The Trump-Russia Web – Part 9: Fusion GPS

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 9: Fusion GPS

Fusion GPS

(Full Transcript of Senate Testimony – 312 pages)
(Full Transcript of House Testimony – 165 pages)


Disclaimer: This is a summary of part of Glenn Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 17, 2017 and before the House Intelligence Committee on November 14, 2017. The information below was presented by Glenn Simpson in his testimony, and is not being represented here as either fact or as the opinion of the webmaster unless specifically stated. All statements and assertions should be read as if prefaced by “Glenn Simpson states that …” Any content that I add will be surrounded by [brackets] and will likely include a link or reference to the source.


Who is Fusion GPS?

The following are details of how Glenn Simpson described his company, Fusion GPS.

Fusion GPS (the Washington DC trade name of Simpson’s company Bean LLC) is a small research, strategy and consulting firm based in Washington DC, with approximately 12 employees. The company handles a small number of projects each year. Their clients are mainly corporations and law firms, but they occasionally do research for major political campaigns as well, although political work is not their “niche.”

Fusion primarily collects public record information, sifts through it to determine which information is relevant to their client, and analyzes that information. Their law firm clients, who prefer clear, documented evidence that will be useful to them in a court of law, appreciate Fusion’s focus on document-and-data-based research. Fusion also interacts with the press regularly. Fusion typically responds to inquiries from media instead of actively sending out information, although they also sometimes pitch stories and send out press releases when their clients ask them to.

Fusion’s process is generally not directed by the client: rather than being told to find information that will result in the answer that the client wants, Fusion gathers as much information and data on the given topic, determines what that information might mean and/or what questions it might raise, and then goes in the direction that the data points them. Fusion makes clear to their clients up front that this is how they operate. Simpson states, “if you predetermine the result that you’re looking for, you tend to miss things.”

Fusion is hired to do “reliable treatments” of a subject – to produce accurate information, positive or negative, that can help their client understand the person, business or event that they are dealing with. The goal is not to do a “hit piece,” even for political clients. That does not mean that some information gathered will not be unflattering to the subject: it means that Fusion believes the information that they gather – flattering or unflattering – is accurate. It does not serve Fusion’s clients well to be given an inaccurate understanding of the subject being researched.

Fusion gathers facts, which Simpson described as “provable facts,” “established facts,” and occasionally “factual allegations.” Simpson makes a distinction between the first two, which are objectively verifiable, and allegations, which are unconfirmed.

Because Fusion’s clients are often attorneys, and attorneys’ clients are not always honest with the attorneys, one of the first things that Fusion does in analyzing their gathered information and data is to try to assess whether the attorney’s client’s story matches with known facts. Much of Fusion’s work is described as “decision support” – helping Fusion’s client learn what the facts are so that the client can decide how best to proceed.

Fusion has a small staff, and intentionally chooses researchers who do not have strong partisan leanings, because “ideological prisms are not helpful for doing research.” Fusion occasionally hires subcontractors for tasks that do not fall under their areas of expertise. In order to ensure the integrity of the information that Fusion provides, all Fusion subcontractors (as well as Fusion themselves) sign a non-disclosure agreement before being engaged for a project: in general, this means that nobody working for Fusion on a project may discuss the project outside of Fusion, and Fusion does not discuss one client’s project with another client. To further ensure the integrity of the information that Fusion takes in, Fusion does not let subcontractors on a given project know of each other’s existence. Fusion often does not even let subcontractors know who the client is unless Fusion believes that there may be a need to verify that the subcontractor does not have any conflict of interest.

Clients generally hire Fusion for 30 days at a time: at the end of each 30 days, the client gets a report with Fusion’s findings, and if they want more, they sign up for another 30 days. When Fusion completes a project, they are often asked to hand over all copies of the documentation for the case so that the client can ensure that it has been disposed of. Simpson said that he could not answer whether the Steele dossier was handed over to the client.


