Trump building in Panama carried "deep ties" to Russian mafia, drug trafficking

An NBC News and Reuters joint investigation found deep ties between investors of the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City and the Russian mafia, organized crime, and drug traffickers. The Trump Organization issued a statement disavowing any knowledge or involvement with the criminals who financed the property. Even if that's true, it doesn't meant they are innocent, however.

“The Trump Organization was not the owner, developer or seller of the Trump Ocean Club Panama project,” the statement said. “Because of its limited role, the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units or the retention of any real estate brokers.”

From The Hill:

Still, legal experts contacted by Reuters for the story said Trump should have asked those questions.

Because Panama is “perceived to be highly corrupt,” said Arthur Middlemiss, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and a former head of JPMorgan’s global anti-corruption program, those who do business there should perform due diligence on others involved in their ventures.

If they fail to do so, he told Reuters, they risk being liable under U.S. law of being found having turned a blind eye to wrongdoing.

Photo of Trump: Flickr/Gage Skidmore Read the rest

Leaked documents expose links between Trump’s commerce secretary and Putin’s son-in-law

Breaking news from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP): "A trove of 13.4 million records exposes ties between Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump’s billionaire commerce secretary, the secret dealings of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief fundraiser and the offshore interests of the queen of England and more than 120 politicians around the world."

Of note is the revelation that Wilbur Ross, Trump's commerce secretary, has massive financial ties to Russians under US sanctions.

In the United States, the files reveal foreign business ties and personal wealth practices of key Trump associates who are charged with helping to put “America First.”

The Appleby files show how Ross, Trump’s commerce secretary, has used a chain of Cayman Islands entities to maintain a financial stake in Navigator Holdings, a shipping company whose top clients include the Kremlin-linked energy firm Sibur. Among Sibur’s key owners are Kirill Shamalov, Russian President Putin’s son-in-law, and Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire the U.S. government sanctioned in 2014 because of his links to Putin. Sibur is a major customer of Navigator, paying the company more than $23 million in 2016.

When he joined Trump’s Cabinet, Ross divested his interests in 80 companies. But he kept stakes in nine companies, including the four that connect him to Navigator and its Russian clients.

These revelations come against a backdrop of growing concerns about hidden Russian involvement in U.S. political affairs.

Sibur is “a company with crony connections,” said Daniel Fried, a Russia expert who has served in senior State Department posts in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

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A million dollars in a rug store - and other ways Paul Manafort spent his allegedly ill-gotten fortune

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, recently indicted on federal criminal charges, allegedly laundered $18 million in money he earned illegally lobbying for Ukraine. CNN has a breakdown on how he spent it:

--Home improvement company in the Hamptons, in New York: $5.4 million.

--Home lighting and entertainment company in Florida: $1.3 million.

--Antique rug store in Alexandria, Virginia: $934,350, plus $100,000 related to those purchases.

--Men's clothing store in New York: $849,215.

--Landscaping in the Hamptons: $820,240.

--Antique dealer in New York: $623,910.

--Clothing store in Beverly Hills, California: $520,440.

--Investment company: $500,000.

--Contractor in Florida: $432,487.

--Contractor in Virginia: $125,650.

--A Mercedes-Benz: $62,750.

--A Range Rover: $47,000.

--Payments related to three Range Rovers: $163,705.

--Home equipment installation company in the Hamptons: $112,825.

--Property management company in South Carolina: $46,000.

--Art gallery in Florida: $31,900.

--Housekeeping in New York: $20,000.

The indictment also says Manafort used the money to buy three properties:

--Condominium in New York's SoHo neighborhood for $1.5 million.

--Brownstone in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens neighborhood for $3 million.

--House in Arlington, Virginia, for $1.9 million.

The indictment says Manafort listed the SoHo condominium on Airbnb for at least a year, beginning in January 2015, and took advantage of the tax benefits of owning a rental property.

Side note: Manafort and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who Manafort lobbied for, look like they were separated at birth:

Image of Manafort: Disney | ABC Television Group Image of Yanukovich: Agência Brasil 2011 Read the rest

This short video clearly explains Russia's interest in getting Trump elected

In this video, Robert Reich gives a clear explanation of what Putin has gained from putting Trump in the White House as his puppet president.Trump has already delivered on or is in the process of delivering on many of Putin's demands: repudiate Nato, USA antagonizes Europe, USA leaves Paris Climate Accord, USA embarks on a new era of protectionism, USA ends sanctions on Russia. Read the rest

Russian politician mocks U.S., says intel 'missed it' when Russia 'stole the president of the United States'

Russian politician Vyacheslav Nikonov says U.S. “intelligence missed it when Russian intelligence stole the president of the United States.” Read the rest

Facebook inadvertently sold political ads to sleazy Russian company during 2016 election

The Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman have a story about Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election:

Representatives of Facebook told congressional investigators Wednesday that it has discovered it sold ads during the U.S. presidential election to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target voters, according to several people familiar with the company’s findings.

