AuthorTopic: Trumpty-Dumpty POTUS Thread  (Read 106572 times)

Offline RE

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Welcome to the Hotel Shithole
« Reply #1065 on: January 14, 2018, 12:07:56 AM »
The artists are going to do in Trumpofsky.  :icon_sunny:

RE

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-international-hotel-dc-shithole_us_5a5ac62ee4b04f3c55a33624

POLITICS 01/13/2018 11:33 pm ET Updated 1 hour ago
Projector Lights Up Trump’s D.C. Hotel With ‘Shithole’ And Poop Emojis
The Trump International Hotel’s new makeover was inspired by Donald Trump’s recent immigration meeting.
By Carla Herreria
Periscope/Bells Visuals


If you took a look at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Saturday night, you might think it was a real shithole.

An artist with a video projector gave the Trump family’s D.C. hotel a makeover using President Donald Trump’s very own and very racist words.

“This place is a shithole” was projected onto the front steps of the hotel, in an apparent nod to reports that Trump called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries.”

The projection also displayed the word “shithole” and a stream of poop smiley-face emojis (💩).

As seen in a Periscope livestream, a longer message mocked Trump and his supporters and called for others to stand against white supremacy.

“This is not normal,” a segment of the display read, along with messages to “stay vigilant” and “#resist.”

“The president distracts us from politics that are harming us,” the projection read later in the video.

The display was the work of artist Robin Bell, the founder of video projection company Bell Visuals.

Bell has made news headlines in the past for projecting various messages on buildings with political ties. In May, Bell projected on the same D.C. hotel “emoluments welcome” and “pay Trump bribes here.” (Both of those messages also appear in the most recent projection.) That same month, Bell projected “#SessionsMustGo” and “I thought the KKK was OK until I learned that they smoked pot” on the Department of Justice building, in reference to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump incited outrage this week over his reported remark, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” ― which he asked after lawmakers suggested granting visas to individuals from Haiti, El Salvador and multiple African nations during a meeting about immigration reform.

Democrats and some Republican lawmakers criticized the president’s choice of words and called for him to apologize.

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement that Trump’s alleged remarks were another “confirmation of his racially insensitive and ignorant views.”

“It also reinforces the concerns that we hear every day, that the President’s slogan Make America Great Again is really code for Make America White Again,” Richmond added.

The United Nations human rights office rejected the president’s remark, which they labeled as “racist.”

“There is no other word one can use but ‘racist,’” U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said, according to Reuters. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”
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Offline Surly1

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GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia
« Reply #1066 on: January 14, 2018, 06:14:27 AM »
GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia

GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia

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Profile image for Ruth May
Ruth May, Contributor
 

Editor's note: Ruth May wrote this column in August 2017. Click here for an extensive update

Party loyalty is often cited as the reason that GOP leaders have not been more outspoken in their criticism of President Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it's because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin's favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard "Len" Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik's donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik's holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

Marco Rubio's Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million through Blavatnik's two holding companies. Other high dollar recipients of funding from Blavatnik were PACS representing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at $1.1 million, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at $800,000, Ohio Governor John Kasich at $250,000 and Arizona Senator John McCain at $200,000.

In January, Quartz reported that Blavatnik donated another $1 million to Trump's Inaugural Committee. Ironically, the shared address of Blavatnik's companies is directly across the street from Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York.

Len Blavatnik, considered to be one of the richest men in Great Britain, holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the U.K. He is known for his business savvy and generous philanthropy, but not without controversy.

In 2010, Oxford University drew intense criticism for accepting a donation of 75 million pounds from Blavatnik for a new school of government bearing his name. Faculty, alumni and international human rights activists claimed the university was selling its reputation and prestige to Putin's associates.

 

Blavatnik's relationships with Russian oligarchs close to Putin, particularly Oleg Deripaska, should be worrisome for Trump and the six GOP leaders who took Blavatnik's money during the 2016 presidential campaign. Lucky for them no one has noticed. Yet.

Oleg Deripaska is the founder and majority owner of RUSAL, the world's second largest aluminum company, based in Russia. Len Blavatnik owns a significant stake in RUSAL and served on its Board until November 10, 2016, two days after Donald Trump was elected. 

Deripaska controls RUSAL with a 48 percent majority stake through his holding company, EN+ Group, and the Russian government owns 4.35 percent stake of EN+ Group through its second-largest state owned bank, VTB. VTB was exposed in the Panama papers in 2016for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Vladimir Putin and is under sanctions by the U.S. government.

Deripaska has been closely connected to the Kremlin since he married into Boris Yeltsin's family in 2001, which literally includes him in the Russian clan known as "The Family."According to the Associated Press, starting in 2006, Deripaska made annual payments of $10 million to Paul Manafort through the Bank of Cyprus to advance Putin's global agenda.

Len Blavatnik's co-owner in RUSAL is his long-time business partner, Viktor Vekselberg, another Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. Blavatnik and Vekselberg hold their 15.8 percent joint stake in RUSAL in the name of Sual Partners, their offshore company in the Bahamas. Vekselberg also happens to be the largest shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus.

Another oligarch with close ties to Putin, Dmitry Rybolovlev, owns a 3.3 percent stake in the Bank of Cyprus. Rybolovlev is known as "Russia's Fertilizer King" and has been in the spotlight for several months as the purchaser of Trump's 60,000 square-foot mansion in Palm Beach. Rybolovlev bought the estate for $54 million more than Trump paid for the property at the bottom of the crash in the U.S. real estate market.

The convoluted web that links Putin's oligarchs to Trump's political associates and top Republicans is difficult to take in.

 
 

Trump and Putin have a common approach to governance. They rely heavily on long-term relationships and family ties. While there have been tensions between Putin and Deripaska over the years, the Kremlin came to Deripaska's rescue in 2009 when he was on the verge of bankruptcy by providing a $4.5 billion emergency loan through state-owned Vnesheconombank (VEB), where Putin is chair of the advisory board.

VEB, known as President Putin's "pet bank," is now in crisis after sanctions applied by Europe and U.S. in 2014 have isolated it from the international banks that were the sources of its nearly $4 billion in hard currency loans that, according to Bloomberg, mature this year and in 2018.

Russia's international currency reserves are near a 10-year low, which has put further pressure on the president of VEB, Sergey Gorkov, to find sources of international rescue capital. Notably, it was Gorkov who met secretly with Jared Kushner in December at Trump Tower. Kushner's failure to report the meeting with Gorkov has drawn the attention of the Senate intelligence committee that now wants to question Kushner about the meeting.

