized by American Friends of Lubavitch. The conference is held to mark the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the former leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement and one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th century.
Sater belongs to the Port Washington Chabad house and told Politico that he is on the board of Chabad organizations in the U.S. and abroad, though none in Russia. Rabbi Shalom Palatiel, the director of the Port Washington Chabad house, also visited the White House along with Sater. Palatiel did not immediately respond to an email message left seeking comment.
More than 190 names were submitted to the White House, but the logs show that only 100 entered the grounds.
One member of the Chabad-Lubavitch delegation who was granted access to the White House but did not attend was Berel Lazar, one of Russia’s chief rabbis, who is known as “Putin’s rabbi.” In 2016, Rabbi Lazar met with Jason Greenblatt, a former Trump Organization lawyer who is now the president’s lead envoy in the Middle East.
According to a report in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Biden spent 40 minutes with Sater and the rest of the Lubavitch delegation.
The vice president reviewed Chabad teachings he had acquired over the years, including the necessity of combining “wisdom, knowledge and understanding,” and related them to the administration’s handling of the Middle East.
Biden suggested that the threat posed by Iran necessitated intensive peacemaking and it was important for the Jewish community to understand that context.
“As you’ve always taught me, the rebbe said, what we do for one day isn’t enough for the next day,” Biden said.