By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (10/19/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Why did Jared Kushner meet with Sergei Gorkov and why is the meeting important? It’s important – this is at the core of Trump-Russia with a focus on Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump’s govern-for-personal-enrichment operation that extends across his family, advisers and cabinet.
It will take a few links to fill out the picture, here’s the roadmap:
- Sergei Gorkov was the head of Vnesheconombank (VEB) when he met with Kushner in December 2016
- VEB is a Russian state investment bank that funds Putin projects
- Gorkov is a graduate of Russia’s intelligence agency; (A former VEB employee pled guilty to espionage in New York in 2016)
- Gorkov worked for Mikhail Khodorkovsky (we’ll come back to this)
- Kushner met with Gorkov for business or foreign policy or both, there are multiple versions
- And as you will see, who better than Mikhail Khodorkovsky to explain why this is important?
Let’s look at Gorkov, then Kushner and finally Khodorkovsky…
Back in June The Guardian explained Who is Sergei Gorkov, the powerful Russian banker who met Jared Kushner?
Gorkov’s meetings with Kushner were uncovered by the media and questioned early in the Trump administration. Do remember, this is but one of Kushner’s undisclosed meetings with Russians. It’s a short article, worth a few minutes, but here’s some of the key points:
“When it first emerged that Donald Trump’s son-in-law had met Sergei Gorkov, the head of Russian state investment bank Vnesheconombank, after the presidential election, the meeting was not a focus of the FBI investigation into possible Russian collusion.
“The White House and the bank have offered differing accounts of the Kushner-Gorkov sit-down. While the White House said Kushner met Gorkov and other foreign representatives as a transition official to “help advance the president’s foreign policy goals.” Vnesheconombank, also known as VEB, said it was part of talks with business leaders about the bank’s development strategy. It said Kushner was representing Kushner companies, his family real estate empire.
So Kushner wanted to set up a back channel using Russian assets. What was Kushner’s motivation? Collusion, money or aren’t these the same thing?
While Donald Trump put his son-in-law in charge of just about everything in the federal government short of keeping the toilet bowls shiny in the Pentagon Vanity Fair reported Monday that Jared Kushner’s Family Is Screwed, And It’s All Boy Wonder’s Fault.
I’ve raised this point before, but here is Kushner’s real estate crown jewel, biggest problem and motivation:
“That deal, of course, was to buy 666 5th Avenue for $1.8 billion on the eve of the financial crisis, which has become . With a 30 percent vacancy rate, an expected loss of $24 million this year, and a $1.2 billion mortgage that is due in February 2019, the Kushners want to raze the property and replace it with a glimmering Zaha Hadid-designed tower that would require borrowing even more money—. Their Hail Mary plan is a problem not only because their attempts to raise funds have been rebuffed by everyone from the richest man in France, to Israeli insurance companies and banks, to South Korea’s sovereign-wealth fund, to China’s Anbang Insurance Group, but because, according to a new report from , even the family’s partner in the venture is actively trying to shut it down.”
Kushner owes $1.2 Billion and it is due in February 2019. It is highly unlikely he will find an investor and also highly likely he will lose control of the building.
The Trump administration is all about wealth – we were led to believe that a billionaire spouting populist rhetoric, who sees everything through a lens of self-enrichment and surrounds himself with like minded individuals, would somehow lead us to economic security for all. Maybe the hope was that even if it enriched him, his family and associates it would also somehow benefit us? You know, trickle down. What could go wrong with foreign policy decisions based on a map of lucrative Trump licensing deals hotels and golf courses?
Yes, I am saying Kushner, in true Trump world-view, sought to save his own financial and skinny reputational ass. Yes, the Russians have bailed out Trump a number of times, so Kusher probably reasons, no better time and motivation for another deal; Kushner sidling up for his turn at the sloppy Trump-Russia trough of gluttony.
Yes, I am saying that a Trump relaxation of sanctions against Russia is a quid pro quo for any number of deals and assistance. It’s all about the money – whether for bailing out failed business projects or winning an election.
Yes, that’s collusion. Trump-Russia collusion.
Everything that’s happened fits the script for business in Russia and Kompromat, the Russian manipulation of an asset, and Donald J. Trump is that lucrative asset. Just like Donnie Jr. And, so too, Jared was now also a willing agent.
So why bring Trump, Kushner, Gorkov and VEB back into the spotlight?
Rachel Maddow called MSNBC’s Ari Melber’s interview of Mikhail Khodorkovsky a blaring red siren: Putin Rival Ties Kushner Meeting to Kremlin Bankers.
“A prominent exiled Russian oligarch said in an exclusive interview with NBC News that he is nearly certain Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to collaborate with the Trump campaign, and that he believes a top Russian banker was not “acting on his own behalf” when he held a controversial meeting with Jared Kushner last December.
“The pointed remarks come from a longtime Putin rival, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oil executive who was Russia’s richest man before he was imprisoned and exiled by the Kremlin.”
Before we dig deeper, it helps to know more about Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The former head of Yukos Oil, one of the richest men in Russia, chose to criticize Putin to his face. He ultimately spent ten years in jail. Make sure to watch the embedded video, it shows some of the kangaroo court theater and other abuses of power for those that speak out against Putin; no rule of law here.