Ruth May is a global business professor at the University of Dallas. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Email: rmay@udallas.edu

CORRECTION, 12:11 p.m., August 7: The headline on an earlier version of this column incorrectly said Blavatnik is Russian. He was born in Urkraine during the Soviet era.

An earlier version of this column used the name Leonid "Len" Blavatnik. He changed his first name to Leonard. 

The column has also been updated to remove language describing the online presentation of a press release about Blavatnik resigning from the RUSAL board because it lacked context. 

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline agelbert

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Re:GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia
« Reply #1067 on: January 14, 2018, 12:08:35 PM »
GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia



Surly, when I was young I read too much science fiction. I think you will be interested to know that an all too common thread in science fiction author future scenarios for humanity was the elimination of nation states by for profit corporations. I thought it was ridiculous baloney at the time.

Now that even the most zenophobic right wing reactionary cretins can be bought by corporations (that's what oligarchs run, of course), from a former enemy country, no less, I am no longer convinced these writers erred in seeing planetary corporate cruel rule coming. Sure, the scenarios pictured corporations as 'more efficient' than governments, but they did not shy away from also showing that they were a law onto themselves .

I say all this becasue I really believe the issue here is not Russia; it's MONEY by corporations. This is not just about "Citizens United" empowering corporations to make fascism great again in the USA; it is a worldwide morally depraved profit over people and planet cancer by corporations.

And that is why I really think the word "treason" means exactly nothing to any of the Republicans (and most of the Democrats too!).

Of course the transition to corporate rule is not complete in the USA, but the Ryans of this country certainly believe the finish line is near.

I think those science fiction writers in the 1950's and 1960's were as clear eyed as Orwell in seeing the most probable future from what they observed back then. Sure, the wars and intrigue took place out in space between competing corporations, but the gaping absence of government power to control them was all too obvious.



« Last Edit: January 14, 2018, 12:19:18 PM by agelbert »
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Offline RE

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The Shithole Countries of Donald Trump
« Reply #1068 on: January 15, 2018, 03:08:04 AM »
https://dissidentvoice.org/2018/01/the-shithole-countries-of-donald-trump/

The Shithole Countries of Donald Trump

by Daniel Borgström / January 14th, 2018


As an American of Norwegian descent, I deeply resent President Trump’s recent statement, calling Haiti a “shithole country” and then in the same breath saying he wants more immigrants from Norway. That is not a compliment to Norwegians; it’s just a disgusting way to talk.

But let’s look at what he said. By “shithole” I assume he means that Haiti is economically poor, and that’s certainly true. Nevertheless, Haitians have an inspiring tradition of fighting for liberty, one that we can all envy. In 1804 they held history’s only successful slave rebellion, freeing themselves from the French plantation owners. Unfortunately, it’s a tradition which the U.S. and other imperial powers have refused to honor, and Haiti has been repeatedly invaded and forced into an ongoing struggle for freedom, not always with success. We need to honor the enduring Haitian spirit.

Another thing, Haiti is poor because it’s been repeatedly robbed of its resources, suppressed and held down by the U.S. which has maintained brutal dictators such as Poppa Doc and Baby Doc, the Duvaliers. Since the fall of the Duvaliers, the U.S. has manipulated elections and engineered a coup, deposing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. There was also the role of the Clinton Foundation which cashed in on the Haitian earthquake in the guise of providing relief aid — disaster capitalism in action. To call Haiti a “shithole” country is a classic case of blaming the victim.

At the same time, when Trump mentioned Norway, he probably didn’t know that until well into the 20th century, it was about the poorest country in Western Europe. That’s why so many Norwegians, including my family, immigrated to the U.S. Actually, we Norwegians came much later than many. And from the viewpoint of the Native American Indians, we (and all Americans of European origin) are recent immigrants.

An important story that got eclipsed by Trump’s “shithole countries” remark was a U.S. House of Representatives vote to expand the warrantless surveillance of American citizens. Many Democrats as well as Republicans voted for that measure which will further erode our rights and liberties. This comes shortly after the massive tax cuts for the rich, in effect a huge transfer of greater wealth to the wealthy, another milestone along the road towards becoming an impoverished shithole country.

Although that particular tax bill was President Trump’s project, he didn’t do it alone, and the race to the bottom did not start with him, it’s been going on for decades under the leadership of both Republican and Democratic parties. There’s been the neglect of our infrastructure, including railways, public transportation, bridges, as well as our hell-bound educational system. The list is long, very long. I won’t even go into global warming, or the huge massive waste of resources on the military. The wars that go on and on. Add to that the danger of nuclear extinction.

What’s new is that we have a president who speaks, acts, and tweets like a vulgar oaf. No finesse. No façade. What we see is what’s there — Donald Trump is the true undisguised face of the corrupt neoliberal/neocon ruling elite that is turning America into a shithole country.

Impeachment will not resolve our problem. We need to get rid of this whole rotten system and the two parties which represent it.


Daniel Borgstrom s a descendant of Norwegian and Swedish immigrants. He can be reached at: danielfortyone@gmail.com.
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Offline Surly1

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Re:GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia
« Reply #1069 on: January 15, 2018, 04:07:18 AM »

Surly, when I was young I read too much science fiction. I think you will be interested to know that an all too common thread in science fiction author future scenarios for humanity was the elimination of nation states by for profit corporations. I thought it was ridiculous baloney at the time. //

I say all this becasue I really believe the issue here is not Russia; it's MONEY by corporations. This is not just about "Citizens United" empowering corporations to make fascism great again in the USA; it is a worldwide morally depraved profit over people and planet cancer by corporations.

And that is why I really think the word "treason" means exactly nothing to any of the Republicans (and most of the Democrats too!).

The bright line connecting Russian oligarchs, Putin and American politics is money. The Trump criminal conspiracy is aslosh in it, but they are not unique. Oleg Derapaska has far more in common with Charles and David than with any of us.

I used to be big into science fiction, too. What SF writers do well is imagine new future circumstances based on current trends. It would be interesting to analyze ho0w many once improbably future scenarios are now commonplaces, as we've driven past mores and convention.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline RE

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Re:GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia
« Reply #1070 on: January 15, 2018, 04:15:26 AM »

Surly, when I was young I read too much science fiction. I think you will be interested to know that an all too common thread in science fiction author future scenarios for humanity was the elimination of nation states by for profit corporations. I thought it was ridiculous baloney at the time. //

I say all this becasue I really believe the issue here is not Russia; it's MONEY by corporations. This is not just about "Citizens United" empowering corporations to make fascism great again in the USA; it is a worldwide morally depraved profit over people and planet cancer by corporations.

And that is why I really think the word "treason" means exactly nothing to any of the Republicans (and most of the Democrats too!).

