ALL ROADS LEAD TO PUTIN Part 1: The ‘Dirt on Biden’ Impeachment Case was the Tip of the Iceberg; the Real Story is Kompromat

American voters, and grass-roots donors to the Biden campaign, are wising up to Trump's deep links to Putin, starting with years of laundering dirty Russian money.
American voters, and grass-roots donors to the Biden campaign, are wising up to Trump’s deep links to Putin, starting with years of laundering dirty Russian money and now abetted by ‘Moscow Mitch’ McConnell. Click on thumbnail to see Keith Seidel’s cartoon full size.
 

Despite the Republican denials, the narrative that led to Donald Trump’s impeachment has been beyond doubt. But as illegal and impeachable as it was to strong-arm Ukraine for help in his reelection campaign, and as laughable as the rationale that Trump was “concerned about corruption in Ukraine,” the full story behind this is likely even worse.

Trump’s generally accepted motivation, to dirty up Joe Biden, was likely a cover story to conceal something far more sinister: Vladimir Putin did not want his Russian troops to face advanced U.S. anti-tank weapons. And Putin wants sanctions on Russia lifted, hence Trump’s preposterous, less-publicized demand that the Ukrainians search for the CrowdStrike server allegedly hidden somewhere in their country.

Trump tried to sell the story that the U.S. cybersecurity company Crowdstrike helped Ukraine, not Russia, interfere in the U.S. election—to get Hillary Clinton elected. And as he has done on every issue of importance to Putin, Trump complied with Putin’s demand that he withhold military aid from Ukraine.[1] 

Had it not been for the whistleblower whose courage touched off the impeachment inquiry, even if Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had complied with Trump’s demands, it’s highly unlikely that Ukraine would have received that badly needed aid.

Far-fetched? Ambassador William Taylor didn’t think so. Here’s Taylor’s message to Special Envoy Kurt Volker:

Gordon [Sondland] and I just spoke. I can brief you if you and Gordon don’t connect. The nightmare is they give the interview and don’t get the security assistance. The Russians love it. (And I quit.)

THE VERY SILLY INSANITY DEFENSE

Trump’s narcissism, his supposed love of “strongmen,” Marco Rubio’s suggestion that a small penis has made him insecure, the notion that Rudy Giuliani has “poisoned his mind,” his refusal to acknowledge the Kremlin’s role in the 2016 election because it “delegitimizes his presidency,” the plausible idea that he is “obsessed” with tearing down Obama’s legacy—all these supposed states of mind may have some truth to them. But none explains Putin’s hold on Trump. “Kompromat,” not craziness, is the real story.

Donald Trump sought the Kremlin’s help to put him in the White House: “Russia, if you’re listening . . . .” And he’s doing it again. Putin delivered and he’s delivering again. That not because he likes Donald Trump but because the president of the United States is a Kremlin asset.

Trump already has had his treasury secretary lift sanctions on companies controlled by the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. He’s the one who financed Paul Manafort’s work in Ukraine. He received sensitive 2016 campaign materials from Manafort at the infamous meeting in a Kushner-owned cigar bar in New York. 

Before turning to the evidence that Trump is a career criminal owned by Putin, let’s quickly summarize a few indisputable facts regarding 2016. (If you don’t need any more evidence about 2016, just skip this part.)

Federal Grand Jury indictments, the Mueller report, subsequent findings of many government agencies, and the investigations of many credible private entities set out the facts in granular detail. We have learned the names and locations of the Russian military and intelligence officers and their units; the GRU’s spearphishing attacks; the hacking of the DCC, DNC, and the personal computers of key Democratic politicians and staff; the Russians’ breaking into state election systems; and much more.

In addition, Kremlin operatives created at least 80,000 posts that reached an estimated 126 million users on Facebook. Using some 2,700 Russian-linked accounts, Putin’s minions published more than 131,000 messages on Twitter and uploaded over 1,000 videos to YouTube. They reached at least 20 million users on Instagram. All this in 2016 alone.

