PUTIN PUPPET’S PARTING GIFT

Putin Gleeful After Trumpsters’ Violent Insurrection

Bemoaning Biden’s election, Russian state media talking heads consoled themselves with the thought that Trump fatally undermined democracy on his way out.

Trump just delivered the biggest present to the Kremlin imaginable by inciting a violent insurrection. Hundreds of Trump supporters descended upon the Capitol, launching a brazen attack that defiled the most precious symbol of U.S. democracy and attempting to overturn the outcome of an election in favor of their conspiracy-peddling idol.

Russian state media had played its own part in amplifying Donald Trump’s baseless claims of electoral fraud and gleefully predicting that post-election violence would inevitably follow. “There will be blood,” asserted Russian lawmakers and state media talking heads, a prospect they considered to be “excellent.” And indeed, there was blood. Vesti reporter Denis Davydov was embedded in the thick of it all, interviewing sweaty seditionists with bloody knuckles in between their attempts to storm Capitol Hill. “The United States never experienced anything like this,” Davydov noted. In his report for Vesti, U.S. correspondent Valentin Bogdanov asserted that the violence is not over: “While the Democrats gained control of Congress and the Senate, that doesn’t mean they can control the minds of the people. January 6, 2021 is forever written into the American political calendar. For some, it’s a dark date they will try to forget. For others, it’s a day to remember—or perhaps to repeat.”

Political scientist Yury Rogulyov told state media channel Rossiya-24: “The discontent will remain, the divisions will continue, but the big question is to which degree the Republicans will follow in Trump’s footsteps. If they do it, the crisis will be extended and America’s healing—if it’s even possible—will take a long time.”

Bemoaning Joe Biden’s election, Russian state media talking heads consoled themselves with the thought that Trump had burned the United States on his way out by discrediting America’s electoral system and democracy as a whole. The failed insurrection provided even more fuel for the fire. Instead of condemning an attempted coup—stoked by blatant disinformation—Russian officials joined Trump and his Republican collaborators in trashing the integrity of the U.S. elections. Addressing the foiled coup, Maria Zakharova, official spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, blamed the “archaic” electoral system and the U.S. media—and not President Trump’s incendiary messaging.

Regardless of what happens to Trump, Russian propagandists find comfort in knowing that their favorite U.S. president’s divisive rhetoric and deliberate disinformation have inflicted lasting damage on America—and cast a dark shadow on democracy, which used to be an example for other countries. Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda argued: “The United States has long insisted that it is perhaps the only standard of democracy and order. But the inability of the American political system to transfer power peacefully and legally from one presidential team to another has torn the fragile veil from a failed example of democracy that has been carefully imposed on both Americans and the world.” Political scientist Igor Shatrov added: “The storefront is broken, shattered. It will be patched up, but the most valuable thing was stolen from the display: trust in American democratic institutions.”

It’s hard to imagine a bigger gift for Trump’s puppet master, Putin.

Edited from Julia Davis in the daily beast

https://www.thedailybeast.com/putin-gleeful-after-trumpsters-violent-insurrection?

A megalomaniac who only sees the art of the deal

Trump has described the payments his bagman, Michael Cohen, made to two women during the 2016 campaign so they wouldn’t discuss their alleged affairs with him, as “a simple private transaction.”

When ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Cohen if Trump knew the payments were wrong and were made to help his election, Cohen replied “Of course … . He was very concerned about how this would affect the election.”

Even if Trump intended that the payments aid his presidential bid, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he knew they were wrong.

Trump might have reasoned that a deal is a deal: The women got hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for agreeing not to talk about his affairs with them. So where’s the harm?

After two years of Trump we may have overlooked the essence of his insanity: His brain sees only private interests transacting. It doesn’t comprehend the public interest.

Private transactions can’t be wrong or immoral because, by definition, they require that every party to them be satisfied. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a deal.

Viewed this way, everything else falls into place.

For example, absent a public interest, there can’t be conflicts of interest.