Read more of this special series:
The Trump-Russia Web


 

 

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 4: Timeline, Key Relationships, Key Places

The Trump-Russia Web – Part 4: Timeline, Key Relationships, Key Places

Timeline, Key Relationships, Key Places


Disclaimer: The information, events, and relationships described in the pdf files below are based on the Steele dossier, the opening statement of William Browder, the Nunes memo, and the House and Senate testimonies of Glenn Simpson. The information has been compiled to help understand what has been communicated in these documents and testimonies, and is not being represented here as either fact or as the opinion of the webmaster unless specifically stated. All statements and assertions should be read as if prefaced by “The documents referenced in this series indicate …” Additional detail has been gathered from external sources like Wikipedia and news accounts, and is indicated by [brackets].


Timeline

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Key Relationships

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Key Places

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Read more of this special series:
The Trump-Russia Web


 

 

GOP Backing Roy Moore is About Keeping the Presidency, Not Just a Senate Seat

GOP Backing Roy Moore is About Keeping the Presidency, Not Just a Senate Seat

How low can Republicans go, some may ask. After months of looking the other way as Donald Trump toys with nuclear war, alienates our international allies, reaps millions in profits from his Presidency, and tweets falsehoods on a regular basis, many thought that the Republican Party had hit rock bottom. Until they endorsed accused pedophile Roy Moore for the US Senate.

Multiple women have alleged that Roy Moore dated them or engaged in sexual activity with them when they were teens. At the time, Moore was a District Attorney in his 30s in Alabama. In his defense, Moore recently asserted on Fox’s Sean Hannity’s show that he had never dated any girl without first getting “permission of her mother.”

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Alleged messages written by Alabama District Attorney Roy Moore to Debbie Gibson and Beverly Nelson when they were teenagers.

How can the Republican Party, which for years had sanctimoniously proclaimed itself the party of God and morality, throw its endorsement behind someone who appears to have sexually preyed on children? Is keeping one Senate seat really so important to them that they are willing to throw aside all pretense of integrity? Yes and no.

Republicans currently hold a slim majority in the Senate, and they would no doubt like to maintain that majority. But there is an office that is far more important to them to hang onto: the Presidency.

The tie-in here requires a look at the immediate circumstances of the President, the Mueller investigation, and what kind of political process could prematurely end that investigation.

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has recently subpoenaed and received Donald Trump’s financial records from Germany’s Deutsche Bank. Aside from being one of the few financial institutions willing to lend money to Mr. Trump after one of his bankruptcies, Deutsche Bank was also fined $630 million by the US government in January of this year for laundering over $10 billion for wealthy Russians in a stock fraud scheme. (Money laundering means running illegally obtained money through some process to make it appear legitimate). My personal suspicion is that, prior to his life as a political figure, Donald Trump engaged in real estate transactions that assisted others, including wealthy Russians like oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, to launder or hide their money. Such assertions have been made in the infamous “dossier” compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.

Vladimir Putin would no doubt be aware of such illegal activity, and could use that knowledge to blackmail President Trump, which would explain the President’s baffling reluctance to criticize Putin while attacking virtually everyone else, including the US intelligence community.

As Mueller ”follows the money” and gets closer to areas that can bear fruit in his investigation, many Republicans, who initially supported the selection of Robert Mueller (a Republican with an excellent reputation within the legal community for his dogged investigative practices and impeccable integrity) have suddenly begun turning on the Special Prosecutor, now calling him “corrupt” and “the head of the snake.” The President has made no secret of his dislike of the Mueller probe, calling it a “witch hunt.”

Yet if Trump were seen as directly trying to remove Robert Mueller after already having fired FBI Director James Comey, it would be viewed as a blatant obstruction of justice. Republicans have discovered another way to get rid of Mueller, and it requires the election of Roy Moore to the Senate.

The Special Prosecutor would ordinarily be appointed by the US Attorney General. However, in the current situation, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions (former Alabama Senator) had recused himself from the Russia investigation, due to his potentially being considered a witness in that case. So instead, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was given the responsibility to appoint a Special Counsel. He chose former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Rosenstein would be the most appropriate person to remove Mueller from the case, but seems unlikely to do so, and Sessions cannot do so, because he has recused himself.

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has been encouraging Alabamans to write in Jeff Sessions when they vote. He has also said that if Roy Moore is elected, the Senate will immediately begin an ethics investigation into the allegations of the various women against Moore. Such an investigation will likely find that these women are in fact telling the truth about their teenage encounters with Roy Moore, and such findings will likely result in the Senate expelling Moore or demanding his resignation.