Fake news stories that originated on RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik were picked up and amplified by Fox, Breitbart, Infowars, and every other Trump-supporting U.S. media outlet.

At the center of this massive disinformation campaign, Russia’s Internet Research Agency employed more than one thousand social media operatives who worked two 12-hour shifts, seven days a week.

Every U.S. intelligence agency confirms the operation. Barely denying it, a smirking Putin acknowledged that he wanted Trump in the White House. Donald Trump denies it all, of course. And Jared Kushner dismisses the Russian attack as “a couple of Facebook ads.” Some observers say it can’t be proved that, but for Putin, Hillary Clinton would have won. But as unpopular as she was, Clinton won the popular vote by a wide margin. Trump won the electoral vote, winning by razor-thin margins in a few battleground states.

These are all matters of public record. Republican Party officials are fully aware of the facts but are blocking all efforts to harden our election systems. They want and expect Putin’s help in 2020.

Their tactics, corrupting our election system by purging voter rolls, suppressing voter turnout, rigging computerized election systems, blocking efforts to get dark money (read “foreign”) out of elections, and now fighting tooth and nail against easy access to mail-in ballots, are too well-documented to spend much time debating. The fewer the voters, the better we like it has been a Republican article of faith for decades. Trump himself has publicly confirmed that, in so many words.

SIMILARLY, THE STORY LINE THAT TRUMP LUSTS FOR A BIG PAYDAY FROM “TRUMP TOWER MOSCOW” DISTRACTS ATTENTION FROM THE MORE SINISTER TRUTH: KOMPROMAT

Felix Sater, a Russian mafia don, was an intermediary between the Trumps and Putin.
Felix Sater, a Russian mafia don, was an intermediary between the Trumps and Putin on a proposed Moscow deal.

Around 2005, a Russian gangster named Felix Sater said he had identified a location for a Trump Tower in the Russian capital. He personally escorted Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump around Moscow. Americans were regaled with stories of Ivanka sitting in Putin’s chair.

The media seized on this story, especially when in August, 2017 Michael Cohen’s exchanges with Sater surfaced: “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

 

CORRUPTION IS THE ESSENCE    OF TRUMP’S POWER

Put aside all the obvious negatives. The “I can do anything I want” lawlessness, the vulgarity and vindictiveness of the juvenile delinquent who performs a palsied mockery of a handicapped reporter, the sexual predator, the racist birther, the pathological liar. Put aside the rank corruption of his administration and his family, the neo-Nazi sympathies, the cruelty of caging asylum-seeking parents and their infant children. Put aside the cynicism of “The Wall” while hiring and exploiting undocumented workers in his businesses and Ivanka’s clothing line. Put aside the con of pretending to speak for American workers while sourcing all products named “Trump” to low-wage labor in other countries.

Put aside the abysmal ignorance, the sham professions of Christian faith, the Trump University fraud, the Trump Foundation’s crimes, the tax scams, the partnerships with mobsters of every description, the human wreckage left in the wake of every businesses failure named “Trump.” Put aside the truly bottomless well of corruption and criminality. These shouldn’t be thought of as craziness or even character flaws. 

No, in the thing called “Trump,” the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. What we’re experiencing is a malign force, a swamp creature with the preternatural ability to sense the smallest speck of corruption of anyone in his orbit, absorb it, and grow stronger as the corrupted soul dies.

The title of the book written by Rick Wilson, a Republican political consultant who also views Trump as an existential threat to America, expresses this same thought: Everything Trump Touches Dies.

Trump has more than touched American corruption. And we are dying. We’re in the very moment that Benjamin Franklin warned about in his final speech to the Constitutional Convention in 1787:

The new government, he said, is “likely to be well administered for a Course of Years and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People have become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

For years, Wayne Barrett, New York’s great investigative reporter, wrote about Trump, seeing his uncanny ability to ferret out and exploit corruption in others. He viewed Trump’s unique talent in much the same way, albeit he described it in down-to-earth terms:

He had prided himself on never having met a public official, a banker, a lawyer, a reporter or a prosecutor he couldn’t seduce. Some he owned, and others he merely manipulated . . . . Over the years, Donald had devised a strategy for every significant public official in his path; the seduction of the elusive Cuomo had simply been the most manipulative and extended. Others were simpler. . . . Tempting, captivating, inveigling, and baiting those with public power were the tricks of his trade, and for the moment, Donald, preserving miraculously his air of innocence, was its unchallenged, brash new champion. 

