World News and Views


The Missed Opportunities of ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’

Al Gore’s latest film draws climate change back into the political limelight, but fails to draw connections between environmental and economic justice.

By Kate Aronoff

The Nation

August 3, 2017

There’s a compelling case to be made that taking on climate change could transform the lives of people still reeling from the fallout of the recession, and respond to both the ecological crisis and the economic pain that drove many to vote for Trump. An Inconvenient Sequel—Al Gore’s latest documentary—never makes that case, opting instead for at-length explanations of glacial ice melts and the sausage-making behind international agreements. As both a film and a political treatise, its biggest problem might be just how much the story revolves around Gore and his outdated view of how politics work.

The 10-years-later follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth treads a lot of the same ground as the original: reflections on the former vice president’s life and political career punctuated by lots of PowerPoint presentations. But now he’s stepped into a new role: diplomat. Not an official one, of course—Gore hasn’t been formally involved in politics since he left the White House. But his exploits as a self-appointed environmental envoy get more screen time in this round than his graphs.

The main action of the film orbits around the Paris climate talks, the landmark UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations held in late 2015. As the main event nears and eventually kicks off, we follow Gore as he jet sets between meetings with everyone from then–Secretary of State John Kerry to members of the Indian government, a primary antagonist. One of the most dramatic scenes in An Inconvenient Sequel shows Gore making an 11th-hour call to then–SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive, whose company he profiled earlier. In the last days of the conference, Gore is trying to cajole Rive into granting India special financing to expand its renewables capacity, thus making it easier to move off of coal. It works, and the audience is led to believe the exchange convinced a skeptical Modi government to sign on to the agreement.

In this and other moments, the film offers a kind of West Wing theory of climate politics. If you have enough high-level conversations with enough high-rollers, the thinking goes, then eventually they’ll all come around to your way of seeing things, and change will proceed accordingly because our institutions are built to serve the public’s best interest. The most important thing is to have the truth on your side and the ability to muster a good argument.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the approach mirrors the campaign Hillary Clinton’s team ran last year. Democrats doubled down on showcasing Trump’s vulgarity to try to win, convinced that Americans would come to their senses if only they knew how depraved he really was. Likewise, Gore goes to great pains to point out the obscenity of the climate crisis. Fond of saying in recent press junkets that “every night on the evening news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelations,” he plays the role of dutiful tour guide through a battery of disasters and sobering statistics.

He’s right about all this, of course: Extreme weather is killing more people every year, and warming forecasts seem to grow more bleak by the day. The simulations he presented us with 10 years ago have come to life.

What’s less clear is whether anyone cares. While a majority of Americans now support some sort of action on climate change, it remains a low-salience issue for voters on both sides of the aisle, getting beat out by concerns about jobs and the economy in each election cycle.

There are deep and unavoidable links between the economy and the climate crisis: The fuel at the heart of the former is driving the latter. And serious climate solutions—from transforming the grid to retrofitting homes—could form the backbone of the biggest jobs program in this country’s history. Unfortunately, Gore doesn’t make much of a connection between the two.

The closest he gets is when he travels to Georgetown, Texas, to visit the Republican mayor of a deeply red small city that’s decided to switch over to running entirely on renewables. Georgetown’s mayor is an accountant who decided to run the numbers on what the switch would mean for the 65,000-person city, only to find that transitioning over to energy sources like solar would both save residents money and insulate them from the fossil-fuel sector’s infamous volatility. But instead of narrowing in on the pocketbook benefits of renewables—that it can make common sense choice for working people—the story of Georgetown ends as a morality play on the importance of bipartisanship.

Gore’s not alone in this. A small cottage industry has emerged in the Trump era of aging and establishment-friendly politicians hoping to forge their legacy on climate change—all of them adamant that investors’ self-interest will make Republicans come to the table. Mike Bloomberg, perhaps the most Wall Street–friendly mayor in New York City history, just coauthored a book on why not all hope is lost for the climate. “Companies are one of the big heroes here,” he told NPR’s Steve Inskeep in April. “What you see is big companies doing things that are good for the world because their customers want it, their employees want it and, most of all, their investors want it.”

Though he’s a longtime friend to the oil industry, California Governor Jerry Brown—now in his last term—took his own trip to talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping about rising tides, leading the Los Angeles Times to dub him “America’s unofficial climate change ambassador.” Weeks later, he backed a climate bill laden with giveaways to fossil-fuel lobbyists, and almost universally opposed by grassroots environmental-justice groups.

That Davos regulars like Gore, Bloomberg, and Brown are casting themselves as the climate fight’s most visible heroes should worry more than just avowed leftists. Anti-establishment sentiments have captured the lions’ share of the energy in each of the country’s ruling parties, and letting 1 percenters define the terms of the climate debate will only affirm climate-denier talking points about how only a privileged few have the luxury of caring about environmental issues.

That Davos regulars like Gore, Bloomberg and Brown are casting themselves as the climate fight’s most visible heroes should worry more than just avowed leftists.

Edited to account for Trump’s June withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Gore’s theory of change seems to break down even within his own script. Toward the end of the film, his narration enjoins his audience to “speak truth to power” over an image of him stepping into a gold-plated elevator at Trump Tower. The meeting, he’s since admitted, bore no fruit.

Despite the film’s flaws, Gore isn’t a totally unsympathetic character. He admits at one point: “I don’t know any other way to do it.” And the fact that An Inconvenient Sequel feels so out of touch with today’s political moment is in part a testament to the size and scope of the movement Gore helped catalyze a decade ago. Indeed, movements like the opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and the push for fossil-fuel divestment have had a significant number of foot soldiers who were spurred to action by watching his first film.

Al Gore was instrumental in putting climate change on America’s radar in 2006. More than a decade later, we can be thankful he’s just one of many people now trying to tell the story.

Pressure Mounts On Netanyahu As Israeli Corruption Probes Intensify

The prime minister has been ordered to disclose calls with publishers, and a former top aide has turned state’s witness.

By Nick Robins-Early

Huffington Post

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces growing legal pressure as investigators appear to be focusing on his role in a series of high-profile corruption cases.

Several criminal investigations involving Netanyahu that have simmered for months have taken major turns in recent days. Israeli police confirmed Netanyahu is a suspect in two cases involving fraud and corruption. One day later, authorities said the prime minister’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, had turned state’s witness.

There’s no indication that Netanyahu’s leadership is immediately in jeopardy, but the new legal twists put the fourth-term prime minister in a precarious position and greatly increase the chances he eventually will face charges.

Netanyahu has attempted to dismiss the probes as baseless distractions of no concern to him. In a video posted to his official Facebook page on Friday, he referred to the investigations as “background noise.”

But it’s unclear how much longer Netanyahu will be able to casually dismiss the allegations. A multitude of fraud, bribery and graft investigations have swept up members of Netanyahu’s inner circle, but the two that directly involve the prime minister appear to be ramping up.

One of the investigations, known as File 2000, is looking into whether the prime minister sought to make a deal with one of Israel’s largest newspapers for positive coverage. Netanyahu is accused of trying to negotiate favorable treatment from Arnon Mozes of the powerful Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, offering to damage rival publication Israel Hayom.

On Monday, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered Netanyahu to disclose the dates of his phone calls with Mozes and with American billionaire and media mogul Sheldon Adelson, the publisher and financial backer of Israel Hayom. Israel Hayom and Adelson are both seen as supportive of Netanyahu.

Harow’s deal with prosecutors may be a bigger blow to Netanyahu. The deal will allow Harow to avoid jail time in his own fraud case in exchange for his cooperation against Netanyahu.

Harow is also presumed to be a witness in the other major corruption case involving Netanyahu, File 1000, which is probing whether the Israeli leader and his family improperly accepted luxury gifts, including cigars, holiday getaways and jewelry, from wealthy backers. Police announced in March that they were seeking to question billionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer in the probe. Packer was formerly engaged to singer Mariah Carey.

“I don’t know where that (bleep) is,” Carey said of Packer, when asked about his whereabouts during a June press conference in Israel. Packer agreed to be interviewed by authorities later that month.

Police last week questioned Netanyahu, along with his 25-year-old son Yair and wife Sara. Reports circulated in Israeli media Monday that the country’s attorney general was preparing to indict Sara Netanyahu on a corruption charges, including accepting goods under false pretenses.

Corruption scandals aren’t unusual in Israeli government. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last month was freed from prison after serving almost 18 months behind bars for bribery and obstruction of justice.

Despite the investigations, it’s unlikely Netanyahu will willingly resign from office in the near future. The probe could drag on for months longer before it’s clear whether he will face charges. There is no law requiring him to step down if he is indicted or convicted.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu is now faced with the task of defending himself and his family, and more revelations may be on their way. He’s on track to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister if he completes his term. But whether he reaches that record is now in question.

Don’t Let the White House’s Dysfunction Distract You From the Bad Things Trump Is Doing

Trump is losing many of his high-profile fights. But in dozens of less-noticed ways, his administration is advancing its extreme agenda.