The bright line connecting Russian oligarchs, Putin and American politics is money. The Trump criminal conspiracy is aslosh in it, but they are not unique. Oleg Derapaska has far more in common with Charles and David than with any of us.

I used to be big into science fiction, too. What SF writers do well is imagine new future circumstances based on current trends. It would be interesting to analyze ho0w many once improbably future scenarios are now commonplaces, as we've driven past mores and convention.

Why are Ruskie Pigmen always called "Oligarchs" and we don't call Amerikan Pigmen like the Kochs and Buffett and Gates and Trumpsky oligarchs?

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Offline Surly1

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Re:GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia
« Reply #1071 on: January 15, 2018, 06:02:15 AM »

Why are Ruskie Pigmen always called "Oligarchs" and we don't call Amerikan Pigmen like the Kochs and Buffett and Gates and Trumpsky oligarchs?

RE

Who's stopping you?
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Eddie

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Re: Trumpty-Dumpty POTUS Thread
« Reply #1072 on: January 15, 2018, 08:47:07 AM »
Don't forget the Mercers.

I do call them oligarchs from time to time, but the term "obscenely rich shitheads" really resonates a lot with me. Just sayiin'.
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Offline jdwheeler42

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Re: The Shithole Countries of Donald Trump
« Reply #1073 on: January 15, 2018, 10:31:20 AM »
https://dissidentvoice.org/2018/01/the-shithole-countries-of-donald-trump/

The Shithole Countries of Donald Trump

by Daniel Borgström / January 14th, 2018

As an American of Norwegian descent, I deeply resent President Trump’s recent statement, calling Haiti a “shithole country” and then in the same breath saying he wants more immigrants from Norway. That is not a compliment to Norwegians; it’s just a disgusting way to talk.

But let’s look at what he said. By “shithole” I assume he means that Haiti is economically poor, and that’s certainly true. Nevertheless, Haitians have an inspiring tradition of fighting for liberty, one that we can all envy. In 1804 they held history’s only successful slave rebellion, freeing themselves from the French plantation owners. Unfortunately, it’s a tradition which the U.S. and other imperial powers have refused to honor, and Haiti has been repeatedly invaded and forced into an ongoing struggle for freedom, not always with success. We need to honor the enduring Haitian spirit.

Another thing, Haiti is poor because it’s been repeatedly robbed of its resources, suppressed and held down by the U.S. which has maintained brutal dictators such as Poppa Doc and Baby Doc, the Duvaliers. Since the fall of the Duvaliers, the U.S. has manipulated elections and engineered a coup, deposing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. There was also the role of the Clinton Foundation which cashed in on the Haitian earthquake in the guise of providing relief aid — disaster capitalism in action. To call Haiti a “shithole” country is a classic case of blaming the victim.

At the same time, when Trump mentioned Norway, he probably didn’t know that until well into the 20th century, it was about the poorest country in Western Europe. That’s why so many Norwegians, including my family, immigrated to the U.S. Actually, we Norwegians came much later than many. And from the viewpoint of the Native American Indians, we (and all Americans of European origin) are recent immigrants.

An important story that got eclipsed by Trump’s “shithole countries” remark was a U.S. House of Representatives vote to expand the warrantless surveillance of American citizens. Many Democrats as well as Republicans voted for that measure which will further erode our rights and liberties. This comes shortly after the massive tax cuts for the rich, in effect a huge transfer of greater wealth to the wealthy, another milestone along the road towards becoming an impoverished shithole country.

Although that particular tax bill was President Trump’s project, he didn’t do it alone, and the race to the bottom did not start with him, it’s been going on for decades under the leadership of both Republican and Democratic parties. There’s been the neglect of our infrastructure, including railways, public transportation, bridges, as well as our hell-bound educational system. The list is long, very long. I won’t even go into global warming, or the huge massive waste of resources on the military. The wars that go on and on. Add to that the danger of nuclear extinction.

What’s new is that we have a president who speaks, acts, and tweets like a vulgar oaf. No finesse. No façade. What we see is what’s there — Donald Trump is the true undisguised face of the corrupt neoliberal/neocon ruling elite that is turning America into a shithole country.

Impeachment will not resolve our problem. We need to get rid of this whole rotten system and the two parties which represent it.


Daniel Borgstrom s a descendant of Norwegian and Swedish immigrants. He can be reached at: danielfortyone@gmail.com.
With all this immigration, it's almost like someone's holding a big torch with a sign asking for the "wretched refuse", "yearning to breathe free" to come to our shores....

Making pigs fly is easy... that is, of course, after you have built the catapult....

Offline agelbert

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Trumpty-Dumpty - Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List
« Reply #1074 on: January 15, 2018, 10:56:38 AM »
Donald Trump’s Racism:
The Definitive List

By DAVID LEONHARDT and IAN PRASAD PHILBRICK

JAN. 15, 2018

SNIPPET:

Donald Trump has been obsessed with race for the entire time he has been a public figure. He had a history of making racist comments as a New York real-estate developer in the 1970s and ‘80s. More recently, his political rise was built on promulgating the lie that the nation’s first black president was born in Kenya. He then launched his campaign with a speech describing Mexicans as rapists.

The media often falls back on euphemisms when describing Trump’s comments about race: racially loaded, racially charged, racially tinged, racially sensitive. And Trump himself has claimed that he is “the least racist person.” But here’s the truth: Donald Trump is a racist. He talks about and treats people differently based on their race. He has done so for years, and he is still doing so.

Here, we have attempted to compile a definitive list of his racist comments – or at least the publicly known ones.



https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/15/opinion/leonhardt-trump-racist.html
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Offline agelbert

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Re:GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia
« Reply #1075 on: January 15, 2018, 04:20:53 PM »

Surly, when I was young I read too much science fiction. I think you will be interested to know that an all too common thread in science fiction author future scenarios for humanity was the elimination of nation states by for profit corporations. I thought it was ridiculous baloney at the time. //

I say all this because I really believe the issue here is not Russia; it's MONEY by corporations. This is not just about "Citizens United" empowering corporations to make fascism great again in the USA; it is a worldwide morally depraved profit over people and planet cancer by corporations.

And that is why I really think the word "treason" means exactly nothing to any of the Republicans (and most of the Democrats too!).

The bright line connecting Russian oligarchs, Putin and American politics is money. The Trump criminal conspiracy is aslosh in it, but they are not unique. Oleg Derapaska has far more in common with Charles and David than with any of us.

I used to be big into science fiction, too. What SF writers do well is imagine new future circumstances based on current trends. It would be interesting to analyze how many once improbably future scenarios are now commonplaces, as we've driven past mores and convention.

Yes, it would be interesting.

