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Full Version: USA under presidency of a know-nothing, neo-fascist, racist, sexist, mobbed-up narcissist!!
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Incomplete, but enlightening list of 363 out-and-out untruths told, and oft repeated, by Trump since becoming Reality Show-President
Interesting observation in the report that follows. While I still think the genesis of the 'Russia-Trump' cooperation was Trump's long association with Oligarchs and Bankers in Russia to bail him out - rather than anything ideological on his part, due to Russophobia in the population and HUGE in the Military and Intelligence communities some mis-interpretations are being made. That said, Trump and his 'team' have played loose with the truth on this matter to the point of illegalities and may soon have to suffer for that. I hate Trump for other reasons. What Russia wants out of this is a less aggressive US toward them most likely - but messing with our election, even though we have messed with theirs [and others], was not 'kosher' either....



[Image: Donald_Trump_Jr_1088x725-700x470.jpg]Donald Trump Jr. Photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).
The recently released emails between Donald Trump Jr. and Trump family friend Rob Goldstone are intriguing to some of us because of what is not in them.

Last Monday's New York Times headline announced "Trump Jr. Was Told in Email of Russian Effort to Aid Campaign." The first paragraph of the story said:
"Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father's candidacy…"
From the headline and the story, you might get the impression that this was the very first email or communication of any kind "informing" Don Jr. that Russia was helping his father. And Don Jr. has promoted that impression.
Right after Trump Jr. was told that the Times was going to publish the contents of his emails, he tweeted "in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails with Rob Goldstone about the meeting on June 9, 2016."
And that same day he told Sean Hannity that "everything is now public."
Everything? A close reading of Goldstone's communication suggests otherwise. As you can see from his email (reprinted in full below), Goldstone is clearly pleased to be the bearer of good news to the Trump camp but his news is not presented as the thunderbolt suggested by the Times story.
There's no Guess what! The Kremlin is going to support your father!!! It seems to be part of an ongoing conversation. Indeed, it's written as if Goldstone takes for granted that Trump already knows the Russians are helping his father's campaign in various ways.
Jun 3, 2016, at 10:36 AM, Rob Goldstone wrote:
Good morning
Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.
This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump helped along by Aras and Emin.
What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?
I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.
Rob Goldstone
Don Jr. is clearly pleased. But does not act like he has just learned the astonishing fact that his father has the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
[B]Jun 3, 2016, at 10:53, Donald Trump Jr. wrote back as if this were the most normal thing in the world:[/B]
[B]Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?[/B]
[B]To scope out what might be behind this curious lack of surprise in Trump Jr.'s response, go back to his tweet about being "totally transparent" and focus on the qualification: What he's really saying is that he is releasing all emails specifically about that one meeting.Which may or may not be the truth. But that lawyerly qualification leaves a lot of room to hide previous communications about Russia's sub rosa support of Trump.[/B]
[B]We are not alone in noticing something amiss here. Ari Melber raised the issue. On the All In With Chris Hayes program on July 17, Matthew Miller former chief spokesman for the Justice Department, currently MSNBC's justice and security analyst was asked by Melber (sitting in for Hayes) whether the emails seemed like a "one off out of the blue… or do they read to you like an ongoing conversation?" Ari Melber noticed! [/B]
[B]But to Miller, Goldstone's email sounded like a "first outreach from the Russians."[/B]
[B]Really? Such a casual way to broach a secret intervention by Putin's Russia to elect Trump over his Democratic rival? What's missing are the kinds of words people use when first discussing such a huge move. Instead, this correspondence is just about the particulars. These emails not only imply prior collusion, they suggest it has been going on for some time.[/B]


[Image: image3-4-700x470.jpg]Beggars at a Doorway, circa 1650. Photo credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Wikimedia
These days, if you want to raise the hackles of public interest advocates in Washington, D.C., bring up the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA).
The RAA, now pending before Congress, evokes a torrent of metaphors.
"If [White House Senior Adviser] Steve Bannon and [Americans for Tax Reform President] Grover Norquist ever had a love child," the RAA would be the result, quipped Laura MacCleery in a recent blog.
MacCleery, director of regulatory affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), also termed the RAA the "regulatory equivalent of a cluster bomb on the functioning of government."
Other progressive advocates have called the RAA "A License to Kill," "The Worst Bill You've Never Heard Of,"and a "Corporate Con Job."
In at least one agency the Department of Transportation rulemaking has virtually come to a halt, delaying measures that could prevent thousands of traffic deaths.
The RAA is not a new idea. Proposed in several previous Congresses, it has long earned the disdain of environmental, consumer, and public health advocates. But this year, their opposition is more intense because the prospects for the RAA becoming law have never been brighter.
The House, Senate and White House are controlled by business-friendly Republicans. A more extreme version of the proposal has already passed the House. And the Senate bill which has two Democratic sponsors was recently approved in committee.
Despite the fierce metaphors to describe it, the bill contains no Bannon-like calls for the "deconstruction of the administrative state," or head-on attacks on "job-killing" regulations. On the contrary, Senate sponsors Rob Portman (R-OH) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-SD) described their proposal as a moderate compromise that would address small business concerns and help create jobs.
Helping carry out the Trump agenda are scores of corporate lobbyists hired for "task forces" at each agency. In a previous story, we called them regulatory "hit squads."
Both Heitkamp and Portman contend that their bill is about modernizing the rulemaking process and eliminating "red tape." Both insist that the bill will not erode environmental protection and public health and safety.
In a recent op-ed, US Chamber of Commerce senior vice president William Kovacs took the same tack, stressing that the RAA would make the rulemaking process more transparent and accountable.