Rachel Maddow joins Ari Melber to offer perspective with the importance of the interview: A Reminder Of Putin’s Approach To The World.
Khodorkovsky named names of Russians close to Trump:
Khodorkovsky also said he believes Gorkov’s orders come from either Andrey Kostin or Herman Gref, who both run Kremlin-backed banks that were sanctioned by the Obama administration.
“If there were any instructions, they came from the level of Kostin, the chairman of the board of VTB bank,” Khodorkovsky said, “or from the level of Mr. Gref, which isn’t nearly as likely, despite the two of them being close.”
Khodorkovsky’s aides say this is the first time he has shared these details about Gorkov.
The two bankers Khodorkovsky cited — Kostin and Gref — have been publicly linked to Trump.
It’s a tight, cozy bunch – Trump, Kushner, Gorkov, Kostin, Gref, Agalarov (Russian oligarch, Trump partner) and Felix Sater (Trump business partner; worked with Kostin to fund Trump’s Moscow project).
Khodorkovsky offered a view of how Trump-Russia might play out between Trump and Putin:
“More broadly, Khodorkovsky also sized up Putin’s relationship with Trump, noting Putin is a “strong tactician” with more experience.
“If they were to face off, I wouldn’t bet on Trump,” Khodorkovsky said.
“He added that Putin’s perceived success at affecting the U.S. election is still a challenge for him back in Russia.
“Putin needs America as an enemy,” he said. “Now he’s got complicated task of having to say, ‘Yes, Trump is our guy in the White House, but America is our enemy,'” he continued, adding that so far, “the Kremlin propagandists are managing to succeed at this.”
Rachel Maddow ends with a chilling reminder. We risk democracy, Mikhail Khodorkovsky risks his life. Worth repeating – Khodorkovsky risks his life speaking out against Putin.
There are a few other news items worth noting for this cycle.
Trump Swamp resident and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross wants you to know that he will not be on the Forbes 400 richest persons list but only because he moved billions into trusts. He did this after the election but before the inauguration and has all the makings of a way to avoid financial disclosure.
Kushner forgot to disclose assets.
Ross admits to moving assets out of view.
Trump will share his tax returns post audit. Drain the Swamp!
The Guardian reported Tuesday that Russian Troll Factory Paid US Activists To Help Fund Protests During Election.
Russian trolls posing as Americans made payments to genuine activists in the US to help fund protest movements on socially divisive issues, according to a new investigation by a respected Russian media outlet. The headline tells us what we need to know – Americans paid to aid Russia’s influence of the election for the benefit of Trump.
Speaking of operatives, remember Brian Benczkowski, former Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions’ III aide? The New Republic reports he’s now approved as the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division in spite of his work with Russian Alfa Bank. Alfa Bank is the Russian end of the server connection to Trump Tower and Spectrum Health (DeVos business; Betsy DeVos is Education Secretary and sister to Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater): Is Donald Trump Installing a Mole in the Mueller Probe?
Sadly this article makes a compelling case for how easy, and legal, it would be for Benczkowki to communicate any information about Mueller’s investigation to Trump without any record of disclosure.
Maybe his ‘qualifications’ are now clear.
Following Reince Priebus, former press secretary Sean Spicer has now met with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team: Spicer Interviewed By Mueller’s Team.
Under the “oh-sure-why-not” category we find: Google Serves Fake News Ads In An Unlikely Place: Fact-Checking Sites.
While the headline speaks for itself, it helps to hear Google’s view:
“As always, when we find deceptive ad practices on our platforms we move swiftly to take action, including suspending the advertiser account if appropriate,” Chi Hea Cho, a Google spokeswoman, said in a statement. “In addition, we give publishers controls so they can block specific types of ads and advertisers.”
And therein lies the problem with Facebook, Google and Twitter – they didn’t ‘find’ them and they didn’t take action. They sat on their criminal-scale profit margins while doing nothing including not being forthright about what happened. Nothing has been disclosed without the work of journalists forcing the question.
And HERE is the worst fear for Facebook, Google and Twitter: Should Political Ads On Facebook Include Disclaimers?
I say YES. We’ll see what the tech companies have to say:
“The Senate Intelligence Committee has invited Facebook, Google, and Twitter to a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 1 to answer questions about how their platforms were abused by reportedly Russian operatives to confuse voters and stoke political divides.”
I will end with two instances of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stepping up again. First, he wants to know where the new Russian sanctions stand: McCain, Cardin Scold Trump For Missing Russian Sanctions Deadline.
You remember the additional sanctions against Russia passed overwhelmingly by Congress in July:
“By Oct. 1, the McCain and Cardin-penned sanctions bill required the administration clarify which targets would be identified and punished as . The administration has not yet done so.”
Trump and the White House have done nothing – NOTHING -to enact the new sanctions. Nor have they answered any questions or offered any explanation.
And finally, this; it’s powerful, you’ll enjoy the 1-minute video: Sen. John McCain Warns Against ‘spurious nationalism’ In Liberty Medal Speech.
“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,” McCain said, “is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”