March 3, 2018

THE FBI SHOULD HAVE PAID STEELE FOR DOING THEIR JOBS:

L'Affaire Kushner: A series of revelations about the White House princeling have added further credence to the key claim of the Steele dossier. (JED HANDELSMAN SHUGERMAN, MARCH 02, 2018, Slate)

So: A Qatari fund acquires major assets from Russia. Kushner's business seeks money directly from Qatar. The nation, though, does not deliver to Kushner. The U.S. changes its political posture against Qatar at Kushner's urging, with the alarming possibility that the seemingly manufactured conflict could have escalated into war. (Fortunately, it did not.) Several months later, the Qatar-backed Apollo Group delivers $184 million to Kushner.

All of this should be considered an incredible scandal in its own right, worthy of serious congressional inquiry. Once you factor in, however, the portions of this that are consistent with some of the allegations in the Steele dossier, the stories potentially become even more explosive.

The Steele dossier alleges that Russians made a deal with Carter Page in the summer of 2016 to sell 19 percent of fossil fuel giant Rosneft, a multibillion dollar deal, and secretly transfer benefits to Trump officials. The dossier alleged that Page was a campaign intermediary to meet personally with Russians, and that Igor Sechin--the CEO of Rosneft and a close Putin ally--and Page had held a "secret meeting" to discuss "the issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia." The dossier further alleged that Sechin offered Page the brokerage of a 19 percent stake in the company in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Russia. Page has denied that this meeting with Sechin ever took place.

Page's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, however, confirmed that he at the very least discussed these general topics with key Russian figures at critical points in the Steele dossier timeline. For example, Page confirmed that he had spoken with Andrey Baranov, the head of investor relations at Rosneft and an employee of Sechin, when in Moscow in July 2016. He also acknowledged "briefly" discussing "a potential sale of a significant percentage of Rosneft" with Baranov. Finally, he would only say that he didn't "directly" express support for the idea of lifting sanctions on Russia with Baranov.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 9, 2016, a month after the election, Russia made a deal with Qatar to sell 19.5 percent of Rosneft. Reuters reported at the time:

The privatization deal, which Rosneft Chief Executive Igor Sechin called the largest in Russia's history, was announced by Rosneft in a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. Its success suggests the lure of taking a share in one of the world's biggest oil companies outweighs the risks associated with Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Rosneft had been under pressure to secure a sale of the 19.5 percent stake to help replenish state coffers, hit by an economic slowdown driven by weak oil prices and exacerbated by sanctions.

The deal falls squarely in the middle of a time when Kushner, Michael Flynn, and Page were communicating with Russians in ways that would later prove very embarrassing and potentially suspicious.

Posted by at March 3, 2018 9:11 AM

  

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