Dense Language Hides a Minefield

But critics charge that behind the RAA's dense technical language is a revolutionary proposal that could have dire consequences. The bill, they claim, would upend the work of federal agencies, making it nearly impossible for them to protect the public from toxic chemicals, unsafe consumer products, tainted food and a host of other dangers.
"Bottom line, this is not a moderate bill," James Goodwin, senior policy analyst for the Center for Progressive Reform, told WhoWhatWhy.
The 58-page bill would require agencies to fulfill 53 new procedural requirements including mandates to:
Convene adversarial formal hearings for all "high-impact" rules under consideration those that have an economic impact of $1 billion on more if a rule opponent asks for one, increasing the power of corporate interests over rulemaking
Require the costs of the most substantive rules to include not only the cost of compliance but "indirect" costs to the economy
Consider the costs and benefits of at least three other options to any substantive rule they're proposing
Adopt rules that are the most "cost-effective," and
Follow White House guidance on scientific tasks such as assessing risk, despite the fact that the White House Office of Management and Budget lacks scientific expertise
Goodwin adds that these new requirements would also apply to "independent" agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), making them more vulnerable to political interference.
And the bill also invites the courts to expand their scrutiny of agency decisions, opening the door to judges' challenging agencies' economic analyses and even scientific determinations.
The bill's dense language and failure to define crucial terms makes the RAA even more threatening, critics say.
"There's something confusing on every page," Goodwin observed, predicting that the RAA would trigger years of litigation to clarify what many of its provisions actually mean.
The Trump White House already has made cutting rules a major priority. In January, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that requires agencies to cut at least two rules for every new rule they propose.
In at least one agency the Department of Transportation rulemaking has virtually come to a halt, delaying measures that could prevent thousands of traffic deaths.
Helping carry out the Trump agenda are scores of corporate lobbyists hired for "task forces" at each agency. In a previous story, we called them regulatory "hit squads."
But executive orders can be changed by future presidents. Laws are much more permanent.
The RAA's impacts on public health and safety could be enormous. Consider, for example, how just two agencies could be affected the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In late 2010, responding to the growing problem of tainted food in the marketplace, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, requiring the FDA to take steps to better protect the food supply. Annually an estimated 48 million consumers in the US contract foodborne illnesses, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die.
Even without the RAA, it took the FDA until 2015 to finally come out with a package of rules. One rule alone, requiring farms to take steps to ensure that their produce was not exposed to fecal matter, was the subject of intensive negotiation with farming interests, which pushed the FDA to revise its compliance deadlines to 2018or later. The FDA projected that the rule would cost industry in the US and abroad more than $900 million.
The agency estimated that annually, households in the US spent $715 on produce. If those producers raised their prices by just $10 over the course of a year, the increased cost to an estimated 150 million US households could top $1 billion.
If the RAA had been in effect, the produce rule would have faced a formal hearing while it was being developed. This type of hearing essentially puts the agency and the rule on trial, with highly paid corporate antagonists able to cross-examine agency staff, and to challenge the way they estimated the rule's costs and benefits, and even the science it used to develop the rule. An administrative law judge typically oversees the proceedings. Formal hearings now are rarely used because they are costly and can delay rulemaking even more.
Not only would the produce rule have taken even longer to finalize, the RAA may have killed it altogether. MacCleery doubted that any agency would try to continue to work on a rule if it got a thumbs down from a judge at one of these hearings. Agencies always weigh the prospects of a rule actually getting finalized against the resources they need to develop it, she said. And agencies still would face the prospect of getting sued once the rule became final.
Goodwin agreed. "Agencies will just stop doing billion-dollar rules," he said.

