The Mueller Investigation: Why Trump’s Finances and Beauty Pageants are 100% Relevant to Russia

The Mueller Investigation: Why Trump’s Finances and Beauty Pageants are 100% Relevant to Russia

The Mueller Investigation:
Why Trump’s Finances and Beauty Pageants are 100% Relevant to Russia

News outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times have reported that Trump’s legal advisors are looking for ways to disqualify Robert Mueller, the Special Prosecutor investigating possible Trump Campaign collusion with Russia. One way in which Team Trump hopes to do this is by claiming that Mueller is overstepping the scope of his investigation by looking into things like Trump’s personal finances. While such areas of inquiry might on the surface seem unrelated to electoral meddling by Russia, Trump’s taxes, financial dealings and other areas are in fact very legitimate and essential aspects to explore.

When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as Special Prosecutor, he defined the scope of Mueller’s investigation as “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated” with Trump’s campaign, “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” and “any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a)” such as obstruction of justice, destroying evidence, and intimidating witnesses.

In looking at whether or not the Trump Campaign colluded with Russia – or if Trump or his Administration are currently colluding with Russia – Mueller needs to look at why Trump and Putin would possibly want to cooperate.

There are a number of possible explanations for such cooperation. One is “kompromat” – potentially compromising evidence of something embarrassing or illegal – that Putin might be using to blackmail Trump, as alleged in the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele (Buzzfeed – 1/10/17). Another explanation is major financial debts which Putin may in some way be helping Trump get rid of, or which Trump owes to Russia. And another explanation is the possibility of a financial crime yet to be committed against the United States, in which Putin or other Russians and Trump are currently coordinating.

Here is how some of Mueller’s possible avenues of investigation can help show whether there is anything of substance to any of those explanations.

Tax Returns

Donald Trump has been evasive about his tax returns ever since he was first asked about them. During his campaign, unlike previous Presidential candidates, he said that he would only disclose his tax returns if elected, citing the feeble and long debunked excuse that he was under a “routine audit” by the IRS. Once elected, Trump continued to refuse to make his tax returns public, claiming falsely that only the media care about them (The Hill – 1/11/17), when in fact even a majority of Republicans want him to release them (The Hill – 4/13/17).

Trump’s tax returns are relevant to the Russia investigation because they can show debts that he owes and business relationships that he has. Knowing to whom Trump owes money, and how much, can help Mueller connect the dots, if there are any, between those debts and Russia. Understanding Trump’s business relationships can also be a starting point toward uncovering closer connections with Putin than the President has admitted.

Bank Loans

As a real estate mogul, Donald Trump has taken out loans from financial institutions around the world in order to purchase real estate, build on or improve properties, and other legal real estate activities. If Trump has had difficulty repaying some of those loans, someone offering to help take care of them could be appealing to the President. If that person is Vladimir Putin or an associate of Putin’s, that is highly relevant information for Mueller’s investigation. The first step toward exploring this angle is to look at Trump’s bank debts.

The relevance of bank loans in the Russia scandal becomes even more acute if some of the banks are actually Russian banks, especially Russian state banks. As Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 (British intelligence agency) said in April, “What lingers for Trump may be what deals — on what terms — he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money when others in the west apparently would not lend to him.” (The Sun UK – 4/13/17)

Real Estate Deals

Exploring Trump’s real estate deals can provide not only a starting point to learning more about Trump’s debts, but also about illegal activity that he may have been involved in during his civilian life or which he may currently be involved in – knowledge of which, if known by Putin or associates of Putin, could be used to blackmail the President.

In particular, learning more about Trump’s real estate deals can yield clues about money laundering. Money laundering is the act of putting illegally obtained money through a process that can give that money the appearance of legitimacy. Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort is currently under investigation for money laundering for some New York condos that he purchased with all cash (The Atlantic – 3/29/17).

Trump himself has had numerous questionable real estate transactions, including the 2006 purchase of a Palm Beach mansion, which stayed vacant until he sold it a year later to a wealthy Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev – for nearly twice the amount that he had purchased it for (MSNBC – 3/27/17). Rybolovlev reportedly never even visited the home.

Wilbur Ross

Rybolovlev was introduced to the President by an old friend named Wilbur Ross (MSNBC – 3/27/17). Ross was appointed by Trump and confirmed as the US Secretary of Commerce in February. Prior to that, Ross was one of two Vice Chairmen of the Bank of Cyprus. Cyprus is an island off the coast of Turkey whose banks are often used by wealthy Russian oligarchs to launder money. The other Vice Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus is Viktor Vekselberg, the second wealthiest man in Russia and a close personal friend of Vladimir Putin.

