I have previously blogged about Trump’s relationship to organized crime. See Donald Trump and Organized Crime. Other blogs focused on aspects of Trump’s worldwide threads of shady projects and ties. See, for example, Evidence Trump Violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Andras Gollner Exposes Trump. But as with many aspects of the Trump story, Trump’s tangled web of contacts is so extensive and complicated that it defies summary. The devil, and Trump, are in the details.
Consider this article by James S. Henry in The American Interest, “The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections.” Henry gives a good history of the world of oligarchs and crime following the fall of the Soviet Union and traces multiple threads subject to the Trump touch. Here’s Henry’s lead-in:
“A few of Donald Trump’s connections to oligarchs and assorted thugs have already received sporadic press attention—for example, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s reported relationship with exiled Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash. But no one has pulled the connections together, used them to identify still more relationships, and developed an image of the overall patterns.
Nor has anyone related these cases to one of the most central facts about modern Russia: its emergence since the 1990s as a world-class kleptocracy, second only to China as a source of illicit capital and criminal loot, with more than $1.3 trillion of net offshore ‘flight wealth’ as of 2016.1″
At the heart of the matter is this:
“But for many banks, private bankers, hedge funds, law firms, and accounting firms, for leading oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, as well as for needy borrowers like the Trump Organization, the opportunity to feed on post-Soviet spoils was a godsend. This was vulture capitalism at its worst.
The nine-lived Trump, in particular, had just suffered a string of six successive bankruptcies. So the massive illicit outflows from Russia and oil-rich FSU members like Kazahkstan and Azerbaijan from the mid-1990s provided precisely the kind of undiscriminating investors that he needed. These outflows arrived at just the right time to fund several of Trump’s post-2000 high-risk real estate and casino ventures—most of which failed. As Donald Trump, Jr., executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the ‘Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate’ conference in Manhattan in September 2008 (on the basis, he said, of his own ‘half dozen trips to Russia in 18 months’):
‘[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.'”
Henry goes on, in detail, to give us a guided tour of the many known connections; Bayrock Group LLC, Iceland’s FL Group, Trump’s Toronto Tower, Felix Sater, Alex Shnaider, Paul Manafort, the Panama Papers, and much more. As my blogs noted above discussing Trump connections in Hungary and Azerbaijan, even this extensive article appears to be feeling but the trunk of an elephant. Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and peruse Mr. Henry’s most interesting revelations.