A Lethal Consequence, Possibly Irreversible

The RAA also may prevent weak rules from being strengthened.
MacCleery pointed to a recent FDA rule that attempts to address the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, caused in part by the heavy use of antibiotics in agriculture. The rule bans the widespread practice of using antibiotics intended for people to promote faster growth in livestock, although it still permits farmers to use these drugs to prevent illness in their animals.
Widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has spurred the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that has alarmed global health officials, jeopardizing the arsenal of weapons physicians have at their disposal to fight infections.
CSPI considers the FDA rule "weak" and "full of loopholes," MacCleery said. But restricting antibiotics in agriculture has been challenged by industry groups, including beef, pork and pharmaceutical interests.
Given the controversy around the issue, she predicted, the RAA likely would discourage the FDA from making any efforts to strengthen the new rule. This, despite the fact that antibiotic-resistant bacteria make all consumers vulnerable to infections that even last-resort drugs may not be able to treat.
Or consider a 2016 law to reform the nation's flawed Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), and approved with strong bipartisan support. The chemical reform bill gives the EPA more authority to ban dangerous chemicals, and frees the agency from procedural requirements that had hobbled it for more than 25 years.
In 1991, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the EPA from banning nearly all asbestos products. The agency thoroughly documented the risks of asbestos to human health, a cancer-causing chemical also linked to a specific terminal illness, mesothelioma. The EPA took "ten years and 40,000 pages of documents" to make its case for the rule, Joanna Slaney told WhoWhatWhy, adding that exposure to asbestos results in 10,000 deaths a year in the US.
Slaney, legislative director for the Environmental Defense Fund's Health programs, explained that the court did not fault EPA's evidence. Instead, it blocked the rule because the agency had not followed all of TSCA's procedural requirements. EPA, the court found, had not evaluated "the costs and benefits of all possible alternatives" to the rule, Slaney said. Nor had the agency demonstrated that its proposed ban was the "least burdensome" option.
As a consequence, the EPA gave up regulating virtually all other toxic chemicals over the last quarter century.
The whole point of the 2016 Lautenberg law (named for the late New Jersey Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg) was to "put a system in place" to regulate dangerous chemicals quickly, Slaney said. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress wanted the EPA to regulate chemicals on the market that posed significant health risks, she added.
One change the Lautenberg law made: EPA no longer had to choose the "least burdensome" alternative when regulating unsafe chemicals. But Slaney worries that the RAA would hobble the EPA once again, by inserting new procedural requirements for rulemaking.
"If you take down the administrative state," MacCleery warned, "you break the market, you break the ability of companies to get products to the American public that meet basic standards."
The RAA requires agencies to evaluate not only its proposed rule but at least three other alternatives to that rule, and to estimate the costs and benefits of each of these options. In nearly every case, agencies would be directed to choose the "most cost-effective" alternative to address the problem.
The bill's sponsors claim that "most cost-effective" does not mean "least burdensome." But the RAA fails to define what that term means. Critics predict industries will be willing to take agencies to court whenever they fail to choose the least costly regulation. The bill "elevates cost as the most important consideration," Goodwin charged.
So the push in 2016 to start protecting the public from toxic chemicals could once again grind to a halt, Slaney said. The new burdens would be particularly daunting in light of the Trump administration's plans to slash EPA's budget, she observed.
And it is not just chemical safety that will be affected, she added. It will be "so challenging" for all federal agencies to do rulemaking "that the basic safeguards people count on cannot be put into place."
To pass, the RAA will need the support of only six Democrats to reach the 60 votes to permit debate and a vote on the bill. "We're very concerned," MacCleery said. She added that the prospect of the bill becoming law "is being taken seriously."
"It would be crazy for the Senate to pass this bill," MacCleery said. But she added: "Crazier things have happened."
If the RAA became law, she contended, even businesses may come to regret its passage. "There is a very intricate relationship between regulation and a healthy marketplace," MacCleery said. The RAA would end the "equal playing field" where all companies are required to follow the same protective rules, with certainty about the regulatory process something that has been "fundamental" to not only consumer protection but also the health of the US economy.
"If you take down the administrative state," MacCleery warned, "you break the market, you break the ability of companies to get products to the American public that meet basic standards."
"We've had a barely good enough government," she concluded. "This bill would take us way back."
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The Republican-controlled House Budget Committee approved its 2018 budget resolution on Wednesday. It would slash welfare spending, gut financial regulations and rewrite the tax code to favor the wealthy. The budget would also slash funding for Medicaid and Medicare over the next decade. In addition, the Republican budget would add another $30 billion to Trump's record-setting $668 billion request for Pentagon spending. The resolution passed along party lines, but the budget faces opposition from both moderate and conservative Republicans. This is Budget Committee Chair Diane Black.
REP. DIANE BLACK: Our budget this year is set to increase the spending for our military, because we know that the military has been decimated over the last eight years. And with all of the additional threats that we have around the world, we need to make sure that our military is ready and that we're defendingwe're making sure that our men and women that are serving have what they need to serve. We are looking at this being a vehicle for doing tax reform, which is obviously one of the things that all Americans are looking forward toa fairer, simpler and flatter tax code.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office has warned 32 million Americans will become uninsured over the next decade if Obamacare is repealed without an alternative in place. Seventeen million would become uninsured next year. The analysis also found the cost of a medical insurance policy would increase 25 percent next year and double by 2026. The Republican-controlled Senate has twice failed to pass the healthcare bill.
To talk about the budget, healthcare and more, we're joined now by David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, previously with The New York Times, now founder and editor of His most recent piece is headlined, "Is This Trump's Vision for America? In His Budget, You Can See a Country That Looks Like a Police State." Johnston's biography of Donald Trump is titled The Making of Donald Trump.
Well, welcome back to Democracy Now!, David Cay Johnston. Why don't we begin with healthcare? So much changed in just a day, from it looking like the Senate was just not going to deal with this, the Republican bill collapsed, President Trump bringing them to a White House lunchthe senatorsand demanding that they pass at least repeal before they recess, but hopefully a replacement, as well. Can you talk about these latest developments, not to mention now the latest news, John McCain, so essential to these votes, the Republican senator from Arizona, being diagnosed with malignant cancer?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yeah, John McCain has been a real conscience in the Senate and a powerful force against all sorts of corrupting influences, despite early in his career his own difficulties with not being careful about his relationship to donors. He learned his lesson, though, and got better.
What you're seeing the Republicans do on healthcare is make it worse. There's not a single proposal in any of the various plans the Republicans have put up, the ones Donald Trump calls "beautiful" and "terrific," that would give more people healthcare or better healthcare or lower the costs. And that's because the Republicans really don't have a plan. Obamacare, at its heart, is a Republican idea: Make everyone buy insurance, so there are no free riders and everyone shares in the cost, and subsidize those people who have incomes too small to afford insurance.
Now, to put this in perspective, Amy, if we had in America the French or German universal healthcare systems, where everyone is covered, it would save an amount of money equal to all the income taxes paid by everyone who makes less than $500,000 a year in Americaactually, about $550,000. That's over 99 percent of the American public. We have a horribly inefficient sick care system that routinely kills people through lack of care. And the Republicans' goal here is to fulfill their promise to their supporters that they were going to stop the provision of publicly subsidized or financed healthcare for poor people, and they were going to address what they've clearly identified as the major economic problem in America: The rich don't have nearly enough, they need to get more to the rich, and the way to do that is you take it from the sick, the disabled, the elderly and children.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, interestingly, David Cay Johnston
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: And at least they're following through on their promise.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring up what President Trump said yesterday during the lunch with Senate Republicans.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have no Democrat help. They're obstructionists. That's all they're good at, is obstruction. They have no ideas. They've gone so far left, they're looking for single payer. That's what they want. But single payer will bankrupt our country, because it's more than we take in, for just healthcare. So single payer is never going to work. But that's what they'd like to do. They have no idea what the consequence will be. And it will be horrible, horrible healthcare, where you wait on line for weeks to even see a doctor.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is very interesting that Trump referred to single payer in this way
AMY GOODMAN: because, in fact, he hasn't always referred to it in this way. David Cay Johnston, you've spoken to him over the decades. Can you talk about the position he's staking out now versus what he's told you?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Oh, yes. Well, in the past, Donald said to me, when I asked him once about healthcare, "It should be just like roads: When you need them, you use them." And he was, for a long time, a proponent of single payer.
And the ideas that he's putting forward about single payer are absurd. People in France see doctors more quickly than in the U.S. They have better health status. And longevity is increasing in the other modern countries of the world that have universal healthcare faster than America. If Portugal, whose median income is half that of America, can afford universal healthcare, with promptly examinedpromptly being given access to doctors, how can America not afford it? This is absurd.
Remember, Donald Trump's the guy who made all these grandiose promiseshe's an advertising and entertainment sort of personand, when he got in office, made the astonishing statement, "Who knew healthcare was so complicated?" Trump doesn't know anything. He is appallingly ignorant on all sorts of issues, and healthcare is one of the leading issues. But has he proposed anything? What did Trump say? "I'm sitting here with my pen in hand." That is the political definition of passive-aggressive behavior.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: David, I want to go, before we move on to the budget, about something that you wrote about in your book, namely, that during a dispute over their father's will aroundthis is around the year 2000, Trump cut off benefits from the family health plan that were paying for the medical care of his nephew's extremely ill son. So could you talk about that incident?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yes. When Fred Trump died, there were five children in the family. An when the will was read, the heirs of Fred Trump Jr., who had already died, before his father, discovered they had effectively been cut out of the will. Surprise, surprise, they went to court and complained. The Trump Organization, which, like many family businesses, provides healthcare to everybody in the family, had been paying all the bills of young William, who, as soon as he was born, a couple of days after Fred Trump's funeral, developed enormous medical problems, that have continued now throughout his life. Donald Trump immediately cut off healthcare. And when he was asked about this by Heidi Evans of the New York Daily News, he made no apologies. You know, "Well, what else could I do?" he said, in effect. "I don't like people who sue my father's estate." This is a man who is so lacking in compassion or concern for anyone else, even his own blood, that he would put the life of a sickly infant in jeopardy in order to have more money. You know, greed is a sin. And Donald Trump is greed on steroids.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn, very quickly, to White House budget director Mick Mulvaney speaking Wednesday during the hearings. This is, overall, talking about the budget, defending the proposed cuts to safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps.
MICK MULVANEY: We no longer want to measure compassion by the number of programs that we have or the number of people that are on those programs. We want to measure compassion, true compassion, by the number of people we help to get off of those programs.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that's Mick Mulvaney. Now, of course, Donald Trump said he would never cut Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. But, David Cay Johnston, very quickly, can you summarize the House budget that was passed yesterday?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Oh, yes. Well, this is what reported yesterday. This is a budget that increases the military, increases immigration, refers to those as appropriate uses of precious taxpayer resources. And the Trump budget is not designed to get people in a position where they don't need government help at all, but it is clearly going in the direction of turning America into a police state. And that should get a lot of concern, especially that the memo we wrote about at has not made a single major news organization, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: But, overall, if you can speak about what this budget means?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Oh, what this budget means is less for those people who are needy, for people who are disabled, who are poorly educated and don't have good jobs, who lost their jobs because of tradeone of Donald's big issuesand, instead, lavishes more benefits and continues spending that benefits the wealthiest among us. And this goes to the Republican theme that I describe as: The biggest economic problem we have, according to the Republicans, is that the rich don't have enough. This is more Republican redistribution to the rich, who don't need it, and away from those who have demonstrable, unquestioned need.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, David, let's go to another issue, namely, that last night it was revealed that Deutsche Bank now is being drawn into the investigation about Trump's links, possible links, to Russia. So could you talk about the significance of that and what role Deutsche Bank has played?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, this is very important. It's the reason that Donald Trump told The New York Times yesterday that Robert Mueller had better not investigate his family finances. Deutsche Bank has been one of the favored banks for the Russian oligarchs to launder money. And the Russian oligarchs are essentially a network of international criminals. They've been fined over $600 million for laundering Russian money in Germany, in Cyprus and in New York. And Donald has hundreds of millions of dollars he owes to Deutsche Bank. It's the only big bank that will loan to him directly. Back when I was exposing dubious and illegal tax shelters in The New York Times at the turn of the century, Deutsche Bank was one of the biggest promoters of tax evasion products in America. Of course, it's not a crime in Germany to help people cheat on their taxes in America, but it is a crime here.
And Donald Trump has relied very heavily, by his own and his sons' account, on Russian money. Digging into Deutsche Bank's records, digging into Donald Trump's past business deals are going to show deep ties to the Russians, some of which are quite current. There's current litigation going on over an alleged tax fraud involving the Trump SoHo hotel. Donald owned 18 percent of the profits to that project. The profits all disappeared into an Icelandic bank that turned out to be under the thumb of one of the Russian oligarchs. This is really troublesome for Donald, and it is the reason he has taken the extraordinary position of trying to tell his prosecutor what he can and can't do. You don't get to pick your prosecutor, and you certainly don't get to tell your prosecutor what he can and cannot investigate.
AMY GOODMAN: David Cay Johnston, before we let you go, it'stoday is the six-month marker, the six months of the Trump administration. You are his unofficialor, I should say, unauthorizedbiographer. What has surprised you most? You have covered Donald Trump for decades.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Actually, very little, Amy. He's behaved as I predicted and said publicly before the election. He's manifestly unfit to hold a job on a city council. As the pressures of this job have come upon him, you've seen him behave in increasingly erratic ways. They are going to get worse. You'll notice that he trashes people one day, praises them the next, then trashes them again. He has now denigrated his own attorney general, because his own attorney general didn't act to protect him from his own wrongdoing. And what we're going to see, going forward, is more of Donald blaming everyone else. And let's remember, we were told, six months in, there'd be so much winning, Americans will be saying, "It's so much! It's so much winning! We just can't stand it! Please, stop!" What have we won so far?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Trump said Wednesday he never would have nominated Jeff Sessions to be attorney general if he had known Sessions was going to recuse himself from a Justice Department investigation into alleged ties between Russia and Trump's associates. The president made the remarks during a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: [Jeff Sessions] takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then havewhichwhich, frankly, I think, is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, "Thanks, Jeff, but I can'tyou know, I'm not going to take you." It's extremely unfairand that's a mild wordto the president.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump also left open the possibility that he could order the Justice Department to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who's been assigned to investigate Russia's role in the 2016 election. This is Trump, again, speaking in the Oval Office with New York Times reporters.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT: If Mueller goes looking at your finances or your family's finances unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?
MAGGIE HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would say yeah. Yeah, I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don'tI don'tI mean, it's possible that there's a condo or something. So, you know, I sell a lot of condo units. And if somebodyif somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don't make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don't makefrom one of the most highly respected law firms and accounting firms. I don't have buildings in Russia. They've said I own buildings in Russia. I don't. They said I made money from Russia. I don't. It's not my thing. I don'tI don't do that. Over the years, I've looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one, you know, other than that I held a Miss Universe pageant there, eight, nine years ago.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Trump's ties to Russia, we're joined now by Seva Gunitsky. He is an associate professor of political science at University of Toronto, author of Aftershocks: Great Powers and Domestic Reforms in the Twentieth Century. He recently wrote a piece headlined "Trump and the Russian Money Trail."
OK, Seva, please lay out what you found.
SEVA GUNITSKY: Well, sure. I think, in the Russia story, Putin has loomed very large. And he's sort of a perfect antagonist for this. But if you want to get at the roots of the collusion, you have to look at where Trump's links with Russia actually begin. And they don't begin with Putin. They certainly don't begin with the 2016 campaign. They begin with long-standing financial linkages that Trump has, going back to the '90s, even earlier, to Russian oligarchs who have been pouring money into his real estate and into his casino business for quite some time.
AMY GOODMAN: Lay out exactly. And if you can talk about how perhaps this relates to who was in the room with Donald Trump Jr., Donald Trump's oldest son, and Kushner, his son-in-law, as well as Paul Manafort, his campaign manager at the time, when they had this meeting that they'll all have to be speaking before a Senate committee about next week?
SEVA GUNITSKY: Sure. And I want to say, this is not just small change from Russia, despite what Donald Trump says. This has been hundreds of millions of dollars. Donald Trump's son, Don Jr., saidalmost a decade ago, he said that "Russians make up a disproportionate number of our investors. We have money pouring in from Russia." That's a direct quote. So, he has been a sort of perfect vehicle for Russian investments.
And if you look at the people who were in the room in that now-infamous meeting last June, then it's clear that there are many linkages to Russian money. We have people like the business partner of Aras Agalarov, a Russian oligarch that Trump has been doing business with for years. We have people like Natalia Veselnitskaya, who is a lawyer for a company called Prevezon, which was accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars through New York City real estate. So, it's not a surprise that these names keep coming up, because this is definitely something that has linked Trump to Russia for a long, long time.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And could you talk about, Seva, the 2012 Magnitsky Act and what role it plays here?
SEVA GUNITSKY: Sure. So, the 2012 Magnitsky Act was a result of a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was investigating a company in Russia that was linked to some illegal activities by Russian oligarchs. And when he found out what happened, he was put in jail, and he was murdered in jail. So, in 2012, the Obama administration, as a response, put in an act, the Magnitsky Act, that essentially prevented wealthy Russians from doing business in the U.S. And the Russian oligarchs despise this act. They really would like to see it canceled.
And the lawyer who met with Don Jr., Natalia Veselnitskaya, she had been lobbying against the Magnitsky Act for years. I've looked through her Russian-language social media postings, and she just rails against it for a long time. So, with things like the Prevezon case, she was very happy to see the case settled just a few months ago. And here, the timing becomes very odd, because she was a lawyer for Prevezon. She meets with Donald Trump in June. We don't know exactly what she was asking for, but months after Donald Trump takes office, the Prevezon case is settled. It was settled in May, very suddenly and in a very strange way. The government was all set to prosecute. They had been ready to prosecute; for years, they'd been charging the case. And all of a sudden, they settled it, for a fraction of the money that they were looking for, no disclosure, no trial. So Veselnitskaya was ecstatic about this. On heron her social media, she said this is"This case was settled on Russian terms." That's a direct quote. And she promised more to come.
So, if you're looking for any sort of quid pro quo between Russian money and Trump, this might be a smoking gun, because here we have a case where questions now arise whether the Department of Justice, under Jeff Sessions, put pressure on a district attorney's officePreet Bharara, namely, who was in charge of the caseto settle the case quickly. Now, Bharara was fired in March. And several weeks after he was fired, the case was quickly settled. So, it's a nice set of coincidences. And maybe at this point it's hard to say that it's just coincidences. It's more of a pattern of deep, deep ties between financial interests in Russia and the Trump campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: Seva Gunitsky, what about Ike Kaveladze? He is the eighth person identified as being a part of that meeting, who is the Soviet-born U.S. citizen.
SEVA GUNITSKY: I don't know if you can hear me, but the show just cut out.
AMY GOODMAN: I'm asking you about Ike Kaveladze.
SEVA GUNITSKY: I hope it's not Russian hacking, but I can't hear anything.
AMY GOODMAN: Oh, can you hear me now? Can you hear me now? OK. Sorry. So, we're talking to professor Seva Gunitsky, who is associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. We may be able to go back to him. But right now, we're going to turn
AMY GOODMAN: Can you hear me now, Seva?
SEVA GUNITSKY: Yes, I can hear. That was very strange.
AMY GOODMAN: OK, very quickly, if you could talk about the eighth person in the room, who has been identified, the person who representedIke Kaveladze, the Soviet-born U.S. citizen, who attended as a representative of the father-and-son Russian developers?
SEVA GUNITSKY: That's right. So, Kaveladze, initially, was assumed to be a translator. But I've seen his English-language writing. He is not that good at English. He definitely was not there in his capacity as a translator. I think what's more likely is that Kaveladze, keep in mind, was business partneris business partners with Agalarov, who is Trump's friend and a Russian oligarch. He, Kaveladze, was a middleman, since the early '90s, between Russian oligarchs and the American financial system. In 2000, he was implicated in the Bank of New York scandal, which also had massive ties to Russian money laundering. So I think all of those factors suggest that, again, financial tieswhatever was discussed at the meeting, financial ties were very much at the core of it.

