The DNC and their allies are gainfully employed today mongering the rumor that the DNC email hack was carried out by Russian security or intelligence services with the intent of aiding Donald Trump’s election. I’m agnostic on this claim… I think the perpetrators are more likely than not 4chan-like people if they were not stolen wholesale by a Bernie Sanders sympathizer working within the DNC itself.
One thing I’m not agnostic about at all is the much-too-close relationship Donald Trump and his inner circle have with the Vladimir Putin’s ruling clique. George Will touched on the subject last night:
Fox News contributor George Will says GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will not release his tax returns because they may show “he is deeply involved in dealing with Russia oligarchs.”
The claim — which Will could not support with any tangible proof — was made to Bret Baier on Fox News’s “Special Report” live from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday night.
“Both the campaign chair and anybody you talk to, including Sen. [Chris] Murphy [D-Conn.] would not go down that road once pressed on the connection between Russia and the Trump campaign,” said Baier. “But they have thrown it out there. George?”
“Well, it’s the sort of thing we might learn if we saw the candidate’s tax returns,” Will responded. “Perhaps one more reason why we’re not seeing his tax returns — because he is deeply involved in dealing with Russian oligarchs and others. Whether that’s good, bad or indifferent, it’s probably the reasonable surmise.”
Josh Marshall, at Talking Points Meme, does the best job of laying out this relationship.
…At a minimum, Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.
2. Post-bankruptcy Trump has been highly reliant on money from Russia, most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs and sub-garchs close to Vladimir Putin. Here’s a good overview from The Washington Post, with one morsel for illustration …
Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world.
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Read both articles: After his bankruptcy and business failures roughly a decade ago Trump has had an increasingly difficult time finding sources of capital for new investments. As I noted above, Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks with the exception of Deutschebank, which is of course a foreign bank with a major US presence. He has steadied and rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia. At a minimum the Trump organization is receiving lots of investment capital from people close to Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s tax returns would likely clarify the depth of his connections to and dependence on Russian capital aligned with Putin. And in case you’re keeping score at home: no, that’s not reassuring.
4. Then there’s Paul Manafort, Trump’s nominal ‘campaign chair’ who now functions as campaign manager and top advisor. Manafort spent most of the last decade as top campaign and communications advisor for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister and then President whose ouster in 2014 led to the on-going crisis and proxy war in Ukraine. Yanukovych was and remains a close Putin ally. Manafort is running Trump’s campaign.
5. Trump’s foreign policy advisor on Russia and Europe is Carter Page, a man whose entire professional career has revolved around investments in Russia and who has deep and continuing financial and employment ties to Gazprom. If you’re not familiar with Gazprom, imagine if most or all of the US energy industry were rolled up into a single company and it were personally controlled by the US President who used it as a source of revenue and patronage. That is Gazprom’s role in the Russian political and economic system. It is no exaggeration to say that you cannot be involved with Gazprom at the very high level which Page has been without being wholly in alignment with Putin’s policies. Those ties also allow Putin to put Page out of business at any time.
6. Over the course of the last year, Putin has aligned all Russian state controlled media behind Trump.
Let’s pause for a moment here. In paragraph 6, Marshall refers to a Frank Foer (our motto: nothing to fear but Foer himself) article which is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy on steroids and PCP. Still, it bears reading though with the utmost skepticism.
7. Here’s where it gets more interesting. This is one of a handful of developments that tipped me from seeing all this as just a part of Trump’s larger shadiness to something more specific and ominous about the relationship between Putin and Trump. … The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the platform. So party activists were able to write one of the most conservative platforms in history. Not with Trump’s backing but because he simply didn’t care. With one big exception: Trump’s team mobilized the nominee’s traditional mix of cajoling and strong-arming on one point: changing the party platform on assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine. (editor’s note: see my post on this for more details) For what it’s worth (and it’s not worth much) I am quite skeptical of most Republicans call for aggressively arming Ukraine to resist Russian aggression. But the single-mindedness of this focus on this one issue – in the context of total indifference to everything else in the platform – speaks volumes.
What does it mean?
This does not mean Trump is controlled by or in the pay of Russia or Putin. It can just as easily be explained by having many of his top advisors having spent years working in Putin’s orbit and being aligned with his thinking and agenda. But it is certainly no coincidence. …
Add to this that his most conspicuous foreign policy statements track not only with Putin’s positions but those in which Putin is most intensely interested. Aside from Ukraine, Trump’s suggestion that the US and thus NATO might not come to the defense of NATO member states in the Baltics in the case of a Russian invasion is a case in point.
There are many other things people are alleging about hacking and all manner of other mysteries. But those points are highly speculative, some verging on conspiratorial in their thinking. I ignore them here because I’ve wanted to focus on unimpeachable, undisputed and publicly known facts. These alone paint a stark and highly troubling picture.
To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump’s direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin’s policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He’s the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out ‘what’s going on’ as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.
I am no authority on Trump’s finances but Marshall’s conclusions strike me as logical and measured. The issue with Trump, of course, is whether he’s been bought or merely been rented. But no kleptocracy like Russia pushes cash into a western businessman’s coffers in the way that Russian cash has flooded into Trump’s without expecting a quid pro quo. Just as Trump’s cavorting with liberal democrats and pedophiles over the years make his principles and morality suspect, so, too, does the close relationship he and his inner circle have with the Russian oligarchs who surround Putin.