Donald Trump’s Many, Many, Many, Many Ties to Russia

An article Time magazine published on August 15th on Trump’s ties to Russian is taking on a whole new significance now that Trump is the president-elect. The article was written by Jeff Nesbit, the former communications director to the former Vice President Dan Quayle (R-IN) while he was in the White House.  It should have been required reading before the election.

Nesbit describes the main reason Trump came to be dependent on Russian financiers.

…the real truth is that, as major banks in America stopped lendingTOPSHOT-LITHUANIA-US-MURAL-TRUMP-PUTIN him money following his many bankruptcies, the Trump organization was forced to seek financing from non-traditional institutions. Several had direct ties to Russian financial interests in ways that have raised eyebrows. What’s more, several of Trump’s senior advisors have business ties to Russia or its satellite politicians.

“The Trump-Russia links beneath the surface are even more extensive,” Max Boot wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “Trump has sought and received funding from Russian investors for his business ventures, especially after most American banks stopped lending to him following his multiple bankruptcies.”

The article describes how one of Trump’s campaign managers, Paul Manafort, has ties to Russian oligarchs, but this is common knowledge and it led Manafort stepping down from the campaign.  What is less familiar to the public, is the money Trump owes Russian business interests.  Consider, for example, Trump Soho.

… it is Trump’s financing from Russian satellite business interests that would seem to explain his pro-Putin sympathies.

The most obvious example is Trump Soho, a complicated web of financial intrigue that has played out in court. A lawsuit claimed that the business group, Bayrock, underpinning Trump Soho was supported by criminal Russian financial interests. While its initial claim absolved Trump of knowledge of those activities, Trump himself later took on the group’s principal partner as a senior advisor in the Trump organization.

“Tax evasion and money-laundering are the core of Bayrock’s business model,” the lawsuit said of the financiers behind Trump Soho. The financing came from Russian-affiliated business interests that engaged in criminal activities, it said. “(But) there is no evidence Trump took any part in, or knew of, their racketeering.”

Trump’s business relationship with Bayrock extends to many projects all around the world.

But Bayrock wasn’t just involved with Trump Soho. It financed multiple Trump projects around the world, Foer wrote. “(Trump) didn’t just partner with Bayrock; the company embedded with him. Bayrock put together deals for mammoth Trump-named, Trump-managed projects—two in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a resort in Phoenix, the Trump SoHo in New York.”

But, as The New York Times has reported, that was only the beginning of the Trump organization’s entanglement with Russian financiers. Trump was quite taken with Bayrock’s founder, Tevfik Arif, a former Soviet-era commerce official originally from Kazakhstan.

“Bayrock, which was developing commercial properties in Brooklyn, proposed that Mr. Trump license his name to hotel projects in Florida, Arizona and New York, including Trump SoHo,” the Times reported. “The other development partner for Trump SoHo was the Sapir Organization, whose founder, Tamir Sapir, was from the former Soviet republic of Georgia.”

Bayrock is not the only Russian business group with whom Trump is doing business.  The New York Times reports that he has also done business with FL Group and Alexander Mashkevich.

The Times also reported that federal court records recently released showed yet another link to Russian financial interests in Trump businesses. A Bayrock official “brokered a $50 million investment in Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects by an Icelandic firm preferred by wealthy Russians ‘in favor with’ President Vladimir V. Putin,’” the Times reported. “The Icelandic company, FL Group, was identified in a Bayrock investor presentation as a ‘strategic partner,’ along with Alexander Mashkevich, a billionaire once charged in a corruption case involving fees paid by a Belgian company seeking business in Kazakhstan; that case was settled with no admission of guilt.”

Trump Soho was so complicated that Bayrock’s finance chief, Jody Kriss, sued it for fraud. In the lawsuit, Kriss alleged that a primary source of funding for Trump’s big projects with Bayrock arrived “magically” from sources in Russia and Kazakhstan whenever the business interest needed funding.

The article describes how Trump, in the past, bragged about his business dealings with Russians.

Finally, for all of his denials of Russian ties lately, Trump has boasted in the past of his many meetings with Russian oligarchs. During one trip to Moscow, Trump bragged that they all showed up to meet him to discuss projects around the globe. “Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room” just to meet with him, Trump said at the time.

And when Trump built a tower in Panama, his clients were wealthy Russians, the Washington Post reported. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., said at a real estate conference in 2008, according to a trade publication, eTurboNews.

The article ends with an interesting parallel to the burglars breaking into the Democratic National Committee during the Nixon Administration.

In the 1970s, burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex. President Richard Nixon, a Republican, was forced out of office for the White House cover up of its involvement in the DNC break in.

Now, a generation later, a digital break in to the national headquarters of one of our two major parties by a foreign adversary in order to leak information that benefits the other national party’s presidential candidate seems to be just the normal course of doing business. The Trump era, it is safe to assume, is like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

Let’s put these relationships between Trump and these Russian Business groups in context.  Right now the European Union has economic sanctions in place against Russia for their military takeover of Crimea.  This move into Crimea represents for first time the world map was changed by force since WWII.

Trump has advocated allowing the Russians to annex Crimea and questioned whether NATO is really necessary in the 21st century.  These positions, among many other things, make it more difficult for the EU to maintain the sanctions because it leads the EU to question whether it has US support.  With the decision of the English to leave the EU, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel have been the two leaders that helped the EU agree on the sanctions.  A Trump presidency dramatically increases the chances these sanctions will not last.  This is clearly in the interest of the Russian business groups to whom Trump owes millions of dollars.

Trump may have already received his part of the quid pro quo.  The Russians were able to give him something he has wanted for awhile — the presidency.  Now all he needs to do is return the favor.  Putin is confident.  Not only does he have the opposition research on Trump from the DNC, he controls the Russian financiers that own Trump’s business.

On September 14th MSNBC provided some additional background information on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia –

U.S. Counter Intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin…

Trump Suffers Another Bout of Russian Amnesia…

Trump campaign’s many many many many ties to Russia…

Boris Epshteyn’s ties to Russia/Putin…

Howard Lorber’s ties to Russia/Putin…

Carter Page’s ties to Russia/Putin

#SomePeopleSay Trump can’t show his taxes 2000-2015 because he is violating Russia sanctions.

Follow Trump’s Money to Moscow…

Trump even guest starred in Russian oligarch, Aras Agalarov’s son Emin’s music video. Can’t make it up.…

Trump’s Russian TV appearance and his praise for Putin are the tip of the Trump campaign’s Russian ties iceberg. Manafort may be gone, but Carter Page, Richard Burt, Michael Flynn, Boris Epshteyn, and Howard Lorber all still remain, and all of them have Russian ties.

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