All of Putin’s / Trump’s Men

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The NYT has broken the story that several Trump associates are under investigation by the FBI for their contacts with Russian intelligence and other officials during the 2016 presidential campaign. These contacts worried the FBI and other intelligence agencies, given that they were seeing Russian hacking of campaign accounts at the same time.

The links between Trump and his associates on the one hand and the Russian Federation on the other are both broad and intense.

Donald J. Trump did pursue Russian business deals in Russia in 2013 (despite his denials), but these never bore fruit. However, Trump subsequently partnered with businessmen from Russia or its ‘near abroad,’ bringing them into the New York real estate market. Some observers have wondered whether these deals allowed those individuals to engage in money laundering.

Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is actually a partner in a Russo-American oil firm, Exxon Naftegas, which is headquartered in an offshore tax haven in the Caribbean. Even just as ordinary everyday CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson did a $500 billion joint deal with Russia’s Rosneft to extract oil from the arctic. That’s evil no matter who he partners with. Also ironic, since such drilling is only made possible by the global warming caused by Tillerson’s billions of tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions. It is an unvirtuous circle.

President Obama’s sanctions on Russia rather interrupted the plans to drill the Russian arctic, and apparently Mike Flynn was sent to the Russian ambassador to the US to reassure him that those sanctions would be undone. Given that the price of petroleum has been halved in the past two years, Russia is desperate for new drilling, so it can make up some of the shortfall by new production. Moreover, both Tillerson and his Russian partners know that electric cars are coming fast and furious, and that the petroleum won’t be worth much in 20 years. So they’re eager to extract it and sell it while they still can.

$500 billion is a lot of money. People sometimes rob banks to get $10,000.

Wilbur Ross, Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary, has a joint venture (a bank in Cyprus) with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Ross has announced that he will keep ownership of 11 assets overseas, opening him to foreign influence.

Paul Manafort has for a decade been close to pro-Russian businessmen and politicians in the Ukraine. Ironically, the two discussed by Politifact are both Muslims, presumably Crimean Tatars. Manafort, as a major figure in the Trump campaign, apparently did not let Jared Kushner know about the full extent of his Russian connections. He also is alleged to have used his position to introduce changes into the Republican Party platform that benefit Russia. Kushner forced Manafort out last summer.

Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page flew to Moscow just days before the Republican National Convention. No one knows what that was all about. But a high Russian official admitted that numerous members of the Trump team were in constant contact with Russian officials

So Mike Flynn calling the Russian ambassor to the US in late December and reassuring Moscow about sanctions being lifted looks much more likely to have been a joint effort by the Moscow Gang of Trump and associates than a one-off piece of dark comedy.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

CBS News: “Trump’s comments on Russia, Putin draw GOP rebuke”

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34 Responses

  1. I don’t see the connection between making money with Russian businessmen and promoting Russia’s interests over American interests. Has anyone inquired whether US businessmen that favored Hillary Clinton had business relations with Russian or Ukrainian oligarchs? Singling out Trump’s friends is not serious journalism. I am surprised by Juan’s sympathy for conspiracy theories.

    • You really think this conspiracy? Good, independent, intelligent journalist are doing outstanding work on this – check out Josh Marshall on the link on the right. He has been doing good work on this, has a good track record in terms of being right, and has excellent credentials. Look at what he has to say on this please.

    • It is not surprising that you are unable to “see the connection between making money with Russian businessmen and promoting Russia’s interests over American interests.
      Your lack of ability to understand and your attempt to tar the Clintons and cover for Trump belie your attempt at impartiality show your true nature.

    • If people wanna make money, maybe they’ll get involved with something like Exxon Naftegas in a “leftie” country [it’s still stereotyped in some finds as leftie]. Or maybe they’ll hook up with Burisma Holdings [check out Hunter Biden] in Ukraine the gov of which is sure nuff going in a real rightist direction. Some folks don’t quibble when it comes to making money.