By Greg Kaufmann

The Nation

While the media and much of the public have been consumed with the spectacle of dysfunction and failure in the Trump White House—The Mooch, the Russia investigation, and the demise of the Republican Party’s plans to repeal the Affordable Car Act—the administration has quietly succeeded in doing some real damage that has received little attention. In normal times, these actions likely would get more coverage, and that points to a problem of access to vital information as citizens and activists try to adjust to the daily tectonic shifts of Trump.

Here are a few big deal political maneuvers that haven’t received the reporting—or an outcry from a distracted public—that they need and deserve.

Reversing the Ban on Neurotoxic Pesticide

In March, the Trump administration’s Office of Pesticide Programs—which last year received 30 percent of its operating budget from the pesticide-manufacturing industry—canceled the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed ban of chlorpyrifos, a common pesticide used on crops that was derived from nerve gas developed by the Nazis.

The Obama administration had called for the ban after “three long-term, independently funded studies showed the substance was toxic,” according to Reuters. Particularly vulnerable are farm workers, and the brain development of children, infants, and fetuses.

“Chlorpyrifos has been shown beyond any shadow of a doubt to damage the brains of children, especially those of fetuses in the womb,” said Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. The American Academy of Pediatrics also urged EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to reconsider his decision.

Yet Pruitt saw fit to hail the ban reversal as “returning to using sound science in decision-making.”

Dow Chemical—whose CEO leads a White House manufacturers working group—sells the chemical. More than 6 million pounds of it are used annually in the United States on crops like apples, oranges, broccoli, berries, and tree nuts. Two months after Pruitt’s decision, more than 50 farmworkers in cabbage fields were sickened when winds blew the chemical from nearby mandarin orchards.

You can get informed and fight for a chlorpyrifos ban here and here. You can tell grocers to stop buying foods that might have residue from the chemical here. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has introduced a bill to ban the pesticide.

Nixing Science-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs

Last month, the administration cut more than $213 million from teen pregnancy prevention programs and research, eliminating the final two years of funding for 5-year projects. More than 80 institutions across the country lost their funding, and none of the programs provided abortion counseling.

Health officials told the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) that denying funding midway through a grant is “highly unusual and wasteful because it means there can be no scientifically valid finding.”

Some of the programs cut include: work Johns Hopkins University has been doing with American Indian teens to reduce sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy; University of Southern California’s workshops for parents on “how to talk to middle school kids about delaying sexual activity”; the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center program that helps “doctors talk to Native American and Latino teens about avoiding pregnancy”; and Planned Parenthood’s work in five states to bring “rural youths and parents together to share family values, strengthen family bonds, and talk about healthy relationships and sexual health.”

“We’re not out there doing what feels good,” Luanne Rohrbach, associate professor of preventive medicine at USC, told CIR. “We’re doing what we know is effective.”

Despite the fact that the teen birth rate has declined steadily over the past 20 years, the ongoing need for science-based approaches to pregnancy prevention is clear. CIR notes that the rate is still high compared to other industrialized nations, and the decline isn’t as steep in low-income communities. Perhaps that’s why the cuts were made outside the normal appropriations process as the administration pursues an ideologically-driven agenda that is out of step with real public health and education needs.

DACA at Risk

In June, 10 states, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, informed the Trump administration that it must end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by September 5 or face a lawsuit that would be heard by an anti-immigrant judge who has halted similar initiatives in the past.

Past assurances by a notoriously fickle president to keep DACA intact are hardly sufficient. Even if the administration ignores the deadline, there is little reason to believe Attorney General Jeff Sessions would defend DACA in court. As Representative Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) told The Washington Post, “Jeff Sessions is going to say, ‘Deport them.’ If you’re going to count on Jeff Sessions to save DACA, then DACA is ended.”

More than 780,000 young people, known as “Dreamers,” have been protected from deportation and made eligible to work since DACA’s inception in 2012. Seventy-eight percent of voters believe Dreamers should be allowed to remain in the United States permanently, including 73 percent of Trump voters.

Aside from the moral argument that people who grew up as Americans should be allowed to remain in the country, the Center for American Progress notes the economic case as well. Ending DACA would drain more than $460 billion from the national GDP over the next decade, and remove about 685,000 workers from the economy. Combined, the 10 states that are suing would lose $8 billion annually.

There is an opportunity take this issue out of the hands of extremists like the Texas attorney general and an unpredictable Trump administration. In July, the DREAM Act of 2017 was introduced with bipartisan support from Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). You can let your elected representatives know you want them to support DACA here.

Chemical Accident Prevention and Protection Delayed

After a 2013 explosion at a fertilizer storage facility in West, Texas, killed 15 people, including 12 firefighters, and injured 260—the Obama administration directed the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen the safety requirements for facilities using and storing potentially toxic or dangerous chemicals.

In January 2017, after four years of deliberations, the EPA finalized its Chemical Accident Safety Rule, which would apply to more than 12,000 chemical facilities across the nation. It included commonsense measures like making information more available to communities to support emergency preparedness, and safety audits.

However, in June, after complaints from the chemical industry that the new rule “may actually compromise the security of our facilities, emergency responders, and our communities,” the Trump administration delayed implementation until February 2019. Even as it did so, it released a fact sheet noting 58 deaths and $2 billion worth of property damage caused by 1,517 facility accidents over the past 10 years.

A coalition of 11 states led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has sued the EPA over the delay. You can tell EPA Administrator Pruitt to implement the new rule here.

Trump is losing many of his high-profile fights. But in dozens of less-noticed ways, his administration is advancing its extreme agenda that exacerbates political and economic inequality. As much of the media remains fixated on the Russia story and the Great Trump Dysfunction, journalists and advocates will need to work harder than ever to make sure the damaging daily actions of this administration aren’t ignored.

Trump Is Not the Problem

His election is the consequence of a crisis that’s been brewing for a long time.

By Andrew J. Bacevich

The Nation

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.

Like it or not, the president of the United States embodies America itself. The individual inhabiting the White House has become the preeminent symbol of who we are and what we represent as a nation and a people. In a fundamental sense, he is us. It was not always so. Millard Fillmore, the 13th president (1850–1853), presided over but did not personify the American republic. He was merely the federal chief executive. Contemporary observers did not refer to his term in office as the Age of Fillmore. With occasional exceptions, Abraham Lincoln in particular, much the same could be said of Fillmore’s successors. They brought to office low expectations, which they rarely exceeded. So when Chester A. Arthur (1881–1885) or William Howard Taft (1909–1913) left the White House, there was no rush to immortalize them by erecting gaudy shrines—now known as “presidential libraries”—to the glory of their presidencies. In those distant days, ex-presidents went back home or somewhere else where they could find work.

Over the course of the past century, all that has changed. Ours is a republic that has long since taken on the trappings of a monarchy, with the president inhabiting rarefied space as our king-emperor. The Brits have their woman in Buckingham Palace. We have our man in the White House.

Nominally, the Constitution assigns responsibilities and allocates prerogatives to three co-equal branches of government. In practice, the executive branch enjoys primacy. Prompted by a seemingly endless series of crises since the Great Depression and World War II, presidents have accumulated ever-greater authority, partly through usurpation, but more often than not through forfeiture.

At the same time, they also took on various extra-constitutional responsibilities. By the beginning of the present century, Americans took it for granted that the occupant of the Oval Office should function as prophet, moral philosopher, style setter, interpreter of the prevailing zeitgeist, and—last but hardly least—celebrity in chief. In short, POTUS was the bright star at the center of the American solar system.

As recently as a year ago, few saw in this cult of the presidency cause for complaint. On odd occasions, some particularly egregious bit of executive tomfoolery might trigger grumbling about an “imperial presidency.” Yet rarely did such complaints lead to effective remedial action. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 might be considered the exception that proves the rule. Inspired by the disaster of the Vietnam War and intended to constrain presidents from using force without congressional buy-in and support, that particular piece of legislation ranks alongside the Volstead Act of 1919 (enacted to enforce Prohibition) as among the least effective ever to become law.

In truth, influential American institutions—investment banks and multinational corporations, churches and universities, big =city newspapers and TV networks, the bloated national-security apparatus and both major political parties—have found reason aplenty to endorse a system that elevates the president to the status of demigod. By and large, it’s been good for business, whatever that business happens to be.

Furthermore, it’s our president—not some foreign dude—who is, by common consent, the most powerful person in the universe. For inhabitants of a nation that considers itself both “exceptional” and “indispensable,” this seems only right and proper. So Americans generally like it that their president is the acknowledged Leader of the Free World rather than some fresh-faced pretender from France or Canada.

Then came the Great Hysteria. Arriving with a Pearl Harbor–like shock, it erupted on the night of November 8, 2016, just as the news that Hillary Clinton was losing Florida and appeared certain to lose much else besides became apparent.

Suddenly, all the habits and precedents that had contributed to empowering the modern American presidency no longer made sense. That a single deeply flawed individual along with a handful of unelected associates and family members should be entrusted with determining the fate of the planet suddenly seemed the very definition of madness.

Emotion-laden upheavals producing behavior that is not entirely rational are hardly unknown in the American experience. Indeed, they recur with some frequency. The Great Awakenings of the 18th and early 19th centuries are examples of the phenomenon. So also are the two Red Scares of the 20th century, the first in the early 1920s and the second, commonly known as “McCarthyism,” coinciding with the onset of the Cold War.