Unfortunately, it appears to me that instead of moving more towards Utopia, as many Science Fiction writers hoped, we are moving more towards Dystopia (see below).  :P



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Offline RE

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Re:GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia
« Reply #1076 on: January 16, 2018, 01:35:26 AM »

Why are Ruskie Pigmen always called "Oligarchs" and we don't call Amerikan Pigmen like the Kochs and Buffett and Gates and Trumpsky oligarchs?

RE

Who's stopping you?

Who's stopping you?

I don't use the term "oligarch" for Ruskies or Amerikans.  I call them all "Pigmen".

The point here is "russian" and "oligarch" are tied together in the MSM like "corrupt" and "unions" or "goobermint" and "wasteful".  It's Orwellian Newzspeak in action.

RE
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Offline agelbert

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Re: Trumpty-Dumpty Does Robert Mueller have the goods on Donald Trump?
« Reply #1077 on: January 16, 2018, 04:42:43 PM »
Does Robert Mueller have the goods on Donald Trump?



120,442 views

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/P-J4GAVyZ1U" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/P-J4GAVyZ1U</a>

CBC News

Published on Jan 14, 2018

Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor, speaks to the CBC’s Wendy Mesley about special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of the Trump administration’s possible involvement with Russia after sources say Mueller is close to interviewing Trump.

« Last Edit: January 16, 2018, 04:45:09 PM by agelbert »
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Offline RE

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How does Trump survive? He pays off the ruling class
« Reply #1078 on: January 17, 2018, 12:18:18 AM »
http://www.greanvillepost.com/2018/01/16/how-does-trump-survive-he-pays-off-the-ruling-class/

How does Trump survive? He pays off the ruling class
January 16, 2018


HELP ENLIGHTEN YOUR FELLOWS. BE SURE TO PASS THIS ON. SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON IT.

By Fred Goldstein, Workers’ World

“Right now there is a contradiction between the immediate short-term interests of the corporate boardrooms and parlors and the long-term interests of the ruling class to maintain the U.S. as a global imperialist power…”

Journalist Michael Wolff’s new book “Fire and Fury” depicts Donald Trump as totally unfit to serve as the chief executive of U.S. imperialism. It describes the Oval Office as a snakepit populated by subordinates and relatives at each other’s throats, but who all have a low opinion of Trump and his abilities. Many, according to Wolff, question his personal and mental capacities.

The publicity given to the book is a clear signal that the capitalist media and many pundits are trying to undermine the Trump presidency. They give great publicity to the quote from Steve Bannon about Donald Trump Jr.’s attendance at a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Bannon called Trump Jr.’s presence “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

This may have been Bannon’s way of keeping himself from being indicted by the Mueller Russia investigation, or it may have been driven by ultra-right factionalism. But the widespread coverage of this quote was aimed at breaking up the Trump-Bannon axis, which has lasted even after Bannon was fired.

Bannon is an ultra-right ideologue whose aim has been to destroy the political center of the Republican Party. Trump, on the other hand, is a right-wing, racist, misogynistic bigot without any particular ideology. He is a pragmatist known to be easily manipulated, so the bourgeois establishment is pleased at the split caused by the book. They fear Bannon’s influence on Trump more than they fear Trump himself.

Trump, the state and the ruling class
These events raise the question of the relations between the ruling class, its executive in the form of the presidency, and the capitalist state as a whole.

It is a tenet of Marxism that the capitalist government is the executive committee of the ruling class. Its job in general is to enforce the will of the bosses and bankers. When the capitalist class is split, this function can become complex, but the general claim is certainly true. However, Marxism is also dialectical and recognizes contradictions.
Bannon is an ultra-right ideologue whose aim has been to destroy the political center of the Republican Party. Trump, on the other hand, is a right-wing, racist, misogynistic bigot without any particular ideology. He is a pragmatist known to be easily manipulated, so the bourgeois establishment is pleased at the split caused by the book. They fear Bannon’s influence on Trump more than they fear Trump himself.

Right now there is a contradiction between the immediate short-term interests of the corporate boardrooms and parlors and the long-term interests of the ruling class to maintain the U.S. as a global imperialist power.

On the one hand, Trump is showering the bosses and bankers with riches — billions in tax cuts, gas and oil drilling rights, mining rights on public lands, destruction of environmental regulations, rollbacks of banking regulations and labor protections, etc.

On the other hand, he has taken a hatchet to many long-standing policies of imperialism abroad and capitalism in the U.S. that can do long-term harm to broad ruling-class interests.

Capitalist advisory establishment and the ruling class
In this discussion it is important to distinguish between the advisory establishment to the ruling class and the class itself. The bourgeoisie over the years has created a vast stable of intellectuals who serve different factions of the ruling class.

There are think-tank intellectuals devoted to ferreting out the interests of the imperialists as they see them. There are journalistic scribes with different political lines, depending on which faction of the bourgeoisie and the political establishment they are aligned with. There is a vast array of academic advisers who go back and forth between the universities and the capitalist government.

They all vie with one another to serve the interests of imperialism and become the favored mouthpieces. Their immediate perspective can be quite different from the immediate perspective in the boardrooms, however, even as they seek to serve capitalist interests.

While various journalists, think-tank bourgeois intellectuals, academic pundits and commentators of all sorts are aghast at Trump as he swings his diplomatic and political wrecking ball, the bosses are focused on the money.

Trump drives bosses’ gravy train
As long as Trump is in the presidency, the bankers and bosses are going to get much of their way with respect to profits, business, money. Under the various Democratic and Republican administrations, they have been chipping away at public land and coastline, at bank regulations, at environmental regulations, etc. But now they are enjoying unusually expanded freedom to plunder the land and the sea. They are exulting in the cuts on corporate taxes, from 35 percent to 21 percent, and billions from other cuts. Whatever Trump’s shortcomings, they can overlook them for now, because the billionaires don’t want the gravy train to stop.

The military-industrial complex — Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon, United Technologies, etc. — is feeding off the increase in military spending to $700 billion for nuclear weapons, anti-missile systems, new warships, warplanes, drones and missiles as Trump stokes the flames of war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, feeds the Saudi war machine’s assaults on Yemen, ships weapons to Ukraine and positions arms to threaten Russia, China, Iran and other countries.

Military stocks rose to an all-time high when Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with the bourgeois-feudal monarchy of Saudi Arabia. He has been the arms salesman in chief, pushing offensive missile systems, fighter jets and ships on Japan and south Korea as part of the war buildup against the DPRK.

When the government checks come rolling in to military corporate treasuries, the embarrassments and limitations of Trump can be easily overlooked for the moment. The mass deportations, racist code words, misogyny and sexual harassment, homophobia — all are brushed aside.

