December 24, 2019: Our Dear (mafia) Leader

With Trump’s months-long effort to bribe Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (or attempted bribery, depending on one’s tribe—both acts are illegal [1]), and the resulting House Intelligence Committee hearings which so gripped America, much has been made of Trump’s “pattern of behavior.” [2] As we’ll see here, Trump’s pattern has been documented in court records from over 3500 lawsuits, 1990s U.S. Senate investigations, media tracking, and commercial / intelligence research over three decades. [3] Trump’s pattern we now know well was made clear before the 2016 election by Trump’s ghostwriter of Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz: “So somebody comes after him and says he’s done something…horrible, and he just goes back at them with all guns blazing… And admits nothing, never admit anything, never say you made a mistake… And if you lose, declare victory.” [4] “When Trump is feeling cornered, in business or politics, he has a go-to strategy: He lies, and he just keeps lying.” [5] Trump didn’t divine this pattern by himself.

Trump’s father introduced him to corruption in real estate, but Trump’s personal operations got a boost with his 1973 introduction to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel and eventually disbarred lawyer, Roy Cohn, who gave birth to the pattern Schwartz noted. [6] Cohn also represented mobsters Tony Salerno, Carmine Galante, and John Gotti, who died in prison, of multiple gunshot wounds, and in prison, respectively. [7] In the 1980s, Trump got into the casino business. He sold $675M in junk bonds to complete his Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City. [8] When he failed to make a $47M interest payment, he was forced to turn over half ownership to bondholders and enter bankruptcy. This was Trump’s 3rd casino in Atlantic City after the Castle and Plaza. When Trump finished the Taj Mahal Casino it so cut into Castle and Plaza business that Trump was eventually unable to make a whopping $338M payment on the Castle (there also commenced a recession), hence another bankruptcy; three in the same town at the same time. [9] Costs of the Taj ended up at nearly $1B. [10] It was when the Taj teetered on bankruptcy right from the start that it became the “preferred gambling spot of Russian mobsters,” and “broke anti-money laundering rules 106 times in its first year and a half of operation in the early 1990s according to the IRS…” [11] With a slap on the wrist, Trump paid the Treasury almost a half million in fines for violation of the Bank Secrecy Act.

By 1992 the U.S. Senate released a report, “Asian Organized Crime: The New International Criminal,” which linked Trump’s businesses to that sector. [12] Trump’s Taj VP for Foreign Marketing was Danny Sau Leung, and according to the Senate report, an associate of Hong Kong-based crime syndicate 14K Triad linked to murder, extortion and heroin smuggling. [13] In this same timeframe, the USSR had collapsed, as oligarchs, Russian mobsters, a broken KGB, and bankrupt government officials clambered to consolidate control over resulting chaos. They did so through the brute force of an amalgamated machine. As Russian General Oleg Kalugin said of the Russian mafia, “Oh, it’s part of the KGB. It’s part of the Russian government.” [14]

“Throughout the 1990s,” writes Craig Unger, “untold millions from the former Soviet Union flowed into Trump’s luxury developments and Atlantic City casinos. But all that money wasn’t enough to save Trump from his own failings… He owed $4 billion to more than 70 banks, with a mind-boggling $800 million of it personally guaranteed. He spent much of the decade mired in litigation, filing multiple bankruptcies and scrambling to survive… Fortunately for Trump, his own economic crisis coincided with one in Russia.” [15] To Western banks, Trump was poison, but not to stolen Russian money.

After multiple attempts at selling and refinancing his casinos, Trump recovered control. That only made things worse, and the Castle was finally sold to Landry’s for a paltry $38M in 2011. Landry’s turned it into a gambling revenue giant. [16]

Trump’s talent for business continued its display through bankruptcy of his airline (Trump Shuttle), his football team (New Jersey Generals), and his part in impoverishing the entire league (USFL). These failures turned Trump’s focus to hotels, condos, and resorts. Things were looking up. As Unger writes, “From the day [Trump Tower] opened, the building was a hit…” [17] But, “During the ’80s and ’90s, we in the U.S. government repeatedly saw a pattern by which criminals would use condos and high-rises to launder money,” says Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for international law enforcement, Jonathan Winer. “…it explained why there are so many high-rises where the units were sold, but no one is living in them.” [18] David Bogatin (a former Soviet pilot shooting down Americans over North Vietnam) bought five condos in Trump Tower for $6M (~$15M today). Bogatin pled guilty in a massive gasoline-bootlegging scheme with Russian mobsters. He fled the U.S. and his Trump condos used to “launder money, to shelter and hide assets” were seized. [19] Vyacheslav Ivankov, “infamous for torturing his victims and boasting about the murders he arranged...oversaw the mob’s growth from a local extortion racket to a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise. ‘… we found out that he was living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower,’’’ said James Moody, chief of the FBI’s organized crime unit. [20] Ivankov was later gunned down on the streets of Moscow. Another Trump tower resident and diamond dealer from Uzbekistan, Eduard Nektalov, lived “directly below Trump’s future campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.” [21] After rumors Nektalov was cooperating with federal investigators, he was shot in the back of the head on Sixth Avenue in NYC. [22] At least “13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties… ‘They saved his bacon,’ says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration.” [23]

