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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Comey testifies and indicates the number of times he told Trump that he was not under investigation.  Trump thinks he’s out from under a ‘cloud.’  There’s just one problem.  There is a special counsel about to carry out an investigation into the whole matter of Russian involvement in the election of 2016.  This presumably will include a look at any possible collusion between Trump staff and the Russians, and certainly into any indication of Trump involvement in the matter of covering up that collusion.  Indeed, the Senate Intelligence Committee will be continuing its investigation, and it is highly likely – even without Comey at the helm – the FBI will continue its investigation unless the new FBI Director pledges a total loyalty to Trump (which in itself may provoke charges of cover-up from many in authority).    
So, in spite of Trump’s personal lawyer and his fawning congressional die-hard protectionists (like Claudia Tenney of congressional district 22 in New York), Donald Trump is in no way out from under a cloud of suspicion and inquiry into his and his staff’s involvement in Russian interference in our elections.  Given the ‘nature of the man’ to which Comey referred, there is bound to be more to investigate. After all, there is still the matter of the two Russian diplomats visiting Trump in the White House and what kind of intelligence may have been passed on to them during such time the American press was neither present nor invited.
And then, there is that thread that so far has been under-played, under-reported, and under-researched (except for Rachel Maddow, of course!).  Isn’t there a famous phrase that is often uttered in circumstances involving multiple threads or leads or circumstances that have been difficult to decipher, understand or relate to one another?  Yes, there is, and it should be quite familiar to you – FOLLOW THE MONEY!!  Let’s take the rest of this space to explore some elements that were not even mentioned in Comey's hearing, but which must be of some interest to the FBI, to the members of the Senate investigating committees and certainly to the newly-named Special Counsel.
1)  Laundering of money from Russia.  Rachel Maddow and others have focused on this, particularly in regard to certain banks that have been handling transfers of funds that may have made their way to Trump Enterprises. One of those commentators is the U.S. edition of The Guardian, another is MotherJones, the Washington Post and The Hill.com.  They have researched some of the reports of money-laundering by the Russians through Frankfort, Germany’s Deutsche Bank.  Here are a few quotes that give some of the flavor of this laundry campaign.

“The German bank that loaned $300m (£260m) to Donald Trump played a prominent role in a money laundering scandal run by Russian criminals with ties to the Kremlin, the Guardian can reveal.  Deutsche Bank is one of dozens of western financial institutions that processed at least $20bn – and possibly more – in money of “criminal origin” from Russia.
The scheme, dubbed “the Global Laundromat”, ran from 2010 to 2014. Law enforcement agencies are investigating how a group of politically well-connected Russians were able to use UK-registered companies to launder billions of dollars in cash.  
Deutsche’s Private Bank – the division that lends to Trump – appears in the Global Laundromat scheme. Sources suggest that many of its clients are rich Russians, typically with personal assets of $50m-plus. According to Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, Deutsche processed more than $24m of Laundromat cash in 209 transactions.”(The Guardian) 
Although the news didn’t make much of a splash during the 2016 campaign, Trump paid a $10 million fine to the U.S. Treasury in 2015 for his bankrupt Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City because it failed to meet anti-money-laundering requirements. According to the Wall Street Journal, ‘Regulators said the casino failed to establish and implement an effective anti-money-laundering program, failed to implement an adequate system of internal controls, and failed to properly file currency transaction reports or keep other required records.’
It is already a matter of public record that several Trump-affiliated businesses and associates are connected to alleged Russian money-laundering operations. The Washington Post has described Trump’s 30-year history of business dealings with Russian oligarchs and government officials, which began when there was still a Soviet Union. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
According to an investigation by USA Today, wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics invested extensively in Trump’s real estate developments over the years. Court cases and other legal documents show President Trump and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.”  (Mother Jones)
YES!  FOLLOW The MONEY!

2)  Real Estate – what is the story with the property sold by Trump to a Russian oligarch for a huge profit beyond its worth? 
“Recent revelations that Trump bought a certain house in Florida in 2004 for 40 million dollars became notable lately — the subsequent sale of that home having netted him a substantial profit. This is the property that he sold to a certain Russian Oligarch for 95 million, more than doubling his money.
Why would someone pay a price deemed to be way over market value? That’s the question. This kind of sale is not unknown; these kind of arrangements are a common tactic by which people sink their money into countries like the US, paying way above actual value to do it. How does over-paying for a property make business sense for the buyer? There are two reasons. Number one, the money may need to be laundered because it is not legit. The second reason has regard to the first. The person selling the property agrees to kick back the buyer some of that excessive profit after the sale.” (hereandsphere.com)
“Based on Trump’s legal-but-questionable money-laundering of property purchased from him by Russian oligarchs in the United States, transactions which seem to cast a growing shadow over now-President Trump, is it possible these transactions indicate a wider financial deal, one that set something in motion that even Trump himself at the time did not grasp, but thought nothing of beyond a healthy sale to a generous foreign national?  Something he thought, at the time, he could distance himself from and control ?
Something he never imagined was as widespread and profitable that it might motivate cyber-terrorist efforts to meddle in an election of the President of the United States. Now that he’s President, these financial deals he has ties to he not only has been trying to hide but literally now has to hide. Because they indicate something way beyond conflict of interest. Did Russia work to make him president even if he himself never expected to be? If so, this would indicate something remarkable: there is a Russian gun to his head. The gun may be an international entanglement beyond our wildest imagination. The true art of the deal is just that- art. And Russian money. Money they’re parking in America.  Now he’s president, not only is he literally hoping this all just goes away (it won’t), but he has to run this country and he doesn’t know how to govern much less run a country.” (hereandsphere.com)
3) More broadly, what “emoluments” is the President, or his family business, receiving from foreign powers?  Fortunately, Attorneys General of certain states like Maryland  are suing Trump in court, claiming that this President, because he has not fully placed his businesses and assets in a Blind Trust, is accepting emoluments from foreign countries whenever he uses his real estate or name brand to charge foreign dignitaries a fee. 
According to experts, President Donald Trump’s continued ownership interest in the Trump Organization means that he is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from personally benefiting from actions taken by foreign governments and their agents. Will media hold Trump accountable for this impeachable offense or will they normalize his flagrant violation of the supreme law of the land”(mediamatters.org)
Legal Ethics Experts: “The Best Reading of the Clause Covers Even Ordinary, Fair Market Value Transactions That Result In Any Economic Profit Or Benefit To The Federal Officeholder.” The clause does not just cover “sweetheart deal[s]” because “emoluments are properly defined as including ‘profit’ from any employment, as well as ‘salary,” meaning “it is clear that even remuneration fairly earned in commerce can qualify,” according to an analysis published by the Brookings Institution. It was authored by legal ethics experts Norman Eisen, a former Obama administration ethics attorney and current chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; Richard Painter, a former Bush administration ethics attorney and current vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; and Laurence Tribe, a leading expert on constitutional law and professor at Harvard University Law School. [Brookings Institution, 12/16/16]

These are a few examples of Trump’s use of the Presidency to line his own pockets.  There are more, but space does not permit the detailed explanation of all of them.  It is time to realize that this man’s “art of the deal” is at the core of his value system and his approach to life.  He can no more stop acting as he acts than he can stop his breathing to a point of no return.  This is a man hooked on the thrill  of all that goes into deal-making, and the resultant defeat of opponents.  I have no doubt that he has committed impeachable offenses, and I believe the money trail will be the path to that ultimate action goal. So, let our fact-finding, our investigations, hearings and research all be aimed at FOLLOWING the MONEY, for that is where Trump’s misdeeds have always taken root.