It is no coincidence that when the Wolff book came out, Trump quickly made a public announcement that he was opening up the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts to the oil and gas industry for drilling. The executives of ExxonMobil, Chevron and Conoco were not giving their primary attention to the scandals of the White House at that moment.

Energy Fuels Resources, which mines uranium, got the Trump administration to slash the 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears public area down to 202,000 acres. That put the uranium deposits outside the national monument. Native lands stolen from five different nations were redirected to the private sector by this ruling.

Trump has taken an axe to ruling-class institutions. He has launched attack after attack on the FBI, the crown jewel of the ruling class’s repressive apparatus, in order to discredit the Mueller investigation into his relations with Russia — even though the FBI has ruthlessly carried out the destruction of progressive and revolutionary organizations since World War I.

Trump has also taken an axe to traditional imperialist alliances. He has denounced NATO and demanded that NATO countries pay more for their militaries. He has humiliated the presidents of Mexico, Canada and Australia, among others. He has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and torn the mask off the U.S. as a “neutral” mediator in the struggle with the Palestinians.

In addition, Trump pulled $1 billion in funding from the United Nations. He pulled out of the Paris climate accord and jettisoned talks for a pact on immigration and asylum.

Reagan administration and the ruling class
The scumbag Reagan: a vile scoundrel from another time.
When the right-wing government of Ronald Reagan took over in 1981, the majority of the ruling class was deeply concerned. Reagan was the darling of the ultra-right and stood outside the main capitalist establishment as he climbed the political ladder in California. His wing of the Republican Party was at war with the Rockefeller wing.

Reagan started out his term in office by viciously breaking the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. The workers who went on strike were then banned from federal employment for life. It was the first time in decades that such a brutal, premeditated attack was made on a labor union.

This was followed up by a full-scale anti-labor offensive against copper miners in the West, meat packers and Caterpillar workers in the Midwest and more. Reagan and his corporate allies herded scabs in all strikes that took place.

Reagan slashed welfare spending by hundreds of billions, attacked welfare rights and turned the money over to the military for a vast expansion.

At first the ruling class was deeply concerned, not for the workers or the welfare recipients, but from fear of a rebellion from below. But there was no real fightback and the labor leadership not only abandoned the welfare recipients but capitulated to the anti-labor offensive. Reagan got away with it! Then the bosses and bankers and their politicians adjusted to the new normal of reaction. They laughed all the way to the bank.

Trump coming after us — we must come after him
The deep support that Trump is getting from the Republican Party is a reflection of the bosses’ attitude toward him. They are sticking with him in this latest crisis. They have tied their fate to him for now. The Republican congressional gang wants to attack Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. If they start down this road, they are counting on Trump’s backing.

For political reasons, he may not be so anxious to launch such an attack. But Paul Ryan and the Republicans have not given up on this program at all.

Just as during the Reagan administration, the bosses and bankers are not rushing in to stop Trump — for the moment. They may ultimately unseat him, but for now they are watching to see how much he can get away with. They will stick with him to try and get the last nickel in profits out of his rulings and laws. Until he endangers their profits and their social stability, the ruling class proper, as opposed to their pundits and advisers, will stick with him, whatever his embarrassments, limitations or diplomatic blunders.

What did not happen under Reagan was any fightback. And the Democratic Party is following the same route they did under Reagan: reliance on electoral politics and now the hope that the Mueller investigation will unseat Trump. Even the recent suspension of Temporary Protected Status for 200,000 Salvadorans in this country — on top of denial of protection for tens of thousands of Haitians and Nicaraguans — has not moved the so-called Democratic opposition to fight back.

Mass resistance in the streets, the factories, the retail stores and service industries, the campuses, and the oppressed and immigrant communities is the only way to stop this right-wing wrecking machine.

Trump wants to come after us. It is time for us to come after him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author works for workers world, a publication of the communist party of the US.
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Secret Money: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos To Unknown Buyers
« Reply #1079 on: January 17, 2018, 04:29:44 AM »
Son of Follow the Money. Some seriously well-researched journalism by Thomas Frank.

Secret Money: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos To Unknown Buyers

Lincoln Agnew for BuzzFeed News

Secret Money: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos To Unknown Buyers

A BuzzFeed News review of every sale of a Trump-branded condominium in the United States provides the first comprehensive look at how many went to unidentified buyers who paid cash, an indication of possible money laundering.

Posted on
Thomas Frank
Thomas Frank
BuzzFeed News Reporter
Washington, DC
Reporting From
Washington, DC

More than one-fifth of Donald Trump’s US condominiums have been purchased since the 1980s in secretive, all-cash transactions that enable buyers to avoid legal scrutiny by shielding their finances and identities, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.

Records show that more than 1,300 Trump condominiums were bought not by people but by shell companies, and that the purchases were made without a mortgage, avoiding inquiries from lenders.

Those two characteristics signal that a buyer may be laundering money, the Treasury Department has said in a series of statements since 2016. Treasury’s financial-crimes unit has, in recent years, launched investigations around the country into all-cash shell-company real-estate purchases amid concerns that some such sales may involve money laundering. The agency is considering requiring real-estate professionals to adopt anti-money-laundering programs.

All-cash purchases by shell companies do not by themselves indicate illegal or improper activity, and they have become more common in recent years in both Trump buildings and other luxury home sales across the United States. Developers such as Trump have no obligation to scrutinize their purchasers or their funding sources.

But federal investigations “continue to reveal corrupt politicians, drug traffickers and other criminals using shell companies to purchase luxury real estate with cash,” Treasury’s former financial-crimes chief Jennifer Shasky Calvery said at a Capitol Hill hearing in 2016.

Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) broadcast that concern in an August 2017 advisory to the real-estate industry warning that all-cash real-estate purchases by shell companies are “an attractive avenue for criminals to launder illegal proceeds while masking their identities.”

Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization responded to repeated requests for comment. A former longtime Trump Organization official who asked not to be named said that all-cash shell-company purchases are common among rich buyers, particularly foreigners trying to put their money in safe investments.

Trump condo sales that match Treasury’s characteristics of possible money laundering totaled $1.5 billion, BuzzFeed News calculated. They accounted for 21% of the 6,400 Trump condos sold in the US. Those figures include condos that Trump developed as well as condos that others developed in his name under licensing deals that pay Trump a fee or a percentage of sales.

Hundreds of Trump condo sales have characteristics that experts warn may be indicative of money laundering.

Some of the secretive sales date back more than three decades, long before recent worries that Russians tried to influence Trump by pouring millions of dollars into his businesses.