      2014 “The most disturbing explanation is that the company is attempting to curry favour with the US government by enlisting the services of the close family friend and campaign bundler of the secretary of state and the son of the vice president. After all, Archer notes on one of his company’s web pages that his firm’s ‘relationship network creates opportunities for our portfolio companies which then compound to greater outcomes for all parties.’ “ link to bbc.com

      I was listening to Andrew Bacevich last night on Le Show, and maybe that’s what just gave me the idea [it’s only a theory] that big-threat-scapegoats only work until readers around the world get the lowdown on how they were prodded into doing whatever it is the scapegoat hunters latch on to as heinous. Once people realize it, then you have to go find a more exotic enemy.

      One thing for sure, when writers like Juan (whom I respect) don’t routinely break their commentary down into 1)hacking DNC emails, and 2)hacking into servers with official tallys or voting machines…everything seems meaningless. They need to do this. Where are these servers with the tallys? What percent were even online?

    • McDonalds, Wendys, Delta, all big energy companies, tons of realtors who wanna sell property for cash, etc.

  2. Thank you again so very much, Juan.

    You conclude: “So Mike Flynn calling the Russian ambassor to the US in late December and reassuring Moscow about sanctions being lifted looks much more likely to have been a joint effort by the Moscow Gang of Trump and associates than a one-off piece of dark comedy.”

    That reasonably seems to be an absolutely correct historical analysis, thank you again so much.

    • It was 99 degrees in Oklahoma the day before yesterday and we have madmen in the White House at a time of existential crisis. So to answer your question in brief: No. Next question.

      • As one who has been reading past and (mostly) contemporary history while trying to understand which side of the knife edge our “civilization” may fall on, (the mostly positive where our grandchildren do appreciate us, or the disastrous that may likely send us back to hunter-gatherers for the few who survive, I do want to go with the conclusion on this I presented in my published work. (You can probably find it by searching my screen name. )

        ” —- most people were brought up in strong traditions, and even when they modify or rebel against those traditions, it is likely that they may consciously or unconsciously echo those traditions in the new customs they seek to create. Resistance to change comes at every turn: humans representing various channels of tradition and custom find reasons to prefer the old ways. Societies are often elastic: changes in social or political behavior have a way of “snapping back” into an older pattern after 5 or 25 years.

        Yet people do change as accidents intervene and trends rise or fall, subgroups and tribes do change in response to changed environments, and nations and civilizations change as well, as their fortunes rise or fall, as their human and/or physical environments are altered. The seeming contradiction between the positive and negative sides of tradition, the tensions created by the negative and positive aspects of change and revolution look to be constant in human affairs.

  3. “Given that the price of petroleum has been halved in the past two years, Russia is desperate for new drilling, so it can make up some of the shortfall by new production.”
    Given that new production drives down the price of oil this makes no sense and that OPEC at present is desperately trying to limit production to drive up the price of oil. I know that Russia does not give a RA about OPEC except when it matters and that the Saudis were actually trying to drive US fracking production into bankruptcy so that the Saudis could control the price themselves.

    • The reason why OPEC is desperately trying to limit production is because its individual member states are all desperate for revenue and the fastest solution is to produce more – exactly the situation Russia is in. OPEC exists to enforce long-term thinking over short-term thinking, but Russia is not a member.

      And this is exactly what happened during the great oil gluts in Pennsylvania and Texas in the past. No individual actor could resist the temptation to counter falling prices with more production.

      However, Russia has to worry about the condition of its own wells, which might be getting overworked in this production frenzy. So new Arctic production gives it flexibility in choosing between more money now and more money later.

  4. So, it seems that Trump is just the puppet of the evil overlord V. Putin. All we can do is hope that the angels over at the CIA and NSA will save us.
    By the way: “ordinary everyday CEO of ExxonMobil” ?!?

  5. A day’s worth of more news releases and informed comments including Glen Greenwald’s article leads to the following conclusions:

    1. Trump and his closest advisers and associates have been communicating (illegally) with Russian officials for many, many months.

    2. US spy agencies are well aware of this and have a fair amount of data that can prove all this.

    3. Various American intelligence agencies are leaking this info in an effort (for their own reasons) to undermine Trump.

    4. The Republican hierarchy knows all this and are biding their time.

    5.Trump’s opponents, such as Ryan and McCain would like to see him replaced by Pence ASAP.