In 2014, Ross and Vekselberg appointed Josef Ackerman to be President of the Bank of Cyprus (The Irish Times – 11/1/14). From 2002-2012, Ackerman had been CEO of Deutsche Bank, one of the largest banks in the world. Deutsche Bank had also been engaged in laundering approximately $10 billion for wealthy Russians in a stock fraud scheme (Vanity Fair – 7/20/17) – a crime discovered in 2013, and for which the United States fined the bank $630 million. Trump owed Deutsche Bank millions of dollars at the time that Wilbur Ross connected him with Dmitry Rybolovlev for the seemingly overpriced purchase of the Palm Beach mansion.

Untangling this mess, figuring out who knows what about it, looking at how Russia and Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Cyprus factor in, as well as understanding the role of Wilbur Ross, may help Mueller better decipher how Donald Trump may be compromised by Russia and why he may be unduly interested in cooperating with them.

Beauty Pageants

In 2013, Donald Trump brought his Miss Universe beauty pageant to Russia (New York Times – 7/11/17). The recently disclosed June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer was arranged by Rob Goldstone, a marketing executive who has worked for the Miss Universe pageants. Aras Agalarov, the person whom Goldstone cited as the connection to the Russian lawyer, had paid almost $20 million to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Russia.

While these connections are important for Mueller to investigate, the Miss Universe pageant is also relevant because the Christopher Steele dossier (Buzzfeed – 1/10/17) alleges that Trump participated in a potentially embarrassing private event in 2013 in a room at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow – an event which Vladimir Putin may possess video footage of. Such footage could be used to blackmail President Trump. In order to determine whether Trump is compromised as the Steele dossier alleges, Mueller needs to develop a timeline of Trump’s activities during any 2013 visits to Russia.

Donald Trump has proven to be a brilliant artist when it comes to smearing those he dislikes and branding them in a negative way. We should be conscious that news outlets are currently reporting possible plans by Trump’s associates to discredit and remove Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Mueller’s reputation as an ethical and dedicated law enforcement professional is impeccable. And the areas now believed to be coming under the scrutiny of his investigation are all absolutely relevant and necessary to get a full picture of any potential collusion between Donald Trump/his campaign/his Administration and Russia. We should also remain acutely aware that Vladimir Putin does not have the best interests of the United States at heart.

– rob rünt

April 10 – 16, 2017

April 10 – 16, 2017


Articles & Editorials:

Main Stories



The Russia Story Just Keeps Getting Worse for President Trump
(CNN – 4/12/17)

How Russia Hacked Obama’s Legacy
(Buzzfeed – 4/13/17)

Classified Docs Contradict Nunes Surveillance Claims, GOP and Dem Sources Say
(CNN – 4/12/17)

FBI Obtained FISA Warrant to Monitor Trump Adviser Carter Page
(Washington Post – 4/11/17)


“What lingers for Trump may be what deals — on what terms — he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money when others in the west apparently would not lend to him.”

Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 (British intelligence agency)
(The Sun UK, 4/13/17)

British Spies were First to Spot Trump Team’s Links with Russia
(The Guardian UK – 4/13/17)

“Concrete Evidence of Collusion Between Trump Team and Russia” Handed to Official Investigation
(The Independent UK – 4/14/17)

House’s Inquiry Into Russia Points a Congressman to Cyprus
(New York Times – 4/14/17)

North Korea

China’s Xi Calls Trump, Urges Peaceful Approach to North Korea
(Washington Post – 4/12/17)

US May Launch Strike if North Korea Moves to Test Nuclear Weapon: Report
(The Hill – 4/13/17)

China Warns of ‘Storm Clouds Gathering’ in U.S.-North Korea Standoff
(New York Times – 4/14/17)

 North Korean Official: Ready for War if Trump Wants it
(Associated Press – 4/14/17)

Ex-Acting CIA Chief: Trump is Making North Korea Situation Worse
(Politico – 4/14/17)

North Korea Appears to Jab at Trump with Missile Test
(Politico – 4/15/17)


Trump Faces Chinese Mockery Following Embarrassing Reversals
(MSNBC – 4/14/17)


Tillerson Meets With Putin Amid Deepening Tensions Over U.S. Missile Strikes in Syria
(Washington Post – 4/12/17)

