I started gathering the links and quotes in this post in response to a friend who has long been skeptical of any substantial connection between ex-pres Agent Orange and the Russian government and financial system. She didn’t believe Russia had been involved with T winning the 2016 election, and had pooh-poohed the Mueller investigation, making all that clear many times. What got me to dig into the evidence of their entanglement up to this point, though, was that she insisted Putin wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine if he were still president, and that Biden’s “weakness” was to blame. This is a typical right-wing talking point that I found very odd coming from someone who is not remotely a supporter of TFG– so much so that I felt I had to counter it, and wanted to be sure I had a solid basis to do so.
Since then, we’ve had the revelations about top Republicans who were briefly willing to get rid of That Man after his incitement of the January 6 insurrection, showing that even his biggest enablers were quite aware of the deeply corrupt, lawless nature of his conduct. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell famously said, “The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us,” by way of impeachment. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy asked about the 25th Amendment and said he would recommend that the president resign, fuming, “I’ve had it with this guy.” Here’s one of many sources for those damning statements (to both the speakers and their subject). https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2022/04/21/the-democrats-are-going-to-take-care-of-the-son-of-a-bitch-for-us-00026822
And yet, here we are, with those same legislative power brokers swearing they will vote for him again if he runs in 2024. (And secretly hoping he does not run, I’m sure, so that they don’t have to actually do that.) It still behooves us to understand the deep ties between this man who cares about nothing but money and power and the regime that is causing so much horror and suffering to its neighbor and thus to much of the world. Neither appears to be going away anytime soon, but the more their crimes can be exposed, the better chances we have to defend against further destruction.
I thought I had a fair understanding of these matters, but it turned out that there were still some shockers. In particular, it was quite a surprise to find out that he wanted to be the ambassador to the Soviet Union way back in the ’80s! He had the idea that since he was such a fantastic negotiator, he should go there to negotiate nuclear disarmament. Although this sounds like his usual self-aggrandizement and his assumption that he knows more about everything than anybody else, there may have been a teensy smidgen of altruism in there somewhere– buried under the towering edifice of ego.
I first read about that here:
‘He sought not only to become a plenipotentiary ambassador to Moscow in 1985 (true story, according to Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Bernard Lown), but he’s also been unabashed about his desire to build a Trump Tower there for decades….’
‘His litany of transgressions involving Putin and Russia is too lengthy to list here, but many would argue his 2018 Helsinki trip, during which he repeated an authoritarian trope calling the free press the true “enemy of the people,” and a joint press conference with Putin, where he threw U.S. intelligence agencies under the bus in favor of Putin’s word over theirs, was his worst.
‘At the time, Sen. John McCain of Arizona called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in recent memory,” and said Trump had “abased himself … abjectly before a tyrant.” Unfortunately, that behavior has continued on to the present day.’
… and followed up here:
‘The Post‘s Lois Romano asked Trump for specifics about how he would approach a U.S.-Soviet deal, and recounted how he demurred (using terms familiar to those who followed the 2016 presidential campaign): “‘I wouldn’t want to make my opinions public,’ he says. ‘I’d rather keep those thoughts to myself or save them for whoever else is chosen. … It’s something that somebody should do that knows how to negotiate and not the kind of representatives that I have seen in the past.’ He could learn about missiles, quickly, he says. ‘It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles. … I think I know most of it anyway. [Bolds are mine.] You’re talking about just getting updated on a situation.’
So it seems that over and above his interest in making money through business dealings with Russia, he had interest in the Soviet Union/Russia itself over many years.
There is quite a lot about his connections to Russian oligarchs and organized crime figures. Here is one source, which also explains a little of how those oligarchs got where they are. Teri Kanefield is a lawyer who has been posting analyses of the Jan. 6 prosecutions, among other things. (For some reason the fonts came out weird in this blog entry of hers– that’s not usual.) I recommend following her to get some understanding of the way the Justice Department works, the way democracy works in general, and what we can do to keep it functioning.