Yet the response to Donald Trump’s election, combining as it has fear, anger, bewilderment, disgust, and something akin to despair, qualifies as an upheaval without precedent. History itself had seemingly gone off the rails. The crude Andrew Jackson’s 1828 ousting of an impeccably pedigreed president, John Quincy Adams, was nothing compared to the vulgar Donald Trump’s defeat of an impeccably credentialed graduate of Wellesley and Yale who had served as first lady, United States senator, and secretary of state. A self-evidently inconceivable outcome—all the smart people agreed on that point—had somehow happened anyway.

A vulgar, bombastic, thrice-married real-estate tycoon and reality-TV host as prophet, moral philosopher, style setter, interpreter of the prevailing zeitgeist, and chief celebrity? The very idea seemed both absurd and intolerable.

If we have, as innumerable commentators assert, embarked upon the Age of Trump, the defining feature of that age might well be the single-minded determination of those horrified and intent on ensuring its prompt termination. In 2016, TIME magazine chose Trump as its person of the year. In 2017, when it comes to dominating the news, that “person” might turn out to be a group—all those fixated on cleansing the White House of Trump’s defiling presence.

Egged on and abetted in every way by Trump himself, the anti-Trump resistance has made itself the Big Story. Lies, hate, collusion, conspiracy, fascism: Rarely has the everyday vocabulary of American politics been as ominous and forbidding as over the past six months. Take resistance rhetoric at face value and you might conclude that Donald Trump is indeed the fifth horseman of the Apocalypse, his presence in the presidential saddle eclipsing all other concerns. Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death will just have to wait.

The unspoken assumption of those most determined to banish him from public life appears to be this: Once he’s gone, history will be returned to its intended path, humankind will breathe a collective sigh of relief, and all will be well again. Yet such an assumption strikes me as remarkably wrongheaded—and not merely because, should Trump prematurely depart from office, Mike Pence will succeed him. Expectations that Trump’s ouster will restore normalcy ignore the very factors that first handed him the Republican nomination (with a slew of competitors wondering what hit them) and then put him in the Oval Office (with a vastly more seasoned and disciplined, if uninspiring, opponent left to bemoan the injustice of it all).

Not all, but many of Trump’s supporters voted for him for the same reason that people buy lottery tickets: Why not? In their estimation, they had little to lose. Their loathing of the status quo is such that they may well stick with Trump even as it becomes increasingly obvious that his promise of salvation—an America made “great again”—is not going to materialize.

Yet those who imagine that Trump’s removal will put things right are likewise deluding themselves. To persist in thinking that he defines the problem is to commit an error of the first order. Trump is not cause but consequence.

For too long, the cult of the presidency has provided an excuse for treating politics as a melodrama staged at four-year intervals and centering on hopes of another Roosevelt or Kennedy or Reagan appearing as the agent of American deliverance. Donald Trump’s ascent to the office once inhabited by those worthies should demolish such fantasies once and for all.

How is it that someone like Trump could become president in the first place? Blame sexism, Fox News, James Comey, Russian meddling, and Hillary’s failure to visit Wisconsin all you want, but a more fundamental explanation is this: The election of 2016 constituted a de facto referendum on the course of recent American history. That referendum rendered a definitive judgment: The underlying consensus informing US policy since the end of the Cold War has collapsed. Precepts that members of the policy elite have long treated as self-evident no longer command the backing or assent of the American people. Put simply: It’s the ideas, stupid.

Rabbit Poses a Question: “Without the Cold War, what’s the point of being an American?” As the long twilight struggle was finally winding down, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, novelist John Updike’s late-20th-century Everyman, pondered that question. In short order, Rabbit got his answer. So, too, after only perfunctory consultation, did his fellow citizens.

The passing of the Cold War offered cause for celebration. On that point all agreed. Yet, as it turned out, it did not require reflection from the public at large. Policy elites professed to have matters well in hand. The dawning era, they believed, summoned Americans not to think anew, but to keep doing precisely what they were accustomed to doing, albeit without fretting further about Communist takeovers or the risks of nuclear Armageddon. In a world where a “single superpower” was calling the shots, utopia was right around the corner. All that was needed was for the United States to demonstrate the requisite confidence and resolve.

Three specific propositions made up the elite consensus that coalesced during the initial decade of the post–Cold War era. According to the first, the globalization of corporate capitalism held the key to wealth creation on a hitherto unimaginable scale. According to the second, jettisoning norms derived from Judeo-Christian religious traditions held the key to the further expansion of personal freedom. According to the third, muscular global leadership exercised by the United States held the key to promoting a stable and humane international order.

Unfettered neoliberalism plus the unencumbered self plus unabashed American assertiveness: These defined the elements of the post–Cold War consensus that formed during the first half of the 1990s—plus what enthusiasts called the information revolution. The miracle of that “revolution,” gathering momentum just as the Soviet Union was going down for the count, provided the secret sauce that infused the emerging consensus with a sense of historical inevitability.

The Cold War itself had fostered notable improvements in computational speed and capacity, new modes of communication, and techniques for storing, accessing, and manipulating information. Yet, however impressive, such developments remained subsidiary to the larger East-West competition. Only as the Cold War receded did they move from background to forefront. For true believers, information technology came to serve a quasi-theological function, promising answers to life’s ultimate questions. Although God might be dead, Americans found in Bill Gates and Steve Jobs nerdy but compelling idols.

More immediately, in the eyes of the policy elite, the information revolution meshed with and reinforced the policy consensus. For those focused on the political economy, it greased the wheels of globalized capitalism, creating vast new opportunities for trade and investment. For those looking to shed constraints on personal freedom, information promised empowerment, making identity itself something to choose, discard, or modify. For members of the national-security apparatus, the information revolution seemed certain to endow the United States with seemingly unassailable military capabilities. That these various enhancements would combine to improve the human condition was taken for granted; that they would, in due course, align everybody—from Afghans to Zimbabweans—with American values and the American way of life seemed more or less inevitable.

The three presidents of the post–Cold War era—Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—put these several propositions to the test. Politics-as-theater requires us to pretend that our 42nd, 43rd, and 44th presidents differed in fundamental ways. In practice, however, their similarities greatly outweighed any of those differences. Taken together, the administrations over which they presided collaborated in pursuing a common agenda, each intent on proving that the post–Cold War consensus could work in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

To be fair, it did work for some. “Globalization” made some people very rich indeed. In doing so, however, it greatly exacerbated inequality, while doing nothing to alleviate the condition of the American working class and underclass.

The emphasis on diversity and multiculturalism improved the status of groups long subjected to discrimination. Yet these advances have done remarkably little to reduce the alienation and despair pervading a society suffering from epidemics of chronic substance abuse, morbid obesity, teen suicide, and similar afflictions. Throw in the world’s highest incarceration rate, a seemingly endless appetite for porn, urban school systems mired in permanent crisis, and mass shootings that occur with metronomic regularity, and what you have is something other than the profile of a healthy society.

As for militarized American global leadership, it has indeed resulted in various bad actors’ meeting richly deserved fates. Goodbye, Saddam. Good riddance, Osama. Yet it has also embroiled the United States in a series of costly, senseless, unsuccessful, and ultimately counterproductive wars. As for the vaunted information revolution, its impact has been ambiguous at best, even if those with eyeballs glued to their personal electronic devices can’t tolerate being offline long enough to assess the actual costs of being perpetually connected.

In November 2016, Americans who consider themselves ill served by the post–Cold War consensus signaled that they had had enough. Voters not persuaded that neoliberal economic policies, a culture taking its motto from the Outback steakhouse chain, and a national-security strategy that employs the US military as a global police force were working to their benefit provided a crucial margin in the election of Donald Trump.

The response of the political establishment to this extraordinary repudiation testifies to the extent of its bankruptcy. The Republican Party still clings to the notion that reducing taxes, cutting government red tape, restricting abortion, curbing immigration, prohibiting flag-burning, and increasing military spending will alleviate all that ails the country. Meanwhile, to judge by the promises contained in their recently unveiled (and instantly forgotten) program for a “Better Deal,” Democrats believe that raising the minimum wage, capping the cost of prescription drugs, and creating apprenticeship programs for the unemployed will return their party to the good graces of the American electorate.

In both parties embarrassingly small-bore thinking prevails, with Republicans and Democrats equally bereft of fresh ideas. Each party is led by aging hacks. Neither has devised an antidote to the crisis in American politics signified by the nomination and election of Donald Trump.

While our emperor tweets, Rome itself fiddles.

Starting Over

I am by temperament a conservative and a traditionalist, wary of revolutionary movements that more often than not end up being hijacked by nefarious plotters more interested in satisfying their own ambitions than in pursuing high ideals. Yet even I am prepared to admit that the status quo appears increasingly untenable. Incremental change will not suffice. The challenge of the moment is to embrace radicalism without succumbing to irresponsibility.

The one good thing we can say about the election of Donald Trump—to borrow an image from Thomas Jefferson—is this: It ought to serve as a fire bell in the night. If Americans have an ounce of sense, the Trump presidency will cure them once and for all of the illusion that from the White House comes redemption. By now we ought to have had enough of de facto monarchy.