In 1984, a Russian émigré named David Bogatin went shopping for apartments in New York City. The 38-year-old had arrived in America seven years before, with just $3 in his pocket. But for a former pilot in the Soviet Armyhis specialty had been shooting down Americans over North Vietnamhe had clearly done quite well for himself. Bogatin wasn't hunting for a place in Brighton Beach, the Brooklyn enclave known as "Little Odessa" for its large population of immigrants from the Soviet Union. Instead, he was fixated on the glitziest apartment building on Fifth Avenue, a gaudy, 58-story edifice with gold-plated fixtures and a pink-marble atrium: Trump Tower.
A monument to celebrity and conspicuous consumption, the tower was home to the likes of Johnny Carson, Steven Spielberg, and Sophia Loren. Its brash, 38-year-old developer was something of a tabloid celebrity himself. Donald Trump was just coming into his own as a serious player in Manhattan real estate, and Trump Tower was the crown jewel of his growing empire. From the day it opened, the building was a hitall but a few dozen of its 263 units had sold in the first few months. But Bogatin wasn't deterred by the limited availability or the sky-high prices. The Russian plunked down $6 million to buy not one or two, but five luxury condos. The big check apparently caught the attention of the owner. According to Wayne Barrett, who investigated the deal for the Village Voice, Trump personally attended the closing, along with Bogatin.
If the transaction seemed suspiciousmultiple apartments for a single buyer who appeared to have no legitimate way to put his hands on that much moneythere may have been a reason. At the time, Russian mobsters were beginning to invest in high-end real estate, which offered an ideal vehicle to launder money from their criminal enterprises. "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 Jonathan Winer, a deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement in the Clinton administration. "It didn't matter that you paid too much, because the real estate values would rise, and it was a way of turning dirty money into clean money. It was done very systematically, and it explained why there are so many high-rises where the units were sold but no one is living in them." When Trump Tower was built, as David Cay Johnston reports in The Making of Donald Trump, it was only the second high-rise in New York that accepted anonymous buyers.
In 1987, just three years after he attended the closing with Trump, Bogatin pleaded guilty to taking part in a massive gasoline-bootlegging scheme with Russian mobsters. After he fled the country, the government seized his five condos at Trump Tower, saying that he had purchased them to "launder money, to shelter and hide assets." A Senate investigation into organized crime later revealed that Bogatin was a leading figure in the Russian mob in New York. His family ties, in fact, led straight to the top: His brother ran a $150 million stock scam with none other than Semion Mogilevich, whom the FBI considers the "boss of bosses" of the Russian mafia. At the time, Mogilevichfeared even by his fellow gangsters as "the most powerful mobster in the world"was expanding his multibillion-dollar international criminal syndicate into America.