Another hotel property, Trump SoHo, had “multiple ties to an alleged international money-laundering network,” according to the Financial Times. [24] In one case, FT reported a former Kazakh energy minister was sued for conspiring to “systematically loot hundreds of millions of dollars of public assets,” then purchased three condos in Trump SoHo to launder his “ill-gotten funds.” Trump SoHo was the brainchild of two development companies, including Bayrock Group located on the 24th floor of Trump Tower, run by Trump business partner, Felix Sater. It wouldn’t be until 1998 that “Sater pleaded guilty to racketeering…with alleged Russian mobsters that bilked investors of at least $40 million… By 2003, the suit alleges, Sater…proceeded to use the firm to launder hundreds of millions of dollars while skimming and extorting millions more...” [25]

Is this guilt by association? In 2015 a long-running investigation by the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) caught up with Trump in the amount of a $10M fine for “willful and repeated” “significant and long-standing money laundering,” the highest fine ever levied by FinCEN against a casino enterprise. [26]

“My name’s Donald Trump,” Trump declared in his introduction to The Apprentice, “I’ve mastered the art of the deal.” What Trump mastered was the art of laundering billions in dirty Russian money.

“I document something like 1,300 transactions of this kind with Russian mobsters,” said Unger, “…real estate transactions that were all-cash purchases made by anonymous shell companies…obviously fronts for criminal money-laundering operations…” [27] “It’s not as though [Russians] zeroed in on Trump 30 years ago, and only Trump. Russia had hundreds of agents and assets in the US, and General Kalugin, the former head of KGB operations in Russia, told me that America was a paradise for Russian spies and that they had recruited roughly 300 assets and agents in the United States, and Trump was one of them.” [28]

Read those last five words again. How can we believe such spectacular assertions are true? Last time we looked at the proven performance of Left-wing media in regards to Trump (and why he’s forced to call it fake news); the Joseph Goebbels-like nature of America’s Right-wing media that covers for him; our own observations of Trump’s odious character validated by the Mueller Report, which was validated by the Republican Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. But two posts ago I claimed with certainty “U.S. government Deep State impregnates our daughters with illegal aliens from other planets!” Some people took it seriously, despite its thick syrup of irony and closing statement to the contrary. First, like Rudy Giuliani’s hallucinations, it didn't pass the laugh test. Second, my invention of space alien impregnation had as much justification as similar QAnon / 8Chan / 4Chan / Brietbart / Alex Jones / Limbaugh / and FOX-commentator declarations. Passion, intensity, conviction, or flawless delivery by our propaganda networks do not make their claims true. No question, Putin and his U.S. propaganda associates noted here often do better. [29] But the assertions offered above can be tracked, validated, and in some cases pulled from public court and Congressional records as linked here or in the references themselves. And lest we forget, we have three years of Trump's lawlessness, impeachment for international extortion, and 34 indictments with 7 of Trump’s inner circle in prison as supporting evidence for the kind of man he is. Corruption runs in his veins. Again I ask, by now, isn't this plain common sense?

Like Trump’s adultery, this pattern of behavior didn’t end simply because Trump got another wife or executive position. While filling his hotels with U.S. administrative staff and military personnel on taxpayer dollars, it appears Trump extorted Qatar for over $1B to bail out his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his worthless 666 Fifth Avenue tower. Recall, without justification, Trump declared Qatar a terrorist state much to the confusion of the Department of Defense, its largest Mid-East base stationed in Qatar. After months of Trump insults, Qatar was just as suddenly America’s great ally again. Trump’s noise machine flew these stories under the public radar, but not that of Congress currently investigating all of the above. [30]

As Unger remarks, “Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs...propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.” [31]

As this post can only scratch the surface of Trump’s corruption, see The Asset podcast series for in-death treatment. But there’s more to being an asset than just a partner in crime. Does Trump answer to Putin?

Next time, in the 4th of these 5 irregular posts before our Senate inaugurates America’s monarchy.