By extension, Americans should come to see as intolerable the meanness, corruption, and partisan dysfunction so much in evidence at the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue. We need not wax sentimental over the days when Lyndon Johnson and Everett Dirksen presided over the Senate to conclude that Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer represent something other than progress. If Congress continues to behave as contemptibly as it has in recent years (and in recent weeks), it will, by default, allow the conditions that have produced Trump and his cronies to prevail.

So it’s time to take another stab at an approach to governance worthy of a democratic republic. Where to begin? I submit that Rabbit Angstrom’s question offers a place to start: What’s the point of being an American?

Authentic progressives and principled conservatives will offer different answers to Rabbit’s query. My own answer is rooted in an abiding conviction that our problems are less quantitative than qualitative. Rather than simply more—yet more wealth, more freedom, more attempts at global leadership—the times call for different. In my view, the point of being an American is to participate in creating a society that strikes a balance between wants and needs, that exists in harmony with nature and the rest of humankind, and that is rooted in an agreed upon conception of the common good.

My own prescription for how to act upon that statement of purpose is unlikely to find favor with most readers of TomDispatch. But therein lies the basis for an interesting debate, one that is essential to prospects for stemming the accelerating decay of American civic life.

Initiating such a debate, and so bringing into focus core issues, will remain next to impossible, however, without first clearing away the accumulated debris of the post–Cold War era. Preliminary steps in that direction, listed in no particular order, ought to include the following:

  • First, abolish the Electoral College. Doing so will preclude any further occurrence of the circumstances that twice in recent decades cast doubt on the outcome of national elections and thereby did far more than any foreign interference to undermine the legitimacy of American politics.
  • Second, rollback gerrymandering. Doing so will help restore competitive elections and make incumbency more tenuous.
  • Third, limit the impact of corporate money on elections at all levels, if need be by amending the Constitution.
  • Fourth, mandate a balanced federal budget, thereby demolishing the pretense that Americans need not choose between guns and butter.
  • Fifth, implement a program of national service, thereby eliminating the all-volunteer military and restoring the tradition of the citizen-soldier. Doing so will help close the gap between the military and society and enrich the prevailing conception of citizenship. It might even encourage members of Congress to think twice before signing off on wars that the commander in chief wants to fight.
  • Sixth, enact tax policies that will promote greater income equality.
  • Seventh, increase public funding for public higher education, thereby ensuring that college remains an option for those who are not well-to-do.
  • Eighth, beyond mere “job” creation, attend to the growing challenges of providing meaningful work—employment that is both rewarding and reasonably remunerative—for those without advanced STEM degrees.
  • Ninth, end the thumb-twiddling on climate change and start treating it as the first-order national-security priority that it is.
  • Tenth, absent evident progress on the above, create a new party system, breaking the current duopoly in which Republicans and Democrats tacitly collaborate to dictate the policy agenda and restrict the range of policy options deemed permissible.

These are not particularly original proposals and I do not offer them as a panacea. They may, however, represent preliminary steps toward devising some new paradigm to replace a post–Cold War consensus that, in promoting transnational corporate greed, mistaking libertinism for liberty, and embracing militarized neo-imperialism as the essence of statecraft, has paved the way for the presidency of Donald Trump.

We can and must do better. But doing so will require that we come up with better and truer ideas to serve as a foundation for American politics.

Andrew Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, which has just been published by Random House.

POLITICS 08/08/2017

Trump Adviser Suggests Minnesota Mosque Attack Could Have Been Faked ‘By The Left’

Trump has yet to denounce the weekend explosion at the Islamic center because he awaits details on who did it, Sebastian Gorka says.

By Marina Fang

Associate Politics Editor, HuffPost

Sebastian Gorka, a White House national security adviser, defended President Donald Trump’s silence on an explosion at a Minnesota mosque by suggesting it could have been a fake hate crime “propagated by the left.”

When asked on MSNBC Tuesday why Trump had yet to publicly comment on the Saturday incident, Gorka said the president wants to wait until he learns more about it. Trump, though, often is quick to comment on other attacks, particularly those carried out by Muslims.

“When we have some kind of finalized investigation, absolutely,” Gorka said of whether Trump would respond to the bombing at the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. He then suggested the attack could have been a “fake” hate crime.

“There’s a great rule: All initial reports are false,″ Gorka said. “You have to check them and find out who the perpetrators are. We’ve had a series of crimes committed, alleged hate crimes, by right-wing individuals in the last six months, that turned out to actually have been propagated by the left.”

“So let’s wait and see,” he said. “Let’s allow the local authorities to provide their assessment, and then the White House will make its comments.”

No one was injured in the blast that occurred at about 5 a.m. as a few congregants gathered for morning prayers. The FBI is investigating the attack, which Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) declared “a criminal act of terrorism” as he visited the site on Sunday.

In June, Trump immediately seized on a terror attack in London, using it to promote his travel ban targeting six majority-Muslim countries and lashing out at the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Gorka on Tuesday claimed that Trump commented swiftly in that case because the attack was “unequivocally clear for what it is.”

Of the explosion at the Minnesota mosque, Gorka said, “People fake hate crimes.”

“The question of who does it is a question, when you’ve had people fake hate crimes with some regularity in the last six months,” Gorka reiterated. He cited no specific examples.

Host Stephanie Ruhle pointed out that Trump could simply denounce the mosque attack. “You don’t have to make a statement about who did it, but you can make a public statement denouncing how terrible it would be to attack a building of worship,” she told Gorka.

“That’s fine, and I’m sure the president will do that,” he responded.

When Ruhle noted that on Twitter, Trump’s usual medium for communication, the president has spent the week mostly tweeting insults and accusations, Gorka said to wait.

“Just hold your horses, count to 10, and the president will do what he deems fit,” Gorka said.

Donald Trump makes his money the old-fashioned way—he launders it

By Mark Sumner

Daily KOS

Monday Aug 07, 2017

With everything that Donald Trump does, it’s tempting to think “distraction.” Is he really mad at Attorney General Jeff Sessions? Did he have it in for former chief of staff Reince Priebus? Why is he telling the Boy Scouts stories about sex yachts and what billionaires do in the south of France? Did press secretary Sean Spicer really go out the door for not sufficiently defending Trump’s inane policies, or was Anthony Scaramucci brought in (before quickly being ushered out) just because he provides better theater?

Even with something as large and serious as the ban on transgender personnel in the military, it’s hard to let go of the idea that this might simply be a feint. A misdirection. A ball tossed into the distance, so we don’t see what Trump is doing closer to hand.

But with Donald Trump it’s fair to say that nothing is a distraction. And everything. There are always so many outrages in progress that it’s easy to get engaged with any one of them and find that a dozen more have swung past with little notice. That’s the nature of a “Gish Gallop,” which by this point should really be relabeled a Trump Trot: never let the paint dry on one disaster before launching another. And another. And another.

So when something happens that seems to be genuinely important, and that thing gets buried under such a mound of other events that it barely gets noticed … did it happen because Trump wanted it that way? Yes. Because Trump would just as soon everything sail past with no attention.

But in the case of financier Bill Browder’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, it’s very hard to think that the heap of items that relegated it to an appearance on CSPAN-3 and near-complete disregard by the news networks was not entirely a coincidence.

Because what Browder had to say fills in important gaps in the story of that meeting in Trump Tower between Donald Trump’s senior campaign staff and representatives of the Russian government offering information designed to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. And on a normal day, that testimony would be at the top of the news.

Browder’s opening statement can be found here. Rather than transcribing Browder’s statements directly, I’ve tried to fit them into the information we already have in order to create a coherent narrative.

Bill Browder is a U.S. expatriate who split his time between London and Moscow until Russia sent him packing in 2005, declaring Browder a “threat to national security.” At the time, Browder was a major investor in the nascent Russian stock market, making investments mostly for those outside of Russia. But in 2005 Browder’s office was raided, he was booted from the country, and his assets were mysteriously handed off to someone unrelated to Browder’s firm. In an effort to recoup his funds and reveal what Browder saw as corruption within Russian law enforcement, he hired attorney Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky worked for three years to assemble a set of documents detailing what had happened with Browder and with others. For six months Magnitsky was shuffled between increasingly harsh prisons while his health continually declined. At the end of that time he was sent to a final prison, supposedly to obtain medical care. Instead he was beaten to death. He was 37. No one was ever prosecuted for his death.

Magnitsky’s death spurred Browder to come to the U.S., where he urged Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin and Republican Sen. John McCain to take action. That trip eventually led to the passage of the Magnitsky Act, which placed sanctions on those directly involved in Magnitsky’s death, as well as other Russians who were involved in serious human rights abuses.

From the beginning, the Act was infuriating to Vladimir Putin and to the oligarchs who suddenly found moving funds out of Russia more difficult.

And really, that’s what this whole story is about.

It’s not a story in which Donald Trump is the star: It’s a story in which Donald Trump is a sideshow. A bit player. It’s the story of how Vladimir Putin reassembled the Soviet Union, not as a nation, but as a criminal enterprise that spread across national borders. And it’s about how money stolen from the citizens living under that criminal enterprise became gleaming towers in Midtown Manhattan as well as billions in U.S. dollars.

1990 — 2001

”Money laundering is easy”

Up until 2000, moving funds from former Soviet territories into the United States was a simple two-step process. First money rolled out of Russia into accounts in ask-no-question banks on Cyprus, like the bank controlled by now Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The former Soviet republic to Cyprus route was so well established that Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort opened an office there to handle the millions in under-the-table funds directed his way from Moscow.

