Putin, Trump, Hermitage, Dirty Money – Finally, the Impeachable Offense?

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So. You stayed up all night to watch the US Senate vote to nowhere on Obamacare skinny repeal. You’ve followed the headlines all week. Dominated as they have been by the Boy Scout speech, the foul-mouthed rant, the transgender ban and the continued sniping at the Attorney General. And you think you’re totally up to scratch on Trumponian maneuverings? Think again.

What if this was all distraction? Again. I mean, did any of you see any kind of meaningful article on the testimony given to the Senate Judiciary Committee by one Bill Browder? Of course not. And you think that is a co-incidence? Hmm.

Look. I dragged myself out of my sick-bed just to bring attention to this story. You can take it from here. Do your own homework. I wrote the serious post (well, several of them). You follow the links. I even wrote a fairy story. And did the radio interview on The Opperman Report.

Bottom line? If your name is Vladimir Putin. And you’ve made some $200 billion. By taking 50% of the funds that Russian oligarchs, corrupt government officials and the mob have been laundering overseas. And those funds are banked in the West. And could become subject to US economic sanctions and asset freeze. Then. For sure. You’re likely going to do all you can to co-opt the US Presidency. And get those sanctions lifted.

And if your name is Donald Trump. And you’ve been in bed with Russian dirty money for thirty years. Why not make friends with a Russian with $200 billion to launder?

But, why are Hermitage Capital and Bill Browder so important? I mean, heck, $230 million is peanuts, when set aside $200 billion. Well. Of course it is.

The point isn’t the amount of money. The point is that the Hermitage theft leads back directly to Putin. Which would make him subject to the Magnitsky Act (which you will recall has been an especial target during all the Trump-Russia meetings. Which would lead to Putin being sanctioned, and his assets in the West being frozen. Without the need for further US legislation.

Huh. So, I get Hermitage is important to Putin. But, if it is that important, and Trump is so closely connected to Russian dirty money, wouldn’t we expect Trump to have done something about Hermitage? Well. Um. Yes.

In March of this year, Trump fired the Manhattan US Attorney (Preet Bhrara) who initiated the New York civil action against the US end of the Hermitage theft. And there is some suggestion that the reason for the premature ending of that action was ‘political’ arm-twisting.

All of which raises a new and interesting question in my mind. Who exactly is wearing the trousers in the Putin-Trump relationship at the moment?

The inference so far has been that Putin is on top. He knows where the skeletons are buried. He has dirt which could bring down Trump. And he may have been behind some of the potentially more dangerous revelations about Trump’s dealings with Russia. Plus, Putin is roughly 50 times richer than Trump. Surely Trump needs Putin, more than the reverse?

Not so fast. Putin is only rich if he gets to keep the money. And he only gets to keep the money if a US President finds a way around those sanctions and Magnistsky. Putin is never going to do better than Trump. So. Maybe the center of gravity has shifted?

Granted. Trump is having trouble lifting sanctions. And Putin does still have access to his money. But, I would say the situation remains fluid. Lots of mental arm-wrestling going on at the moment.

In the meantime, frighten yourself silly with this thought. Let’s say that, when all the testosterone clears, Putin realizes he needs Trump more than Trump needs him. Trump may never be able to lift sanctions. But he can probably veto any attempt personally to sanction Putin. Leaving the latter unfettered access to his pot of gold.

If that were to be the case, what do you think history would say. Heck. What do you think Anderson Cooper would say. If. It came to pass. That the most productive period in US-Russian relations began with the ability of a crook occupying the White House personally to blackmail the Russian President?

But, here’s the thing. Trump can’t blackmail Putin if his ability to do so is obvious. So, Trump needs to get rid of all those pesky investigations into his racketeering with the Russians, and the election misdeeds of 2016.

Now, I’m not saying for one moment that Trump’s actions are solely altruistic. He wants everyone and his uncle just to stop looking at 2016. Make that all go away. So that he and his family face no retribution. Either for 2016, or for the thirty years of criminal activity before 2016.

But. If it did go away. He would be left free and clear to blackmail Putin. And remake the political world order. Stomach-churning, right? But, that’s realpolitik for you. And even though I raise that possibility, I’m still pretty sure this is not the sole, ultimate ambition of The Donald.

Whether it is a consequence of blackmail, power-play, or genuine friendship, if Trump allows Putin to hang onto his money, don’t you think Putin is going to look favorably on brand Trump, post-The Trump Presidency? Trump isn’t just about cleaning up his past. Or doing favors for the rest of the world. He wants to secure a credit line for the future.

So. Shudder at this image. Trump leaves office. Having remade the world order. To the astonishment of everyone. His brand polished. And now underwritten for the next three generations. Ain’t perspective a b***h?

But. Yup. Time for another ‘but.’ But. Get this. Trump can only do any of this if he can regain control over his own Department of Justice, Congress and the Senate.

More to the point. He can only do this if he isn’t impeached. And, as difficult as it may be actually to define Articles of Impeachment that might stick. If Mueller can offer prima facie evidence that Trump sought to gain financial benefit from Russia, in return for ‘interfering’ as President in the New York Hermitage case, that might well constitute the smoking gun in any impeachment process.

Hmm. So. What should we expect next? I think The Donald will have to sign off on the new Russian sanctions. Buy some time. Putin won’t be affected personally. Sessions is history. So is Rosenstein. So is Mueller. Then again, maybe Trump will just ignore Mueller.

The White House staff is going to get right royally shook up whatever else happens. Reince Priebus is another soon-to-be departure. And expect Trump to use his considerable fund-raising talents in 2018 to target those Republican legislators who are not openly backing him (for example, on health care reform), along with those Republican legislators saying he can’t fire Sessions and Mueller.

Trump is no-one’s fool. He hasn’t been Tweeting about Sessions and Mueller and wayward Republicans for the hell of it. He hasn’t been reshuffling his legal and media teams, and gathering advice on pardons, because it’s a fun summer hobby. He’s building steam to change the nature of the chessboard during the coming summer recess.

For the rest, make your own predictions. But this much is true. We are getting closer to the heart of the story: Hermitage and Magnitsky. Just bear in mind how many of the Russians at that meeting with Don Jr. were there specifically because of their concerns about the Magnitsky Act.

Now. Back to bed …

(Oh. And by the by. Since I’m a published author myself. I bought Browder’s book, Red Notice, several years ago. I wasn’t aware of its import then. To be honest, I just liked his jacket language. I don’t think too many other folks were aware of its import, either. Bearing in mind I bought my copy on the Barnes & Noble $5 Clearance table. Then. Times change. As of today. Red Notice is #89 on Amazon’s Bestseller List.

I’m viewing this as a sign from the universe. Take me to the book. Buy it. Keep it. Wake up one day. To discover its contents are suddenly uber-topical. And it takes off. Just as Maggie’s Hammer will do. When the world discovers that I’m right about massive arms corruption within the British political elite. Hey. You have to believe!!)

(Facebook comments are here.)

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Published in: on August 7, 2017 at 9:45 am  Leave a Comment  

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