[1] US Legal, Solicitation And Attempted Bribery, “The difference between an attempt to bribe and the actual passage of money or property as a bribe is of little practical importance where the definition of the crime includes an attempt to commit it.”
[2] LISA MASCARO and MARY CLARE JALONICK, President Donald Trump impeached by US House, 3rd in history, AP, December 18, 2019.
[3] NICK PENZENSTADLER, SUSAN PAGE, Exclusive: Trump's 3,500 lawsuits unprecedented for a presidential nominee, USA TODAY, Oct. 23, 2017.
[4] FRONTLINE TRANSCRIPT, President Trump, PBS, January 3, 2017.
[5] David Leonhardt, Donald Trump’s Playbook for Smearing, New York Times, Oct. 17, 2016.
[6] Matt Levine, Fred Trump's Tax Scheme Was Quite Impressive, Bloomberg, October 3, 2018.
[7] Roy Cohn: Legal Carreer, Wikipedia.
[8] Richard D. Hylton, Trump, $47 Million Short, Gives Investors 50% of His Prize Casino, New York Times, Nov. 17, 1990.
[9] Richard D. Hylton, Trump's Castle and Plaza file for bankruptcy, UPI, MARCH 9, 1992.
Trump Castle/ Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Wikipedia
[10] $1B Taj debt, this included those incurred by its originator, Resorts International, from which Trump bought the unfinished project. Wikipedia
[11] Jose Pagliery, Trump's casino was a money laundering concern shortly after it opened, CNN Investigates, May 22, 2017.
[12] Search Trump, Taj Mahal, and his dealings here, Asian Organized Crime: the New International Criminal, The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate. 1992.
[13] Links to organized crime, this included those incurred by its originator, Resorts International, from which Trump bought the unfinished project. Wikipedia
[14] Sean Illing, Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and “one of the greatest intelligence operations in history”, VOX, Jan 12, 2019.
[15] CRAIG UNGER, Trump’s Russian Laundromat, New Republic, July 13, 2017.
[16] Trump Castle/ Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Wikipedia. By 2014, Trump Entertainment Resorts sought bankruptcy and was eventually absorbed by Ichan Enterprises.
[17] CRAIG UNGER, Trump’s Russian Laundromat, New Republic, July 13, 2017.
[18] ibid
[19] ibid
[20] ibid
[21] ibid
[22] Craig Horowitz, Iced, New York Magazine, Nov. 19, 2004.
[23] CRAIG UNGER, Trump’s Russian Laundromat, New Republic, July 13, 2017.
Linda Qiu, Yes, Donald Trump has been linked to the mob, POLITIFACT, March 2nd, 2016.
[24] Tom Burgis, Dirty money: Trump and the Kazakh connection, Financial Times, OCTOBER 19 2016. And quoted from Craig Unger.
[25] CRAIG UNGER, Trump’s Russian Laundromat, New Republic, July 13, 2017.
[26] Steve Hudak, FinCEN Fines Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort $10 Million for Significant and Long Standing Anti-Money Laundering Violations, U.S. Treasury Department: Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, March 06, 2015.
[27] Sean Illing, Trump’s ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades: Journalist Craig Unger talks Russia, Trump, and “one of the greatest intelligence operations in history”, VOX, Jan 12, 2019.
[28] ibid
[29] In one email virus I received during the Obama administration, a slick and well polished story complete with media links pushed the perennially popular notion that Obama was out to get our guns. Cunning as Obama was, he found a backdoor way to do that by shutting down all lead smelters to choke off ammo. It took me 5 hours of search and destroy before I debunked all its many claims. Yes, the "primary" smelter in St. Louis had just been closed, by market forces. The company's owner had just built the world's largest "secondary" smelter, because there's no market for mined lead, given 85% of all lead comes from recycled car batteries, which is what secondary smelters do. The law referenced was passed by George Bush, not Obama, with links to and its link to the law in all its legalese available online. Who's likely to spend 5 hours tracking down what was likely a Putin product? It's much easier to believe what we’re told to believe.
[30] Riley Beggin, The US military may have spent millions to help prop up a Trump resort, VOX Sep 7, 2019.
NATASHA BERTRAND and BRYAN BENDER, Air Force crew made an odd stop on a routine trip: Trump’s Scottish resort, POLITICO, 09/06/2019.
Derek Kravitz, Alex Mierjeski and Gabriel Sandoval, We’ve Found $16.1 Million in Political and Taxpayer Spending at Trump Properties, ProPublica, June 27, 2018.
Roberta Rampton, Trump takes sides in Arab rift, suggests support for isolation of Qatar, Reuters, JUNE 6, 2017.
David Smith and Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington and Peter Beaumont in Doha, Gulf crisis: Trump escalates row by accusing Qatar of sponsoring terror, The Guardian, Fri 9 Jun 2017.
Emily Shugerman, Jared Kushner 'tried and failed to get a $500m loan from Qatar before pushing Trump to take hard line against country', The Independent, 10 July 2017.
Dmitry Zhdannikov,Herbert Lash,Saeed Azhar, Qatar admits it unwittingly helped bail out Jared Kushner's skyscraper, The Independent, 12 February 2019.
EDDIE KRASSENSTEIN & BRIAN KRASSENSTEIN, Bombshell New Allegations: Kushner Appears to be Extorting Qatari Government, The Hill Reporter, March 29, 2019.
Miriam Hall, Brookfield Bails Out Kushner at 666 Fifth Ave. With 99-Year Ground Lease Deal New YorkCapital Markets, Bisnow, August 5, 2018.
[31] CRAIG UNGER, Trump’s Russian Laundromat, New Republic, July 13, 2017.
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Published on December 24, 2019 10:15
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