There has been a great deal of speculation that Donald Trump is Russian president Vladimir Putin’s puppet. But the evidence for a direct connection has been weak. It has always seemed to me to be more likely that Trump has financial dealings with shady Russian oligarchs and mobsters and organized crime figures, and that his deference to Putin is indirect, that Putin has connections to those same shady interests and thus has knowledge that he can reveal about Trump’s dealing that can be very damaging.
There is a new documentary out of the Netherlands by an investigative outfit known as Zembla that looks at Trump’s shady business dealings. This documentary ‘follows the money’ (as the cliché goes) and it makes some pretty explosive charges. The name of a particularly unsavory person named Felix Sater, a convicted mobster and head of a company named Bayrock, plus the names of other shady people Tevfik Arif, Alexander Mashkevich, and Viktor Khrapunoov, keep coming up in association with Trump. The FBI would clearly have been investigating this kind of case because it involves transnational money laundering and may be more relevant to why James Comey was fired. This may be the biggest story that needs to be followed concerning Trump, not about his staff infighting.
Here is part 1 of the documentary that lasts 45 minutes. I will post part II when it comes out next week.
Note: your second paragraph starts out “There is a new documentary out of Denmark . . .”.
Last time I looked the Dutch lived in the Netherlands. 😉
“There is a new documentary out of Denmark …”
There are precious few Dutch documentaries coming from that nice country and Zembla is very Dutch.
Visual part of the documentary just failed :(. Vocal part is fine.
Mano Singham says
@#1 and @#2,
Sorry for the error. I was of course aware that the Dutch are from the Netherlands. I was just typing without thinking!
Oops, cancel that last; just lost the entire thing. Presumably a power-outage in Denmark.
From the little bit I did see and hear (perhaps 6-7 minutes) there is nothing new. It does not change my mind that Trump is worried about illegal money laundering and so on, but does not change my mind that it’s unlikely that the Russians supported him in the election.
Presumably they will get to the money laundering in the “Stan’s” and the likelihood that Trump’s companies were likely funneling money from the Iranian Revolution Guard.
And I still return to the point that no sensible Russian politician would come out and publicly support the candidate for US president that they actually wanted.
Given US paranoia about the Russians, enforcement by the Devil would be preferred.
Right Bre’r Rabbit?
At the moment, I am still of the opinion that Trump is worried about American law for his last twenty years of grifting and a decent FBI enquiry should find that. Does a president have immunity from criminal charges while in office as some other countries do?
Marcus Ranum says
I worry that this may be one of those “everyone’s doing it” deals like when congress was starting to look at commodity trading as practiced by a certain politician’s wife -- the whole story went into the memory hole because it turned out that the corrupt practice they were starting to investigate was how a lot of politicians get the big payoffs. Whoops. What if it turns out that Trump is not the only person in Washington who’s owned by the Russian oligarchs? Will we then find out that being a wholly owned subsidiary of an oligarch is OK as long as it’s a US oligarch? That’s bullshit any everyone should know it: oligarchs are stateless, they move with their money to wherever the sun and champagne are. I suspect a lot of what looks like Trump’s Russia dealings is just the same as all the petrodollar scandals of the 80s: same thing different day, don’t look over there that’s not the droid you are looking for.
Part two is here: http://vara.nl/media/373030
@ 6 Marcus
What if it turns out that Trump is not the only person in Washington who’s owned by the Russian oligarchs?
I’d say possible but not likely unless a close Trump associate. I may be wrong but I get the impression most US politicians are rather provincial.
Will we then find out that being a wholly owned subsidiary of an oligarch is OK as long as it’s a US oligarch?
I’d assumed most US politicians already were. Did I miss something?
There are significant differences in Russian and US oligarchs. It is mainly a matter of degree, not kind. Russian oligarchs are what US oligarchs dream of being.