Then the money from Cyprus was sent into the United States by creating shell companies, like the 2,000 plus companies created by Irakly ”Ike” Kaveladze, the “eighth man” in the Trump Tower meeting. Those shell companies made laundering the Soviet bucks extremely simple.

In a a nine-month inquiry that subpoenaed bank records, the investigators found that an unknown number of Russians and other East Europeans moved more than $1.4 billion through accounts at Citibank of New York and the Commercial Bank of San Francisco.

In 2017, it seems as if Vladimir Putin has always been in charge of Russia, but in 1990 he was … if not a nobody, then decidedly a mid-level oligarch. On paper he was an ex-KGB officer turned adviser to the mayor of the freshly re-re-named St. Petersburg. Over the next four years, Putin helped found and build a new, strongly nationalist political party in St. Petersburg. By 1996, he had moved to Moscow for a spot on the wildly-powerful Department of Affairs of the President of the Russian Federation. In 1997 Boris Yeltsin added Puttin to his presidential staff. In 1998, Putin moved into the cabinet, with control over how Russia managed internal regions. A month later, he also gained control of the FSB, the replacement for his old employer, the KGB.

One year later, Yeltsin appointed Putin as acting prime minster and announced that Putin was his designated successor as president of Russia. Less than a year later, Yeltsin resigned unexpectedly.

Putin was acting president. He was also using his tools, including the FSB, to tighten his grip over the oligarchy that dominated not just Russia but most former Soviet states. While the United States worried that Putin was trying to reassemble the Soviet Union in its Cold War form, Putin had other ideas. He built a system that wasn’t about empowering the Communist Party or any other party: it was about cementing Vladimir Putin in place more firmly than any Russian leader since Lenin by putting him at the top of a hierarchy of oligarchs empowered to loot whole nations.

Among the oligarchs falling into this new team was Aras Agalarov. Agalarov was a high-ranking member of the Communist Party in Azerbaijan. His son, the pop-singing pal of Donald Trump, Emin Agaralov, was actually married to the daughter of Ilham Aliyev, who became president of Azerbaijan during Putin’s first term and never surrendered the office. Aliyev controlled the Azerbaijani state oil company when Soviet control collapsed, and holds enormous wealth. Like Putin, Aliyev is the wealthy authoritarian head of a single powerful party that ruthlessly suppresses opposition.

Aras Agaralov and family moved to Moscow in 1998, initially operating a number of businesses that revolved around consumer goods like shoes, along with video and software. He also became involved in channeling enormous amounts of money from Azerbaijan to the United States. Of those 2,000 shell companies that Irakly Kaveladze created by 2000, most were controlled by the Agaralov family. Agaralov is so powerful and well connected that he’s the only person in Russia with a private state on the Metro.

In 2000, an investigation spearheaded by then-Sen. Carl Levin identified Russian businessman Ike Kaveladze as a “poster child” for the practice of establishing anonymous US shell corporations that could be used to launder “ill-gotten gains,” according to the Michigan Democrat. Documents obtained as part of that probe into possible money laundering show that Kaveladze’s main client at the time was Crocus International, a company headed by Aras Agalarov, who in 2013 partnered with Donald Trump to bring the Miss Universe contest to Moscow.

“He Was their man”

After the hearings in 2000, U.S. regulators were already looking more closely at shell companies and U.S. banks were more closely monitored under the Banking Secrecy Act (BSA). The BSA had originally been passed in 1970, explicitly to limit money laundering, but it left often many loopholes for foreign funds. In particular, it allowed foreign banks to create U.S. shell companies by simply filling out the paperwork. Then the BSA regulations that affected foreign banks could be ignored through the fiction of working with the shell company.

Following 9/11, concern over terrorist funding led to amendment of the Banking Secrecy Act. Under Title III of the Patriot Act enforcement was greatly expanded and the days of banks directly money laundering through fictional shell company were, if not ended, at least made more difficult.

Restrictions were placed on accounts and foreign banks. It prohibited shell banks that are not an affiliate of a bank that has a physical presence in the U.S. or that are not subject to supervision by a banking authority in a non-U.S. country.

With attention on shell companies and the Patriot Act bolstering concerns about money laundering, the old pipelines began to close. Though many routes remained for moving funds into to the US — including through casinos—many of those routes were relatively slow, allowing money to enter the country only a few million dollars at a time.

As oligarchs secured their control over former Soviet states and learned to suppress opposition to their monopolized industries, the money they were raking in was growing by leaps and bounds. But turning that money into U.S. assets was not keeping up. They needed a new route.

Many oligarchs had already started turning to real estate as the primary means of shifting funds. Real estate laws in the United States offer unparalleled flexibility and freedom from reporting. The value of real estate is all but arbitrary, so developers could post any price they wanted on a luxury condo, mansion, or even entire building. If someone will pay $100 million for a home in Florida … then the home is worth $100 million. Even if it was listed for one-third of that the day before.

And shell companies hadn’t completely lost their worth. Real estate developers could collect massive over payments from offshore sources, then turn around and feed that money back into “partnerships” and other arrangements. In a very real sense, the real estate developers stepped in to take the place of banks once regulators were watching banks. They were bringing in funds for a fee. The real estate itself was almost an afterthought.

The shift from shell companies to real estate as the means of moving funds came barely in time for Donald Trump.

Trump was already bleeding from a string of bad decisions that left him with with a cascade of bankruptcies and a $916 million loss on his 1995 taxes. Trump’s massive Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City opened in 1990, but proved to be a disaster from before opening day. Within a year of its founding, Trump required an extra infusion of more than $3 million from his father to keep the doors open—a jolt of ready cash delivered in the form of an illegal loan for which Trump later had to pay a fine. Even that wasn’t enough to keep the Taj Mahal from having to reorganize under Chapter 11 by July 1991. With his bid to monopolize Atlantic City failing, Trump was forced to declare bankruptcy at his two other casinos in 1992. The cash-strapped Trump also lost the Plaza Hotel in New York to bankruptcy in 1992. The Taj Mahal limped on after reorganization, but the dollars from his father were just one of 106 violations of the Banking Secrecy Act that Trump had piled up by 1998.

Trump’s entire foray into entertainment properties turned out to be poorly timed and hugely unsuccessful. He had his fingers everywhere from a giant East Coast marina to a little riverboat casino in Indiana to a football team in a soon-to-vanish league. All of them came up losers.

By the 2000s, the property developer and casino owner with ready access to the capital markets and the biggest New York banks was no more. A series of corporate bankruptcies had limited his financing options. Mr Trump had become an entertainer who portrayed a tycoon on television and licensed his name to businesses looking for a brand, leading to fee-making opportunities as disparate as Trump University and Trump Vodka.

No U.S. bank would give Trump a loan. He had a name, a reputation for big deals, and a real-life record as a big loser. He was spending his time dining with rubes to trick them into investing into never-built Mexican condos on a sewage-strewn beach.

But there was a way out. As revealed in a series of investigations by The Financial Times, with his lines of credit cancelled and no bank willing to talk to him, Trump had already been tapping into an alternate source of funds.

In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.

He was their man.

2001 — 2008

“Dozens of Russians bought apartments in Trump properties”

The idea that Donald Trump is a big real estate developer is a marketing creation. The great majority of buildings carrying Trump’s name are either acquisitions or licensing deals. But the idea that Trump’s true genius is in selling his name is also just a story. That’s not where the money came from to bail Trump out of his poor judgement and abysmal timing. What got Trump out of the hole was something else entirely.

The first steps began not long after the Patriot Act was signed. In 2001, Tevfik Arif moved some of his business to the United States. Arif was a former Soviet official from Kazakhstan where he directed the Ministry of Commerce and Trade. His background was not in real estate. Previous to 2001, he had operated a jewelry chain, hotels, and had part of a highly lucrative monopoly on chromium obtained by taking over the former state-run company after the fall of the Soviet Union.

But in New York, Arif formed the Bayrock Group. The headquarters of Bayrock was on the 24th floor of Trump Tower and it was designed from the outset as a real estate investment firm. The second employee of Bayrock was Felix Sater. Sater was born in Moscow, but moved to the United States as a child. In 1991, Sater was arrested for assault after he smashed a glass and slashed a stock broker on the face and neck during an argument in a Manhattan bar. In 1996, he got to know Donald Trump after he rented the Penthouse at Trump’s 40 Wall Street building. In 1998, he was convicted of fraud in a $40 million “pump and dump” designed to dupe investors into driving up the price of a penny stock. Sater’s felony convictions prevented him from working as a broker, but a hands-off approach from the FBI due to Sater informing on some of his Mafia friends, and the unregulated nature of his Trump connections gave him a new option.

In 2002, Sater reinvented himself, working at a real estate development firm called Bayrock Group. Bayrock’s offices are conveniently located on the 24th floor of Trump Tower in New York, which is where the paths of Sater and Trump cross. In a 2008 sworn deposition Sater said he would pitch Trump business deals (“just me and him”) on a “constant basis.”

