Thursday, May 18, 2017

Donald Trump’s Disturbingly Deep Ties To Russia

Again and again Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, has denied that he has ties to Russia and/or that his campaign - perhaps even himself- colluded with Vladimir Putin/Russian intelligence agencies to flip the 2016 presidential election to Trump.  These lies denials have been made in tweets, in an interview with Lester Holt, and through his surrogates and henchmen.  Yet, as past posts have laid out, much of Trump's real estate empire has depended on Russian money to survive.  This influx of Russian money played two roles: (i) it kept Trump's projects afloat, and (ii) it provided a convenient means to launder Russian money derived from dirty/questionable sources.  Now, a piece in Fortune underscores the dishonesty of Trump's disavowals of connections with Russia.  Time magazine has made it's own statement via the cover shown above.  Here are article highlights:
Donald Trump said in a recent interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, "I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago. I had the Miss Universe pageant — which I owned for quite a while — I had it in Moscow a long time ago. But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia."
The reality, however, is that Trump couldn’t be more wrong. The President has deep Russian connections that far exceed what he admitted to Holt.
In a 2007 deposition that Trump gave as part of his unsuccessful defamation lawsuit against reporter Timothy O’Brien, he describes efforts to launch real estate ventures in Russia through Bayrock Associates, a shady Russian-connected outfit. Bayrock had partnered with Trump on at least four major but failed American projects: the Fort Lauderdale Trump Tower, the Trump Ocean Club in Fort Lauderdale, the SoHo condominium-hotel in New York, and a resort in Phoenix.
Bayrock had its office on the 24th floor of Trump Tower, and its 2007 glossy brochure featured a photo of Trump and Tevfik Arif, a principal Bayrock partner, who served for 17 years in the Soviet government before emigrating to the United States. It called the Trump Organization a “strategic partner,” and listed Trump as their primary reference.
Felix Sater, the Russian-born managing director and majority shareholder in Bayrock, was convicted of assault in 1991. Then, in 1998, federal prosecutors convicted Sater of fraud, for running a $40 million penny stock fraud in collaboration with the New York and Russian Mafia. In return for a guilty plea, Sater reportedly agreed to work as a government informant.
The plaintiffs in a 2015 racketeering case against Bayrock, Sater, and Arif, among others, alleged in the civil lawsuit that: “for most of its existence it [Bayrock] was substantially and covertly mob-owned and operated,” engaging “in a pattern of continuous, related crimes, including mail, wire, and bank fraud; tax evasion; money laundering; conspiracy; bribery; extortion; and embezzlement.” Although the lawsuit does not allege complicity by Trump, it claims that Bayrock exploited its joint ventures with Trump as a conduit for laundering money and evading taxes.
In September 2008, Donald Trump Jr. gave the following statement to the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in Manhattan: “[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Trump’s many deals with Bayrock unravels Donald Jr’s comments.
Trump’s 2013 sojourn in Russia for the Miss Universe pageant was far less innocent that he would have us believe. According to the Washington Post, the deal to bring the pageant to Russia was “financed in part by the development company of a Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov.… a Putin ally who is sometimes called the ‘Trump of Russia’ because of his tendency to put his own name on his buildings.”
While in Moscow, Trump met with Russian oligarchs who were closely aligned with President Vladimir Putin, including Herman Gref, the chief executive officer of the state-controlled Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank.
The Bayrock Group’s Felix Sater emerges again during the Trump campaign and presidency. Sater contributed the maximum $5,400 to Donald Trump’s campaign. Then on February 19, 2017, the New York Times reported that “A week before Trump fired Michael Flynn resigned as national security advisor, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.”
The Times said that three men were responsible for developing and delivering the plan: Andrew Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, and Andrii V. Artemenko, a pro-Russian member of the Ukrainian parliament.
The third man was none other than Trump’s former business partner and convicted fraudster, Felix Sater. How and why Sater became involved with a key member of the Trump administration in the most sensitive of diplomatic transactions between the United States and Russia remains one of the many mysteries to be resolved by congressional and FBI investigators.
If Trump's lips are moving, the safest assumption is that he is lying.  The Time article can be found here.

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