U.S.-Led Coalition Accidentally Bombs Syrian Allies, Killing 18
(Washington Post – 4/13/17)


US Drops Most Powerful Non-Nuclear Bomb in Afghanistan
(Military – 4/13/17)

‘It Felt Like the Heavens Were Falling’: Afghans Reel from MOAB Impact
(The Guardian – 4/14/17)

Other Stories That You Should Know About:

Trump and the Press

“That’s the Job. We Are Adversarial.”
(Politico – 4/10/17)

Draining the Swamp/Government Transparency

The White House Will Keep Its Visitor Logs Secret
(Time – 4/14/17)

With Trump Appointees, a Raft of Potential Conflicts and ‘No Transparency’
(New York Times – 4/15/17)

The Tax March: Protesters Around the Country Call on Trump to Release his Taxes
(Washington Post – 4/15/17)

Trump Blasts Tax Day Protests, Says ‘Election is Over!’
(Fox News – 4/16/17)

Relearning History

Spicer: Hitler ‘Didn’t Even Sink to Using Chemical Weapons,’ Although He Sent Jews to ‘the Holocaust Center’
(Washington Post – 4/11/17)

Posted on Facebook by George Takei:

Trump is Still Learning What Most People Already Know
(MSNBC – 4/13/17)

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,”

President Donald Trump
Recalling his 4/12 phone conversation with Chinese Prime Minister Xi regarding Trump’s idea that China could simply make North Korea stop misbehaving

 Keeping Track of the Basics:


The Unforgivable Mistake Sean Spicer Makes Every Day
(Washington Post – 4/12/17)

Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

I hope that as more Trump voters come to the conclusion that she has, that people on the left will respond with compassion, tolerance (yes, tolerance) and decency rather than ridicule and “I told you so”s. The power to bring some degree of unity back to our nation and move forward in a positive direction is largely going to be in the hands of Democrats and their individual decisions to gloat or be humble. Don’t blow it, lefties.

Cartoons, Images & Videos

Source: Unknown


Cover of The Economist magazine:



Source: Fox News:
Trump describes cake and his decision to launch missiles at someone.

Posted on Twitter by Jonathan Riley:


Posted on Twitter by Danny Zuker:


Posted on Twitter by Aura Bogado:


Posted on Twitter by McSpocky:


Posted on Pinterest by


Posted on Twitter by James Austin Johnson:


Posted on Twitter by Jonathan Riley:


Source: Unknown:


Source: Unknown:


Posted on Istagram by michaelbourret:

View this post on Instagram

#taxmarch #taxmarchla

A post shared by michaelbourret (@michaelbourret) on

Posted on Facebook by The Other 98%:


Posted on Twitter by Milladydibennet:


Source: Unkown


Events & Actions

Major nationwide protest coming up:

  • Saturday, April 22, 2017: Scientists and people who believe in and support science will be having marches nationwide to encourage the use of science and facts in creating government policy – find your nearest march here!

Resources & Organizations

9 Things We Could Learn From Trump’s Tax Returns

9 Things We Could Learn From Trump’s Tax Returns

9 Things We Could Learn From Trump’s Tax Returns

Among the many “unique” things about the Trump Presidency is his steadfast refusal to publicly release his tax returns. This defies the established practice followed by Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Trump has justified his nondisclosure by claiming that he “is under a routine audit by the IRS” and will disclose his tax returns when the audit is complete. The IRS has stated publicly that their rules in no way prohibit him from releasing his taxes while the audit is in progress.

Here are nine things that disclosure of Trump’s tax returns could shed light on, and why those things are important.

Ties to Russia

In the wake of the US intelligence community’s belief that Russia worked to influence the Presidential election in favor of Trump, many people are concerned that Mr. Trump may have ties to Russia. Each day we seem to hear something new about someone close to him with some Russia connection. His tax returns could show financial transactions involving Russian Banks, the Russian government, or wealthy Russian individuals. If Trump has any such connections to Russia, it could help further connect some of the dots in the current Russia scandal.

Foreign Debts

If the President owes major debts to other countries or foreign banks, those debts could potentially impact his decisions regarding US relations with those countries. The former head of British intelligence, for example, has recently suggested that Mr. Trump may have borrowed heavily from Russian lenders during the 2008 financial crisis when he was having difficulty getting loans from lenders in the US. That could explain some of the otherwise inexplicable brotherly love between Trump and Putin.