When a Senator leaves office prematurely, that state’s Governor is empowered to appoint a replacement. Some Republican political operatives have advocated for Moore to be replaced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, essentially putting Sessions back in his old job as one of Alabama’s two Senators. It would seem a natural choice.

Yet the resulting absence in the US Attorney General’s office would allow the President a “mulligan” on appointing an Attorney General – enabling him to select a new Attorney General who would not need to recuse himself/herself from the Russia investigation and who would therefore have the authority to remove Robert Mueller and either replace him with a new Special Prosecutor or declare the investigation over.

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Currently, Roy Moore is ahead of his Democratic opponent Doug Jones in the Alabama polls. If Moore wins, the wheels can easily be put in motion for a premature end to the Russia probe, or for an investigation that avoids looking in the most meaningful and damning areas.

– rob rünt

America’s Cult Culture

America’s Cult Culture

Cults absolutely fascinate me: Scientology, the Manson family, Bhagwan Rajneesh, Zendik Farm, Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, the Branch Davidians, Warren Jeffs, Heaven’s Gate. Part of the draw is marveling at the wacked out belief systems and blind loyalty, and part of it is a lingering question in the back of my mind: could I ever be susceptible to something like that? I have thrown myself passionately into causes and felt a strong loyalty to charismatic individuals. What separated those periods in my life from the kind of personality capable of joining a cult has, in retrospect, at times seemed like a very thin line.

Things that cults tend to have in common include:

  • Passionate and unquestioning loyalty to the leader
  • The leader’s words and beliefs are seen as the absolute truth, even when evidence is presented to the contrary
  • Doubt or dissent are discouraged
  • Members are isolated: communications with friends and family who might raise questions about the new beliefs are ended or severely limited
  • Members have a sense of superiority over nonmembers and outsiders, often viewing them through an us-versus-them filter
  • Leadership is unaccountable
  • The cult’s goals and beliefs can be used to justify actions and events that members would otherwise see as unacceptable or unethical

Looking from the outside at the bizarre beliefs and practices of a cult, it can be easy to dismiss cult members as dumb, gullible, crazy, or weak in character. Yet many intelligent, well-educated, reasonable people join cults. What would cause an otherwise sane person to come under the sway of something so illogical?

Nearly every human being is motivated by a desire for belonging, significance, and meaning. A cult fills those needs, and provides something else that can be intoxicating for many: a sense of moral, spiritual or intellectual superiority. Cult members believe that they are privy to a level of understanding and truth that the rest of the world is oblivious to. They are special. And challenges to that truth are by extension challenges to their specialness. When self-esteem is low, such challenges can feel deeply threatening and cause cult members to double down on the beliefs that have given them such a self-satisfying feeling of being special.

American politics has evolved into something that powerfully and dangerously combines many traits of the cult mentality – on both sides, but particularly for Trump supporters. In a recent CNN interview, a very articulate entrepreneur stated emphatically that if Jesus Christ came down from the cross and told him that the President had colluded with the Russians, he wouldn’t believe it unless Donald Trump verified that it was true. While this is an extreme example, Trump’s “I could shoot someone on 5th Avenue” statement is not far off base for many of his supporters.

The information age promised to enrich our minds, offering us whole worlds of knowledge and ideas previously inaccessible or difficult to access. Instead, what we have ended up with is a country divided into factions, each of which has largely chosen for itself one “world,” where they stay firmly cloistered within their own silo of information and ideas. Cable news shows, talk radio shows, blogs, social media connections, and personal connections can all be selected to provide daily tailored reinforcement for the ideas and facts that we already want to believe – and deselected to shut out contrary views and information. Spiked by the interpersonal animosity towards differing views that intensified during the 2016 election, many of us have evolved the same sort of self-selected isolation from “outsiders” (i.e., differing views) that takes place in a cult, but on a mass scale, and in a context that feels like we are simply continuing about our normal lives.