Barrett died before Trump’s inauguration. Had he lived, he would have seen, as we’ve all seen, this strange Trump phenomenon play out among the highest ranking government and Republican Party office holders, virtually swallowing them whole, along with evangelical leaders, reporters, television hosts, and most important, the millions of Americans who make up the hardest core of the so-called “Base.”

 

In December 2018, when the October 28, 2015 signed letter of intent for a Trump Tower Moscow was revealed, it looked like a smoking gun.

But that evidence didn’t make a dent in Trump’s support. Everyone—even “The Base”—knows Trump will do anything for money. He easily survives such revelations. Moreover, the story itself was almost as nonsensical as the notion that Ukraine hacked Hillary’s computer to help . . . Hillary.

Consider: In The Art of the Deal, Trump tells of visiting Moscow at the invitation of Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin. “One thing led to another and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government.” 

That trip was in 1987. So Trump Tower Moscow has been on the verge of materializing for more than thirty years. The story is getting old.

Moreover, Vladimir Putin allowing Trump’s name in lights in the center of his Moscow?  And in return for his permission, Putin, one of the world’s richest men, would get the luxury top floor unit as a gift? You really have to drink the Kool-Aid to believe that story. At best, Putin keeps the story alive so the narrative is that Trump is chasing a big payday, rather than following orders.

Following a meeting with Putin at a conference in Vietnam, Trump insisted, “he said he didn’t meddle . . . Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.” Two former top intelligence officials, James Clapper and John Brennan, said Trump was “naïve” and being “played.” By now they know better. It’s we who are being played.

DONALD TRUMP IS A CAREER CRIMINAL AND VLADIMIR PUTIN HAS ALL THE SMOKING GUNS

Trump has shown Trump can easily survive sex scandals, business corruption, and much else that would have destroyed any other public figure. But here’s a simple thought experiment: Neville Chamberlain was forever linked with appeasement when he announced “peace for our time,” waving what turned out to be a meaningless agreement with Adolf Hitler.

Hitler, of course, kept right on marching through Europe. And Chamberlain eventually resigned. But if the British people had discovered that Chamberlain enjoyed crooked or even legal business relationships with high-ranking Nazis, the accusation of appeasement would have given way to a charge of treason. Donald Trump might not survive hard evidence of what we would commonly accept as treason.

Trump’s decades of corrupt business relationships with Russian government officials, the Russian mafia, and Russian oligarchs, all under Putin’s direct control or influence, is pervasive. So much so, over so many years, that we can be sure Putin has video tapes, phone recordings, financial records, and more, hence the Kopromat.[2]

I thought the details of Trump’s pre-presidential life as an international money launderer for drug cartels, terrorist organizations, and others—but most of all for Russians—were widely known. But then I ran into an old acquaintance in our neighborhood food market. When, predictably, the conversation turned to Trump, I was surprised that this sophisticated man, who clearly understands the danger Trump represents, knew so little about it. He asked, “Can you document it?” Since then, I have asked other well-informed friends whether they know the facts of Trump’s criminal career. They didn’t.[3] The devil is indeed in the details.

AN ACKNOWLEGEMENT AND AN APOLOGY

Everything that follows is drawn from books, investigative journalism accounts, government and think tank reports, etc.—all publicly available, credible sources. There’s so much evidence that it serves no purpose to reword what others have researched and published. I have excerpted much of the material verbatim, often without bracketing it with quotes. The reason is that over the past three years, I’ve put so many notes on my computer with no purpose in mind other than to be able to recall what I’ve read, that reconstructing and footnoting each source and each quote would be a herculean task. Whenever I have them, I’ll note the sources so you can look them up yourself. I hope these sources, the people who have done the real work, will forgive my impropriety. The situation is urgent, time is short, and nobody is profiting financially from this brief account.