Conflicts of Interest

We expect our President to do what is right for our country and our people. When the President has conflicts of interest – for example, a situation where doing the right thing for the American people could negatively impact his own personal wealth – there is a problem. Seeing Mr. Trump’s tax returns could help us further understand what conflicts of interest he may still have as President of the United States.

Inept Business Decisions

The major factor that Trump voters have cited more than any particular policy as their reason for supporting him is their belief in his superior background in business. They believed that his keen business acumen would translate into a more efficient, smart and organized government along with an enriched population. But much of Mr. Trump’s business prowess is self-proclaimed. We do know that four of his businesses went bankrupt, including a casino (how do you do that?). Did he make any other bad business decisions or dumb investments? So far his business skills have not appeared to result in a more efficient, smart or organized government, and the only people who appear on the docket to have their wealth enhanced are those who are already exceedingly rich.

Less Wealth Than He Publicly Claims to Have

Mr. Trump has spoken often about his own wealth. It is part of his “brand.” But is he as wealthy as he claims? Again, the glorious legend of Mr Trump’s wealth is one largely fed by his own boasting. It is entirely possible that his lavish lifestyle is the byproduct of massive loans that he must pay off. Seeing the actual reported numbers could help put some substance behind his claims.

Paying Minimal Taxes

Wealthy people can hire cunning accountants to help them pay as little in taxes as possible. This is possibly the case with Mr. Trump – a possibility which, if revealed, would almost certainly enhance the positive impression that his supporters have of him as a shrewd businessman. Nonetheless, it would be informative for the American public to see exactly how little proportionally a wealthy individual like Trump pays in taxes compared to the average American.

Money Laundering

Of course, only a fool would report money laundering on their tax returns. Nonetheless, dollar amounts are what they are, and those would likely be reported. For example, Mr. Trump purchased a reportedly quite tasteless Palm Beach mansion in 2006 for $40 million, and then sold it in 2008 to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev for $100 million. Rybolovlev reportedly never lived there, but at the time was in the midst of a divorce from his wife that was likely to net her a multi-billion dollar settlement. Was Mr. Trump assisting Mr. Rybolovlev in laundering money? Trump’s tax returns could reveal similar transactions that might raise interesting questions.

Meager Charitable Giving

Mr. Trump claims to make many donations to charity. Yet the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold just won a Pulitzer prize for his reporting on Trump’s philanthropic life that would seem to contradict those claims. Trump’s tax returns would show how much he actually has given to charity.

Trump is a Wonderful and Honest Guy

Trump’s tax returns could in fact show that he is an honest, upstanding billionaire who pays what he needs to in taxes, has nothing shady or questionable in his finances, has done nothing that could raise questions about his ability to carry out his duties as a President loyal to the American people, has a history of giving back to enhance the wellbeing of the country that has enabled him to live so lavishly, and is in fact the infinitely successful and shrewd businessman that his voters thought that they were electing.

We have entrusted Mr. Trump with the highest office in the land. Should he not entrust the American people with a bit more info about who exactly we have elected? Today, April 15, many Americans across the country will take to the streets to demand just that.

Times and locations of Trump Tax Marches nationwide


People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook.

– Former US President Richard M. Nixon
   From resignation speech

– rob rünt

Photo of Donald Trump by Mggcb.
Photo of Protest in Minneapolis by Fibonacci Blue.

Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

Keep Your Eyes on the Money – YOUR Money

There is rightly a major focus right now – among the media, in the House and Senate, by the FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the American public – on President Trump’s possible connections to Russia. Meanwhile, however, a question that could be of equal importance may be getting overlooked: why did Donald Trump run for President in the first place?

The answer is likely many-fold, and can be explained by things that are easily knowable about the President, to the point where they almost define him. He likes to be the center of attention, and a Presidential run would feed that desire with months of ongoing coverage from the media and adoration from his supporters. He likes power, and the Presidency is arguably the most powerful position in the world. He has political views and policy ideas that he appears at times to feel strongly about; the Presidency would be a place where he could enact them.

But what else do we know about Donald Trump? What else defines him almost more than all of those things combined? He likes money. And in real estate, there is a term “OPM” that stands for “Other People’s Money.” When your career is buying real estate, OPM becomes an essential way to make yourself rich more quickly. You borrow – from banks, from wealthy friends, from relatives – to buy real estate that you believe will produce enough of a profit to enrich yourself and enable you to pay back your lenders (usually with interest). Of course, in the most ideal OPM situations, such as inheriting a fortune from your father, you don’t have to pay anyone back.