That isolation and us-versus-them feeling is bolstered by a smug sense of superiority. Many who oppose Trump look down their noses at Trump supporters as ignorant, racist, hypocritically possessing a warped and selective moral compass, willfully blind to the dangerousness, corruption and self-centered motivations of the President, and easily duped by a compulsively lying charlatan. Trump supporters feel a sense of snickering superiority to those who oppose the President, seeing them as completely disconnected from any meaningful awareness of the hardships endured by rural and working class Americans, willfully blind to the deep systemic flaws that are crushing the American dream for so many, gullibly guzzling fake news from the mainstream media, and hypocritically preaching love and tolerance in the same breath as they hate and shun those who dare not buy into every nuance of their increasingly rigid and narrow liberal ideology. Both worldviews nurture an uncompromising sense of being “better than the other side” – and a growing belief in an inferior, less-than-human mass of “others” living in the same country.

We are in the midst of a perfect storm for something potentially very frightening in America: a powerful, nuclear-armed nation technologically wired for totalitarianism as never before, with a weak-kneed political class of corporate sycophants and a dimly recalled set of Constitutional rights, checks and balances being the only things standing in the way of losing our democracy entirely. Our charismatic leader is seen by his followers as irrefutably having “the truth,” and his reckless, dangerous and impulsive behavior is met with an uneasy shrug from a timid Congress, rather than being met with any real accountability. His supporters seem willing to rationalize anything that he says or does, even if it clearly and directly conflicts with values that they claim to hold dear. The President hardens their faith in him by discounting any uncomfortable facts as “fake news.” Relatives and long-time friends are disconnecting socially and online in favor of those whose beliefs are more in line with their own. Large segments of the population now consider themselves superior to the out-of-touch “others.” And unlike all but the most insulated cults, most Americans immerse themselves daily  in multiple channels of information and ideas that all confirm the chosen reality they want to believe in. In short, many Americans are now part of the foundations of a massive, potent, and self-contained cult.

Lest those who oppose Trump start feeling too smug about all this, look no further than that smug feeling to realize that, under the right circumstances and with your own self-selected relationships and channels of information, you are just as susceptible to this mentality. You are not superior. You just didn’t fall for this particular dogma and misinformation.

There is no easy answer to the situation in which we find ourselves. Attitudes and beliefs have become largely solidified. Impeachment looks unlikely in the near term, and realistically would not address the conditions that have landed us here. A large number of bloggers and news outlets have found a reliable money stream from churning out appealing misinformation, selective facts and innuendo. And our culture and political system are so massive and clumsy as to be capable of changing course with the nimbleness and speed of an ocean liner.

But the path that we are on is unsustainable. If we continue to isolate from one another and dehumanize one another, it can lead nowhere good.

When a loved one is in a cult, one solution is “deprogramming” – kidnapping the cult member, holding them against their will, educating them about the techniques used by cults, encouraging and praising them when they engage in critical thinking, and working to restore an emotional connection with people from their past outside the cult. Given the large swath of the country under Trump’s spell, a deprogramming approach is not practical – much less ethical or legal.

What little solution that I can visualize to America’s current plight is this. Reconnect with people with whom you disagree. Listen to their concerns, their fears, their dreams, and try to understand what in their life experiences make that so important to them. Be humble. Assume the best of them as your fellow human beings, and avoid judging or shaming them, even as you hang on firmly to your values. Frequently and continuously seek out news sources that you know you’ll disagree with – not because they will give you facts, but because they will help you understand what is animating the passions of others, and because it will help you in your conversations with them. And remember that there are many flavors of Kool Aid out there: be sure that you aren’t drinking any yourself.

– rob rünt

July 9 – 31, 2017


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Scaramucci


Scaramucci on Leaks: ‘I’m Going to Fire Everybody’
(New York Times – 7/25/17)

Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon
(The New Yorker – 7/27/17)

Scaramucci: ‘If Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that’
(Washington Post – 7/27/17)

“The fish stinks from the head down. But I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, and that’s me and the president.”

– Anthony Scaramucci, White House Press Secretary

Is it a felony to leak a financial disclosure form, as Anthony Scaramucci said?
(Politifact – 7/27/17)

Reince Priebus Is Ousted Amid Stormy Days for White House
(New York Times – 7/28/17)

Anthony Scaramucci’s wife files for divorce
(Page Six – 7/28/17)


“There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president. OK, that is not their job. Their job is to inject this president into America.”

– Anthony Scaramucci, White House Press Secretary
(CNN – 7/27/17)

Anthony Scaramucci removed as White House communications director
(Washington Post – 7/31/17)


Trump and Putin


Trump suggested a cybersecurity pact with Russia. Lawmakers say they were ‘dumbfounded.’
(Washington Post – 7/9/17)

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“This is like the guy who robbed your house proposing a working group on burglary.”