But a months-long BuzzFeed News examination of every Trump condominium sale in the US shows that such sales surged in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when some Trump businesses were in financial trouble and when Donald Trump Jr. made his now-famous remark about the Trump Organization seeing “a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

The surge was driven by the opening of 11 Trump condo buildings between 2008 and 2010 as Trump shifted his real-estate business from developing high-rises to licensing them. Nine were Trump-licensed, and they drew hundreds of shell companies that paid an average of $1.2 million in cash for a condo. In six of the licensed buildings, cash-paying shell companies bought at least a third of the condos, records show.

It’s not clear how much Trump received from the sale of Trump-licensed condos, but when Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, he said his “real estate licensing deals” and other brands were worth $3.3 billion.

At the Trump SoHo Hotel Condominium New York in Manhattan, 77% of the sales were to shell companies that paid cash. One of the project’s Russia-born developers was convicted of money laundering in the 1990s. A pending lawsuit calls Trump SoHo a “monument to spectacularly corrupt money-laundering and tax evasion,” though it says in a footnote that “there is no evidence that Trump took any part in, or knew of, their racketeering.”

Trump was a minority owner in the project, whose developers have denied any impropriety.

Hundreds of the secretive Trump condo sales contain additional characteristics that FinCEN and experts warn may be indicative of money laundering.

  • More than $205 million in sales were to corporations based in foreign jurisdictions known for keeping corporate records and banking information secret. The corporations were based mostly in the British Virgin Islands and Panama, two places the Treasury Department has linked to money laundering. Other jurisdictions include Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Jersey, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands Antilles, Switzerland, and St. Vincent and Grenadines.
  • Corporations registered in Delaware, which FinCEN says provides “the least transparency” with corporate records of any state, bought an additional 75 Trump condos in all-cash sales that totaled $129 million. “If the corporation is set up in places where there’s some level of confidentiality, which includes Delaware, that’s another red flag,” John Madinger, a retired Treasury official and IRS special agent who investigated financial crimes, said, speaking generally about property sales.
  • Eighty-three percent of the secretive sales occurred in markets that FinCEN is investigating for possible money laundering in real estate sales. In those markets – Manhattan, South Florida, and Honolulu – FinCEN is examining every luxury-home sale to a shell company that paid cash.
  • At least 28 shell companies resold their Trump properties within six months of buying them in cash. The National Association of Realtors says that immediate resales can indicate money laundering, “especially if the resale price is significantly higher or lower than the original purchase price.”

At the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan, a shell company bought a nine-room condo for $2.26 million on Sept. 10, 1997, and sold it eight weeks later to another shell company – for $3 million, a 33% gain.

In Miami-Dade County, Florida, a shell company bought a two-bedroom condo in a Trump-licensed building on Aug. 12, 2010, for $956,768. The company sold the condo to another shell company for $525,000 that same day.

  • Half of the secretive sales – with a total value of $769 million – were made to a particularly opaque type of shell company called a limited-liability company, or LLC, which FinCEN says is “inherently vulnerable to abuse.”
  • Thirty-nine secretive sales were for more than $5 million in current dollars – an amount that one anti-money-laundering advocate says should prompt a seller to scrutinize the buyer. All but four of the sales were in buildings that Trump developed, earning him $241 million.

“It’s not that common for someone to buy expensive real estate with cash, and if it’s a shell company, you want to find out who the buyer is and the sources of their funds,” said Shruti Shah, vice president of programs and operations at the Coalition for Integrity, an anti-corruption group. “It could be illicit money from foreign corruption, drug trafficking, human trafficking – all sorts of bad things.”

From left to right: Trump Tower in New York City, Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, and Trump International Hotel Las Vegas.
Getty Images; Alvesgaspar / Flickr; Lovelove17243875683 / Flickr

From left to right: Trump Tower in New York City, Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, and Trump International Hotel Las Vegas.

With their soaring glass facades, top-flight amenities and bold Trump logos, the condo buildings are the most visible symbol of the president’s multi-billion-dollar business empire. They’ve been a steady income source for Trump even when other enterprises such as casinos, an airline, and a pro football team foundered.

Nine of the buildings are in Manhattan, seven are in South Florida, and one each is in Chicago; Honolulu; Las Vegas; Jersey City, New Jersey; Stamford, Connecticut; and White Plains, New York.

New York City Properties

Note: Trump was the developer unless otherwise specified.
BuzzFeed News; Google Maps

Note: Trump was the developer unless otherwise specified.

BuzzFeed News’ months-long investigation is the first to examine sales of Trump condominiums for indicators of possible money laundering and the most comprehensive analysis to date of all 22 Trump condo towers in the US.

BuzzFeed News examined Trump condo sales using online property records to determine the original buyers of each unit and whether they obtained a mortgage or paid cash. For buyers that were legal entities and not people, BuzzFeed News analyzed them using corporation records, property records, and other online documents to determine whether they were established businesses or shell companies, which typically generate little economic value.

The investigation identified 1,326 all-cash sales – some involving more than one condo unit – to shell companies.

The property records analyzed by BuzzFeed News would not by themselves reveal money laundering – only warning signs. And Trump is not unique in selling condos to cash-paying shell companies. BuzzFeed News examined non-Trump buildings in Manhattan and South Florida and found that roughly the same percentage of units were sold to shell companies in all-cash transactions as in Trump buildings.

Such sales are increasingly common in the expensive real estate markets where Trump has operated such as Manhattan and Florida’s Miami-Dade County. Rich investors often buy expensive homes through shell companies for legitimate purposes such as tax advantages, legal protection, and privacy.

Florida Properties

Note: Trump was the developer unless otherwise specified.
BuzzFeed News; Google Maps

Note: Trump was the developer unless otherwise specified.

Trump has been selling condos to secretive buyers for decades, the property records show.

When the signature Trump Tower opened in Manhattan in 1983, shell companies based in secretive foreign jurisdictions such as Panama, Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands bought 43 condos in cash, BuzzFeed News found. Delaware-based corporations bought another six condos in cash.


 

The State Department says the British Virgin Islands has “significant money laundering risks,” Panama is “an attractive target for money laundering,” and in Cayman Islands, money laundering mostly involves “fraud, tax evasion and drug trafficking.”

Delaware is “a haven for transnational crime,” according to the anti-corruption group Transparency International, because “extreme corporate secrecy enables corrupt people, shady companies, drug traffickers, embezzlers and fraudsters to cover their tracks when shifting dirty money from one place to another.”

 Trump has not developed a condo building in Manhattan since 2003.

Trump himself signed the deed for each secretive sale at Trump Tower and collected $28 million.

Understanding how much Trump made from all-cash sales to shell companies is complicated by a shift in the way Trump did business. Before the shift, Trump developed the buildings himself, keeping the profits. But in the 2000s he began licensing the use of his name on buildings for a fee or a percentage of sales or both, leaving the construction and sales to others. Of the $1.5 billion in secretive sales documented by BuzzFeed News, $870 million – 58% – came from such licensing deals.