By 2003, Felix Sater was managing director at Bayrock, and a partner with Donald Trump. Bayrock and the Trump Organization became so intricately entangled that Sater occasionally worked out of a Trump Organization office. He had Trump Organization business cards and identified himself as an employee of Trump. Sater worked with Trump on several aborted projects, including a $200 million hotel in Arizona and a series of Florida condos. Trump even sent Sater to Moscow in 2005, supposedly to search out potential sites for Trump Tower Moscow.

In 2006, Bayrock partnered with Tamir Sapir to build the $450 million Trump SoHo. Sapir is a former Soviet soldier who fled persecution in the 1970s. He got a head start on converting Russian commodities into real estate during the 1990s, and was already a billionaire by 2000. Trump would go on to partner with Bayrock on additional projects in New York, Florida, Colorado, and Arizona as well as in Poland, Turkey, and Ukraine.

While Trump was working with Bayrock to channel large amounts into building projects, he began taking in a steady stream of smaller transactions in the form of condo and home sales to oligarchs and to second-tier officials. The principal agent in many of these condo transactions was Sergei Millian, the head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce—an organization that appears to exist only on paper.

Most of the board members are obscure entities and nearly half of their telephone numbers went unanswered when called by the Financial Times. An FT reporter found no trace of the Chamber of Commerce at the Wall Street address listed on its website.

The organization’s shadowy existence is no coincidence. It began as an explicit arm of Russian intelligence to gather information and spread propaganda inside the United States, and still seems to be deeply connected to Russian government operations in the U.S.

Millian arranged for Russian funds to flow into Trump apartments and condos. The primary requirement for Trump on these deals and others was not an attention to details—it was the opposite. Trump had to simply cash the checks and turn his back. With both Bayrock and Millian, this was the principal quality that defined Donald Trump—an ability to look away and ignore both the source of the funds pouring in and the nature of the deals they were making.

“You could say I was their exclusive broker,” [Millian] told Ria. “Then, in 2007-2008, dozens of Russians bought apartments in Trump properties in the US.” He later told ABC television that the Trump Organisation had received “hundreds of millions of dollars” through deals with Russian businessmen.

The deals with Millian were far from Trump’s only dip into the oligarch pool. He also hooked up with Viktor Khrapunov, the former energy minister for Kazakhstan with close ties to autocratic leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is the only President Kazakhstan has had since the position was established in 1990.

Overall, Trump’s connection to Russian money was extraordinarily strong. At a time when other real estate developers were having difficulties, Trump was actually experiencing a Russian boom.

“We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan,” says Debra Stotts, a sales agent who filled up the tower. The very top floors went unsold for years, but a third of units sold on floors 76 through 83 by 2004 involved people or limited liability companies connected to Russia and neighboring states, a Bloomberg investigation shows.

In 2007, Millian arranged for Trump to visit Moscow. After that trip, Trump invited potential investors to Trump Tower to explain that he was looking at developments in Russia. He was joined at that meeting by Felix Sater of Bayrock, in Moscow again on Trump business. It’s worth noting that Millian arranged a number of such trips for American businessmen—trips that were suspected as being involved in Russian collection of compromising information. Following the trip to Moscow, Millian joined Trump—at Trump’s invitation—for horse races in Miami.

But Trump didn’t end his Bayrock connection. He continued to work with Sater on the possibility of building in Russia with Russian investors.

Sater testified that after trips to Russia, he would “pop my head into Mr. Trump’s office and tell him, you know, ‘Moving forward on the Moscow deal.’ And he would say, ‘All right.’ ”

In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. made his infamous remark about the source of Trump’s wealth.

There is strong evidence that Trump’s businesses have received significant funding from Russian investors. Most notably, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. made that very claim at a real estate conference in New York in 2008, saying “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” Donald Trump Jr. added, “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

It was that same year that Trump sold a single Florida home to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev at a price of $95 million though Trump had paid only $41 million.

Russian oligarchs had turned faux billionaire Trump into an actual billionaire. Donald Trump’s business wasn’t real estate development. It wasn’t licensing the Trump name. Donald Trump made his fortune laundering capital. Even the golf courses that Trump has spent his time vacationing on since sitting down at the White House were products of this relationship.

“As we were setting off, I said, ‘Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks — because of the recession, the Great Recession — have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.’ And this is what he said. He said, ‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.’ I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.’ Now that was three years ago, so it was pretty interesting.”

2008 — 2015

“Sergei Magnitsky was murdered as my proxy”

In 2008, as Donald Trump Jr. was in Moscow to brag about the influx of Russian funds, Sergei Magnitsky was being arrested by Putin’s FSB.

Sergei’s captors immediately started putting pressure on him to withdraw his testimony. They put him in cells with 14 inmates and eight beds, leaving the lights on 24 hours a day to impose sleep deprivation. They put him in cells with no heat and no windowpanes, and he nearly froze to death. They put him in cells with no toilet, just a hole in the floor and sewage bubbling up. They moved him from cell to cell in the middle of the night without any warning. During his 358 days in detention he was forcibly moved multiple times.

Since coming to power, Putin had been pushing wealth into fewer and fewer hands as he built his new hierarchy of oligarchs loyal to him. Many of those same oligarchs turned up in Magnitsky’s list of corrupt officials. Imprisoning Magnitsky was done both to stop him from speaking and to torture him into renouncing his previous testimony. In failing health following months of mistreatment, Magnitsky was sent to a different prison, supposedly for medical treatment.

Instead, he was chained to a bed and beaten to death.

Bill Browder began a campaign to bring attention to both Magnitsky’s death and the financial corruption he had uncovered. His efforts ultimately resulted in the Magnitsky Act.

In November 2012 the Magnitsky Act passed the House of Representatives by 364 to 43 votes and later the Senate 92 to 4 votes. On December 14, 2012, President Obama signed the Sergei Magnitsky Act into law.

The 2000 investigation into shell companies had moved the flow of oligarch money from shell companies to real estate. The Magnitsky Act became the first real threat to that new pipeline.

Putin was furious. Looking for ways to retaliate against American interests, he settled on the most sadistic and evil option of all: banning the adoption of Russian orphans by American families.

The adoption angle worked two ways for Putin. First, it allowed him to directly punish families, many of whom had the resources and access to pressure congressmen in the United States. Second, it allowed for lobbying against the sanctions imposed under the Magnitsky Act to be cloaked behind the mask of “talking about adoption.”

Meanwhile, though some oligarchs were cut off from their access to the lucrative Trump Pipeline by the Magnitsky Act, the relationships remain in place. Trump renewed his connection to Aras Agaralov, hosting the 2013 Miss Universe pageant at one of Agaralov’s properties, and traveling around the city with Emin Aragalov. The date of Trump’s night on the town with Emin aligns with the “pee-pee tape” from the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele.

During this period, Trump had meetings with Rob Goldstone, who would later arrange the Trump Tower meeting. Emin Agaralov also noted that they were working with Trump on the idea of a Trump Tower Moscow.

Trump later bragged about his contact with both oligarchs and the Russian military.

“I really loved my weekend, I called it my weekend in Moscow. But I was with the top level people, both oligarchs and generals, and top of the government people. I can’t go further than that, but I will tell you that I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.”

2015 — 2017

“I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”

If Trump’s specialty in acting as a conduit for Russian real estate funds was an ability to ignore the nature of the deal and simply cash checks on demand, his forgetfulness moved to a new stage following his renewed interest in politics.

He no longer knew friend and travel partner Sergei Millian.

Hope Hicks, Mr Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, said Mr Trump had “met and spoke” with Mr Millian only “on one occasion almost a decade ago at a hotel opening”.

in 2009, Millian’s organization, the Russian American Chamber of Commerce added a notice on their web site that they had signed formal agreements with the Trump Organization. That notice has since been removed.

Felix Sater was also on Donald Trump’s “who?” list. As late as 2013, Trump defended Sater in a deposition. But despite the fact that Sater lived in the penthouse of one of Trump’s buildings, worked for a company whose offices were two floors below Trump’s own office, worked for years directly in the office of the Trump Organization, made trips to Moscow for Trump and made trips to Moscow with Trump, after Trump made his escalator ride into the campaign, Sater was forgotten.

Trump said, he didn’t really know Sater all that well. If he were sitting in a room right now, Trump said, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like. — Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

The denials from Trump and his spokesmen came across a background of ongoing contacts, including visits between Trump campaign members like Michael Flynn and Jefferson Sessions.

Despite Trump’s pretense that he wouldn’t recognize Sater, his business partner was there for a meeting with a very specific purpose.

A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.

Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

That meeting took place after Trump moved into the White House, but the more famous meeting is now the one that took place before Trump took office, the meeting for which Donald Trump wrote a cover story while on board Air Force One: the “adoption” meeting at Trump Tower.

That means you can list the attendees of this meeting at Trump Tower:

  • Donald Trump Jr. — The Trump Organization
  • Jared Kushner — Kushner Companies
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya — Prevezon Holdings
  • Rinat Akhmetshin — Prevezon Holdings
  • Irakly Kaveladze — Crocus Group [Agaralov Family]
  • Rob Goldstone — Crocus Group [Agaralov Family]

The only people in the room who weren’t employed by international real estate development firms were translator Anatoli Samochornov, whose work for Veselnitskaya has been on an as-needed basis, and Paul Manafort—though the former Trump campaign chair has his own share of killer real estate deals.

