By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (3/5/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
White House chaos is a constant news stream but more important, Trump-Russia corruption, is… well, corruption. Corruption even in the form of selling out our foreign policy commitments for personal financial gain and fortune.
There are two layers to this story. Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has used his position in the White House to seek new sources for funding to save the Kushner family business. We’ll come back to Kushner’s abuse of his government responsibilities but an even bigger outcome of his malpractice is the stick he’s applied to non-complicit countries, like Qatar.
NBC News reported Friday: Mueller Team Asking If Kushner Foreign Business Ties Influenced Trump Policy.
We’ve previously shared reporting on Kushner outreaches to countries and companies like Angbang Insurance Group, which was recently taken over by the Chinese government. The very same government ruled by now self-declared ruler for life Xi Jinng. No surprise, but this behavior has not escaped the attention of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“Federal investigators are scrutinizing whether any of Jared Kushner’s business discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later shaped White House policies in ways designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with, according to witnesses and other people familiar with the investigation.
“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has asked witnesses about Kushner’s efforts to secure financing for his family’s real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to witnesses who have been interviewed as part of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 election.”
This from further into the NBC News report:
“Kushner’s family real estate business, Kushner Companies, approached Qatar multiple times, including last spring, about investing in the company’s troubled flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York, but the government-run sovereign wealth fund declined, according to two people familiar with the discussion. Another discussion of interest to Mueller’s team is a meeting Kushner held at Trump Tower during the transition in December 2016 with a former prime minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, or HBJ, according to people familiar with the meeting.
“HBJ had been in talks with Kushner Companies about investing in its Fifth Avenue property, which is facing roughly $1.4 billion in debt that is due in 2019, these people said. Those talks with the company continued after Kushner entered the White House and stepped away from the business, but last spring HBJ decided against investing, these people said.
“In the weeks after Kushner Companies’ talks with the Qatari government and HBJ collapsed, the White House strongly backed an economically punishing blockade against Qatar, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, citing the country’s support for terrorism as the impetus. Kushner, who is both President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a key adviser, has played a major role in Trump’s Middle East policy and has developed close relationships with the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”
These disclosures — really confirmations — raise two obvious questions. Is there any penalty for subordinating U.S. foreign policy to personal business interests, the bold faced definition of corruption? Is Kushner, aside from the indictments and/or guilty pleas from former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and former Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates, the only person in the White House using their position for personal financial gain?
There are many different takes on the story, each with a slightly different view or insight . The contrasts are interesting for emphasis.
Drip, Drip, Drip…
Kushner is not alone – we only have to look as far as Trump adviser, daughter and Kushner spouse Ivanka Trump for a second example. The Los Angles Times statedthe obvious: Ivanka Trump: Born To Legitimize Corruption And Make The Shoddy Look Cute.
Is Ivanka another part of Trump kleptocracy?
“On July 27, 2017, near the end of the one of the most compelling hearings yet on the Trump-Russia affair, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) offered an extraordinary insight. It shot through the proceedings like a comet.
“”Corrupt kleptocrats and international criminals make themselves rich in criminality and corruption,” he said. “Then at some point they need the legitimate world in order to protect and account for their stolen proceeds.””
Whitehouse underscores the daily fight against international government corruption, the looting of the public dollars for personal gain. Corruption or organized crime only works if there is a way to take illegitimate money, proceeds of crime, and convert it into money that can be freely used. As we’ve reported here, international real estate and specifically Trump’s business is a common conduit. For this to work, the legitimate world has to be complicit, namely the U.S., UK and other first world countries.
Does this ring true?
“What? Whitehouse sketched a new bipolar world order, in which the so-called legitimate world, which includes the United States, is not at war with, but rather deeply enmeshed in, the corrupt one, where governments are built on bribery, kleptocracy, electoral fraud, slush funds, legal plunder and nepotism. …
“Crooks seeking legitimacy are not fenced out in America. The U.S. is teeming with enablers champing at the bit to serve rich thugs: lawyers, lobbyists, bankers, security firms, consultants and PR people.”
But this is background to the new candidate for attention with White House corruption and kleptocracy.
