Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Follow the Money

The big news today is that Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey in an attempt to thwart the investigation into Trump's Russia connections, literally the day before Trump met with his Russian handlers, Sergei Kislyak and Sergei Lavrov.

It really seems like Trump fired Comey -- who had just requested additional resources to investigate Trump -- on orders from the Sergeis, and then met with them to receive further instruction. It's like an episode of The Americans.

But that isn't the really big news. That's the fact that the Senate committee investigating Trump's Russian connections has requested financial information from Treasury:
Senate Russia investigators have sent a request to the Treasury Department's criminal investigation division for any information related to President Donald Trump, his top officials and his campaign aides, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee told CNN Tuesday.

"We've made a request, to FinCEN in the Treasury Department, to make sure, not just for example vis-a-vis the President, but just overall our effort to try to follow the intel no matter where it leads," Sen. Mark Warner told CNN. "You get materials that show if there have been, what level of financial ties between, I mean some of the stuff, some of the Trump-related officials, Trump campaign-related officials and other officials and where those dollars flow -- not necessarily from Russia."
Back in the Watergate days the phrase "follow the money" took on mythic significance. Nixon was taken down because Woodward and Bernstein followed the money.

It turns out that Deep Throat didn't actually use that phrase -- that was poetic license for the movie. But the Senate investigation could well be the beginning of the end of the road for Trump's presidency.

Trump has a long history of taking lots of money from Russian oligarchs. It now seems quite probable that Trump has been laundering money for Russian oligarchs for decades, taking payments for various pieces of real estate that far exceed their actual value -- like the mansion in Florida Trump sold to the Potash King, Dmitri Rybolovlev.

This is the real reason Trump has categorically refused to release his tax returns -- there's probably evidence of the quid pro quos that will reveal Trump's money laundering for the Russians.

It would normally take a very long time to tease this information out from the hundreds of shell corporations Trump created to obscure his shenanigans. But it seems likely that the investigation will find something sooner rather than later: Trump paid a $10 million fine in 2015 for not instituting money-laundering controls at his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

What a coincidence that the man who says he never settles settled for a $10 million fine just before starting his campaign for president!

Now that investigators know that the Russians are likely the people whose money Trump's casino laundered, we may have a whole bunch of congressional hearings into a president's criminal activities, making it seem like the summer of '73 all over again.

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