Trump's next scandal is already starting to simmer.
Yesterday I wrote in a DIARY that whatever happened to the Trump campaign-Russia scandal, Trump was not off of the hook, people would most likely already be looking into his past life for other acts of possible criminal or professional skullduggery. Turns out that they are, and Mein Furor’s next public nightmare may already be out there simmering, and just waiting to boil over.
For a guy who probably has a little shrine to Putin, complete with votive candles in a private room at the White House, Trump sure is cagey about whether he has ever even had a conversation with any other Russians, I’m not sure he’d even admit that he knows who Elena Sharparova is. But Russian businessmen? Nope, never heard of ‘em.
Well, maybe not so much. There is a new REPORT in USA Today that chronicles Trump’s longstanding business ties with quite possibly shady Russian “businessmen”. And the best part of the report is that it is not based on “anonymous sources” and unquoted documents. The reporting is based on good old fashioned digging, it’s based on court records, government and legal documents, and an interview with a former federal prosecutor.
Back in February the petulant man child told reporters that he “had no dealings in Russia. No deals that could happen in Russia because we’ve stayed away. I have no loans in Russia”. That is not disputed in the article, independent research in Russia about oligarchs and rich Americans can’t be easy, or usually satisfying. The article went at the problem in the other direction with transactions in the US, where documents and information can be found.
Which were. Quite a few of them in fact, and they create a fascinating picture. Trump and his companies have been associated with at least 10 wealthy Russians that have alleged ties to criminal activities and money laundering, they include;
• A member of the firm that developed the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York is a twice-convicted felon who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man and later scouted for Trump investments in Russia.
• An investor in the SoHo project was accused by Belgian authorities in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme.
• Three owners of Trump condos in Florida and Manhattan were accused in federal indictments of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia.
• A former mayor from Kazakhstan was accused in a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in 2014 of hiding millions of dollars looted from his city, some of which was spent on three Trump SoHo units.
• A Ukrainian owner of two Trump condos in Florida was indicted in a money-laundering scheme involving a former prime minister of Ukraine.
Notice the heavy interest in the Trump Soho property? Now, there is certainly no crime in a real estate developer having investors and in selling units in his property, that’s how they make a living. But the catch here is the investors and buyers themselves. Buying foreign real estate is a well known practice for money laundering and protecting illegal or ill gotten gains from seizure back home. Trump has never even been accused of any wrongdoing in these deals, much less charged. But the subject of money laundering is an uncomfortable one for Das Donald, since he’s already admitted to it and paid a fine in the past for it. To quote the report;
Money laundering was an issue for Trump's Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, which was fined $10 million in 2015 for failing to report suspicious transactions. Federal rules are designed to protect the U.S. financial system from being used as a safe haven for dirty money and transnational crimes, Jennifer Shasky Calvery, then-director of the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen), said at the time. It was the largest penalty the agency ever levied against a casino since reporting requirements began in 2003, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Hmmmm. This is by no means any kind of indictment, but it is an interesting starting point for an investigation. And considering the fact that Trump tried to build in plausible deniability by operating through third parties and shell companies, this investigation is likely going to have to come from either the FBI or the Justice Department, in order to use subpoena powers to obtain documents and testimony. But at least a bit of that has already leaked out, and is in the article.
A New York real estate agent told USA Today that she had sold 65 units in Trump World in Manhattan to rich Russian businessmen. She was lucky enough to have contacts in Moscow with rich people wanting to invest in the US. And guess what? According to the real estate agent, they all wanted to meet Trump, and you’d never guess what comes next. They mostly got their way, the agent stated that many of these meetings took place in Trump’s office in Trump Tower, and some were at sales events. Make of it what you will. A Trump representative denied the story entirely, claiming that all of the units were owned and sold by third parties, not The Orange Julius. Notice the lack of a statement on the cozy little fireside chats with the buyers in his office. Why would buyers obtaining a property from a third party ask for a personal meeting with Trump? Inquiring minds want to know. Pity we’re never going to see his taxes. Not unless this gets messy, and a committee in congress subpoenas them to view. Certainly not this year, but if we git ‘er done in 2018, who knows.
There is a reason for this to be a front and center issue, and it is provided by a former prosecutor who spent years researching Trump’s business dealings, and the possibility that the foundation of his company may rest on millions of Russian dollars. The big concern is this;
“The FBI is always concerned if public officials can be blackmailed,” McCallion said. “It’s Russian-laundered money from people who operate under the good graces of President Putin. If these people pull the plug on the Trump Organization, it would go down pretty quickly.”
Gee, maybe it’s more than the fact that Putin has flatter abs than the Tiny Thumbs Diktator that turns him on so much? Salon.com already did a story of their own referencing the information and linking to the USA Today report, just like I’m doing now. This is going to attract more and more eyes, from some people who may well have contacts, and won’t mind digging. If anybody is actually able to come up with some solid financial skinny, this will become serious, especially if the investigations start to provide direct evidence or testimony about collusion between the campaign and the Russians, the threat of Trump being a tool, witting or unwitting of the Russian government becomes a grave concern. Senators like Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Marco Rubio have already directly criticized Trump for his stance on Russia, what will they think of this? The article is long, but it is richly detailed and even has some comprehensive profiles of some of the major Russian players. It is well worth the read. But whatever you do, don’t touch that dial.