Facebook officials reported that they traced the ad sales, totaling $100,000, to a Russian “troll farm” with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda, these people said.

A small portion of the ads, which began in the summer of 2015, directly named Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the people said. Most of the ads focused on pumping politically divisive issues such as gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination.

The acknowledgment by Facebook comes as congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller are probing Russian interference in the U.S. election, including allegations that the Kremlin may have coordinated with the Trump campaign

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Trump thanks Putin for kicking US Embassy workers out of Russia

This is the first thing Trump has said that made me laugh. Read the rest

Mueller is now looking into ties between Russia and Trump's business transactions

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has widened his investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Mueller is looking into Trump's financial dealings with with unsavory Russian businessman, including mobsters and corrupt Kremlin officials.

Mueller has his work cut out for him -- the August/September issue of The New Republic has an in-depth article about Trump's "decades-long ties to Russian mafia." Only someone brainwashed by ideology could read this article and not think Trump has been up to no good for a very long time.

From The New Republic's press release:

In “Trump’s Russian Laundromat,” veteran journalist Craig Unger details how the Russian mafia has used the president’s properties—including Trump Tower and the Trump Taj Majal—as a way to launder money and hide assets. “Whether Trump knew it or not,” writes Unger, “Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling, and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.”

Based entirely on the extensive public record, the piece offers the most comprehensive overview of the deep debt that the president owes the Russian mafia. “The extent of Trump’s ties to the Russian mafia—and the degree to which he relied on them for his entire business model—is striking,” says Eric Bates, editor of the New Republic.

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Russian billionaire Deripaska paid Manafort to 'greatly benefit' Putin before Manafort joined Trump campaign

Before he worked for the Donald Trump presidential campaign, Paul Manafort worked for a Russian billionaire to help promote Russian president Vladimir Putin's agenda in the United States. Read the rest

Jeff Sessions can't recuse himself from Colbert's monologue

"Big news today from the Kremlin... er, the White House." Colbert has a field day with Lyin' Jeff. "You don't have to recuse yourself, you've already fucked yourself." Read the rest

The Trump-Russia scandals: a quick visual guide

Trump keeps saying that the media's relentless investigations into Russia's corrupting influence on the White House is "fake news," but the media keeps finding out more and more about how Trump and his inner circle have cozied up to Russian and eastern European mobsters and kleptocrats. This new infographic from Vox is a simple guide to what's been unearthed so far, but it doesn't include recent revelations into billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' role as a vice chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, which is co-owned by a dear friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and is run by the former head of the mega-money-laundering Deutsche Bank. It also doesn't reveal this bit of news reported today in the NY Times: "Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior adviser, also participated in the meeting at Trump Tower with Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador." (Kislyak is quite the belle of the ball in Trumplandia.)

It's stinking to high heaven in the White House, and even the Trump Aftershave everyone is wearing can't mask the odor of large-scale malfeasance. Read the rest

Rachel Maddow connects the dots between a billionaire Russian oligarch and a bizarre Donald Trump deal

Why would a savvy Russian billionaire buy a tear-down, mold-infested house from Donald Trump for $100 million, and what does it have to do with newly confirmed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross? Read the rest

New secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross has ties to illicit Russian finance

Billionaire Wilbur Ross, 79, was sworn in today as secretary of commerce. According to DC Report, Ross' "role as Vice Chair and a leading investor in the Bank of Cyprus, the largest bank in Cyprus, one of the key offshore havens for illicit Russian finance," makes him a poor choice for this position. But the Senate voted 72-27 to confirm him anyway.

Ross’ involvement in the Bank of Cyprus raises many questions about his judgment, but also about the Trump Administration’s seemingly endless direct and indirect connections with friends and associates of Vladimir Putin, who all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies say conspired to interfere in the November 2016 U.S. election on behalf of Donald Trump.

Whether or not these connections involve any criminality, these are the kind of relationships that most American business people would not tolerate for 30 seconds.

After all, as discussed below, since the 1990s Cyprus has served as one the top three offshore destinations for Russian and former Soviet Union flight capital, most of it motivated by tax dodging, kleptocracy, and money laundering. As of 2013, just before the banking crisis, Russian deposits accounted for at least a third of all bank deposits in Cyprus. As one leading newspaper put it, “Russian money is in fact at the heart of the island’s economy.”

The Bank of Cyprus caters to the island nation’s large Russian population. Nor is Ross’ Bank of Cyprus in particular – now probably at least half owned by Russians, as we‘ll see -- any stranger to money laundering, tax dodging, or odious finance.

Read the rest