And what are a couple of other things that we have learned about Donald Trump since he came under closer scrutiny during the election and into the Presidency? He lies. Boldly. Bigly. He tells lies so big and so risky that most liars wouldn’t even consider telling them because of the lies’ audaciousness and the ease of proving them false (Obama is not an American citizen, the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was the biggest in decades, etc.).

We also know that Trump sometimes stiffs those who help him, like the numerous contractors who provided goods and services for his real estate empire, only to find themselves faced with having to accept a major loss when he chose not to pay them. He has been referred to by some as a conman, boosting people’s hopes for his own financial gain.

It is quite plausible that Mr. Trump planned to make money from the process of campaigning for President. As far back as 2000, he told Fortune Magazine “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” According to Politico, by September 22 of last year, the 2016 Trump Campaign had paid Trump’s businesses $8.2 million.

And as some of us currently grit our teeth at the millions being needlessly spent each week by the American taxpayer for the excesses that accompany Mr. Trump’s Presidency – Melania living in Trump Tower instead of the White House, the President’s near-weekly trips to Mar-a-Lago and his golf courses, the Secret Service entourage to accompany the Trump kids on their frequent trips – we hardly notice that buried within those extravagances are arrangements from which the President or his family make a profit. As long as Melania lives at Trump Tower, the government (i.e., you and I) must pay rent to have a team of Secret Service living there. When the President visits Mar-a-Lago, he generates free publicity for his business – far better than any expensive commercial – at government cost, while dangling the exciting possibility that visitors might get to sit near the President of the United States at dinner or see him on his golf course. And who gets paid for the rooms that the President’s security and staff stay in at Trump’s posh Mar-a Lago hotel when Trump spends yet another weekend there?

And yes, it all reaks of conflict of interest and questionable ethics at best.

But – and I say the following as pure speculation that may well qualify me for a tin-foil hat – what if those millions being pocketed here and there are all just small change compared to a more expansive agenda? What if, as he began seeing the possibility of a win, his run for the Presidency evolved in part into the biggest lie ever, a con so big and so brazen and so thoroughly outlandish that Americans wouldn’t even think of it as a possibility until after it had already happened? You know, the way several months ago, we didn’t think that covert action by Russia could possibly play an influential – potentially even deciding – role in an American Presidential election? What if the bid for the Presidency actually evolved into a bid to siphon off one of the largest piles of OPM ever from the biggest mark possible – the federal government and, by extension, us, the American taxpayers? And what if  there were a way to move that money around silently behind the scenes – in order to pay off major debts, to stash vast amounts in anonymous overseas bank accounts, or to assist in some some other massively self-serving cause?

As Presidential Cabinet positions go, the Secretary of Commerce is not generally a glamorous or high-visibility position. If you asked even your most politically involved friends – friends who could quickly rattle off the names of every recent Secretary of State or Secretary of Energy – few could likely name even one recent Secretary of Commerce. The position just does not generate a lot of buzz: it works quietly behind the scenes, doing work related to the department’s mission “to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce.”

The person whom Donald Trump appointed to that role is a man named Wilbur Ross. On February 27, 2017, MSNBCs Rachel Maddow did a segment looking into the background of Mr. Ross. (New Commerce Secretary at Nexus of Lucrative Trump Russia Deal). While I highly recommend taking the 22 minutes to watch Maddow’s report, the Cliff’s Notes version is as follows:

