August 19, 2018


Signs of Trump-Putin collaboration, starting years before the campaign? (Shane Harris, August 17, 2018, The Washington Post)

Of all the allegations contained in the "Steele dossier," the urtext of President Trump's possible ties to Russia, one has long stood out as the most compromising, because it would be evidence of a political and business relationship between Trump and Russia that predated his campaign for the White House.

"An intelligence exchange," former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele writes, "had been running between" Trump's team and the Kremlin, with the direct knowledge of Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Within this context Putin's priority requirement had been for intelligence on the activities, business and otherwise, in the US of leading Russian oligarchs and their families. Trump and his associates duly had obtained and supplied the Kremlin with this information."

The precise nature and location of that "intelligence exchange" have never been fully explained. But journalist Craig Unger thinks he may have found it, running out of the offices of Bayrock Group, a real estate development company that operated in Trump Tower in Manhattan in the early 2000s and partnered with the Trump Organization.

Based on his own reporting and the investigative work of a former federal prosecutor, Unger posits that through Bayrock, Trump was "indirectly providing Putin with a regular flow of intelligence on what the oligarchs were doing with their money in the U.S."

As the theory goes, Putin wanted to keep tabs on the billionaires -- some of them former mobsters -- who had made their post-Cold War fortunes on the backs of industries once owned by the state. The oligarchs, as well as other new-moneyed elites, were stashing their money in foreign real estate, including Trump properties, presumably beyond Putin's reach.

Trump, knowingly or otherwise, may have struck a side deal with the Kremlin, Unger argues: He would secretly rat out his customers to Putin, who would allow them to keep buying Trump properties. Trump got rich. Putin got eyes on where the oligarchs had hidden their wealth. Everybody won.

Thus Trump succeeded in business with Russia by what could most charitably be described as willful ignorance. Take the money. Don't ask too many questions.

And he'd had a lot of practice at that, Unger writes. Trump's burgeoning real estate empire was fueled in the 1980s by another privileged class, Russian gangsters who appear to have used Trump properties to launder their ill-gotten gains, Unger alleges.

It is this nexus between Trump, Putin, and wealthy mobsters and oligarchs -- often the same people -- that is Unger's fixation in his latest book, "House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia."

If Donald's business career demonstrates any incontrovertible truth it is that he can not make money without the intervention of more powerful men, always criminals--Fred, the mafia, oligrachs, Vlad.... Heck, the guy lost money as the house in Atlantic City.

Posted by at August 19, 2018 8:49 AM