So when lobbyists representing the Saudi government paid for an estimated 500 nights at Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel within a month of his election, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rented so many rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan that its revenues rose in 2018 after years of decline, Trump saw it as half of a private transaction.

The other half: Trump would continually go to bat for Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince, even after the Senate passed a resolution blaming the Crown Prince for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million,” Trump told a crowd at an Alabama rally in August 2015. “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

Ethics smethics. Without a public interest, no deals can be ethical violations. All are just private transactions.

So someone donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and subsequently received a $5 billion loan from the Energy Department. What’s the problem? Both parties got what they wanted. (Federal prosecutors are now investigating this.)

Trump aide and former Fox News executive Bill Shine continues to rake in millions each year from Fox News, and Fox News continues to give Trump the positive coverage he wants. What’s the worry? It’s a good deal for both sides.

This private transactional worldview also helps explain Trump’s foreign policy.

According to Trump, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un writes him such “beautiful letters,” that “we fell in love.”

So what if Kim continues to develop nuclear missiles? Trump gets bragging rights as the first American president to have a good private relationship with the North Korean president.

He and Russian President Vladimir Putin have a “beautiful relationship,” presumably opening the way to all sorts of private transactions.

In July 2016, after emails from the Democratic National Committee were leaked to the public, Trump declared “Putin likes me” and thinks “I’m a genius.” Trump then publicly called on Russia to find emails Hillary Clinton had deleted from the private account she used when she was secretary of state.

That same day, Russians made their first effort to break into the servers used by her personal office, according to an indictment from the special counsel’s office charging twelve Russians with election hacking.

So what? Trump asks.

Even as evidence mounts that Trump aides were in frequent contact with Russian agents during this time, Trump insists he wasn’t involved in any collusion with Putin.

Collusion means joining together in violation of the public interest. If Trump’s brain comprehends only private interests, even a transaction in which Putin offered explicit help winning the election in return for Trump weakening NATO and giving Russia unfettered license in Ukraine wouldn’t be collusive.

When private deals are everything, the law is irrelevant. This also seems to fit with Trump’s worldview.

If he genuinely believes the hush money he had Cohen pay was a “simple private transaction,” Trump must not think the nation’s campaign finance laws apply to him. But if they don’t, why would laws and constitutional provisions barring collusion with foreign powers apply to him?

As we enter the third year of his presidency, Trump’s utter blindness to the public interest is a terrifying possibility. At least a scoundrel knows when he is doing bad things. A megalomaniac who only sees the art of the deal, doesn’t.

This article was originally published at RobertReich.org

That unregulated reservoir of money we call Russia almost certainly elected Trump

Russia almost certainly made Donald Trump president — and here’s how we know

Many Americans are unhappy about President Donald Trump’s decisions, but defenders of his administration dismiss these criticisms as irrelevant. Elections have consequences, they argue. Trump promised to change Washington when he was on the campaign trail. Voters liked what he said, and now the President is delivering on those promises. Get over it, critics. Trump won. Clinton lost.

This argument in defense of Trump’s leadership sounded more compelling immediately after the election than it does now. New evidence has surfaced in recent months that suggests Trump may not have won the 2016 race primarily because he offered voters a more appealing message than the Democratic candidate. The Kremlin backed numerous communications on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube that boosted Donald Trump’s campaign with words and images that damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Russian agents appreciated a condition of modern-day electioneering that many politicians, journalists, and citizens in the United States fail to recognize adequately when assessing the results of presidential elections. Russia’s meddlers understood that voters are not simply influenced by the good works a candidate promises to perform. Voters’ decisions are influenced to a considerable degree by strongly negative impressions they have about an opposing candidate’s personality, behavior, and ideas.