  • In January 2017, Deutsche Bank was fined $630 million by the US Department of Justice for money laundering (i.e., processing tainted money in a way that makes the money appear “legitimate”). Deutsche Bank had moved approximately $10 billion out of Russia as part of a stock fraud scheme. Some of the people involved were close friends and relatives of Vladimir Putin (the Russian government also fined Deutsche Bank a whopping $5,000 for the incident).
  • When Deutsche Bank’s money laundering activities for this scam began in 2011, its CEO was Josef Ackerman. Ackerman left Deutsche Bank in 2012 after serving there for ten years. In 2013, deposits to Deutsche Bank began to be seized in the wake of questions arising over the $10 billion. In 2014, Ackerman was appointed Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Cyprus is a Mediterranean island off the coast of Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. It is known to be a major hub where Russian oligarchs use the banking system to launder their money.
  • The Bank of Cyprus has two Vice Chairmen: one is Viktor Vekselberg (second wealthiest man in Russia and a close personal friend of Vladimir Putin) and the other is long-time Trump friend Wilbur Ross. Vekselberg and Ross are both the largest shareholders in the Bank of Cyprus. Vekselberg and Ross were the ones who brought in Ackerman as the new CEO of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Another large shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus is a Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev. Rybolovlev began a divorce from his wife in 2007 or 2008. The divorce was finalized in 2015. At some point, a judge awarded Rybolovlev’s wife $4.5 billion as part of the settlement. During the divorce proceedings, she accused Rybolovlev of “secreting and transferring assets in order to avoid his obligations.”
  • In 2006, Donald Trump bought a tacky Palm Beach mansion called la maison de l`amitie for $40 million. The property sat vacant for two years, In 2008, Trump sold it to Rybolovlev, who inexplicably paid $100 million for it, netting Trump a quick $60 million in profit. Rybolovlev reportedly never lived in the house.
  • At the time, Trump was having financial difficulties and was fighting to avoid paying off a large loan from Deutsche Bank.
  • Rybolovlev and Trump never met: they performed their entire multi-million dollar real estate transaction through intermediaries. The person who introduced Russian oligarch Rybolovlev and Trump was Wilbur Ross, one of the two Vice Chairmen of the Bank of Cyprus.
  • Trump nominated Wilbur Ross to be US Secretary of Commerce, and Ross was confirmed for that role in February, 2017.
  • Some intelligence officials believe that “one reason the Russians compiled information on Trump during his 2013 trip was that he was meeting with Russian oligarchs who may be stashing money abroad.”


Wilbur Ross, the man whom Donald Trump has appointed to structure and oversee the moving around of large amounts of America’s money, is the largest investor in and has had a very recent (possibly still active) high-level controlling role in the Bank of Cyprus, a bank with deep ties to Russia, a bank which, according to Maddow, is known for laundering large amounts of money for wealthy Russians. The bank’s Chairman, appointed by Ross, previously headed Deutsche Bank during a time when Deutsche Bank began laundering $10 billion, including money from governments, for the benefit of wealthy individuals, notably wealthy Russians and friends of Vladimir Putin.

The President’s recently proposed budget made headlines for its staggering cuts to numerous government programs and agencies. Some programs were zeroed out, while others were cut by double-digit percentages. If even a fraction of that proposed budget is enacted by Congress, it will mean that enormous amounts of American taxpayer money will be in flux, and things are likely to get very hazy and disorienting for awhile.

As Mr. Trump does what he does best – saying and doing things that completely captivate the attention of the American media and American public – keep your eyes on your money … and keep your eyes on Wilbur Ross and the Department of Commerce.

– rob rünt


March 6 – 12, 2017

March 6 – 12, 2017


Articles & Editorials:

Main Stories


Unexpected Deaths of Six Russian Diplomats in Four Months Triggers Conspiracy Theories
(The Independent – 2/27/17)

State Department Bars Release of Russian U.N. Ambassador’s Autopsy
(NBC News – 3/10/17)

Russia Investigation

US Spies Have ‘Considerable Intelligence’ on High-Level Trump-Russia Talks, Claims Ex-NSA Analyst
(The Independent – 3/6/17)

CIA Providing Raw Intelligence as Trump-Russia Probes Heat Up: Congress Has Entered a New Phase in its Investigation
(Politico – 3/7/17)

Trump’s Mental Health

White House Rejects FBI’s Denial of Trump’s Wiretapping Claims
(Huffington Post – 3/6/17)

McCain Calls on Trump to Clarify Wiretapping Claim
(CNN – 3/12/17)

Other Stories That You Should Know About:

Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn Was Paid to Represent Turkey’s Interests During Trump Campaign
(New York Times – 3/10/17)

Preet Bharara

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Says He Was Fired After Refusing to Quit
(New York Times – 3/11/17)

After Firing Preet Bharara, President Trump Beware
(CNN – 3/11/17)

Keeping Track of the Basics:


Donald Trump’s Wiretap Tweets Raise His Risk of Impeachment
(Chicago Tribune – 3/6/17)

The Trump Experiment May Come to an Early Tipping Point
(E.J. Dionne Jr., New York Times – 3/5/17)

Hey, It’s a Problem the President Believes Things That Aren’t True
(Vice – 3/6/17)

Trump Knows the Feds are Closing in on Him
(Foreign – 3/6/17)