“The enabler sector now boasts several household names. Among them are the lobbyist and onetime Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has been indicted for financial crimes; and Trump’s favorite child, Ivanka, who holds an indeterminate public-facing position in the White House — or in real estate, or maybe fashion.
“Oh, Ivanka. Her livelihood is as opaque as her full-coverage foundation, but she plays a critical role in her father’s administration — and in the broader danse macabre of corruption and legitimacy.”
Because, as reported by Business Insider, of the focus on the confrontations at Trump’s Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, it draws focus to Ivanka and gives her a good shot at her time in the barrel.
“In 2006, she oversaw the development of the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City. The project was connected to a Brazilian money launderer later arrested for fraud and forgery as well as a Russian investor who’d previously been jailed in Israel for kidnapping. On Wednesday, a dispute between Trump’s company and the building’s owner turned violent. The journalist Marcy Wheeler has suggested the fight concerns records that may show Ivanka knew the property was laundering money. Police in riot gear stormed the hotel that Ivanka once hyped as “exemplary of the grandeur in which we like to enter a market.”“
“Ivanka was also a ranking official on the Trump SoHo, which has since shed the name Trump. In 2010, as ProPublica and WNYC have reported, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office began building a criminal case against Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. for using inflated sales figures to defraud prospective buyers. After receiving a visit from Trump family lawyer and campaign donor Marc Kasowitz, then-DA Cyrus Vance Jr. backed off. Just Thursday, CNN reported that FBI counterintelligence officials are investigating another Trump real-estate deal, the 63-story Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, which opened after Trump became president.
“Ivanka has been described as “point person” on the development, which features an Ivanka Trump-branded spa. No one yet knows why it caught the FBI’s eye, but Ivanka’s long-awaited top-secret security clearance may turn on what the agents find out.”
It was only a matter of time until Ivanka earned the spotlight for her own contribution to Trump family corruption.
Pushing back against the pushback
There is often a cycle to breaking news – the initial story followed by the push-back. The push-back can be subtle or as subtle as a hammer, but the intent is, “don’t believe what you just heard”. For cultists of any flavor it sometimes simply provides the talking points so you too can help offer doubt and dismissal. But Trump and associates have a habit of undoing the push-back that was intentionally offered as a megaphone for their innocence.
Here’s an interesting example around a relatively fringe Trump hanger-on. Russian politician Alexander Torshin is important only for his connections to the Kremlin, the National Rifle Association and Trump.
Given the opportunity to quietly let the media focus on new instances of chaos and as a result removing focus from his alleged role in funneling tens of $ millions to Trump supporters and GOP PACs, Torshin responded to a tweet he saw as insulting Trump with: “I know D. Trump (through NRA). A decent person.”
Thus gaining him and Trump-Russia corruption through the NRA a new round attention:
“A prominent Kremlin-linked Russian politician has methodically cultivated ties with leaders of the National Rifle Association and documented efforts in real time over six years to leverage those connections and gain deeper access into American politics, NPR has learned.
“Russian politician Alexander Torshin said his ties to the NRA provided him access to Donald Trump — and the opportunity to serve as a foreign election observer in the United States during the 2012 election.”
“These revelations come amid news that the FBI is investigating whether Torshin, the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia, illegally funneled money to the NRA to assist the Trump campaign in 2016, McClatchy reported in January.”
Thanks to Torshin in this instance and Trump and Trump minions in general for helping make sure Trump-Russian corruption stories don’t stay buried.
The sea behind the drip, drip, drip…
In honor of Torshin and the NRA, here’s a useful way to close with a review of some of the more well known instances to date in Trump-Russia corruption. Thank you to a Commoner Call reader for the tip for this collection of Trumputin corruption greatest hits from Salon. Pick your own favorites: Closing The Circle Of Collusion.
The story’s subhead sums up the current state of Trumpworld: The White House is surrounded by a phalanx of investigations, indictments and guilty pleas.
It’s quite a list but here’s the first entry so you understand the flavor:
“They’re really beginning to pile up, aren’t they? Surprise, surprise! They all have one thing in common.
“Michael Flynn: Former National Security advisor pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with . . . Russians.”
Flynn seems like so long ago, but it looks like he is the vast stagnant sea behind the non-stop Trumputin drip, drip, drip…