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Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Trump/Russia connection: Let's go deep

We've been hearing a lot of talk on TV about the Magnitsky Act. Are you confused? Check out one or both of the embedded talks (above and below) by William Browder. He's an American businessman -- with a surprising family background -- who made untold millions during Russia's corrupted transition to capitalism, until he ran afoul of Vladimir Putin.

Browder is a gripping speaker, and he tells one of the most important stories of our time. I promise that you'll be transfixed -- and you'll also have a much better understanding of the history which underlays the Trump scandal.

In this NPR interview, Browder reveals the truth about Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Trump Tower is the world's tallest laundromat. Earlier today, a reader sent me a link to an important article by Craig Unger which looks into an issue that has popped into these very cyber-pages over the past month. Unger's subtitle summarizes the story: "How to use Trump Tower and other luxury high-rises to clean dirty money, run an international crime syndicate, and propel a failed real estate developer into the White House."

We know that the FBI "tapped" Trump Tower in order to listen in on that gambling ring and on other mob-related activities. In many previous posts, we've noted the parade of Russian mobsters who keep choosing that building as a home and base of operations. Unger goes even deeper into this history...
But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s.

It’s entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy “mark” for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians—including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.
That would be Semion Mogilevich, the guy who sold weapons (including, it is said, WMDs) to Al Qaeda. Before being murdered, Litvinenko revealed Mogilevich's connections to Putin.

Among Mogilevich's many other activities is a keen interest in prostitution, including underaged prostitution. These girls are used in "sting" operations designed to entrap businessmen and government officials. Tevfik Arif, a Mogilevich associate, was arrested after one such sting escapade involving underaged girls on a yacht.

On a completely unrelated note: Trump's pal Jeffrey Epstein has often been seen in the company of very young women from Eastern Europe. According to Virginia Roberts, these girls are used to acquire kompromat on VIPs. Epstein is allegedly a money-manager for billionaires, though nobody knows who those clients are, and nobody can pinpoint the precise nature of the services he provides. Epstein and Trump were close.

I've written about Mogilevich before. Here's a remarkable fact you may have forgotten:
For more, you may want to check out an online book called Deep Capture. The chapter at the other end of the link includes the eye-opening revelation that Mogilevich was represented by former FBI Director William Sessions, even though the FBI had the Russian on its "Ten Most Wanted" list!
Dancing with Russians. Let us return to Unger's piece:
In 1998, Russia defaulted on $40 billion in debt, causing the ruble to plummet and Russian banks to close. The ensuing financial panic sent the country’s oligarchs and mobsters scrambling to find a safe place to put their money. That October, just two months after the Russian economy went into a tailspin, Trump broke ground on his biggest project yet. Rising to 72 stories in midtown Manhattan, Trump World Tower would be the tallest residential building on the planet. Construction got underway in 1999—just as Trump was preparing his first run for the presidency on the Reform Party ticket— and concluded in 2001. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported earlier this year, it wasn’t long before one-third of the units on the tower’s priciest floors had been snatched up—either by individual buyers from the former Soviet Union, or by limited liability companies connected to Russia. “We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan,” sales agent Debra Stotts told Bloomberg.

Trump had found his market. After Trump World Tower opened, Sotheby’s International Realty teamed up with a Russian real estate company to make a big sales push for the property in Russia. The “tower full of oligarchs,” as Bloomberg called it, became a model for Trump’s projects going forward. All he needed to do, it seemed, was slap the Trump name on a big building, and high-dollar customers from Russia and the former Soviet republics were guaranteed to come rushing in.
According to a Reuters investigation in March, at least 63 buyers with Russian addresses or passports spent $98 million on Trump’s properties in south Florida. What’s more, another one-third of the units—more than 700 in all—were bought by shadowy shell companies that concealed the true owners.
Trump claims to have nothing to do with Russians. That's a lie. Without Russia, Donald Trump probably would not be rich -- certainly not as rich as he is.