How to Escape Your Political Bubble for a Clearer View
(New York Times – 3/3/17)

Believe it or Not, Science Deniers Aren’t Stupid
(Big Think – 1/3/17)

A Philosopher’s 350-Year-Old Trick to Get People to Change Their Minds is Now Backed up by Psychologists
(Quartz – 9/11/16)

Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

Listening to Trump Voters with ACA Coverage: What They Want in a Healthcare Plan
(Kaiser Family Foundation – 2/22/17)

Cartoons, Images & Videos

Chart on Trump’s Russia ties prepared by US Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA)


Source: Unknown


Events & Actions

Two major nationwide protests coming up:

  • Saturday, April 15, 2017: Trump Tax Day Marches nationwide to let President Trump know that it’s not just reporters who care about his undisclosed tax returns – find your nearest march here!
  • Saturday, April 22, 2017: Scientists and people who believe in and support science will be having marches nationwide to encourage the use of science and facts in creating government policy – find your nearest march here!

Resources & Organizations

Questions Raised by the Jeff Sessions Controversy

Questions Raised by the Jeff Sessions Controversy


Questions Raised by the Jeff Sessions Controversy

On January 10, 2017, US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) answered questions from Congress to determine whether he should be confirmed as US Attorney General. During that confirmation hearing, US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) asked Sessions the following question:

“CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the President-Elect last week that included information that quote ‘Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.’ These documents also allegedly say quote ‘there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government’ – again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out so – you know, but if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump Campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

Sessions’ response was given under oath:

“Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

As a result of that confirmation hearing, Jeff Sessions became the United States Attorney General. It was later determined that, while serving as the Trump Campaign’s top national security adviser, Sessions had actually met twice with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, considered by the US intelligence community to be a Russian spy and recruiter of spies, according to CNN. One of these meetings between Sessions and Kislyak was at the Republican National Convention where Trump was nominated as the Republican Party’s candidate for President.

The most benign, charitable interpretation of Sessions’ response to Franken was that he did not fully understand the question. A less kind interpretation is that he was intentionally lying, and there are multiple possibilities in between.

As Attorney General, Sessions should theoretically be in charge of the investigation into the Trump Campaign’s ties to Russia. Thankfully, Sessions was aware of the conflict that he had created with his nondisclosure and recused himself (removed himself) from being in charge of the investigation. Yet questions remain.

  1. Was this an honest misunderstanding of Senator Franken’s question, or did Senator Sessions knowingly lie under oath to Congress, which would be perjury – a felony?
  2. If this was truly an honest mistake, Sessions’ memory would surely have been jogged during the following weeks when President Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn made headlines as he resigned for not disclosing his own meetings with the same Russian diplomat. Why, during those subsequent weeks, did Sessions not correct the record? Why did he wait for Department of Justice officials to disclose their knowledge of the Sessions-Kislyak conversations?
  3. During his hearing to become US Attorney General (the US government’s chief law enforcement officer) if Sessions did knowingly lie to Congress, or knowingly continued to conceal the truth once he realized his omission, should he nonetheless continue on as Attorney General, or does his unethical and potentially criminal conduct warrant his resignation?
  4. What did Sessions and Kislyak discuss in their conversations? During the Republican National Convention, the Trump Campaign’s only contribution to the Republican Party Platform was a softening of US policy toward Russia over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Did the Kislyak-Sessions discussion at the Convention touch on that topic at all? In what way? If they discussed that, or the Trump Campaign, or policy ideas for a Trump Presidency, that is worrisome and unethical at best and requires intense scrutiny. If they discussed anything related to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails or Russia’s desire/efforts to sabotage her Campaign, that could potentially call into question the legitimacy of the entire Trump Presidency, because it could possibly show coordination between Russia’s actions and the Trump Campaign. It would also warrant even closer scrutiny of contacts that others in Trump’s orbit had with Russians, and could lead to criminal charges.
  5. What safeguards will the Department of Justice have in place to ensure that the Trump Administration is not tipped off about what evidence has been compiled in the investigation into connections between the Trump Campaign and Russia or between the Trump Administration and Russia?

Sessions is scheduled to return to the Senate to testify further on Monday 3/6 in order to clarify his earlier answers. Hopefully questions similar to those above will be asked to shed more light on the situation.

– rob rünt

Sunday, Jan 8, 2017

Welcome to the first installment of “The Week in Trump.”