Despite his association with Manhattan, Trump has not developed a condo building there since 2003, when he opened the Trump Park Avenue. He has developed just two condo buildings in the US since 2003 – high-rises in Chicago and Las Vegas. At the same time, he has licensed 12 Trump-branded towers: seven in Florida, four in the New York City area and one in Hawaii.

Note: Trump was the developer unless otherwise specified.
BuzzFeed News; Google Maps

Note: Trump was the developer unless otherwise specified.

Neither Trump nor his licensees have disclosed terms of the agreements. Trump also has declined to release his tax returns, breaking a precedent followed by presidents since Richard Nixon.

Trump’s federally required financial disclosures for 2015 and 2016, however, give a glimpse into his real-estate licensing business and show that it generates significantly less revenue than his condo sales. The disclosures show that Trump received $69 million from condos that he sold and between $500,000 and $5 million from condos sold by licensees in the US.

Note: Trump was the developer unless otherwise specified.
BuzzFeed News; Google Maps

Note: Trump was the developer unless otherwise specified.

The developer of a Trump-licensed condo building in Hollywood, Florida, said there was nothing unusual about its sales, which occurred between 2009 and 2013. BuzzFeed News found 43% of the buyers there were cash-paying shell companies that spent $136 million buying 85 units.

“There are many reasons for setting up entities to own real estate, especially for estate planning and the purchase of a second home, which is extremely common in South Florida,” Betsy McCoy, general counsel of The Related Group, the Florida company that developed the project, told BuzzFeed News.

Trump International Hotel And Tower in New York City.

James D. Morgan / Getty Images

Trump International Hotel And Tower in New York City.

Secretive Trump condo sales surged initially in 1997 and 1998 as most Wall Street banks stopped lending to Trump after two of his Atlantic City casinos filed for bankruptcy. Trump reported $916 million in business losses in 1995, according to his 1996 tax return, which was leaked to the New York Times in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.

The surge occurred when Trump opened his fourth high-rise, the Trump International Hotel and Tower, in Manhattan in December 1996. Shell companies bought 92 of the building’s 322 units in cash – 29% – including eight of the 12 units that sold for more than $5 million, records show.

The sales amounted to $134 million – more than Trump had received in secretive sales from his three other buildings combined.

From 1999 through 2007, secretive sales leveled off at an average of $23 million a year – 11% of units sold – before rising starting in 2008 during a crucial period for Trump. BuzzFeed News found that in the five years from 2008 through 2012, shell companies spent $890 million buying 823 Trump condos in cash – 25% of units sold. That’s $178 million a year on average. More than 87% of those sales were in Trump-licensed buildings.

In 2008, as the Great Recession cooled real-estate markets, Trump could not make a payment on a bank loan that he had guaranteed personally for $40 million. Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owned the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, faced a $53-million payment to bondholders. Trump forestalled the bank payment by suing the lender, Deutsche Bank. The casino filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

At the same time, Trump became financially entwined with Russians. In March 2008, a Russian billionaire paid Trump $95 million for a Palm Beach, Florida, estate that Trump had bought four years earlier for $41 million. Donald Trump Jr. told a Moscow real-estate conference in June 2008 that his father’s company, the Trump Organization, was planning to build condos and hotels in Russia. And he told a New York conference in September 2008, “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Trump Jr. was executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization, which opened two major condo towers in early 2008 after a four-year lull. By the time Trump Jr. made his now-famous comment in September 2008, cash-paying shell companies had bought $43 million worth of condos at the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago and at the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas.

At a Trump-licensed condo building in Miami-Dade, cash-paying shell companies had bought $32 million worth of condos.

During this time, the future president and his children also were heavily promoting the Trump SoHo, a lower Manhattan high-rise that has been mired in controversy. In his September 2008 remarks, Donald Jr. cited the project: “In terms of high-end product influx into the US, 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.”

Trump SoHo hotel condominium building in New York City.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Trump SoHo hotel condominium building in New York City.

The Trump SoHo was a troubled project from its inception, as two Soviet-born developers envisioned a residential tower in a Manhattan neighborhood that did not allow such buildings. They signed on Trump as a minority partner in the mid-2000s to capitalize on his popularity, driven by his TV show “The Apprentice.”

The controversies have been widely publicized – including a criminal investigation – but it has not been disclosed until now that the Trump SoHo units were bought overwhelmingly by cash-paying shell companies.

Secretive sales generated $110 million between 2010 and 2013, records show. The buyers were largely LLCs with names such as 3002 Trump Soho Condo and Soho 3211 that were formed just weeks or days before buying a unit.

One real estate lawyer, Martin Jajan of Manhattan, handled more than half of the secretive sales, records show. As the buyers’ representative, Jajan signed deeds of transfer, created the shell companies and listed himself as the agent for the shell companies. The transactions provide little or no clues about the actual buyers – with a few exceptions.

On four of the deeds, the LLC listed Moscow addresses, which were crossed out with a pen. The address of Jajan’s Manhattan law office was written in their places.

Another three units were bought by a former oligarch from Kazakhstan with money he allegedly stole from the former Soviet republic, according to a California lawsuit filed in 2014 by Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty. The lawsuit says that a former mayor of Almaty, Viktor Khrapunov, and his family stole hundreds of millions of dollars in city assets during his tenure between 1997 and 2004, fled to Switzerland in 2007 and began buying property in New York City and California to launder the money.

The still-pending lawsuit says Khrapunov and his relatives bought three Trump SoHo units for $3.1 million in cash through newly formed LLCs in April 2013. Records show the LLCs sold all three units within a year or two at a slight loss. Khrapunov has denied any wrongdoing and says he is being persecuted for political reasons.

Jajan did not respond to requests for comment. In a 2014 New York magazine article, Jajan said it’s not uncommon for him to buy for clients he’s never met, and that a lot of his work involves setting up entities such as LLCs for buyers to avoid estate taxes, potential lawsuits, and public exposure.

The Trump SoHo sales alarmed Ross Delston, a Washington, D.C., lawyer and money laundering expert who has consulted for the Justice Department.

“The circumstances of the sales and the fact that three of the properties were allegedly related to money laundering in Kazakhstan raise questions about the process by which units were sold in the Trump SoHo,” Delston told BuzzFeed News. “Having 77% of the transactions to anonymous buyers raises the probability that there are red flags for money laundering and other financial crime.”

Trump did not develop Trump SoHo or sell its units. But as an 18% owner, Trump stood to profit from the 46-story tower and promoted the building so vigorously that some early purchasers accused him, his son Donald Jr., his daughter Ivanka, and others in a 2010 lawsuit of exaggerating the number of sales to boost prices.