‘The Trump-Putin love affair begins with Semion Mogilevich. Mogilevich got his start as a young man in the Soviet Union scamming his fellow countrymen who wanted to emigrate. He offered to sell their assets & send them the money, but instead, he pocketed their money. His victims had left the country so they couldn’t do anything. By the mid-1980s, he had millions and needed to launder it. (Money laundering just means putting illegally obtained money through a few complicated transactions to hide the origins of the money.)
‘Mogilevich knew it made no sense for a young man in the Soviet Union to have millions—so in 1986, he sent his operative to buy 6 luxury condos in Trump Tower. Foreigners, by this time, discovered that money could easily be laundered through US luxury real estate.
‘It should have occurred to Trump that a man in the Soviet Union hadn’t come by $6 million in cash legally—but he asked no questions. He permitted anonymous buyers to purchase his condos, so he was a magnet for dirty money. He personally attended the closing of Mogilevich’s condos.
‘During the Soviet regime, the government owned all resources and industries. When the Soviet Union broke up, the Russian Federation was established as a constitutional republic with a president and parliament chosen by free elections. But democracy never took hold. Before rule of law was in place, there was a wild rush to control the nation’s industries and resources. A few people became billionaires (by stealing what belonged to the people). Democracy never took hold. Leaders were picked by the new billionaires.
‘Thus Russia went from communism to oligarchy.
‘One of the new billionaires was Mogilevich, who was soon at the top of the Russian mafia and on the FBI’s Ten Top Most Wanted List (for a scam in Pennsylvania). As the oligarchs’ wealth grew (mostly through scams) they looked for ways to launder the money….
‘By the late 1990s, Trump was considered uncreditworthy and bankrupt. He owed $4 billion to more than 70 banks, and showed no inclination or capacity to repay the money.
‘Basically, Trump needed money and the Russian bandits had money they needed to launder. It was a match made in heaven.
‘Russians, through shell companies, bought his condos and propped him up. In 2002, after Trump went belly up in Atlantic City, he was bailed out by Bayrock, a real estate development company with ties to Mogilevich. Bayrock moved into Trump Tower. Felix Sater, a convicted Russian mobster and money launderer, was senior advisor to the Trump Org. and partnered with Bayrock.
‘Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev bought a house from Trump, paying $55 million more than Trump paid (a way to pump money to Trump).
‘In 2006 Russians financed building Trump SoHo & gave Trump 18% of the profits, though he did nothing.
‘“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” said Trump Jr.’
Discussion of the Trump Jr quote can be found here: https://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-jr-said-money-pouring-in-from-russia-2018-2 * ‘”In terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said at a New York real-estate conference that year. “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.”‘
There’s lots more in Kanefield’s post, including a discussion of the history of autocracy in the US. She refers to Heather Cox Richardson, a historian who links present events to the past and makes them far more understandable, and whose posts I read nightly. (Right now it seems we are largely reliving the 1870s.)
Last but not least:
‘Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine therefore rests, in no small part, on the fear that Ukraine could join said alliance and annihilate its long standing hold over Eastern Europe. Trump was, at best, outwardly indifferent to Ukraine joining NATO. President Joe Biden, on the other hand, openly told Ukraine not even three months ago that membership was essentially theirs for the taking. If anything, it is precisely because Biden took this stronger stance that cuts against Russian interests that Putin felt he had no choice but to take Ukraine by force now, before it enjoyed a powerful shield of protection from the United States and Western Europe.
‘…Lest we forget, we indisputably know that Trump held up military aid to Ukraine as he sought to extort the president thereof into kickstarting an investigation into President Biden’s son. In point of fact, it’s the reason Trump was impeached, for his first time. Ukraine, like most everything else in Trump’s life, was never more than a tool to further his own interests.’
*The New York Times broke the story about McConnell and McCarthy, I think. If you are able to access it, it’s worth a look: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/21/us/politics/trump-mitch-mcconnell-kevin-mccarthy.html