Friday, July 21, 2017

Did Trump Inadvertently Admit To Money Laundering?

In one of the most bizarre and chilling interviews he's ever given, Donald Trump threw Attorney General Jeff Sessions under the bus and threatened to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Okay, nothing new here. Trump has been pissed at Sessions ever since he recused himself from the Russia investigation, and everyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the last two months knows full well that he's been toying with the idea of getting rid of Mueller from the day he was appointed by Rod Rosenstein.

And I think we can also take it as a given that Trump, as reported by The Washington Post, is exploring the possibility of pardoning himself and his family in the event that Mueller hits pay dirt. Look, he's fired everyone who's questioned or challenged him; now that he has the power of the pardon, why wouldn't he use it?

But there was one point in the 51 minute interview by The New York Times that caught my attention; something so small and seemingly insignificant I almost missed it. As with anything Trump says, you have to listen to it three times. The first time just to convince yourself that you heard what he actually said. He's all over the place. It's like listening to someone suffering from Tourette's Syndrome.

The second time to try to make sense of his train of thought. Imagine if you will what a puzzle looks like after you've thrown it up in the air and it lands on the floor. That's a Donald Trump speech or interview. Parsing through his words takes the skill of linguist.

And then there's the third time. This is where you've managed to compartmentalize all his scatter-brain thoughts and pull out the relevant items. Kinda like reviewing your wife's food shopping list looking for the nachos and the salsa in between the paper plates and napkins. Well, guess what? I think I found the nachos and the salsa. At least I think I did.

Near the end of the interview, Trump is asked by Michael Schmidt that if it was discovered that Mueller was looking at his family's finances would that be a red line, and this is Trump's reply:
I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].
Did you catch it? It was sitting right there in front of me and I had to listen to it again just to be certain. "I mean, it's possible there's a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows?"

There's a condo or something? I sell a lot of condos? Somebody from Russia? Are you fucking kidding me? You know, the problem with compulsive liars is that eventually they slip up and inadvertently let out the truth. Who knows what was going on in Trump's head at that precise moment? A trained psychiatrist would be hard-pressed to answer that question, but from what little we do know, it's obvious he had what can only described as a brain fart.

For those of you who are scratching your heads, let me explain. Trump made his fortune - such as it is - in real estate. After his fourth bankruptcy, most banks wouldn't lend him money. In fact, Deutsche Bank was the only one that would. According to a piece in Vanity Fair, "Trump over the last 20 years has received more than $4 billion in loan commitments and potential bond offerings from the German lender, despite suing the company in 2008 when he fell behind on payments on the $640 million loan he was given to build Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago."

It goes on to say,
Apart from the Trumps and Kushners, Deutsche Bank also has deep ties to Russia. In addition to settling allegations earlier this year that it allowed $10 billion to be laundered out of Eastern Europe, Deutsche Bank had a “cooperation agreement” with Vnesheconombank, a Russian state-owned development bank that is the target of U.S. economic sanctions. Vnesheconombank, for those who need a refresher, was the bank whose chief executive, Sergey Gorkov, Jared Kushner forgot to mention meeting in December. Oh, and there’s also this:
. . . in May, federal prosecutors settled a case with a Cyprus investment vehicle owned by a Russian businessman with close family connections to the Kremlin. The firm, Prevezon Holdings, was represented by Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who was among the people who met during the presidential campaign with Donald Trump Jr. about Hillary Clinton. Federal prosecutors in the United States claimed Prevezon, which admitted no wrongdoing, laundered the proceeds of an alleged Russian tax fraud through real estate. Prevezon and its partner relied in part on $90 million in financing from a big European financial institution, court records show. It was Deutsche Bank.

There's that word real estate again. You see, this is where the horses come back into the barn. It is widely known that Russian oligarchs were looking for places to hide their money and real estate became a very safe haven for them. Thursday night on the Rachel Maddow show, Maddow cited a soon to be published story by Timothy O'Brien in Bloomberg News concerning a RICO lawsuit in 2011 involving money laundering. O'Brien writes,
A troubling history of Trump's dealings with Russians exists outside of Russia: in a dormant real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president's own office in Trump Tower.
One of Bayrock's principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups. Before linking up with the company and with Trump, he had worked as a mob informant for the U.S. government, fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there, and had gone to prison for slashing apart another man’s face with a broken cocktail glass. 
In a series of interviews and a lawsuit, a former Bayrock insider, Jody Kriss, claims that he eventually departed from the firm because he became convinced that Bayrock was actually a front for money laundering.
Trump has said over the years that he barely knows Sater. In fact, Sater — who former Bayrock employees say met frequently with Trump in the Trump Organization's New York headquarters, once shepherded the president's children around Moscow and carried a Trump Organization business card — apparently has remained firmly in the orbit of the president and his closest advisers. 
Sater made the front page of the New York Times in February for his role in a failed effort — along with Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen — to lobby former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on a Ukrainian peace proposal.
It is obvious that Trump knows full well that Robert Mueller is close to connecting the dots and making the case for impeachment. It should be just as obvious that Trump will stop at nothing to ensure that he and his family get off scot free.

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