Among his close business associates is Russian underworld figure Felix Sater...
Sater apparently remains close to Trump’s inner circle. Earlier this year, one week before National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was fired for failing to report meetings with Russian officials, Trump’s personal attorney reportedly hand-delivered to Flynn’s office a “back-channel plan” for lifting sanctions on Russia. The co-author of the plan, according to the Times: Felix Sater.
"Sanctions" means, first and foremost, the Magnitsky Act.

Do you really think that Natalia Veselnitskaya and company came all that way just to discuss Russian orphans? Puh-leeaze. This meeting was all about the Magnitsky Act.

Putin suspended American adoptions of Russian orphans in retaliation for the sanctions imposed by the Magnitsky Act. Such adoptions were always unpopular in Russia for reasons of national pride. Trump himself obviously couldn't care less about Russian orphans. Thus, references to the "orphan" issue should probably be interpreted as a code term for lifting the Magnitsky Act sanctions.

These sanctions are murder on the Russian oligarchs for one simple reason: The oligarchs don't want to keep their stolen money in Russia. It's not safe there. They need to transport their loot to western nations where dirty money can be laundered via real estate and other schemes.

The rulers of Russia maintain homes in the west and send their kids to western schools. The whole point of being a Russian oligarch is to get out of Russia.

Again: The embedded talks by William Browder offer much of the necessary background. From Browder's NPR interview...
And so what has happened is that this woman, Natalia Veselnitskaya, via various people in the Russian government has become the proxy for Putin's interests in repealing the Magnitsky Act. And she has hired huge numbers of lobbyists and spent millions of dollars on lawyers, on public relations professionals, on smear campaigners with the objective of repealing the Magnitsky Act.

And obviously when Donald Trump was starting to rise and when he started to rise post-Republican nomination, I'm sure that they had a strategy meeting at headquarters and they said, we need to get to this guy to repeal the Magnitsky Act because this is their single most important foreign policy priority. And so they probably had embarked using all of their paid advisers to figure out how to get to Trump. And they finally found this odd in through this music promoter. And they went there with the sole objective of getting the Magnitsky Act repealed.
One final word about Russian orphans. Let's return to a matter which has received notice only in these humble pages. Above, I note that many consider "Russian orphans" a code phrase for getting rid of the Magnitsky Act. There is, however, a possibility that all of this talk about orphans goes to something even more ominous.

The American adoptions of Russian orphans were being run through a religious cult run by a disturbing fellow named Bill Gothard. His "Christian" cult established a presence in Russia during the waning days of the USSR. Gothard is linked to the Duggars and to Mike Huckabee -- and perhaps to Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Gothard has been accused of abusing and brainwashing the American kids placed in the care of his religious institutions. One can only imagine the fate of Russian orphans -- kids without families, transported thousands of miles away from their home country. Those orphans were kept in an "orphanage" in either Indiana or Illinois, according to a report from someone who survived Gothard's cult.

I still don't know the exact role played by that cult. But I know this: Everyone involved with that meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya keeps referring to American adoptions of Russian orphans -- and most of those adoptions went through Bill Gothard.

As the scientist says in Close Encounters: "This is important. This means something."

Very interesting post, thank you.

It is very much worth remembering that the Magnitsksky Act applies to only 18 individuals. One wonders just what percentage of Russian GDP those 18 account for, given the extensive lobbying efforts.

I think we can look forward to meaty revelations exposing the many Trimp activities in the Russian area. This don, jr thing is, in my opinion, just a brief appetizer, an opening of the lid.
Diving a little deeper.

Bill Browder's Aspen Institute video contains a nugget about how the seed money for Hermitage Capital Management came from Edmund Safra. Dominic Dunne's 2000 article in Vanity Fair tells the story of Safra's death in Monaco.

Where does this fit in the timeline of Putin's rise to power?
It was Dreyfuss's character Roy who said that in Close Encounters, about his attempts to sculpt Devil's Tower.
Pax: Truffaut also says the same line.
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