– Ash Carter, Former US Secretary of Defense
(Telegraph UK – 7/9/17)

 

Trump and Putin Held a Second, Undisclosed, Private Conversation
(New York Times – 7/18/17)

Trump Spins Putin Dinner Conversation
(FactCheck.org – 7/19/17)


Trump and Russia


All The Dots, Connected
(The American Interest – 7/25/17)

A Timeline: Russia and President Trump
(Moyers & Company – 7/17/17)

Bill Browder’s Testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee
(The Atlantic – 7/25/17)

Russian mob money helped build Trump business empire
(MSNBC – 7/17/17)

Paul Manafort Reportedly Owed Millions to Russian Oligarch Before Joining trump Campaign
(Vanity Fair – 7/20/17)

Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow
(Washington Post – 7/19/17)

Mueller has broader authority in his Russia investigation than Trump may realize
(Business Insider – 7/21/17)

This Is How the Russian Kleptocracy Operates
(Esquire – 7/27/17)

Russia Seizes 2 U.S. Properties and Orders Embassy to Cut Staff
(New York Times – 7/28/17)

Trump dictated son’s misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer
(Washington Post – 7/31/17)

Maybe What Russia Wants From Trump Is Permission to Launder Its Dirty Money
(Slate – 7/20/17)


Congressional Testimonies


Manafort testifies to Senate Intelligence Committee, turns over notes from Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer
(Washington Post – 7/25/17)

How Jared Kushner Helped the Russians Get Inside Access to the Trump Campaign
(New Yorker – 7/25/16)

‘I Did Not Collude,’ Kushner Says After Meeting Senate Investigators
(New York Times – 7/24/17)


Mueller Investigation


Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
(Bloomberg – 7/20/17)

Trump Trains His Sights on Mueller’s Investigation
The president’s lawyers are looking at multiple ways to undermine or curtail the Russia inquiry, including his issuing pardons
(The Atlantic – 7/20/17)

As Team Trump Lawyers Up, Who’s Paying The Attorney Fees?
(National Public Radio – 7/19/17)

Deutsche Bank is Turning Over Information on Trump
(Vanity Fair – 7/20/17)

Does Trump Have a Case Against Mueller?
(Politico – 7/21/17)


Trump Pardoning … Himself?!


Trump pushes his ‘complete power’ to pardon
(Politic – 7/22/17)

President Trump is considering pardoning himself. I asked 15 experts if that’s legal.
(Vox – 7/21/17)

Jared Kushner sealed real estate deal with oligarch’s firm cited in money-laundering case
(The Guardian – 7/24/17)


“He isn’t smart enough to do the job and isn’t man enough to own up to the fact.”

– Kevin Williamson, National Review – 7/30/17


Healthcare Reform


Frustrated in defeat, Trump threatens healthcare of voters — and lawmakers
(Los Angeles Times – 7/29/17)

Dems pivot to offering ObamaCare improvements
(The Hill – 7/29/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Interview with Donald Trump – Partial Transcript
(New York Times – 7/19/17)

Jeb Bush calls out Republicans silent on Trump’s Russia probe
(The Hill – 7/21/17)

My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump
(Senator Jeff Flake, Politico – 7/31/17)

Jared Kushner Discloses Dozens More Assets in Revised Financial Filing
(Wall Street Journal – 7/21/17)

Trump tells police not to worry about injuring suspects during arrests
(Washington Post – 7/28/17)

House Approves Spending Package, Border Wall and All
(New York Times – 7/27/17)

House Republicans call for a second special counsel — to investigate Clinton, Comey and Lynch
(CNBC – 7/27/17)

New poll offers deeper insight into what ails rural America
(Daily KOS –7/9/17)


Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


Liberals can win again if they stop being so annoying and fix their ‘hamburger problem’
(Business Insider – 7/17/17)

Trump’s breathtaking surrender to Russia
(Washington Post – 7/20/17)
Note: Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recommends that every American read this piece written by a former Senior Policy Advisor for George W. Bush

The Democrats’ New Agenda Is Everything That’s Wrong With the Party
(In These Times – 7/27/17)

No, Trump can’t pardon himself. The Constitution tells us so.
(Washington Post – 7/21/17)

Trump’s Mistake at the Boy Scout Jamboree
(The Atlantic – 7/24/17)

Trump Is Woody Allen Without the Humor
(Peggy Noonan – Wall Street Journal – 7/27/17)

The Triumph of the Idiocracy: How Narcissism, Stupidity and the Internet Got Us Donald Trump, an Accidental President
(Alternet – 7/31/17)


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.