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In 1987, on his first trip to Russia, Trump visited the Winter Palace with Ivana. The Soviets flew him to Moscowall expenses paidto discuss building a luxury hotel across from the Kremlin.Maxim Blokhin/TASSSince Trump's election as president, his ties to Russia have become the focus of intense scrutiny, most of which has centered on whether his inner circle colluded with Russia to subvert the U.S. election. A growing chorus in Congress is also asking pointed questions about how the president built his business empire. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has called for a deeper inquiry into "Russian investment in Trump's businesses and properties."
The very nature of Trump's businessesall of which are privately held, with few reporting requirementsmakes it difficult to root out the truth about his financial deals. And the world of Russian oligarchs and organized crime, by design, is shadowy and labyrinthine. For the past three decades, state and federal investigators, as well as some of America's best investigative journalists, have sifted through mountains of real estate records, tax filings, civil lawsuits, criminal cases, and FBI and Interpol reports, unearthing ties between Trump and Russian mobsters like Mogilevich. To date, no one has documented that Trump was even aware of any suspicious entanglements in his far-flung businesses, let alone that he was directly compromised by the Russian mafia or the corrupt oligarchs who are closely allied with the Kremlin. So far, when it comes to Trump's ties to Russia, there is no smoking gun.

But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president's debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, 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. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Towerin a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. "They saved his bacon," says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump's developments in the 1980s.
It's entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy "mark" for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russiansincluding the dirtiest and most feared of them all.

Trump made his first trip to Russia in 1987, only a few years before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Invited by Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin, Trump was flown to Moscow and Leningradall expenses paidto talk business with high-ups in the Soviet command. In The Art of the Deal, Trump recounted the lunch meeting with Dubinin that led to the trip. "One thing led to another," he wrote, "and now I'm talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government."