In the light of newly released details about Russia’s manipulation of the Internet, pundits who seek “lessons” from the 2016 presidential election should question some of their favored interpretations. When trying to explain why Trump won a very close election, they typically cite the Republican candidate’s promises to “Make America Great Again” and create “good jobs,” his nostalgic references to America’s past, his image as a successful businessman and Washington outsider, and his appeals to ordinary Americans, including white men. They point out, as well, that Hillary Clinton was not an ideal candidate. She lacked the political charisma of her husband. Mrs. Clinton also failed to heed the message that James Carville emphasized during her husband’s successful 1992 campaign – Americans care about “the economy, stupid.”

Trump’s messaging and Clinton’s shortcomings were factors in the outcome, of course. Nevertheless, Mrs. Clinton attracted almost three million more votes than Trump, and her loss can be traced largely to Trump’s victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin by a combined total of less than 80,000 votes. Absent Russia’s abundant messages spreading across the Internet, Hillary Clinton would likely be handling the nation’s affairs now in the Oval Office.

The reach of that foreign-based propaganda was impressive. The Internet Research Agency, an organization linked to the Kremlin, reached 126 million users of Facebook. Many of its communications aimed to undermine confidence in Hillary Clinton. Russian agents published more than 1.4 million election-related tweets. Those messages received 288 million views. Russia’s intervention resulted in the publication of more than 120,000 images on Instagram, the photo-sharing platform, and it produced more than 1000 ads on YouTube. Americans who liked these messages passed them on to friends. Agents associated with the Kremlin exploited Internet freedom brilliantly during America’s 2016 election campaign. The Internet remained a free-wheeling, largely unregulated communications network. It did not require sponsors of political messages to identify themselves, as television advertising required.

We should not be surprised that Russians sought to boost Trump’s chances principally by circulating negative impressions of Hillary Clinton rather than positive judgments about Donald Trump. In recent decades, American campaign advertising has accentuated the negative rather than the positive. Strategists recognized that efforts to demonize the opposition can pay off handsomely. The negative approach has been especially evident since the 1988 presidential race. This was not a new trend, of course. The 1800 presidential campaigns involving Thomas Jefferson and John Adams featured plenty of nasty personal attacks, and similar practices affected later presidential contests. Since 1988, though, both major parties put this strategy on steroids.

Republican leaders were nervous in late May of 1988. Democrat Michael Dukakis was far ahead of the President George H. W. Bush in the polls. GOP strategists decided to respond with hard-hitting attack ads against the Democratic candidate. They branded Dukakis as a Massachusetts “liberal” and portrayed him as weak on national defense. “Willie Horton” ads also wrecked Dukakis’s image. They drew attention to a Massachusetts furlough program that allowed the temporary release of state prisoners. Horton, an African American and convicted murderer, committed assault, armed robbery and rape at the time of his furlough. Michael Dukakis made numerous mistakes, but the GOP’s powerful assault on his character and leadership hurt even more. George H. W. Bush overcame Dukakis’s initial advantages, winning the electoral college by a whopping count of 426 to 111. President Bush’s turnaround in the 1988 contest delivered a poignant message. Efforts to promote frightening characterizations of the opposing candidate can make an impact on voters’ opinions.

Negative advertising helped Republicans in the close presidential contest of 2004. Democrats seemed to have a good chance for victory when they nominated John Kerry, an articulate, rugged-looking, war veteran who received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V and Three Purple Hearts for military service in Vietnam. But Kerry went down to defeat, in large part because of the way Republican strategists portrayed him – as a tax-raising, flip-flopping wimp. An attack group finished off the wounded Kerry by claiming that he lied about his achievements in Vietnam.