TRUMP A KREMLIN ASSET?  WHERE’S THE SMOKING GUN?

If you need tape recordings or certified transcripts, you won’t find them. Putin and Trump meet secretly and only Russians are present. If there’s an American interpreter, her notes are confiscated. No American officials, no reporters, no witnesses. Trump uses cutouts. At one time, it was Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Donald, Jr. Now, maybe it’s just Junior. This is how crime bosses do business. No direct evidence, no smoking gun, no wiretaps of Trump himself.

Paul Manafort was once a valuable conduit between Trump and Russian interests.
Paul Manafort was once a valuable conduit between Trump and Russian interests. Now he’s in jail.

But let’s briefly examine this notion of circumstantial evidence. What exactly does it mean? A simple analogy may help.

An arsonist has been hired to burn down a house in a remote area. The police get a tip and drive up to the site. Everything is quiet. The house is dark. They see a flashlight beam. Suddenly flames shoot out of the ground-floor windows. Running from the house, a man is carrying a gasoline can in one hand, a flashlight in the other. The police arrest him. Fingerprint records reveal he has prior convictions for arson and felony perjury.

At the trial, you’re chosen as a juror. His lawyer claims the evidence is “only circumstantial.” The lawyer is right; there are no eye-witnesses who can testify that they actually saw the man sprinkle the gasoline and light the match: no direct evidence.  Moreover, the man has a story: “I happened to be in the neighborhood, smelled smoke, rushed into the house and grabbed the gasoline can so the fire wouldn’t get any worse. I’m a hero, not an arsonist. I didn’t do it. These dirty cops are perpetrating a hoax, a witch hunt.”

He tells the story with great force and conviction. You like his looks. Though you know about his prior convictions for arson and perjury, you much prefer his defense lawyers to the prosecutors. Nonetheless, unless you’ve decided to ignore the evidence, it wouldn’t take you long to find him guilty as charged.

In the following pages, you’ll see only a small portion of the evidence that convinces Nancy Pelosi, American and foreign counterintelligence officials, journalists, virtually every Democrat, and yes, even though they won’t say it publicly, many if not most Republicans. All can see that with Trump, all roads lead to Putin.[4] 

TRUMP’S BUSINESS MODEL: DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL MONEY LAUNDERING

For some, money laundering has an almost benign sound to it, maybe a little shady but nothing like, say, murder or armed robbery—a victimless crime. In fact, it is the key element for maintaining dictatorships in power as they steal their nations’ resources and impoverish their people. Money laundering is the essential element for financing terrorist organizations, drug cartels and other brutal non-governmental entities. And nowhere is money laundering more dangerous to America than in Putin’s Russia. Money laundering is the U.S. president’s business model with special emphasis on Russian money laundering.

For decades, crooks—drug dealers, labor racketeers, home-grown mobsters of every description—have washed their dirty money through Trump-branded condominiums and gambling casinos. For Russians, though, and for the mobsters who control many countries of the former Soviet Union, Trump has been a major player in helping them move out the enormous wealth they’ve stolen from their people.

James Henry, a former chief economist at McKinsey & Company who consulted on the Panama Papers, estimated that some $1.3 trillion in illicit capital has poured out of Russia alone since the 1990s.

Here’s how Luke Harding, the award-winning Guardian foreign correspondent, describes Trump’s role:

Trump was basically synonymous with money laundering. He was the guy that, if you’d stolen money in Moscow, you could dump a bag of cash on his table or go and see him and you could buy a condo. The Trump property empire from the sort of late 1980s onwards functioned as a really, as a laundromat for Russian cash, Soviet cash.[5] 

Money laundering was a central element in the now bankrupt Trump casinos. The casino operations are well documented. Here’s something close to a smoking gun:

A March 6, 2015 press release from the U.S. Treasury Department:

WASHINGTON, DC – The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today imposed a $10 million civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort (Trump Taj Mahal), for willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) . . . .