The Trump Tower meeting wasn’t a mystery. It didn’t come out of the blue. It was the result of two decades of built-up relationships, partnerships, and dependencies. The purpose of the Trump Tower meeting was spelled out in the emails Donald Trump Jr. received before the meeting was scheduled. Trump’s Russian partners—in a hierarchy that went straight up to Putin—were anxious to provide him ammunition to use against Hillary Clinton. They did so in hopes of destroying the sanctions under the Magnitsky Act, restoring the easy flow of money that all of them, including Trump, had enjoyed for so long.

Lobbying by real estate developers, including Donald Trump, kept reporting on these deals to a minimum and preserved tax breaks that greased the wheels for money transfers. This lobbying also worked to set property tax rates on many luxury properties at ridiculous lows. For example, a luxury condo in Manhattan pays property tax at a rate less than 1 percent of that paid by most American homes—a $350,000 house in Des Moines can easily end up paying more than a $10 million condo on Park Avenue.

Easy, cheap transfer of funds. No way to assess actual value. Minimal taxes on any real property retained. It was little wonder that many Russian oligarchs became Trump-style “developers.”

1990

Trump Taj Mahal opens. Multiple violations of the Banking Secrecy Act are recorded within the first year.

Vladmir Putin officially leaves his KGB position following the collapse of East Germany and joins the mayor’s office in Saint Petersburg.

1991

Donald Trump obtains illegal loan from his father to sustain Trump Taj Mahal Casino and is fined by New Jersey gaming commission. Transactions investigated by Treasury Department’s financial crimes enforcement network, or FinCEN, which identifies at least 106 illegal transfers and levies an additional fine in 1998.

Donald Trump testifies before Congress to argue that real estate developers need special tax breaks that allowed him to bury almost a billion dollars in losses.

Trump Taj Mahal files for reorganization under Chapter 11.

Felix Sater stabs a man in the face with a broken glass after an argument.

Boris Yeltsin becomes first president of Russia.

1992

Donald Trump declares bankruptcy at his two other Atlantic City casinos as well as the Plaza Hotel in New York.

1993

Congress creates carve-outs for “real estate professionals” to claim greater losses and spread their losses across longer periods.

Felix Sater pushes stock scheme backed by four organized crime families.

1995

Trump’s taxes show more than $900 million in losses, which will offset reported income and likely reduce Trump’s taxes to zero for over a decade.

1996

Putin moves to Moscow and becomes deputy chief of the Presidential Property Management Department.

Trump visits Moscow for the second time, and has an architect draw plans for a possible project in Russia.

Trump announces plan to invest $250 million in Moscow. Discusses two possible buildings.

1997

Putin is appointed deputy chief of presidential staff

1998

Putin promoted to first deputy chief, gains complete control of the FSB, the successor to the KGB

Felix Sater convicted of $40 million “pump and dump” penny stock fraud.

Collapse of Russian stock market increases pressure for getting money out of Russia, increases move into real estate market.

1999

Putin becomes first deputy prime minister, then prime minister, then acting president all within the space of a single year.

2000

Irakly Kaveladze testifies before Congress on his role in creating thousands of shell companies for Aras Agaralov.

Putin begins reorganization of oligarchy, with all deals funneling a cut to him.

Donald Trump launches an “exploratory committee” for a presidential run, with Roger Stone leading the effort.

2002

Trump associates make presentations in Russia on the benefits of buying apartments from Trump.

Felix Sater and Bayrock begin partnership with Trump on numerous projects, including Trump SoHo.

2003

FinCEN begins investigating charges of money laundering at Trump Taj Mahal following numerous violations of the Banking Secrecy Act.

Vladimir Putin consolidates power over oligarchs, reassembling Russia and autocratic leadership of former Soviet territories as a “super Mafia” hierarchy. Oligarchs that don’t become part of the new deal are jailed.

2004

Trump begins appearing in The Apprentice.

2005

Donald Trump signs a deal with Bayrock to cooperate on development of property in Russia and sends Felix Sater to Moscow to look for potential sites.

Raid on Bill Browder’s offices results in hiring of Sergei Magnitsky.

Paul Manafort meets with Russian oligarchs to discuss strategy affecting “US politics, business dealings, and news coverage” to help Putin.

2006

Putin ally Yuri Chaika becomes Russia’s prosecutor general. Chaika is a close friend of Agaralov and the supposed source of the information provided on Hillary Clinton during the Trump Tower meeting in 2016.

Felix Sater travels to Moscow along with Ivanka Trump and Donald Jr. to meet with investors. Sater says that Trump asked him to bring his children to Moscow and “show them around.”

2007

Sergei Millian arranges trip for Donald Trump to Moscow. Felix Sater meets Trump there.

Michael Cohen joins Trump Organization to work projects in Russia and Georgia.

Felix Sater says he located Russian investors for the Moscow Trump property and selects a site: a closed factory named for U.S. anarchist terrorists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

Paul Manafort helps Ukraine Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych craft a presidential campaign as an anti-corruption reformer out to bring Ukraine to the West.

2008

Sergei Magnitsky imprisoned for testifying against corrupt oligarchs.

Putin dissolves government, giving him a “free hand” before Russian elections. Putin moves from presidency to prime minister.

Trump sells Florida home he bought for $41 million to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million, even though home prices are plummeting following the housing collapse.

Donald Trump Jr.: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

2009

Sergei Magnitsky beaten to death after supposedly being sent for medical treatment.

2010

FinCEN notifies Trump Taj Mahal of findings that including numerous violations of the Bank Secrecy Act.

Felix Sater is made a “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump,” has office in Trump Organization area of Trump Tower, along with Trump Organization business cards

2011

Trump describes his relationship with Bayrock as “limited” and describes them as “tenants.”

2012

FinCEN notifies Trump Taj Mahal of additional findings of violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, and failure to correct previous issues.

Vladimir Putin moves from prime minister back to president.

Paul Manafort moves at least $19 million for a Russian oligarch through an account in a Cyprus bank. He later claims the money was lost.

2013

Putin sets up new nationalist movement, which he leads through a series of televised rallies.

Donald Trump holds the Miss Universe pageant at a property owned by Aras Agaralov and spends the weekend being hosted by Emin Agaralov.

Trump and Agaralov sign a partnership agreement for another potential Trump property in Moscow.

Trump claims that he has “a relationship” with Putin and knows him.

Trump defends Sater, saying he doesn’t believe Sater has any connection to organized crime.

2014

Pro-Putin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who Paul Manafort helped put in place, is forced to flee to Moscow following protests.

Russia invades and annexes Crimea, launches ongoing attacks on Ukraine.

Trump claims that Putin sent him a “beautiful present” during his 2013 weekend in Moscow.

2015

Trump announces he is a candidate for president.

Felix Sater told to put plans for Trump Tower Moscow on hold.

Treasury Department’s financial crimes enforcement network, or FinCEN, fines Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort $10 million—the largest such fine on record.

Trump says that Vladimir Putin gets an ‘A’ for leadership.

DNC computers hacked by Russian forces that collect thousands of emails.

Trump says he’s “not familiar” with Felix Sater.

Russia sends military forces into Syria.

2016

Donald Trump Jr. hosts meeting for representatives of Russian oligarchs providing dirt on Hillary Clinton in exchange for attacking the Magnitsky Act. Those present represent four large real estate firms whose bottom lines have been affected by the Act.

Trump identifies Carter Page as one of his foreign policy advisers.

Hackers release first DNC emails through WikiLeaks.

Ukraine announces investigation into Paul Manafort’s millions in under-the-table funding.

2017

Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, Paul Manafort, and member of political party supported by Manafort craft a “peace plan” that cedes Crimea to Russia.

Donald Trump dictates “adoption” excuse statement for Donald Trump Jr. on board Air Force One while flying home from meeting with Vladimir Putin in which he says they discussed … adoption.

Note: Lengthy as this is, it’s woefully incomplete. Assembling all the connections between Donald Trump and Russia, along with how those connections have affected politics and lives in several nations, is a project that demands a lot more words than you’ll find here. This is a long way from a one-stop shop on Trump and Russia, or even on how Trump’s real estate business was tied to his Russia connections. Thanks for sticking it out if you’ve made it all the way down here. — New Republic: “Trump’s Russian Laudromat” (Aug. 7)

But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s.

It’s entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy “mark” for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians—including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.

See also, “In Little Moscow, Russians helped Donald Trump’s brand survive the recession” (Washington Post, 11/04/17)

SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. — The first of three identical 45-story Trump-branded condo buildings opened in this oceanfront city at a seemingly terrible time, just as the recession was dawning and the real estate market was starting to crumble.

Many other projects in South Florida floundered in the lead-up to the national housing collapse of 2008. But the Trump buildings were among those that survived, in part because the developers were able to turn to another business source seemingly immune to the factors dragging down the U.S. market: wealthy Russians looking to move their money out of the volatile ­post-Soviet economy…

Funny how they selected “Trump properties” to invest that money they were ‘removing’ from the ‘Soviet economy’.