Democrats gained leverage in 1992 and 2012 by employing attack strategies. In 1992, Bill Clinton’s campaign suggested President George H. W. Bush was out of touch with ordinary people. Democrats blamed President Bush for the hard times Americans experienced during a recession. In 2012 Barack Obama’s team quickly defined the character of Mitt Romney for voters before Romney had a chance to make his case. Democrats portrayed Romney as an aloof millionaire who did not truly care about average people. Romney viewed corporations as “people,” Democrats stressed, and they drew attention to Romney’s video-recorded claim that 47% of American voters “are dependent on the government” and “believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”

It is difficult for political analysts and citizens to revise their familiar narrative about lessons drawn from political campaigns, including their conclusions about the 2016 election. When discussing the reasons for victory or defeat, they give primary weight to the appeal of individual personalities and the candidates’ promises to improve voters’ lives. Commentators stress the importance of a candidate’s likeability and communication skills. But the latest evidence of extensive meddling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube suggests that analysts need to think differently when assessing election results in the years to come. The winning candidate’s personality and message do not always establish the winning margin. Quite often, negative characterizations serve as keys to victory.

Debates about the reasons for Trump’s win and Clinton’s loss will continue to animate conversations for a long time, but new evidence supports an astonishing judgment. Hillary Clinton probably would have won – in fact, she might have won handily and benefited the candidacy of Democrats for the House and Senate – if Russian interference had not created strong doubts about her character and competence.

Russia almost certainly made Donald Trump president — and here’s how we know

Robert Brent Toplin is Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Toplin was also professor at Denison University and recently has taught occasional courses at the University of Virginia. He is the author of several books about film, history, and politics and has commented on history in several nationally broadcast radio and television programs. Contact: Rt2b@virginia.edu.
This article was originally published at History News Network

The Steele Dossier linked Trump to the mob, now Mueller links them to Manafort

Mueller Reveals New Manafort Link to Organized Crime

 

Trump’s former campaign manager didn’t just do business with accused gangsters. One of them transferred millions into a Manafort account, allegedly used for money laundering.

Buried deep in Robert Mueller’s indictment of Paul Manafort is a new link between Donald Trump’s former campaign and Russian organized crime.

The indictment (PDF), unsealed on Monday, includes an extensive look into Paul Manafort’s byzantine financial dealings. In particular, it details how he used a company called Lucicle Consultants Limited to wire millions of dollars into the United States.

The Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants Limited, in turn, reportedly received millions of dollars from a businessman and Ukrainian parliamentarian named Ivan Fursin, who is closely linked to one of Russia’s most notorious criminals: Semion Mogilevich.

Mogilevich is frequently described as “the most dangerous mobster in the world.”  Currently believed to be safe in Moscow, he is, according to the FBI, responsible for weapons trafficking, contract killings, and international prostitution. In 2009, he made the bureau’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

“Ivan Fursin was a senior figure in the Mogilevich criminal organization,” Taras Kuzio, a non-resident fellow at Johns Hopkins-SAIS’ Center for Transatlantic Relations and a specialist on the region told The Daily Beast.

Martin Sheil, a retired criminal investigator for the IRS, said the indictment, with its connections to Fursin, helps illuminate the murky world Manafort operated in before taking the reins of Trump’s presidential bid.

“This indictment strongly indicates the existence of a previously unknown relationship between an alleged Russian organized crime leader and Mr. Manafort,” Sheil told The Daily Beast.

According to the indictment, Manafort and his former business partner, Rick Gates, used Lucicle to avoid paying taxes on money which they then spent on a variety of pricey items: clothes, antiques, and at least one Mercedes-Benz.

Paul Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, told reporters on Monday that the idea that anyone would engage in such a scheme is laughable.

“The second thing about this indictment that I, myself, find most ridiculous is a claim that maintaining offshore accounts to bring all your funds into the United States, as a scheme to conceal from the United States government, is ridiculous,” he told a scrum of reporters on the steps of a D.C. courthouse.

But the indictment alleges otherwise. According to Mueller’s team, from April 2012 to March 2013, Lucicle transferred more than $1.3 million to a home improvement company in the Hamptons, where Manafort owns property.

Lucicle also sent more than $200,000 to a New York men’s clothing store from March 2012 to February 2013. In that same window of time, it also sent more than $100,000 to a New York antique dealer, more than $340,000 to a Florida contractor, $88,000 to a landscaper in the Hamptons, and a comparatively paltry payment of $7,500 to a clothing store in Beverly Hills.