    6. Impeachment proceedings are inevitable. Senior Republicans will advise Trump to resign at that point.

    7. A President Pence is nearly as terrible as SCROTUS Trump.

    8. However, people such as Bannon, will advise Trump NOT to give in and we then face the Reichstag Fire scenario.

    9. If that happens, we also face the danger of a military coup at some point as Trump/Bannon’s dangerous and incompetent polices threaten the world.

    We will see….

  6. Flynn is a 30 year military man who respects the chain of command. He would never talk relaxing sanctions without being advised by his commander, that being DJTrump. Knowing this the GOP will blame Yates and whoever leaked to cover for Commissar Trump.

    Here is what a lifelong Republican recently wrote..

    Mark P. Painter, a lifelong Cincinnatian, served as a judge for 30 years.

    As Charles P. Pierce said in Esquire last week, “I swear, it’s like we elected the Clampetts, if the Clampetts were grifters.”

    • I liken the competence of this administration to that of Grouch Marx as Rufus T. Firefly, President of Freedonia in the movie Duck Soup, one of the all time funniest and most absurd movies of all time.

  7. Since I have predicted/written about most all of this before, the news doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me is how quickly it has come out. This shows that if you are about to assume an important office and have any skeletons in your closet, you should not trash the intelligence community, as Trump did. The chickens are coming home to roost. This may sabotage the lifting of sanctions, which I have forecast. There is news out today about the Russians deploying cruise missiles in violation of the START treaty. There was also some saber rattling back in December. I think the plan was to create a phony missile scare and then reach a “grand bargain” where the US lifted sanctions in return for not having a missile race. I don’t think Trump can get away with this now.

  8. The Comey FBI let all this crap slide until AFTER the election while crawling up email servers and investigating Pizzerias was the top priority.

  9. Juan, you seem to be accepting these dark stories as fact.
    “given that they were seeing Russian hacking of campaign accounts at the same time.” This is NOT a “true fact” at all.
    All of these examples point to Russia being an evil enemy, while all the recent wars have been against other countries, and Russia has certainly not been the main foreign influence on US policy. What about Israel? Saudi Arabia? Their effect on US policy is not hidden and is not beneficial.

    • It comes down to what Russia’s actual agenda is. Russia has persecuted the Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians for centuries, regardless of whether Moscow was ruled by right-wingers or left-wingers. The US should not have pushed NATO expansion so far. But conversely, Russia needs to get over its obsession with ruling Eastern Europe. I don’t find Russia’s endless use of coercion and puppet regimes to control Eastern Europe to be morally equivalent with America’s shenanigans further south. You are crazy if you think Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, etc., etc. have been abused by the US the way Russia abused its satellites.

      And by attempting to wreck American democracy by helping the worst person to ever run for president at a time when democracy is shaky all over the world, Putin knew he was tilting the scales against democracy everywhere. Do you accept that Putin is also helping Le Pen in France and the neo-fascists in Germany? That’s a trifecta that will consign democracy to the ash heap of history… even if Putin’s motives were petty and foolish.

      I mean, once democracy falls here, where will you be moving to do defend its survival? White supremacists will build walls across Europe. Canada will cave in. Latin America will be restored to the oligarchs. We literally will have to start cheering for China to win the next Cold War as the least insane tyranny in the post-American multipolar order.

    • Just like to add to what super390 has said by pointing out that Putin was a KGB agent for 17 years. The KGB during that time, and in all of its history, has been marked by its ruthlessness and lack of scruples. I think it would be very difficult to be in the KGB for that long and be either a nice or a reasonable person. Read also about how Russia dealt with the Chechens, the Afghans and many others. I have read that the Poles, who have been divided between the Germans and the Russians multiple times, have a saying that with the Germans they lose their freedom, and with the Russians they lose their soul. While individual Russians are generally known for their generosity, they have a bad habit historically of putting up with awful leaders. And Putin is pretty awful, despite what Trump may say.

