The White House / Flickr trump family balcony...
The White House / Flickr

Buried in a long Forbes magazine article about Trump’s various conflicts of interest is this tidbit:

In May the prime minister of Georgia made a visit to the White House, where, according to two of Trump’s former business partners, the president asked about his old project in the former Soviet republic. —…

So President Trump, while in the Oval Office, while representing the United States, pressed a foreign head of state about a personal business deal. That is about as clear a conflict of interest as you could imagine.

Keep in mind, Trump is supposed to have recused himself from all such business dealings, leaving them up to his sons.

The New Yorker reported on this Georgian “deal” extensively last August, and the cast of characters involved is colorful. They include a former chairman of a Khazakh bank who is accused of embezzling several billion dollars from the bank. The family of Khazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev is involved, as is their ultimate political patron, Vladimir Putin.

One foreign deal, a stalled 2011 plan to build a Trump Tower in Batumi, a city on the Black Sea in the Republic of Georgia, has not received much journalistic attention. But the deal, for which Trump was reportedly paid a million dollars, involved unorthodox financial practices that several experts described to me as “red flags” for bank fraud and money laundering; moreover, it intertwined his company with a Kazakh oligarch who has direct links to Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. As a result, Putin and his security services have access to information that could put them in a position to blackmail Trump. —…

Of course, the con-men who populate the Trump family businesses are both brazen enough and foolish enough to ignore all signs of risk, both financial and legal. Heck, Trump even tweeted about his Oval Office meeting.

Ross Delston, a prominent anti-money-laundering attorney in Washington, D.C., told me that, if one of his clients approached him with the possibility of entering a licensing relationship with the people involved in the Batumi deal, he “would tell him not to walk away but to run away—to run like hell.” He explained, “There are too many aspects of the deal that don’t make sense, and there’s no way, as an outsider, that you could conduct sufficient due diligence to figure out if it is criminal.” —…

Perhaps belatedly recognizing the risks involved, Trump and his lawyers have become increasingly agitated about scrutiny of their business dealings in Georgia.

President Donald Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow recently told me that the investigation being led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the Justice Department, should focus on one question: whether there was “coördination between the Russian government and people on the Trump campaign.” Sekulow went on, “I want to be really specific. A real-estate deal would be outside the scope of legitimate inquiry.” If he senses “drift” in Mueller’s investigation, he said, he will warn the special counsel’s office that it is exceeding its mandate. The issue will first be raised “informally,” he noted. But if Mueller and his team persist, Sekulow said, he might lodge a formal objection with the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who has the power to dismiss Mueller and end the inquiry. President Trump has been more blunt, hinting to the Times that he might fire Mueller if the investigation looks too closely at his business dealings. —…

These threats are tactics Trump learned from McCarthy-aide, character-assassin, and bully Roy Cohn. Cohn is the lawyer who convinced the Trumps to counter-sue the Justice Department in the 1970s when they were accused of housing discrimination. Cohn would routinely threaten to sue anyone who opposed him, and taught Trump to:

  1. Never settle, never surrender.
  2. Counter-attack, counter-sue immediately.
  3. No matter what happens, no matter how deeply into the muck you get, claim victory and never admit defeat. —…

This playbook intimidates enough people to allow you to get away with a lot. It also slows down those who aren’t intimidated, as they doubt themselves and check, cross-check their information. This is why Trump repeatedly threatens and maligns everyone who opposes him.

Trump has reportedly grown irritated with the follow-the-money approach Mueller has taken to the investigation. But it is easy to imagine why Trump’s loans, debts, and business empire — which has benefited from money flowing out of Russia — would warrant Mueller’s scrutiny as he tries to trace the origins of Russia’s interest in the Trump campaign and determine whether Moscow holds any leverage over Trump or his associates. —…

Roger Stone also learned many of these techniques while working for Richard Nixon. He was later coached by Roy Cohn and used the same bullying tactics while working on Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. It was during this campaign that Stone first came into contact with Donald Trump.

Here’s the problem with these tactics, virtually all the people who employed them, Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon and Roy Cohn, eventually saw their careers and reputations destroyed. But not before they’d caused immense harm to many others.

— @subirgrewal

Sign up for the Trump Impeachment newsletter.

Liked it? Take a second to support Associate Editor on Patreon!

This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here