On Oct. 5, 2012, Lucicle wired in $62,750 to pay for a Mercedes-Benz. And on Valentine’s Day of 2013, it sent $14,000 to a Florida art gallery. In total, according to Mueller’s indictment, Lucicle wired more than $5 million into the U.S. for Gates and Manafort.

At least some of the money Manafort and Gates used to pay for all those goodies appears to have come from Fursin. The New York Times reported in July that Lucicle and Fursin are tied to an “offshore entity, Mistaro Ventures, which is registered in St. Kitts and Nevis and listed on a government financial disclosure form that Mr. Fursin filed in Ukraine.”

According to the Times, “Mistaro transferred millions to Lucicle in February 2012 shortly before Lucicle made the $9.9 million loan to Jesand L.L.C., a Delaware company that Mr. Manafort previously used to buy real estate in New York.” It was one month after that transfer that Lucicle started shelling out millions to pay for cars, clothes, and real estate, according to the indictment.

That isn’t Fursin’s only connection to Manafort. He is also a lawmaker for the Party of Regions, which paid at least $17 million to Manafort’s firm.

In addition, Fursin’s longtime business associate, Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash, has an off-again, on-again partnership with Manafort. Together, they tried to buy the Drake Hotel in Manhattan for a cool $850 million. Firtash also bankrolled Ukraine’s Party of Regions.

Firtash has his own legal complications. He is currently under indictment in U.S. federal court for allegedly orchestrating an international titanium mining racket. The acting U.S. attorney in Chicago recently dubbed him an “organized-crime member” and an “upper-echelon associat[e] of Russian organized crime.” His attorneys say those charges are mere “innuendo,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

A December 2005 report from the Austrian Federal Criminal Investigation Agency said the FBI described Fursin and Firtash as senior members of the Semion Mogilevich Organization.

Ken McCallion, a former federal prosecutor who represented Yulia Tymoshenko in a civil case against Manafort and Firtash, told The Daily Beast that Fursin and Firtash are close.

“It was very similar to the relationship between Manafort and Gates,” he said. “Gates was a significant player in the criminal activities that Manafort engaged in… He played a major role, he was a major lieutenant in Manafort’s organization. By the same token, Fursin was one of the chief lieutenants of Firtash.”

Betsy Woodruff – Daily Beast

https://www.thedailybeast.com/mueller-reveals-new-manafort-link-to-organized-crime

Russia’s new full on gangsta UN ambassador: “Why are you looking away?”

It’s no secret that the norms of diplomacy have been in flux recently. Trolling is in. The Russian Embassy in London appears to be gaining an edge in sardonic tweets directed at the West (although the other side has shot off a few zingers of its own, as well). And Russia’s most senior diplomat has dropped NSFW one-liners on prime-time news.

But even by prevailing standards, Russian diplomat Vladimir Safronkov’s speech on the floor of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday was unusual.

Accusing the British of blocking political efforts to end the Syrian conflict, the Russian deputy envoy to the United Nations suddenly wagged a finger at Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s permanent representative to the United Nations, and said: “Look at me! Don’t you look away from me! Why are you looking away?”

“Don’t you dare insult Russia again,” he added later.

Safronkov’s tone, not just what he said but how he said it, turned heads. Even RT, the state-funded Russian media network, called the harangue an “extraordinary attack on his British counterpart, using some decidedly undiplomatic language.” RT also, like others, noted the ambassador’s unusual use of the familiar “you” (“ty” in Russian, as opposed to the formal “vy”), which is “used for talking to friends and children and almost never in public addresses.”

That show of disrespect seems to have surprised even Russian officials. Although a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said there was “nothing insulting” in the remarks, the Moscow Times noted that Russia’s official U.N. website edited the transcript of Safronkov’s speech to soften his language. “The transcript changed Safronkov’s speech from the informal ‘ty’ form in Russian to the formal ‘vy’ form, erasing much of the aggressive thrust of his actual remarks,” the newspaper wrote.