  10. You’ve listed a few possible motives here, and I’d just like to add one more.

    It’s no secret that Trump has gone bankrupt a number of times. It’s very probable that because of this, US financial institutions refused to extend him any more credit. So where is a broke “billionaire” to go for an infusion of cash?

    You got it: Vladimir’s Savings & Loan, LLC, i.e. Russian banks and/or oligarchs.

    My guess is that knowing the extent of his connections to these people, it was too tempting to refuse, and, naturally, this was something to be done off the books and under the table, so it wouldn’t be something that would be recorded on his tax returns, although there may be some legitimate business dealings that might be embarrassing to him.

    This would explain much of this, and I think that this is the heart of the issue, and explains his cozy relationship with Putin.

    $$$

    • In 2008, Trump Jr. said that they get millions from Russian business interests. Chris Matthews on his show today had a nice collection of statements over the years from Trump and his son about Russia and Putin.

  11. The main thing that bothers me about this is the utter obviousness of the whole thing. Flynn may be crazy, but he is the former head of National Intelligence (an oxymoron in America;s case) — he can’t possibly be so stupid as to not know that if you call the Russian embassy, you’re probably going to be listened to. A middle school student knows that. There’s got to be something more. Are they just so drunk on power they think nothing can touch them? They should be wising up by now.

    Still, my philosophy is if you have to choose between incompetence and conspiracy to explain something, incompetence is far more likely. These guys aren’t that smart, and Trump’s own historical frame of reference is pretty much a blank slate. Just ask Frederick Douglass.

    But anything that throws stones in the pathway of the 70-year-old child-king is a good thing.

    • Gregg, look at it this way. Flynn was a wild card. He and Trump’s desire to work with Russia (not saying they were necessarily for the public interest instead of personal gain) was almost the worst nightmare the two Party establishments could face. This if blow-back from the business and FP establishment, represented in the Trump Administration by Sec of State and Defense.Obama may have been naive in underestimating the Republican desire to nullify his presidency. But Trump is an idiot. He has no mandate except creating good jobs. Did he really think he could take on the entire establishment, including the INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES, without an overwhelming majority mandate and come out of it whole? Did he really think his executive orders proved he was in control? Many voted for Trump because of his promise of jobs. Sadly, this whole mess, Trump’s joke, is on them.

      • I was thinking about this today and talking with a friend about it. Trump is not stupid, but his major personality defects drive him to do really stupid things. Like obsessing over the size of his inauguration crowd and alleging millions of illegal votes because he can’t accept the idea that Clinton got more votes, etc. Hitler analogies can be dangerous, but here’s one that I think works. Prior to WWII and in the early days, Hitler took many risks and did things that his top generals were against and/or considered foolish and dangerous. But, he was successful. The result was that he had complete confidence in himself and thought the generals were stodgy and foolish. So, when the war began to turn against him, he acted on his instincts and ordered the army to do many stupid things, like eschewing orderly withdrawals and fighting to the end when losing. Because of his megalomania and stubbornness, he hastened the defeat of the German Army, thank goodness. Trump is similar in that he ran a very unorthodox campaign and all the political professionals thought he was a joke. They gave him no chance to win the nomination. Then they gave him no chance to win the election. So, now he figures he knows much better than the professionals and can get away with whatever he wants, as he mostly did during his campaign. As with Hitler, his sense of invincibility and stubbornness will hasten his downfall.

      • The US is not at war with Russia. There are three significant powers with global influence and there will always be peripheral conflicts between them but it is not necessary for them to introduce gratuitous aggravation into their dealings; Russia and China don’t. The deployment of sanctions is simply counterproductive; it doesn’t even work on North Korea. It is bad for trade, which is the basis of amicable relations. and it’s an impediment to cooperation in areas that matter more than claims for the highest chair. Trump may have taken on the establishment as you suggest but that’s what his supporters voted for, and the establishment has understandably brought out its big guns. Maybe Trump will be blown away but that won’t solve the exasperation that led so many to vote for him. I know the US doesn’t care much what the rest of the world thinks, but incredulity would be close.

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