Today, there are so many Russians living in this city, a ­1.8-square-mile collection of high-rise condos and upscale strip malls…that locals call it “Little Moscow.” And the Trump brand has been dominant — with six condo skyscrapers in Sunny Isles carrying its logo…

“Miami, Where Luxury real estate meets dirty money.”

Comments on the above from readers:

Whether because he just can’t help himself or because he’s actually smarter than he appears, Trump keeps up a drumbeat of borderline outrageous statements that distract attention from his relationship with the Russians. Trump may not be a Russian agent, but he is most certainly a Russian asset. In the spy-craft lingo of the Cold War, he’s a “useful idiot”. The article raises the interesting point that because the commercial real estate business is so loosely regulated, Trump probably didn’t violate any American laws by selling condos to mobsters moving hot money. As long as he didn’t violate the few weak American laws applicable to the situation and turned his back on any suggestion that there was something sleazy about his Trump Tower condo sales, he probably walks on a criminal charge. But if Mueller can prove Trump knew that the money was dirty, he’s looking at a prison term. Unless, of course, he can pardon himself. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Meanwhile, Republican Congressmen and Senators have set the lowest possible bar for continuing to support Trump, what I call the “vulture test”. That is, they will approve of anything Trump does short of his doing something that would make a vulture puke.

Aug 07

Because of the release of the “Panama Papers” in the Spring of 2016, there is some public evidence of the breadth of the off-shore/overseas extent of the fraud. The story about the cellist friend of Putin’s who is worth billions of dollars was part of that. But there was so much data in that document dump, I think they are only beginning to unravel all of it.

The Sochi Olympics was in 2014, and there were many reports of corruption around the event and the construction of the Olympic facilities, etc., but by the closing ceremonies, it looked like a propaganda win for Putin that he could milk for a while, draw tourism to Sochi, etc.

But then, immediately afterward, he threw all that national investment under the bus in order to invade Ukraine, squandering all the political/social capitol and whatever prestige was gained from more-or-less successfully hosting the Olympics.

I remember over the next few months, there was some speculation from pundits about the “why?” What did that willingness to blow off the good will (expensively) generated by the Olympics, which they spent lots of money to gain, signify about Putin?

One later suggestion was that there was some major, damaging corruption scandal involving Putin and connected oligarchs that was about to blow wide open, so invading the Ukraine seemed like a preferable, handy distraction by comparison.

I am curious about what clues to this question might be in these documents, and how they might relate to the Trump Crime Family, Sergei Magnitsky’s torture and death,etc.

Aug 07

Trump does these misdirection things because they work on his base. His base are like second graders at a magic show… they want the tricks to work, so there can be “magic.”

So, Trump gives $100,000 of his salary to the Department of Education (that’s the puff of smoke from the left hand) while the right hand’s busy cutting $9.3 billion from education. And the audience walks out going, “Wow, did you see that puff of smoke? That was great!” All day I’ve seen Trump supporters crowing about their prince-of-a-guy donating that $100K, completely oblivious to that $9.3 billion loss.

I guess you’re not really stealing a bunch of grapes if you put one back…

Aug 07

After going through Cyprus, the Caribbean, the US & London anonymous LLC’s, it goes “through law firms, fine, well-renowned law firms which consider this to be attorney-client privilege”… according to Dr. Anders Aslund, who testified in a Senate hearing on July 20, 2017, one of several speakers who spoke at the Helsinki Commission’s briefing of the US Senate on “Kleptocrats of the Kremlin: Ties Between Business and Power in Russia”.

I accidentally found this hearing on another C-Span channel while looking for Bill Browder’s testimony. The subject of the Helsinki Commission’s briefing was closely tied to that of Browder’s testimony, and was so attention-grabbing that I stayed tuned into that testimony.

Between Browder’s testimony, and that of the participants in the US Helsinki briefing, there is a good picture of how the kleptocrats in Russia—now a relatively small group of “about a half dozen” powerful people, including Putin— are getting obscenely wealthy by stealing from the Russian people and by seizing and stripping the assets of companies; how they are abusing human rights; how their corruption is protected by their “nationalizing the mafia”, and how they launder their money, which they could not do “without the West”.

According to one of the speakers, these kleptocrats are moving approximately $40 billion a year out of Russia.

Trump has had dealings with several law firms, many of them having Russia connections. Trump’s Tax Law Firm has deep ties to Russia.

Speakers at the US Helsinki briefing:

Brian Whitmore, Senior Russia Analyst, Radio Free Europe;

Ilya Zaslavskiy, Research Expert, Free Russia Foundation;

Dr. Anders Aslund, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council;

Marius Laurinavicius, Senior Analyst, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis;

Ambassador Daniel Fried, Distinguished Fellow, Atlantic Council

Aug 07

Whatever gave Trump the idea that, with this in his closet, he could run for president and manage to keep it quiet? That’s beyond hubris, it’s outright stupidity.

I’ve thought all along that the meddling business, however egregious, was not even close to what could bring Trump down.

Small wonder he is so frantic to keep this under wraps.

Aug 07

Whatever gave Trump the idea that, with this in his closet, he could run for president and manage to keep it quiet?

I dunno. Maybe it was the tens of millions of Americans who loved his trashy and sadistic reality show, lost money in his gaudy casinos, flocked to the fascistic demagoguery of his rallies and gleefully voted to make America hate again. Or decades of elected Republicans dog-whistling racism and birtherism to their faithful voters. Or the absence of effective pushback to his most awful statements from said Republicans during the primaries and campaign. Or the absence of any Republican opposition to McConnell’s vile and successful refusal to allow a vote on Merrick Garland. Or the hyper speed of Paul Ryan’s collapse when Ryan discovered that the good people of Wisconsin had no problem with the “locker room” tape.

Trump may not have been able to hide the facts but he’s had a pretty good run of avoiding the consequences so far, thanks to all his millions of enablers.

Aug 07

FOLLOW THE MONEY AND THE DEAD RUSSIANS. — Rachel Maddow

Aug 07

Collusion with Russian hackers in the campaign is just a small part of the criminality of Trump and his business ‘empire.’ He’s a mob boss of an international crime syndicate. As Mueller and his topnotch team follow the money they will eventually tap into a rich vein, the motherlode. Rethuglicans will have no choice but to impeach. And yet there will still be people who will believe that Trump was being persecuted. The endgame is to get Trump and his GOP enablers out of office in 2018. They can’t be let off the hook.

Aug 07

Joke I read several months ago. How did Trump make a small fortune? Answer: He started with a large fortune.

Aug 07

Wow, for this site at least, a magnum opus, deserving of a book-length treatment. There’s certainly enough material for it. Basically, Trump is a middleman, a convenient idiot, sufficiently amoral, connected and well-versed in real estate and lying to serve as a useful intermediary between dirty Russian money and safe places to park it. He’s a money laundering broker who gets fat commissions, part of Putin’s organized web of crime.

I repeat, if Mueller will not or cannot take this worm down, we’re done.

Aug 07

Is Trump conspiring to use the US Government as a vehicle to launder wealth in whatever form? Why else does he want so much control over Congress? He may be up to his ears in laundered capital and real estate with Russia. He has to remain an asset to Russia or else the FSB may decide to make him “disappear”…..now that he is POTUS he is physically protected quite well by our tax dollars. His reasons to be president are, from the looks of this report, very possibly ill-founded. Maybe that’s why he takes no salary for POTUS. After reading this article we can safely say that there is definitely a reason to investigate the Russian interference with the election and also illegal financial dealings with Russia. This is an astounding web of corruption. The term “Crooked” has been misdirected and should be the following: “Crooked Donald”. Should we say, “ ‘Lock him up’ “?

Aug 08

and NONE OF THIS was ever reported on any of the Big Three nightly news.

That was what the entire Scaramucci distraction was for and it WORKED PERFECTLY.

All anyone could talk about for the duration of Bill Browder’s testimony was “SCARAMUCCI”.

and as soon as that testimony was completed it was swept under the rug and Scaramucci was gone, consigning the entire thing to the dust bin of history. Just like the WH intended.

Luckily, Mueller was listening and Bill Browder has for sure given them a deposition (or three.)

Aug 08

You can just imagine what the “crime board” org chart looks like in Mueller’s office. One thing is clear — this is a race against time. Mueller and his team are on their way to uncovering it all — and they are working against ruthless people.

Aug 08

What is equally worrisome is that none of the “Patriotic” GOP’ers have said diddly squat about this insidious and perhaps treasonous behavior. Are they also so rotten to the core that this is normal to them? How did the generation raising this crop of politicians lose their ethical compass? The current members of this group of pols didn’t just drop in from Mars!

Aug 08

Fantastic summary. Trump is an opportunistic crook lacking decency or morals; he has zero issue with taking ill-gotten funds from foreign parties who stole it off the backs of their people if he gets his cut. He literally sees nothing wrong with the massive, massive crimes he commits.

The Trump family is an organized crime family, and Donald is their…well, their Don (pun not intended). Like Capone, we know he’s committed countless financial crimes and likely many physical ones as well. If we put him away for tax evasion or obstruction of justice or perjury, so be it; the point is, he gets his comeuppance and the world learns that justice applies to ALL, including the rich and white.

Aug 08

Republican Trump voters were conned, the GOP was conned by Trump and was itself a long con of promises broken to members. The GOP should be broken. The electoral college abolished.

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