Over the years, Trump and his sons would try and fail five times to build a new Trump Tower in Moscow. But for Trump, what mattered most were the lucrative connections he had begun to make with the Kremlinand with the wealthy Russians who would buy so many of his properties in the years to come. "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets," Donald Trump Jr. boasted at a real estate conference in 2008. "We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."
The money, illicit and otherwise, began to rain in earnest after the Soviet Union fell in 1991. President Boris Yeltsin's shift to a market economy was so abrupt that cash-rich gangsters and corrupt government officials were able to privatize and loot state-held assets in oil, coal, minerals, and banking. Yeltsin himself, in fact, would later describe Russia as "the biggest mafia state in the world." After Vladimir Putin succeeded Yeltsin as president, Russian intelligence effectively joined forces with the country's mobsters and oligarchs, allowing them to operate freely as long as they strengthen Putin's power and serve his personal financial interests. According to James Henry, a former chief economist at McKinsey & Company who consulted on the Panama Papers, some $1.3 trillion in illicit capital has poured out of Russia since the 1990s.
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Semion Mogilevich.At the top of the sprawling criminal enterprise was Semion Mogilevich. Beginning in the early 1980s, according to the FBI, the short, squat Ukrainian was the key money-laundering contact for the Solntsevskaya Bratva, or Brotherhood, one of the richest criminal syndicates in the world. Before long, he was running a multibillion-dollar worldwide racket of his own. Mogilevich wasn't feared because he was the most violent gangster, but because he was reputedly the smartest. The FBI has credited the "brainy don," who holds a degree in economics from Lviv University, with a staggering range of crimes. He ran drug trafficking and prostitution rings on an international scale; in one characteristic deal, he bought a bankrupt airline to ship heroin from Southeast Asia into Europe. He used a jewelry business in Moscow and Budapest as a front for art that Russian gangsters stole from museums, churches, and synagogues all over Europe. He has also been accused of selling some $20 million in stolen weapons, including ground-to-air missiles and armored troop carriers, to Iran. "He uses this wealth and power to not only further his criminal enterprises," the FBI says, "but to influence governments and their economies."
In Russia, Mogilevich's influence reportedly reaches all the way to the top. In 2005, Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian intelligence agent who defected to London, recorded an interview with investigators detailing his inside knowledge of the Kremlin's ties to organized crime. "Mogilevich," he said in broken English, "have good relationship with Putin since 1994 or 1993." A year later Litvinenko was dead, apparently poisoned by agents of the Kremlin.
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Vyachelsav Ivankov.Sergey Ponomarev/APMogilevich's greatest talent, the one that places him at the top of the Russian mob, is finding creative ways to cleanse dirty cash. According to the FBI, he has laundered money through more than 100 front companies around the world, and held bank accounts in at least 27 countries. And in 1991, he made a move that led directly to Trump Tower. That year, the FBI says, Mogilevich paid a Russian judge to spring a fellow mob boss, Vyachelsav Kirillovich Ivankov, from a Siberian gulag. If Mogilevich was the brains, Ivankov was the enforcera vor v zakone, or "made man," infamous for torturing his victims and boasting about the murders he had arranged. Sprung by Mogilevich, Ivankov made the most of his freedom. In 1992, a year after he was released from prison, he headed to New York on an illegal business visa and proceeded to set up shop in Brighton Beach.
In Red Mafiya, his book about the rise of the Russian mob in America, investigative reporter Robert I. Friedman documentedhow Ivankov organized a lurid and violent underworld of tattooed gangsters. When Ivankov touched down at JFK, Friedman reported, he was met by a fellow vor, who handed him a suitcase with $1.5 million in cash. Over the next three years, Ivankov oversaw the mob's growth from a local extortion racket to a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise. According to the FBI, he recruited two "combat brigades" of Special Forces veterans from the Soviet war in Afghanistan to run the mafia's protection racket and kill his enemies.
Like Mogilevich, Ivankov had a lot of dirty money he needed to clean up. He bought a Rolls-Royce dealership that was used, according to The New York Times, "as a front to launder criminal proceeds." The FBI concluded that one of Ivankov's partners in the operation was Felix Komarov, an upscale art dealer who lived in Trump Plaza on Third Avenue. Komarov, who was not charged in the case, called the allegations baseless. He acknowledged that he had frequent phone conversations with Ivankov, but insisted the exchanges were innocent. "I had no reason not to call him," Komarov told a reporter.
Trump Taj Mahal paid the largest fine ever levied against a casino for having "willfully violated" anti-money-laundering rules.
The feds wanted to arrest Ivankov, but he kept vanishing. "He was like a ghost to the FBI," one agent recalls. Agents spotted him meeting with other Russian crime figures in Miami, Los Angeles, Boston, and Toronto. They also found he made frequent visits to Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which mobsters routinely used to launder huge sums of money. In 2015, the Taj Mahal was fined $10 millionthe highest penalty ever levied by the feds against a casinoand admitted to having "willfully violated" anti-money-laundering regulations for years.
The FBI also struggled to figure out where Ivankov lived. "We were looking around, looking around, looking around," James Moody, chief of the bureau's organized crime section, told Friedman. "We had to go out and really beat the bushes. And then we found out that he was living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower."
There is no evidence that Trump knew Ivankov personally, even if they were neighbors. But the fact that a top Russian mafia boss lived and worked in Trump's own building indicates just how much high-level Russian mobsters came to view the future president's properties as a home away from home. In 2009, after being extradited to Russia to face murder charges, Ivankov was gunned down in a sniper attack on the streets of Moscow. According to The Moscow Times, his funeral was a media spectacle in Russia, attracting "1,000 people wearing black leather jackets, sunglasses, and gold chains," along with dozens of giant wreaths from the various brotherhoods.

Throughout the 1990s, untold millions from the former Soviet Union flowed into Trump's luxury developments and Atlantic City casinos. But all the money wasn't enough to save Trump from his own failings as a businessman. 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 for multiple bankruptcies and scrambling to survive. For most developers, the situation would have spelled financial ruin. But fortunately for Trump, his own economic crisis coincided with one in Russia.
In 1998, Russia defaulted on $40 billion in debt, causing the ruble to plummet and Russian banks to close. The ensuing financial panic sent the country's oligarchs and mobsters scrambling to find a safe place to put their money. That October, just two months after the Russian economy went into a tailspin, Trump broke ground on his biggest project yet. Rising to 72 stories in midtown Manhattan, Trump World Tower would be the tallest residential building on the planet. Construction got underway in 1999just as Trump was preparing his first run for the presidency on the Reform Party ticket and concluded in 2001. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported earlier this year, it wasn't long before one-third of the units on the tower's priciest floors had been snatched upeither by individual buyers from the former Soviet Union, or by limited liability companies connected to Russia. "We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan," sales agent Debra Stotts told Bloomberg.
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Sunny Isles, Florida, became known as "Little Moscow," thanks to Trump's high-rises.Rhona Wise/AFP/GettyAmong the new tenants was Eduard Nektalov, a diamond dealer from Uzbekistan. Nektalov, who was being investigated by a Treasury Department task force for mob-connected money laundering, bought a condo on the seventy-ninth floor, directly below Trump's future campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. A month later he sold his unit for a $500,000 profit. The following year, after rumors circulated that Nektalov was cooperating with federal investigators, he was shot down on Sixth Avenue.
Trump had found his market. After Trump World Tower opened, Sotheby's International Realty teamed up with a Russian real estate company to make a big sales push for the property in Russia. The "tower full of oligarchs," as Bloombergcalled it, became a model for Trump's projects going forward. All he needed to do, it seemed, was slap the Trump name on a big building, and high-dollar customers from Russia and the former Soviet republics were guaranteed to come rushing in. Dolly Lenz, a New York real estate broker, told USA Today that she sold some 65 units in Trump World Tower to Russians. "I had contacts in Moscow looking to invest in the United States," Lenz said. "They all wanted to meet Donald."
To capitalize on his new business model, Trump struck a deal with a Florida developer to attach his name to six high-rises in Sunny Isles, just outside Miami. Without having to put up a dime of his own money, Trump would receive a cut of the profits. "Russians love the Trump brand," Gil Dezer, the Sunny Isles developer, told Bloomberg. A local broker told The Washington Post that one-third of the 500 apartments he'd sold went to "Russian-speakers." So many bought the Trump-branded apartments, in fact, that the area became known as "Little Moscow."
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"Russians love the Trump brand," said developer Gil Dezer, (left, with Trump). One Florida tenant, Anatoly Golubchik (right) was busted in a major money-laundering ring run out of Trump Tower. Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan/Getty; John Marshall Mantel/ New York Times/ReduxMany of the units were sold by a native of Uzbekistan who had immigrated from the Soviet Union in the 1980s; her business was so brisk that she soon began bringing Russian tour groups to Sunny Isles to view the properties. According to a Reuters investigation in March, at least 63 buyers with Russian addresses or passports spent $98 million on Trump's properties in south Florida. What's more, another one-third of the unitsmore than 700 in allwere bought by shadowy shell companies that concealed the true owners.
Trump promoted and celebrated the properties. His organization continues to advertise the units; in 2011, when they first turned a profit, he attended a ceremonial mortgage-burning in Sunny Isles to toast their success. Last October, an investigation by the Miami Herald found that at least 13 buyers in the Florida complex have been the target of government investigations, either personally or through their companies, including "members of a Russian-American organized crime group." Two buyers in Sunny Isles, Anatoly Golubchik and Michael Sall, were convicted for taking part in a massive international gambling and money-laundering syndicate that was run out of Trump Tower in New York. The ring, according to the FBI, was operating under the protection of the Russian mafia.