In memes, Safronkov was quickly compared to thuggish Russian hustlers called “gopniks,” tough men who like Adidas tracksuits, sunflower seeds and sitting on their haunches on street corners.

This Youtube video has an english translation that has unfortunately left out all the profanity

https://youtu.be/gRQ6D82FZ94

Russia’s UN ambassador went full gangsta on his British counterpart today in New York. “Look at me when I’m talking!” https://themoscowtimes.com/news/dont-you-dare-insult-russia-again-moscows-un-rep-screams-in-new-york-57710

Being Moscow’s ambassador to the United Nations is not a job for the fainthearted or those leery of confrontation. Andrei Gromyko, who went on to become foreign minister during the Cold War, was known as “Mr. Nyet” (Mr. No) and “Grim Grom.” (A later, softer Gromyko was played up by the New York Times as “Amiable Andrei.”) Vitaly Churkin, the late Russian ambassador to the United Nations, engaged in epic verbal battles with Samantha Power, who was Washington’s U.N. ambassador until earlier this year.

“Are you truly incapable of shame?” Power said in remarks directed at Churkin in December as she criticized Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad amid reports of mass killings in the campaign to retake the city of Aleppo. Churkin retorted that Power was acting “as if she were Mother Teresa herself.”

But shortly after Churkin died of a heart attack in February, Power wrote an article in the New York Times headlined, “My Friend, the Russian Ambassador,” emphasizing their close, even friendly, working relationship.

“Vitaly was a masterful storyteller with an epic sense of humor, a good friend and one of the best hopes the United States and Russia had of working together. I am heartbroken by his death,” she wrote. “I am also saddened that, in our hyperpolarized environment, praise for Vitaly — the diplomat and the man — has been interpreted as acquiescence to Russia’s aggression.”

Churkin’s death also deprived Russia of one of its most experienced diplomats during a period of heightened tensions with the United States. Speeches from the Security Council are regularly broadcast on Russian television, an opportunity to show Russian diplomats sticking it to their Western rivals.

For Safronkov, Wednesday’s speech was his highest-profile to date, coming on the same day that he vetoed a Security Council condemnation of the chemical attack that killed dozens in Syria’s Idlib province last week.

It’s likely that the Kremlin wanted a stinging retort to the West, something that would showcase Russia’s support for Assad and its resilience to Western pressure. But it may not have expected the “ty.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/04/13/dont-you-look-away-from-me-how-a-russian-diplomats-tirade-broke-u-n-tradition/?utm_term=.3673a948ef32

Is Trump Michael Corleone or Fredo Corleone?

As President Trump discovers the prerogative of unilaterally making war, the media gaze has turned away from the ongoing FBI, House and Senate investigation of his Russia ties to the simpler dramas of cruise missiles, big bombs, and tough but loose talk on North Korea.

Yet even “the mother of all bombs” cannot obliterate the accumulating body of evidence about his relationship with Russian organized crime figures and the not unrelated question about whether he and his entourage colluded with Russian officials in the 2016 presidential election. The story, notes Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, is “Hiding in plain sight.”

The evidence of pre-election collusion between Trump and the Russians, while growing, is far from definitive. The evidence on Trump’s organized crime ties is stronger. Says Marshall:

“If we’d never heard about Russian intelligence hacking of the 2016 election or Carter Page or Paul Manafort or Sergei Kislyak this [Trump’s organized crime connections] would seem like an extraordinarily big deal. And indeed it is an extraordinarily big deal.”

Chronologically speaking, Trump’s ties to organized crime figures came first. Mutually beneficial transactions dating back to the 1990s led to closer relations in the 2000s and culminated in the contacts during the 2016 campaign. It all began with Russians who wanted to get their money out of the country.