Posted on Facebook by An0maly, reposted here because it’s important to understand Trump supporters’ different perspectives so that we don’t have to go through this again.


Cartoons, Images & Videos


A video tweeted by Donald Trump about the G20 Summit – remarkably similar to the kind of video that one might expect the leader of North Korea to broadcast:

Posted on Facebook by “Union Thugs:”

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Source: Unknown:

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Source: Unknown:

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Cartoon by Nate Beeler, Columbia Dispatch:

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Cartoon by Steve Sack, Star Tribune:

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Source: Unknown:

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Source: Unknown:

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Source: Unknown:

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This Week’s Blog Entry


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


Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations


“People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.”

President Donald Trump speaking about French President Emmanuel Macron
(New York Times interview – 7/19/17)

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

June 25 – July 1, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Healthcare


Senate Leaders Try to Appease Members as Support for Health Bill Slips
(New York Times – 6/25/17)

Kellyanne Conway: Those on Medicaid who will lose health insurance can always get jobs
(CNBC – 6/25/17)

Trump likely to break many of his health-care promises — no matter what happens
(Washington Post – 6/26/17)

Senate Health Bill in Peril as Congressional Budget Office Predicts 22 Million More Uninsured
(New York Times – 6/27/17)

Trump Warms to Old Idea: Kill Health Law Now, and Replace It Later
(New York Times – 6/30/17)


Russia


White House blames Obama for failing to stop Russia collusion
(Washington Post – 6/25/17)

Russian radio takes over local DC station
(The Hill – 6/30/17)

Russia hackers discussed getting Clinton emails to Michael Flynn – report
(The Guardian – 6/30/17)


Voter Fraud Commission


Trump’s voter-fraud commission wants to know voting history, party ID and address of every voter in the U.S.
(Washington Post – 6/29/17)

21 states refusing to provide voter data to Trump election panel
(The Hill – 6/30/17)

Trump challenges states on voter fraud: ‘What are they trying to hide?’
(Washington Post – 7/1/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


 World Opinion


Most of the World Has Little Confidence in Donald Trump, Poll Finds
(Time – 6/27/17)

The White House’s international credibility collapses in Trump era
(MSNBC – 6/27/17)

The 4 most brutal numbers in that poll showing the world hates Trump
(Washington Post – 6/27/17)


Asia


With Provocative Moves, U.S. Risks Unraveling Gains With China
(New York Times – 6/30/17)

Trump: US patience with the North Korean regime ‘is over’
(CNN – 6/30/17)


Mika Brzezinski


Conflicts of Interest


The Swamp Hotel: How the President’s D.C. outpost became a dealmaker’s paradise for diplomats, lobbyists and insiders
(Time – 6/19/17)


Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


Byron York: On Russia, a senator’s deception and a timeline of Trump frustration
(Washington Examiner – 6/26/17)

I’ve Overestimated Donald Trump
(New York Times – 6/29/17)

Ways to Stay Motivated
(Warning: contains profanity)
(Terrible Minds – 6/29/17)


Interviews


Ralph Nader: The Democrats are Unable to Defend the US from the “Most Vicious” Republican Party in History
(The Intercept – 6/25/17)


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.


Woman’s “Top 10 Reasons I Am No Longer A Leftist” Goes Viral
(Truth Uncensored – 3/13/17)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Below is a video that you should be aware of. It is allegedly undercover video of a CNN Producer describing his perception of CNN’s Trump-Russia coverage. It is getting a lot of views particularly among Trump supporters, and appears to feed the narrative that the Russia story is just a witch hunt for the media to get ratings. The video was filmed, edited, narrated and produced by the organization that recently did the undercover “sting” operation on Planned Parenthood (“selling baby parts”) as well as the undercover sting of the nonprofit group ACORN a few years ago. (video contains profanity)


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Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations