Former criminal investigator and attorney Seth Abramson lends credibility to new theory regarding the possible extent of Trump’s involvement with Russia.
New York Magazine dropped a major bombshell over the weekend with the publication of an article making the case that Trump has been acting as a Russian asset since 1987.
Coming in at nearly 8,000 words, New York Magazine makes a good case for such speculation. Seth Abramson’s posted a tweet with a link to the article, stating: “Far more plausible than you’d ever imagine,” which in my mind lends great credibility to the article. For those unfamiliar with his work, Abramson has been publishing extensive Twitter threads and mega-threads regarding the ongoing investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. And, while he has his critics, Abramson – a former public defender and criminal investigator at both the state and federal level – has an impressive bio.
The New York Magazine article is far too long to cover here, but we will cover a few highlights and would strongly encourage you to go and read their entire article – linked here, again. It is well worth the read.
The article begins by discussing the fact that most coverage of the possible ties between Trump and Russia have pretty much taking things at face value based on the best available information so far – that sure, the whole story has yet to unfold – but there aren’t any big surprises lurking around the corner.
The unfolding of the Russia scandal has been like walking into a dark cavern. Every step reveals that the cave runs deeper than we thought, and after each one, as we wonder how far it goes, our imaginations are circumscribed by the steps we have already taken. The cavern might go just a little farther, we presume, but probably not much farther. And since trying to discern the size and shape of the scandal is an exercise in uncertainty, we focus our attention on the most likely outcome, which is that the story goes a little deeper than what we have already discovered. Say, that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort told their candidate about the meeting they held at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer after they were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton; and that Trump and Kushner have some shady Russian investments; and that some of Trump’s advisers made some promises about lifting sanctions.
Continuing, New York Magazine asks the obvious question: “But what if that’s wrong? What if we’re still standing closer to the mouth of the cave than the end?”
New York Magazine goes on to provide a short synopsis of what we know so far to include the following:
The first intimations that Trump might harbor a dark secret originated among America’s European allies, which, being situated closer to Russia, have had more experience fending off its nefarious encroachments. In 2015, Western European intelligence agencies began picking up evidence of communications between the Russian government and people in Donald Trump’s orbit. In April 2016, one of the Baltic states shared with then–CIA director John Brennan an audio recording of Russians discussing funneling money to the Trump campaign. In the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, head of the U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ, flew to Washington to brief Brennan on intercepted communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The contents of these communications have not been disclosed, but what Brennan learned obviously unsettled him profoundly. In congressional testimony on Russian election interference last year, Brennan hinted that some Americans might have betrayed their country. “Individuals who go along a treasonous path,” he warned, “do not even realize they’re along that path until it gets to be a bit too late.” In an interview this year, he put it more bluntly: “I think [Trump] is afraid of the president of Russia. The Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”
After noting that Brennan’s concerns are only an unproven theory so far, New York Magazine goes on to state that:
While the fact that the former CIA director has espoused this theory hardly proves it, perhaps we should give more credence to the possibility that Brennan is making these extraordinary charges of treason and blackmail at the highest levels of government because he knows something we don’t.
Suppose we are currently making the same mistake we made at the outset of this drama — suppose the dark crevices of the Russia scandal run not just a little deeper but a lot deeper. If that’s true, we are in the midst of a scandal unprecedented in American history, a subversion of the integrity of the presidency. It would mean the Cold War that Americans had long considered won has dissolved into the bizarre spectacle of Reagan’s party’s abetting the hijacking of American government by a former KGB agent. It would mean that when Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on the president and his inner circle, possibly beginning this summer, Trump may not merely rail on Twitter but provoke a constitutional crisis.
What follows is a lengthy and detailed analysis by New York Magazine which convincingly pinpoints the beginning of Trump’s collusion with Russia to have begun in 1987.
Below is the start of the NY Mag analysis, and again – the entire article is well worth the read.
Trump “came onto the political stage in 1987 with a full-page ad in the New York Times attacking the Japanese for relying on the United States to defend it militarily,” reported Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations….Tom Wright, another scholar who has delved into Trump’s history, reached the same conclusion. “1987 is Trump’s breakout year. There are only a couple of examples of him commenting on world politics before then.”
What changed that year? One possible explanation is that Trump published The Art of the Deal, which sped up his transformation from an aggressive, publicity-seeking New York developer to a national symbol of capitalism. But the timing for this account does not line up perfectly — the book came out on November 1, and Trump had begun opining loudly on trade and international politics two months earlier. The other important event from that year is that Trump visited Moscow.
During the Soviet era, Russian intelligence cast a wide net to gain leverage over influential figures abroad. (The practice continues to this day.) The Russians would lure or entrap not only prominent politicians and cultural leaders, but also people whom they saw as having the potential for gaining prominence in the future. In 1986, Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin met Trump in New York, flattered him with praise for his building exploits, and invited him to discuss a building in Moscow. Trump visited Moscow in July 1987. He stayed at the National Hotel, in the Lenin Suite, which certainly would have been bugged. There is not much else in the public record to describe his visit, except Trump’s own recollection in The Art of the Deal that Soviet officials were eager for him to build a hotel there. (It never happened.)
Trump returned from Moscow fired up with political ambition. He began the first of a long series of presidential flirtations, which included a flashy trip to New Hampshire. Two months after his Moscow visit, Trump spent almost $100,000 on a series of full-page newspaper ads that published a political manifesto. “An open letter from Donald J. Trump on why America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves,” as Trump labeled it, launched angry populist charges against the allies that benefited from the umbrella of American military protection. “Why are these nations not paying the United States for the human lives and billions of dollars we are losing to protect their interests?”
Continuing, New York Magazine concedes that “The safest assumption is that it’s entirely coincidental that Trump launched a national campaign, with himself as spokesman, built around themes that dovetailed closely with Soviet foreign-policy goals shortly after his Moscow stay.” However, the possibility that Trump became a Russian asset after that meeting: “can’t be dismissed completely.”
Russian intelligence gains influence in foreign countries by operating subtly and patiently. It exerts different gradations of leverage over different kinds of people, and uses a basic tool kit of blackmail that involves the exploitation of greed, stupidity, ego, and sexual appetite. All of which are traits Trump has in abundance.
Throughout his career, Trump has always felt comfortable operating at or beyond the ethical boundaries that constrain typical businesses. In the 1980s, he worked with La Cosa Nostra, which controlled the New York cement trade, and later employed Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, both of whom have links to the Russian Mafia. Trump habitually refused to pay his counterparties, and if the people he burned (or any journalists) got in his way, he bullied them with threats. Trump also reportedly circulated at parties for wealthy men featuring cocaine and underage girls.
Discussing the possibility of Trump being blackmailed, New York Magazine continued:
One might think this notoriety immunizes Trump from blackmail. Curiously, however, Trump’s tolerance for risk has always been matched by careful control over information. He maintains a fanatical secrecy about his finances and has paid out numerous settlements to silence women. The combination of a penchant for compromising behavior, a willingness to work closely with criminals, and a desire to protect aspects of his privacy makes him the ideal blackmail target.
Delving into specifics, New York Magazine reported:
It is not difficult to imagine that Russia quickly had something on Trump, from either exploits during his 1987 visit or any subsequent embarrassing behavior KGB assets might have uncovered. But the other leverage Russia enjoyed over Trump for at least 15 years is indisputable — in fact, his family has admitted to it multiple times. After a series of financial reversals and his brazen abuse of bankruptcy laws, Trump found it impossible to borrow from American banks and grew heavily reliant on unconventional sources of capital. Russian cash proved his salvation. From 2003 to 2017, people from the former USSR made 86 all-cash purchases — a red flag of potential money laundering — of Trump properties, totaling $109 million. In 2010, the private-wealth division of Deutsche Bank also loaned him hundreds of millions of dollars during the same period it was laundering billions in Russian money. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” said Donald Jr. in 2008. “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” boasted Eric Trump in 2014.
Below is a handy infographic included in the New York Magazine article to help show the tangled web of connections between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin. And – once again – we would strongly encourage you to read the entire New York Magazine article. It is well worth the read.
Infographic from this story by @jonathanchait https://t.co/M83i4KA5IS A crazy quilt of connections pic.twitter.com/o3NIEqxjLO
— Alberto Cairo (@albertocairo) July 9, 2018
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