This Sunday blog is for people who wish to avoid gawking at the Trump train wreck for the other six days of the week, but who also believe that it is healthy and important to stay informed on matters that can significantly affect them. Here you will find a summary of the week’s most essential news and ideas (with links to the best reporting on the stories), artwork, videos and my personal thoughts. Once you’ve been thoroughly bludgeoned into despair, I will then restore hope, with info on the latest actions and upcoming events that you can participate in, as well as helpful resources and relevant organizations that you can support to make a positive difference.

I have long been obsessed with justice and the free flow of complete, accurate information. Now that both appear to be in peril, I consider it my civic duty to help others get the information that they need in a quickly and easily digestible form. It is my promise to you that I will provide the most accurate, factual information that I can. That does not mean that I will be objective. It means that I will be factual. If you think that this can be a useful weekly resource for you, please bookmark it or subscribe. Remember: we get to decide what the light at the end of the tunnel will be.

     – rob rünt



Articles & Editorials

Take It From A German: Americans Are Too Timid In Confronting Hate
(Full Article – The Daily Beast)

On Monday, in one of the first acts of the new Congress, Republicans attempted to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent oversight group with a track record of sending Congresspersons to prison when they violate the law. (Full Article – MSNBC)  After media attention and a swift and strong negative public outcry, Congress quickly undid the measure before noon the next day. (Full Article – MSNBC)  Shortly before Republicans backtracked, President-Elect Trump tweeted that the “timing” of the move was distracting, leading some news outlets to attribute Congress’ reversal of course to his strong leadership. (Full Article – CNN)

In recent weeks, President-Elect Trump has chosen not to avail himself of most Presidential daily intelligence briefings – something that most Presidents want to get as much of as they can in order to get up to speed on important matters about which they will need to make decisions. He has also been dismissive of US intelligence agencies’ assertion of Kremlin  interference in the U.S. election, leading to concern among legislators and members of the intelligence community that our next President will not make his decisions based on the best information.  (Full Article – The Guardian)


This unexpectedly led to a development that is likely to be a pattern with the Trump Administration, either out of poor organization, poor internal communication, or a deliberate strategy of floating an idea publicly without having to commit to it (or some combination of the above): someone from Trump’s inner circle told the Wall Street Journal that Mr. Trump planned to overhaul and cut staff in the nation’s intelligence agencies – a story which was then repeated by other news outlets (Full Article – The Hill), but which Trump later denied when asked directly.

Trump remained dismissive of the Russian hacking story even after a full report (declassified version here) from US intelligence officials. (Full Article – CNN)  However, he is interested in finding out who in the intelligence community made public the information about the Kremlin’s interference in the election.


In other news, Russians appear to have just hacked into accounts of Arizona state lawmakers. (Full Article – AZ Central)

An analysis of “Putin’s real end game.” I agree with much of the assessment of Russia’s involvement and what we’re up against, but disagree with much of the proposed response to it. Your thoughts? (Full Article – Politico)

Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary: ‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’ (Full Article – The Guardian)

“Having studied authoritarian states for over a decade, I would never exaggerate the severity of the threat we now face. But an American kleptocracy is exactly where president-elect Trump and his backers are taking us. That’s why I have a favor to ask you, my fellow Americans….

… I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured.

Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others.

Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.

Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.

Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.

Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.”

– from the blog of Sarah Kendzior

A general overview of the election results, what they mean, and where to go from here. In my better moments can live up to the “where to go from here” part, but snark is a definite weakness for me. (Full Article – Charles Eisenstein Blog)

 Cartoons, Images & Videos

Cartoon by Will McPhail, New Yorker:

Posted by Americans Against Trump:


Cartoon by Paul Noth:



Posted to Instagram by Alec Baldwin:



 Personal Thoughts & Experiences

On Monday, I had lunch with a friend – a very thoughtful Jewish man and one of my favorite people in the entire world. The conversation eventually turned to politics. Having had relatives who were caught up by the Holocaust, he has visited the concentration camps in Germany as well as the Holocaust Museum in Germany and in Washington DC. He said that the most chilling thing for him in those places was not the photos or the artifacts. It was a video screen at the Holocaust Museum in DC. It showed no graphics or photos, just text, slowly scrolling through the small, incremental changes – small lines drawn and then crossed and then redrawn and crossed again – that took place in what came to be known as Nazi Germany. Each change was undesirable, but ultimately tolerated. The cumulative effect was the extermination of six million human beings.

 Events & Actions

Resources & Organizations