Sunday, October 01, 2017

Friends of Trump. Friends of Putin.

The Dutch investigative reporting unit Zembla working with the American newspaper group McClatchy has been tracking the multi-billion dollar transfers of money from around the world into Trump properties, notably Trump Soho, which Trump built with Russian mob figure Felix Sater. This three part documentary follows the money.

The documentary that follows the money trail from central Asia into Trump Soho and other properties.

Trump warned this summer that special prosecutor Mueller had better not look into his financial history. It seems clear why Trump is afraid of this. Trump made loud assurances that he had no investments in Russia. (But did he have Russian millions invested in his properties here and elsewhere?) He said he had no loans IN Russia. (Did he get multi-million or multi-billion dollar loans FROM Russia?)

Trump’s financial history is a roller coaster of boom and bust. Fabulous accumulations of cash followed by spectacular collapses that ruined thousands of investors, but left Trump flush with money. This is how confidence schemes work: draw the money in, then loot the money out, hiding it via multiple shell companies and flipped transactions. In many cases the collapse is carefully planned (think Mel Brooks’s The Producers, minus the comedy.) Much of the cash that built and purchased various Trump properties, notably Trump Soho, is alleged to have been looted from Kazakhstan and other countries, then laundered through hundreds of shadowy companies in financial centers like the Netherlands and London and Cyprus. (One of the banks in Cyprus targeted by money-laundering investigations is co-owned by Trump’s Secretary of Commerce and a Russian oligarch closely allied with Putin.)

This is the pattern of international fraud which loots economies and impoverishes law abiding workers around the world. Trump himself has a long history of stiffing people and companies who do work for him, building and furnishing and servicing his properties, and daring them to sue. So Trump himself behaves like these international crooks by looting the legitimate earnings of working people and hiding those millions where they are hard to locate. One of Trump’s favorite counterarguments when the Russia investigation is raised is to say that we should quit targeting the fine people of Russia. But the investigations are not targeting the fine people of Russia, they are targeting the criminals who stole billions from the fine people of Russia, the working people of Russia and other countries. Trump may not be the biggest villain in the world of global kleptocracy, but he has been in bed with the kleptocrats for decades. The biggest global kleptocrat today appears to be Putin himself, Trump’s role model and possible sugar daddy. While Trump rubbishes the victims of mass theft and fraud in carefully looted and impoverished parts of the world, he praises and kneels to the billionaires who profited from looting them and admires their “leadership”.

Former FBI man Mark Felt gave Woodward and Bernstein some famous advice in 1972 when they were investigating the crimes of the Nixon White House: “Follow the Money.” Following the money has grown more complicated over recent decades as the looting and fraud and money laundering has grown more massive and sophisticated and compliant governments have made the legal system more hospitable to fraud and looting and money laundering. (One example being Trump's abrupt lifting of the financial regulations and safeguards put in place by Obama after the financial crisis of 2008-9.)

Follow the money to discover the crimes of people like Trump, but also examine the company they keep. Trump has been tight with unsavory characters for many years, both the famous and the infamous, shadowy mobsters and nasty celebrities as well as leaders of corrupt and brutal regimes.

What is it about Trump's and Putin's bromances with the ugliest kinds of celebrity, people like Steven Seagal and Gerard Depardieu.

Why does Trump never say a critical or unpleasant word to or about Putin? Maybe he just admires the guy. Or maybe he is afraid to. To paraphrase the saying Gordon Liddy had on the wall in his office “When you have them by their junk [their global investments] their hearts and minds will follow.” We’ve long suspected that Putin holds Trump hostage via money, and Sec. of State Tillerson too. It appears that Russians put Trump’s fortunes in order after at least one bankruptcy. Is he still on the hook to them, and for how much?

Question: why appoint as Secretary of State an oil company CEO who organized the largest oil deal in history with Putin himself?

Big money deals buy a lot of boot-licking but it's not good for America when the licking is being done by our government, with foreign enemies praised and admired while traditional allies are insulted.

I like Gary Kasparov’s phrase “Reputation Laundering”, which describes what Trump is doing for Putin and what the GOP has done for Trump and Putin.

When our president lives off the profits of shady money and global criminality it quickly corrupts how we operate in the world. It stains our national reputation, our global standing.

F.O.P. “Friends of Putin” populate the world of big money. From the Financial Times.

It’s enlightening to look at the kind of scummy creatures who are friends of Putin’s, the kinds of things they do, the things they say, the scummy things they approve of and the decent things and people they ridicule.

It’s also worth looking at the list of Putin’s former friends. Many of them have died in unpleasant and sudden ways.

Reported in March by the Chicago Tribune.

A more recent article about Russian hits on Putin critics––from the New Yorker.

From Vox, a list of the dead.

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