The Manhattan District Attorney investigated the activity of Donald Jr. and Ivanka at the Trump SoHo in the early 2010s and brought no charges, according to news reports. Trump, abandoning his public posture of not settling lawsuits, agreed to refund $2.8 million in deposits to six purchasers, according to a news article.

The Trump SoHo deal was canceled in November, and the building is now called the Dominick Hotel and Spa.

From left to right: Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. pose for photos after a press conference, where their father Donald Trump announced the launch of Trump SoHo Hotel Condominium in New York in September 2007.
Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images

From left to right: Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. pose for photos after a press conference, where their father Donald Trump announced the launch of Trump SoHo Hotel Condominium in New York in September 2007.

The growing interest in Trump condo sales comes amid unprecedented scrutiny of possible money laundering through real estate. The Trump administration will likely face a decision on whether to crack down on the kind of all-cash, shell-company purchases that have enriched him.

Money laundering entails blending “dirty” money into the financial mainstream through a series of transactions and legal entities that conceal its origin. The United Nations estimates that $800 billion to $2 trillion is laundered each year.

The growing interest in Trump condo sales comes amid unprecedented scrutiny of possible money laundering through real estate.

“High-end real estate has effectively become a safety deposit box for laundered money because there is a no-questions-asked way of doing business,” said Clark Gascoigne, deputy director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition, an international anti-corruption group.

That’s particularly true in the US, where surveys by the National Association of Realtors show that 21% of homebuyers were LLCs in 2016, up from 5% in 2007. For sales over $3 million, LLCs bought 42% of the homes in 2016, the Realtors found. The association doesn’t know how many of those purchases were cash.

Gascoigne calls the United States “the easiest place to set up an anonymous company to potentially launder your money.”

Manhattan real estate lawyer Adam Leitman Bailey, who filed the lawsuit over Trump SoHo sales, acknowledged as much. He said he does not ask where his clients, who include “heads of states,” get their money: “I don’t know where the money comes from. I don’t ask where the money comes from. If they’re trying to move money to hide it, I’m the last person they’re going to tell about it.”

“Unlike securities brokers, we do not have a know-your-customer rule,” Bailey added. “We’re just agents for how people buy homes — I’m sorry, buy investments.”

“Unlike securities brokers, we do not have a know-your-customer rule.”

The Treasury Department has been under pressure for years from Congress and international groups to crack down on money laundering that occurs through all-cash real-estate purchases. FinCEN has been considering a regulation since 2003 that would require people involved in real-estate closings, such as sales agents, lawyers, appraisers and title insurers, to scrutinize transactions for money laundering.

In a 2016 report on US anti-money laundering efforts, the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, the leading intergovernmental body fighting money laundering, said that without such scrutiny, “There is a significant risk that high-end real estate is used for money laundering purposes.”

FinCEN took a first step in March 2016 when it began to investigate all-cash shell-company purchases of luxury homes in Manhattan and Miami-Dade County, Florida, which are the two markets where Trump has been most active. The agency defined luxury homes as those selling for at least $3 million in Manhattan and $1 million in Miami-Dade.

In July 2016, FinCEN released a startling finding: more than a quarter of the people who controlled the shell companies in Manhattan and Miami-Dade had at one time engaged in “possible criminal activity.”

“That’s a lot,” said Pawneet Abramowski, a New York City financial-crimes expert who was an FBI intelligence analyst and a fraud investigator for the New York State Attorney General’s office.

FinCEN has expanded its investigation to Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, San Antonio, the San Francisco area and other parts of South Florida and New York City. More than 5,000 Trump condos have been sold in the markets that FinCEN is targeting but it is unlikely FinCEN is analyzing any of the Trump sales because they occurred before the agency began its investigation.

Trump condo sales reportedly are under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose team includes Justice Department prosecutor Kyle Freeny, a money-laundering expert. Mueller is investigating Trump’s connections to Russia and Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. He charged former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in October with laundering millions of dollars he received for work in Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign.

A spokesperson for Mueller declined to comment.

Trump-Russia investigators in Congress also are interested in the timing of any money laundering and whether it coincided with periods when Trump could not get conventional loans.

“I’m focused on following the money. That’s where you connect the dots.”

The Senate intelligence committee has sought records in its Trump-Russia probe from FinCEN, which monitors possible money laundering. “Cash transactions are an increasingly important part of what needs to be examined,” Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, told BuzzFeed News. “I’m focused on following the money. That’s where you connect the dots.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the House intelligence committee’s ranking Democrat, said BuzzFeed News’ findings “concern me a great deal.” The committee should investigate whether “financial entanglement was one of the active measures the Russians used in the United States,” Schiff said. “It was one of the measures they’ve used in other countries.”

Bloomberg News has reported that Mueller is investigating the Trump SoHo as well as “Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings.” Several news outlets have reportedthat one of the Trump SoHo developers, Russia native Felix Sater, who pleaded guilty to racketeering in a money laundering case in 1998, testified recently before the House intelligence committee but details of his testimony are unknown.

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon is quoted in Michael Wolff’s new book saying that Mueller’s investigation “is all about money laundering.” And the two founders of a research firm that commissioned a controversial intelligence dossier wrote in a New York Times op-ed that their investigation of Trump found “widespread evidence” that Trump had worked with “dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering.”


At least two Trump Tower condos have been linked to money laundering, although there is no evidence that Trump or the Trump Organization was involved.

The Haitian government claimed in the 1980s that ousted dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier laundered stolen treasury funds when he bought Trump Tower apartment 54-K for $446,875 in August 1983. Duvalier used a Panama shell company called Lasa Trade and Finance to buy the apartment in cash. Trump signed the deed of sale.

In 1984, federal prosecutors charged a Russian native living in Brooklyn with taking part in a massive gasoline bootlegging operation and buying five Trump Tower condos for $4.9 million to launder the proceeds. The suspect, David Bogatin, pleaded guilty in 1987. He was released from federal prison in 1998.

In a separate matter, a Trump casino, the Trump Taj Mahal, was charged with violating anti-money-laundering regulations 106 times in 1990 and 1991 by failing to file timely reports identifying gamblers who bought or cashed out $10,000 or more in chips. The reports aim to spot gamblers who might be laundering money. The casino paid the Treasury Department a $477,000 fine in 1998 without admitting wrongdoing.

Stefan Cassella, a former deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, said it’s difficult to discern secretive sales that are done for legal reasons from those that hide criminal activity.

“If a money launderer is doing his job well, he’s making the transaction look legitimate,” Cassella told BuzzFeed News. ●

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

 

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