The influx of Russian money did more than save Trump's business from ruinit set the stage for the next phase of his career. By 2004, to the outside world, it appeared that Trump was back on top after his failures in Atlantic City. That January, flush with the appearance of success, Trump launched his newly burnished brand into another medium.
"My name's Donald Trump," he declared in his opening narration for The Apprentice, "the largest real estate developer in New York. I own buildings all over the place. Model agencies. The Miss Universe pageant. Jetliners, golf courses, casinos, and private resorts like Mar-a-Lago, one of the most spectacular estates anywhere in the world."
But it wouldn't be Trump without a better story than that. "It wasn't always so easy," he confessed, over images of him cruising around New York in a stretch limo. "About 13 years ago, I was seriously in trouble. I was billions of dollars in debt. But I fought back, and I won. Big league. I used my brain. I used my negotiating skills. And I worked it all out. Now my company's bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was.… I've mastered the art of the deal."
The show, which reportedly paid Trump up to $3 million per episode, instantly revived his career. "The Apprentice turned Trump from a blowhard Richie Rich who had just gone through his most difficult decade into an unlikely symbol of straight talk, an evangelist for the American gospel of success, a decider who insisted on standards in a country that had somehow slipped into handing out trophies for just showing up," journalists Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher observe in their book Trump Revealed. "Above all, Apprentice sold an image of the host-boss as supremely competent and confident, dispensing his authority and getting immediate results. The analogy to politics was palpable."
Russians spent at least $98 million on Trump's properties in Floridaand another third of the units were bought by shadowy shell companies.
But the story of Donald Trump, self-made business genius, left out any mention of the shady Russian investors who had done so much to make his comeback narrative possible. And Trump's business, despite the hype, was hardly "stronger than it ever was"his credit was still lousy, and two more of his prized properties in Atlantic City would soon fall into bankruptcy, even as his ratings soared.
To further enhance his brand, Trump used his prime-time perch to unveil another big project. On the 2006 season finale of The Apprentice, as 11 million viewers waited to learn which of the two finalists was going to be fired, Trump prolonged the suspense by cutting to a promotional video for his latest venture. "Located in the center of Manhattan's chic artist enclave, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in SoHo is the site of my latest development," he narrated over swooping helicopter footage of lower Manhattan. The new building, he added, would be nothing less than a "$370 million work of art … an awe-inspiring masterpiece."
Trump SoHo was the brainchild of two development companiesBayrock Group LLC and the Sapir Organizationrun by a pair of wealthy émigrés from the former Soviet Union who had done business with some of Russia's richest and most notorious oligarchs. Together, their firms made Trump an offer he couldn't refuse: The developers would finance and build Trump SoHo themselves. In return for lending his name to the project, Trump would get 18 percent of the profitswithout putting up any of his own money.
One of the developers, Tamir Sapir, had followed an unlikely path to riches. After emigrating from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, he had started out driving a cab in New York City and ended up a billionaire living in Trump Tower. His big break came when he co-founded a company that sold high-tech electronics. According to the FBI, Sapir's partner in the firm was a "member or associate" of Ivankov's mob in Brighton Beach. No charges were ever filed, and Sapir denied having any mob ties. "It didn't happen," he told The New York Times. "Everything was done in the most legitimate way."
Trump, who described Sapir as a "great friend," bought 200 televisions from his electronics company. In 2007, he hosted the wedding of Sapir's daughter at Mar-a-Lago, and later attended her infant son's bris.
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In 2007, Trump celebrated the launch of Trump SoHo with partners Tevfik Arif (center) and Felix Sater (right). Arif was later acquitted on charges of running a prostitution ring.Mark Von Holden/WireImage/GettySapir also introduced Trump to Tevfik Arif, his partner in the Trump SoHo deal. On paper, at least, Arif was another heartwarming immigrant success story. He had graduated from the Moscow Institute of Trade and Economics and worked as a Soviet trade and commerce official for 17 years before moving to New York and founding Bayrock. Practically overnight, Arif became a wildly successful developer in Brooklyn. In 2002, after meeting Trump, he moved Bayrock's offices to Trump Tower, where he and his staff of Russian émigrés set up shop on the twenty-fourth floor.
Trump worked closely with Bayrock on real estate ventures in Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. "Bayrock knew the investors," he later testified. Arif "brought the people up from Moscow to meet with me." He boasted about the deal he was getting: Arif was offering him a 20 to 25 percent cut on his overseas projects, he said, not to mention management fees. "It was almost like mass production of a car," Trump testified.
But Bayrock and its deals quickly became mired in controversy. Forbes and other publications reported that the company was financed by a notoriously corrupt group of oligarchs known as The Trio. In 2010, Arif was arrested by Turkish prosecutors and charged with setting up a prostitution ring after he was found aboard a boatchartered by one of The Triowith nine young women, two of whom were 16 years old. The women reportedly refused to talk, and Arif was acquitted. According to a lawsuit filed that same year by two former Bayrock executives, Arif started the firm "backed by oligarchs and money they stole from the Russian people." In addition, the suit alleges, Bayrock "was substantially and covertly mob-owned and operated." The company's real purpose, the executives claim, was to develop hugely expensive properties bearing the Trump brandand then use the projects to launder money and evade taxes.
The lawsuit, which is ongoing, does not claim that Trump was complicit in the alleged scam. Bayrock dismissed the allegations as "legal conclusions to which no response is required." But last year, after examining title deeds, bank records, and court documents, the Financial Times concluded that Trump SoHo had "multiple ties to an alleged international money-laundering network." In one case, the paper reported, a former Kazakh energy minister is being sued in federal court for conspiring to "systematically loot hundreds of millions of dollars of public assets" and then purchasing three condos in Trump SoHo to launder his "ill-gotten funds."
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Felix Sater had a Trump business card long after his criminal past came to light.During his collaboration with Bayrock, Trump also became close to the man who ran the firm's daily operationsa twice-convicted felon with family ties to Semion Mogilevich. In 1974, when he was eight years old, Felix Sater and his family emigrated from Moscow to Brighton Beach. According to the FBI, his fatherwho was convicted for extorting local restaurants, grocery stores, and a medical clinicwas a Mogilevich boss. Sater tried making it as a stockbroker, but his career came to an abrupt end in 1991, after he stabbed a Wall Street foe in the face with a broken margarita glass during a bar fight, opening wounds that required 110 stitches. (Years later, in a deposition, Trump downplayed the incident, insisting that Sater "got into a barroom fight, which a lot of people do.") Sater lost his trading license over the attack, and served a year in prison.
In 1998, Sater pleaded guilty to racketeeringoperating a "pump and dump" stock fraud in partnership with alleged Russian mobsters that bilked investors of at least $40 million. To avoid prison time, Sater turned informer. But according to the lawsuit against Bayrock, he also resumed "his old tricks." By 2003, the suit alleges, Sater controlled the majority of Bayrock's sharesand proceeded to use the firm to launder hundreds of millions of dollars, while skimming and extorting millions more. The suit also claims that Sater committed fraud by concealing his racketeering conviction from banks that invested hundreds of millions in Bayrock, and that he threatened "to kill anyone at the firm he thought knew of the crimes committed there and might report it." In court, Bayrock has denied the allegations, which Sater's attorney characterizes as "false, fabricated, and pure garbage."