As Donald Trump Jr., executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in September 2008 (on the basis, he said, of his own “half dozen trips to Russia in 18 months”):

“[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

For example, David Bogatin: In the 1990s, the FBI considered Bogatin one of the key members of a major Russian organized crime family run by a legendary boss named Semion Mogilevich. According to the late investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, Bogatin owned five separate condos in Trump Tower that Trump had reportedly sold to him personally.

Vyacheslav Ivankov, another Mogilevich lieutenant in the United States during the 1990s, also resided for a time at Trump Tower, and reportedly had in his personal phone book the private telephone and fax numbers for the Trump Organization’s office in that building.

Cyprus

A lot of this Russian organized crime money flowed through Cyprus, and one of its largest banks, the Bank of Cyprus. The bank’s chairman, Wilbur Ross, is now secretary of commerce. When senators considering Ross’ nomination asked about Cyprus, Ross said Trump had forbidden him from answering questions on the subject.

Not coincidentally, Illinois congressman Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, recently traveled to Cyprus to investigate, according to the Daily Beast.

“The fact that Turkey, the U.S. and Russia and other countries are really interested in Cyprus, because of its strategic location… the fact that Russians launder their money there to avoid sanctions, and the fact that key U.S. and Russia players were there—all make it really important for the Russia investigation,” Quigley explained in an interview.

Cyprus is also a focus of U.S. authorities investigating Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, whose curious real estate transactions in New York are drawing attention, according to the WNYC radio station

“Nine current and former law enforcement and real estate experts told WNYC that Manafort’s deals merit scrutiny. Some said the purchases follow a pattern used by money launderers: buying properties with all cash through shell companies, then using the properties to obtain ‘clean’ money through bank loans.”

According to the Associated Press, the records of Manafort’s Cypriot transactions were requested by the U.S. Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which works internationally with agencies to track money laundering and the movement of illicit funds around the globe.

Trump White House officials, skittish about such reports, balked when Russian banker Aleksander Torshin was scheduled to meet President Trump in February. Torshin is the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin. He has cultivated Washington conservatives such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and former National Rifle Association president David Keene.

Torshin has also been targeted by a long-running Spanish police investigation into a Russian organized crime syndicate known as the Taganskaya. The White House canceled Torshin’s meeting with Trump rather than “exacerbate the political controversy over contacts between Trump associates and the Kremlin,” reported Yahoo News’ Mike Isikoff.

Also in February, Trump received a proposed peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, offered by his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and two Russians with organized crime convictions: Felix H. Sater, a business associate who once helped Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Manafort. The plan also would have lifted U.S. sanctions on Russia, a prime goal of the Putin government.

Sater pleaded guilty to a role in a stock manipulation scheme decades ago that involved the Mafia. Artemenko spent two and a half years in jail in Kiev in the early 2000s on embezzlement charges, later dropped, which he said had been politically motivated.

The sheer proliferation of such contact indicates, at a minimum, that Russian organized crime figures felt comfortable in the Trump milieu.

Jonathan Winer, former deputy assistant secretary of state for law enforcement in the Clinton administration, says that he was investigating Semion Mogilevich 20 years ago when “the brainy don” (as he was known) pioneered the laundering criminal proceeds through quasi-legitimate companies in the United States, especially in high-end real estate.

Winer finds it “disturbing” that Mogilevich’s associates have done business with Trump. He told a Washington conference earlier this month:

“Imagine you’re a foreign government and you want to launder money for domestic espionage operations in the United States. [High-end real estate] would be a great way to do it. It was the method used by Colombian drug traffickers all over Latin America and Miami in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a form that Russian organized crime has used… All of a sudden we’re starting to see the same kind of patterns involving some criminal people and some Russian officials showing up in current investigations with Trump properties.”

The story right now, he says, is “confusing as hell.” The key, he explains, is the pattern:

“These ties link up, coalesce, organize and resolve,” Winer says. These are “relationships that make some sense. So we need to get below what we can see on the surface and see what actually happened. … I don’t know who’s going to be indicted, but boy, do I know this: the American people needs to be to get the facts, and then justice can be done.”