Part of what’s been going on with the Trump-Russia connections is to figure out what the Russians have on Trump that makes him so friendly to Putin and the Kremlin. Below are notes on what might be part of the answer.
Back in July 2016 the Washington Post reported on Here’s what we know about Donald Trump and his ties to Russia.
On Wednesday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump asked the Russians to release emails from his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, if they have hacked them. He later said he was being sarcastic, but his invitation to a foreign power to meddle in the U.S. election sparked concern among foreign policy experts. So just what are Trump’s ties to Russia?
Here is, for present purposes, the most interesting couple of Q’s and A’s.
Q: Is it true that [Trump Sr.] has no investments in Russia?
A. We don’t really know. Trump has not released the financial documents that would shed light on the issue, particularly his tax returns. Breaking a tradition dating to Richard Nixon, he says he won’t make those documents public because he is being audited by the IRS.
Q: What about investments from Russia in Trump’s businesses?
A. There is strong evidence that Trump’s businesses have received significant funding from Russian investors. Most notably, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. made that very claim at a real estate conference in New York in 2008, saying “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” Donald Trump Jr. added, “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Charles Pierce writing in Esquire (esquire.com) has “Some thoughts on Junior’s changing story” in What Do the Russians ‘Have’ on the Trump Family? Fear.
So, Donald Trump The Second now has his ass in a crack because he went out after something that hundreds of elite political journalists have sought since at least 1991—some dirt on the Clintons. … According to the remarkable one-two thrown by The New York Times over the weekend, Junior went spelunking for slime in an incredible universe of murderous gangsters, which shares a very big chunk of the Russian government’s Venn diagram with the political elite of that country. …
Let us pause for a moment and consider the Magnitsky Act. Sergei Magnitsky was an auditor from a Russian law firm who uncovered the biggest case of tax fraud in the history of Russian kleptocratic corruption, which is something. In response, Magnitsky was arrested and put on trial for tax evasion in front of a bunch of crooks in lovely kangaroo suits. He died in prison of untreated medical problems and (probably) from being beaten to death by the good people from the Interior Ministry. In 2012, the Congress passed a law that froze the assets and effectively rendered non-persons 18 Russian officials who were tied in some way to the persecution and murder of Sergei Magnitsky. This got up the nose of Vladimir Putin, who responded by suspending the adoption of Russian children by American families. He also launched a PR blitz headed by a well-connected hack lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya. Which is where Junior comes in.
Veselnitskaya was the person with whom Junior—along with Paul Manafort and the inevitable Jared Kushner—took the meeting.
But why? Pierce cites another blogger’s summary of the context in which this meeting occurred in The Russian Mob Visits Trump’s Inner Circle.
The story is very, very complicated and I spent several hours last night reading up on it. One lawyer involved in the case died in a Russian prison at the hands of the Interior Ministry. Another was recently pushed out of 4th story window. The key figure in the whole thing, Denis Katsyv, was represented by Natalia Veselnitskaya who was in the meeting with Trump’s inner circle. Another key figure, Andrey Pavlov, is described as “the consigliere for the Klyuev Group.” Members of the Klyuev Group are described as Russian mobsters linked to the Russian government.
One thing I did last night was sit down and read the complaint that Preet Bharara filed against Denis Katsyv. It makes for fascinating reading. The sophistication of their money laundering is dizzying. The reach of their corruption into Russian courts, the tax ministry and the Interior Ministry is simply astonishing. Preet Bharara was of course fired while conducting this case and it was recently settled for about 6 million dollars without Katsyv or his companies having to acknowledge any guilt.
Pierce wraps up.
… Russian security forces raided corporate offices and then used what they took to set up front companies to clean the cash. Essentially, they looted this hedge fund of about $230 million. Magnitsky looked into it. He got busted by the same people he was investigating, and it got him killed. Of course, Bharara got fired, and the case was quietly settled for $6 million and no admission of guilt by anybody.
What’s with these writers’ characterizations of Bharara’s firing as “of course”? In case you wondered what Trump was up to in firing all those federal attorneys there is your answer. IMO it was a cover. Bharara had to go. His investigation was getting too close to the Trump-Russia connections.
What I believe I see here is an incredibly corrupt American family doing business with criminal gangs that are way, way out of their league, and that are in league with the institutions of government, and the formidable security apparatus, of an authoritarian state. Talk about punching out of your weight class. This isn’t cheating some poor subcontractor. These people throw you out windows. And the Trumps have being doing business in this financial abattoir for years. This doesn’t make them sharp. This makes them compliant minnows in a shark tank.
Not to borrow trouble, but what if these guys decide that the president’s son—or, god forbid, the president himself—have become as inconvenient as Sergei Magnitsky was. For months now, people have been asking what the Russians “have” on Donald Trump. Maybe it’s just fear. If it’s not, it ought to be.