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What Did Republicans Know About the Russia Scandal? America Deserves an Answer.Either Trump deceived GOP leaders, or they ignored the collusion.

By Sater's account, in sworn testimony, he was very tight with Trump. He flew to Colorado with him, accompanied Donald Jr. and Ivanka on a trip to Moscow at Trump's invitation, and met with Trump's inner circle "constantly." In Trump Tower, he often dropped by Trump's office to pitch business ideas"just me and him."
Trump seems unable to recall any of this. "Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it," he told the Associated Press in 2015. Two years earlier, testifying in a video deposition, Trump took the same line. If Sater "were sitting in the room right now," he swore under oath, "I really wouldn't know what he looked like." He added: "I don't know him very well, but I don't think he was connected to the mafia."
Trump and his lawyers say that he was unaware of Sater's criminal past when he signed on to do business with Bayrock. That's plausible, since Sater's plea deal in the stock fraud was kept secret because of his role as an informant. But even after The New York Times revealed Sater's criminal record in 2007, he continued to use office space provided by the Trump Organization. In 2010, he was even given an official Trump Organization business card that read: FELIX H. SATER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP.
In 2013, police burst into Unit 63A of Trump Tower and rounded up 29 suspects in a $100 million money-laundering scheme.
Sater apparently remains close to Trump's inner circle. Earlier this year, one week before National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was fired for failing to report meetings with Russian officials, Trump's personal attorney reportedly hand-delivered to Flynn's office a "back-channel plan" for lifting sanctions on Russia. The co-author of the plan, according to the Times: Felix Sater.
In the end, Trump's deals with Bayrock, like so much of his business empire, proved to be more glitter than gold. The international projects in Russia and Poland never materialized. A Trump tower being built in Fort Lauderdale ran out of money before it was completed, leaving behind a massive concrete shell. Trump SoHo ultimately had to be foreclosed and resold. But his Russian investors had left Trump with a high-profile property he could leverage. The new owners contracted with Trump to run the tower; as of April, the president and his daughter Ivanka were still listed as managers of the property. In 2015, according to the federal financial disclosure reports, Trump made $3 million from Trump SoHo.

In April 2013, a little more than two years before Trump rode the escalator to the ground floor of Trump Tower to kick off his presidential campaign, police burst into Unit 63A of the high-rise and rounded up 29 suspects in two gambling rings. The operation, which prosecutors called "the world's largest sports book," was run out of condos in Trump Towerincluding the entire fifty-first floor of the building. In addition, unit 63Aa condo directly below one owned by Trumpserved as the headquarters for a "sophisticated money-laundering scheme" that moved an estimated $100 million out of the former Soviet Union, through shell companies in Cyprus, and into investments in the United States. The entire operation, prosecutors say, was working under the protection of Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, whom the FBI identified as a top Russian vor closely allied with Semion Mogilevich. In a single two-month stretch, according to the federal indictment, the money launderers paid Tokhtakhounov $10 million.
Tokhtakhounov, who had been indicted a decade earlier for conspiring to fix the ice-skating competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics, was the only suspect to elude arrest. For the next seven months, the Russian crime boss fell off the radar of Interpol, which had issued a red alert. Then, in November 2013, he suddenly appeared live on international televisionsitting in the audience at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Tokhtakhounov was in the VIP section, just a few seats away from the pageant owner, Donald Trump.
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Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Dmitry Korotayev/Epsilon/GettyAfter the pageant, Trump bragged about all the powerful Russians who had turned out that night, just to see him. "Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room," he told Real Estate Weekly. Contacted by Mother Jones, Tokhtakhounov insisted that he had bought his own ticket and was not a VIP. He also denied being a mobster, telling The New York Times that he had been indicted in the gambling ring because FBI agents "misinterpreted his Russian slang" on their Trump Tower wiretaps, when he was merely placing $20,000 bets on soccer games.
Both the White House and the Trump Organization declined to respond to questions for this story. On the few occasions he has been questioned about his business entanglements with Russians, however, Trump has offered broad denials. "I tweeted out that I have no dealings with Russia," he said at a press conference in January, when asked if Russia has any "leverage" over him, financial or otherwise. "I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. I have no loans with Russia at all." In May, when he was interviewed by NBC's Lester Holt, Trump seemed hard-pressed to think of a single connection he had with Russia. "I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago," he said. "I had the Miss Universe pageantwhich I owned for quite a whileI had it in Moscow a long time ago. But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia."
But even if Trump has no memory of the many deals that he and his business made with Russian investors, he certainly did not "stay away" from Russia. For decades, he and his organization have aggressively promoted his business there, seeking to entice investors and buyers for some of his most high-profile developments. Whether Trump knew it or not, Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling, and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they 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.
Semion Mogilevich, the Russian mob's "boss of bosses," also declined to respond to questions from the New Republic. "My ideas are not important to anybody," Mogilevich said in a statement provided by his attorney. "Whatever I know, I am a private person." Mogilevich, the attorney added, "has nothing to do with President Trump. He doesn't believe that anybody associated with him lives in Trump Tower. He has no ties to America or American citizens."
Back in 1999, the year before Trump staged his first run for president, Mogilevich gave a rare interview to the BBC. Living up to his reputation for cleverness, the mafia boss mostly joked and double-spoke his way around his criminal activities. (Q: "Why did you set up companies in the Channel Islands?" A: "The problem was that I didn't know any other islands. When they taught us geography at school, I was sick that day.") But when the exasperated interviewer asked, "Do you believe there is any Russian organized crime?" the "brainy don" turned half-serious.
"How can you say that there is a Russian mafia in America?" he demanded. "The word mafia, as far as I understand the word, means a criminal group that is connected with the political organs, the police and the administration. I don't know of a single Russian in the U.S. Senate, a single Russian in the U.S. Congress, a single Russian in the U.S. government. Where are the connections with the Russians? How can there be a Russian mafia in America? Where are their connections?"
Two decades later, we finally have an answer to Mogilevich's question.

Craig Unger is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the author of several books, including House of Bush, House of Saud.