Trump Taj Mahal, a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey . . . has a long history of prior, repeated BSA violations cited by examiners dating back to 2003. Additionally, in 1998, FinCEN assessed a $477,700 civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal for currency transaction reporting violations.

As big as they were, the casinos were less important than the Trump-branded real estate, the heart of Trump’s Russian money laundering business. Luxury condominiums weren’t rare in New York, but when Trump Tower came on the market, it was only the second high-rise in New York that accepted anonymous buyers.[6]

TRUMP’S MONEY LAUNDERING PARTNER: DEUTSCHE BANK

Trump and his family are clients of Deutsche Bank, which is deeply implicated in criminality.
Trump and his family are clients of Deutsche Bank, which is deeply implicated in criminality.

As with all money-launderers, Trump enjoys a network of lawyers, accountants, bankers, and other professional enablers to execute the necessary transactions.  Corrupt bankers, especially those at Deutsche Bank, facilitated the conversion of rubles to dollars before they found their way to Trump. With some 100,000 employees in seventy countries, the bank has been a global criminal enterprise for a very long time. During the Nazi era, it was a key financier for Hitler’s regime, buying and selling stolen Jewish gold. More recently, it helped spark the 2008 global financial collapse by creating about $32 billion worth of collateralized debt obligations.[7]

Since 2008, Deutsche Bank has paid more than nine billion dollars in fines and settlements for manipulating the price of gold and silver, defrauding mortgage companies, and violating U.S. sanctions by trading in Iran, Syria, Libya, Myanmar, and Sudan.

Deutsche Bank paid the U.S. and the U.K. $2.5 billion for its role in manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, which is the interest rate banks charge one another. Fittingly, Deutsche Bank is Trump’s bank as well as the banker for Trump family members, including Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Jared’s mother.

[1] As for Trump’s supposed concern about corruption, recall that he ordered Stephen Miller to prepare an executive order to overturn the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits US companies to bribe foreign officials. Trump: “It’s just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas.” Now that’s the Donald Trump we know.

[2] In The House of Trump, House of Putin: the untold story of Donald Trump and the Russian mafia (Penguin Random House 2018) Craig Unger has this passage, “Russian gangsters became, in effect, Putin’s enforcers. This is not merely a metaphor. As Oleg Kalugin, former head of counterintelligence for the KGB, told me, in effect, ‘the Mafia is one of the branches of the Russian government today.’”

[3] Nor does Congress. The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether people around then-candidate Trump, including Trump himself, were acting as witting or unwitting agents of a foreign power. Thus far William Barr’s DOJ has stonewalled Congress on what happened to that investigation..

Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post’s May 15, 2019 telephone interview of Adam Schiff:

The Post: “Is there any reason to believe that the counterintelligence investigation has been closed?”

Schiff: “You know, I have not been able to get clarity on that. We have been seeking to get it, to get an answer from the Justice Department, from the counterintelligence division at the FBI, and we don’t have clarity, which is concerning . . . the position the president and Bill Barr have taken makes it very difficult for [the FBI and the intelligence community] to produce the materials they know they’re obligated to. We’re making every effort to achieve compliance without having to litigate the matter. But if necessary, we will.”

Meanwhile, Trump has successfully purged every counterintelligence professional with expertise on Russia.

[4] The operative word is “publicly.” Here is then-Republican House majority leader Kevin McCarthy, not realizing that he’s being tape recorded, in a 2016 conversation with other members of the House leadership, suggesting that Donald Trump was on Vladimir Putin’s payroll.

McCarthy: “There’s . . . there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: [California Representative Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump . . . [laughter] . . . swear to God.”

House speaker Paul Ryan: “This is an off-the-record . . . no leaks . . . all right?!”

McCarthy initially denied making the remarks but when the Washington Post listened to and verified the audio recording, McCarthy claimed he was joking. 

[5] Harding is the author of the best-selling Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win (Vintage, Nov 16, 2017.)

[6] David Cay Johnston in The Making of Donald Trump

[7] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/08/29/deutsche-banks-10-billion-scandal