US oligarchs rent politicians. The Russians own politicians, are the power behind the politicians, or simply become the politicians. Players choice. The Russians are typically laws unto themselves and have not so small armies of fixers and bodyguards who are loyal only their boss. They are the law in many areas. The American variety are stuck, for the most part, with having inordinate influence over the law and law enforcement.
This is changing. US oligarchs are much more openly buying politicians and have started running for office themselves. DeVose simply bought a position as secretary of education. And US oligarchs are creating armies. The most obvious is a relative of DeVose; Prince and his army of mercenaries. There are many others playing the same game.
The turning point for the US oligarchs, IMHO, was when Putin made nice with the Russian Orthodox church. Suddenly they were no longer ‘Godless Communists’. Russia is in many ways paradise for right-wing oligarchs. In Russia, despite what laws are on the books, you can discriminate, bash as many mo’s as you like, grope your secretary, buy up and displace entire communities, even make problematic people disappear. Outright murder, particularly in high profile locations (Like in front of the Kremlin), is still the province of the most elite but, as long as you aren’t stepping on another oligarchs toes, theft and violence is generally allowed.
After roughing up a few peasants in the hinterlands for kicks you can adjourn to Moscow and hit the nightclubs. Have a few laughs and share a hooker or three with the archbishop. A few rubles in the collection box on Sunday and it’s all good. The escorts-for-hire in Moscow are reported to be among the best in the world, and willing to do virtually anything for a price.
Anyone doubting the superiority of the Russian model of oligarchy need only ask one question: Who is really the richest man in the world. The simple Google result is Bill Gates.
A little more digging gets you a more nuanced result:
Some of it comes down to wealth as a question of how much money one has in one’s name versus how much a person controls. Putin is reported to have between 20 and 200 Billion dollars under his direct control. Which puts him in the top ten, or at #1. That we cannot easily estimate his wealth, even as he has near total control over a major nation, is a testament to his intelligence.
The bottom line here is that there are real differences in the oligarchies in the US and Russia. Yes, the campaign systems in the US puts much more emphasis on a candidates ability to raise money than govern effectively. Yes, some politicians are seemingly wholly owned by the Mercers, Erickson, the Koch brothers, or any of a half dozen other major players. They play with politicians and the US political system the way young boys play with toy soldiers. To some extent it has always been that way. One of the most common traps is that people assume that in some prior halcyon days it was different, with the common man having freedom. It was never that way. Hamilton was arguing for the right of the rich to enjoy unearned income based upon loaning money to the government at highly favorable rates. He spoke loudly of the virtues of the nation being run by the deserving few. He was not an egalitarian on the subject of anything more important than walking down to the local tavern and enjoying a pint.
It sucks now and it sucked then. Even the so-called glory days of the 50s were only bright if your skin was the right color and your genitals were of a certain shape. That said, it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the means to change it. Always have.
In some ways I see the present time in the light of the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Neither side has a monopoly on the truth or righteousness even as one side clearly has an edge. Another major trap is to blur the lines and claim both sides are the same. In both cases the side that ultimately won had had a long string of major losses, but then one victory which changes the context of the unbroken string of failure, and then they win the war.
Liberals, progressives, Democrats (a lot of overlap there but not synonymous) have lost a lot of battles while still maintaining a whole lot policies more clearly on the side of the angels. Even the highly transgressive nature of the GOP has lines they hesitate to cross. Open calls for white domination and control are still only shouted from the shadows. Most people forget that as late as the early 60s there were still open and very public advocacy of lynching as the solution for “uppity niggers”. I was there. Or that it wasn’t until the 60s when most women could have a bank account in their own name, obtain birth control, or serve on a jury. Trump is a pussy grabbing bully and ass but even he is not bold enough to openly advocate for a reversal of those gains.
Perhaps I’m being entirely too Pollyanna but while it breaks my heart to see progress rolled back and deferred for millions who continue to suffer I see this time and political situation as a likely high water mark for the conservative movement. They are going win some more and inflict a lot more pain on the weak and the poor but I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel. That or an oncoming train.