Tag Archives: Russian oligarchs

He Probably Shouldn’t Have Run For President…

If there is one thing we have learned about Donald Trump during and since the election, it is that his ego is massively bigger than his IQ. A smarter man would have realized that a spotlight comes with the Presidential territory–and that past criminal activity would eventually be uncovered.

About that spotlight:

The Washington Post, especially, has done significant work uncovering misuse of the Trump Foundation and various other Trump scams. Now, McClatchy’s Washington Bureau has weighed in with itemized evidence of the way Russian oligarchs bailed Trump out of financial difficulties with (many anonymous) cash purchases of real estate, often for dramatically inflated prices.

Aleksandr Burman, a Ukrainian who engaged in a health care scheme that cost the federal government $26 million and was sentenced to a decade in prison, paid $725,000 cash for a condo at a Trump Tower I in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. in 2009.

Leonid Zeldovich, who has reportedly done extensive business in the Russian-annexed area of Crimea,bought four Trump units outright at a cost of more than $4.35 million, three of them in New York City between 2007 and 2010.

And Igor Romashov, who served as chairman of the board of Transoil, a Russian oil transport company subject to U.S. sanctions, paid $620,000 upfront for a unit at a building adorned with the future U.S. president’s name in Sunny Isles Beach in 2010.

Buyers connected to Russia or former Soviet republics made 86 all-cash sales — totaling nearly $109 million — at 10 Trump-branded properties in South Florida and New York City, according to a new analysis shared with McClatchy. Many of them made purchases using shell companies designed to obscure their identities.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a former federal prosecutor, has called evidence of these transactions “deeply troubling.” He also noted that there have been credible allegations of money laundering by the Trump Organization for many years. If these allegations are true, it could pose a real threat to the United States, because Russia would be able to “leverage” evidence of illicit financial transactions against the President.
“Leverage” is a polite word for blackmail.

The all-cash buyers include Alexey Ustaev, founder of a private bank based in St. Petersburg, Russia; Igor Zorin, a government official who runs a state-owned broadcasting company; the wife of hockey player Viacheslav Fetisov; pop star Igor Nikolaev; Roman Sinyavsky, a luxury real estate broker who was one of the first to sell units at a Trump’s South Florida building and Evgeny Bachurin, who Russian President Vladimir Putin fired as head of Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency before becoming a donor to a political action committee supporting Trump, according to American Bridge….

“We’ve long suspected that Donald Trump’s businesses were a front for money laundering and our research suggests it could be true,” said Harrell Kirstein, communicators director for the Trump War Room at American Bridge. “The millions of dollars in previously unreported, all-cash real estate deals we discovered raise troubling questions about who is funding his businesses, why, and what they’re getting in return.”

The linked article has much more detail, including descriptions of several more unsavory buyers, and the extent to which those buyers paid considerably more than market value for the properties.

Anyone who has worked for government at any level–a cohort that excludes Trump, whose ignorance of the most basic premises of governance and law never fails to astonish–knows that public office brings a level of scrutiny with it. Even in our current media environment, where investigative journalism sometimes seems to be on life support, Presidential candidates understand that they will be targets for searching investigation, because citizens have a right to know what sorts of people govern them. (Actually, that curiosity tends to extend well beyond what we’re entitled to know–but it legitimately includes information about dishonest personal behaviors and illegal business practices.)

Trump’s refusal to make his tax returns public whetted that public appetite.

Subsequent revelations, the indictments of multiple campaign functionaries, and more recently, news of the long, cozy relationship between Justice Kennedy’s banker son and the Trump organization, have raised further concerns. (When Justin Kennedy  headed the real estate capital markets division of Deutsch Bank, he apparently authorized huge loans to Trump at a time American banks would no longer touch him).

I don’t know whether proof of Trump’s probable criminal conduct will be emerge before the midterm elections, or whether members of the cult that is today’s GOP will believe even ironclad evidence if it does. Voters can’t depend on that, or on Mueller. But there’s one thing we can depend upon: thanks to that spotlight he constantly craves, reporters will continue to investigate the multiple, credible  accusations against him.

If Trump and his family end up in prison, he’ll have only his ego and ignorance to blame.