Before the Fusion GPS Testimony fades from the News pages, crowded out by the latest, greatest Trump Outrage of the Week, let’s recap some its finer points …
Trump dossier testimony shines new light on the president’s perilous financial ties
by Kevin Breuninger, CNBC — 01/13/2018
[…] Simpson said, did secure Trump’s “tax bills,” from which it concluded “that his statements about what individual properties were worth were greatly exaggerated.”
That exaggeration extended to the Trump Organization’s golf courses. Simpson said that his firm’s review of public financial statements showed that “they were not profitable entities.”
“He knew him well [Felix Sater],” Simpson said, “and, in fact, continued to associate with him long after he learned of Felix’s organized crime ties.”
[…] Various fact-checkers at the time reported that there was no law keeping Trump from releasing his tax returns while under audit.
Shortly after Trump’s inauguration in January, White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway announced that Trump would not be releasing this tax returns at all. “We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care,” she said.
In a July 2017 interview with the New York Times, Trump warned Mueller not to extend the FBI’s investigation into his or his family’s personal finances. “I think that’s a violation,” he told the Times. “Look, this is about Russia.”
Even White House insiders know it’s the President’s shady finances, that will ultimately be his undoing. According to Michael Wolff, it’s an open secret there … “to a man”.
Wolff: WH officials think if Mueller targets Trump’s finances, ‘he’s sunk’
“People don’t think in the White House — don’t think that he colluded with Russia,” Wolff, the author of a controversial new book on the Trump White House, said during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“They do think that if the investigation goes near his finances, he’s sunk.”
[… Glenn Simpson: ]
As it happens, Felix Sater was, you know, connected to the same Russian crime family that was at issue in the Prevezon case, which is the dominant Russian crime family in Russia and has a robust U.S. presence and is involved in a lot of crime and criminal activity in the United States and for many years was the — the leader of this family was on the FBI most wanted list and lives openly in Moscow as a fugitive from U.S. law for a very elaborate stock fraud.
Q. Who is that individual and family?
A. The first name is Semyon, S-E-M-Y-O-N, the last name is Mogilevich, M-O-G-I-L-E-V-I-C-H. Mogilevich is sometimes referred to as the brainy Don because he runs very sophisticated schemes including, according to the FBI, involving natural gas pipelines in Europe, and he’s wanted in connection with an elaborate stock fraud called YBM Magnex that was took place in the Philadelphia area.
You know, Russian organized crime is very different from Italian organized crime. It’s much more sort of a hybrid kind of thing where they’re involved in politics and banking and there’s even a lot of connections between the mafia and the KGB or the FSB and cyber crime, things that the Italians sort of never figured out. Stock fraud in particular was the big thing in the U.S. In any event, all of that entered into my thinking when I saw that Donald Trump was in business with Felix Sater in the Trump Soho project and a number of other controversial condo projects.
Q. And what, if anything, did you conclude about the connection between and in the business dealings that then Candidate Trump had had with Mr. Sater?
A. Well, somewhat analogous to the Browder situation I found it notable this was something he didn’t want to talk about and testified under oath he wouldn’t know Felix if he ran into him in the street. That was not true. He knew him well and, in fact, continued to associate with him long after he learned of Felix’s organized crime ties. So, you know, that tells you something about somebody. So I concluded that he was okay with that and that was a troubling thing. I also, you know, began to — I keep saying I, but we as a company began to look at where his money came from and, you know, that raised a lot of questions. We saw indications that some of the money came from Kazakhstan, among other places, and that some of it you just couldn’t account for.
You know, we also conducted a much broader sort of look at his entire career and his overseas investments in places like Europe and Latin America. You know, it wasn’t really a Russia focused investigation for the first half of it. That was just one component of a broader look at his business career, his finances. We spent a lot
of time trying to figure out whether he’s really as rich as he says he is because that was the subject of a libel case that he filed against a journalist named Tim O’Brien for which there was quite a lot of discovery and litigation filings detailing O’Brien’s allegation that he was worth, you know, maybe a fifth to a third of what he claims and Trump’s angry retort that he was worth far more than that.
So we did things like we looked at the golf courses and whether they actually ever made any money and how much debt they had. We looked at the bankruptcies, how could somebody go through so many bankruptcies, you know, and still have a billion dollars in personal assets. So those are the kinds of things. We looked at a lot of things like his tax bills. Tax bills are useful because you can figure out how much money someone is making or how much they’re worth or how much their properties are worth based on how much they have to pay in taxes.
One of the things we found out was that, you know, when it comes to paying taxes, Donald Trump claims to not have much stuff. At least the Trump organization. So they would make filings with various state and local authorities saying that their buildings weren’t worth much.
Just a brief refresher, Felix Sater was the guy who emailed Trump’s Lawyer, with promises of getting “our boy in office” with the help of Putin. As reported by the NY Times, back in August 2017:
“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote in an email [to Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen]. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
“I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Mr. Sater wrote.
If Trump “hardly knows the guy”, why is he spamming Cohen’s email address with such bold claims, in the early days of the Campaign?
If Trump hardly knows this Putin ‘connected guy’ — Felix Sater — why was he in “Trump’s war room during election night”?
Back to the “Fusion GPS” Transcripts, and the temporary wall they hit using “conventional methods” to track down Trump’s “fabled” riches. From the transcript pages 77-79:
Q. And why did you engage Mr. Steele in May or June of 2016?
A. That calls for a somewhat long answer. We had done an enormous amount of work on Donald Trump generally at this point in the project and we began to drill down on specific areas. He was not the only subcontractor that we engaged. Other parts of the world required other people. For example, we were interested in the fact that the Trump family was selling merchandise under the Trump brand in the United States that was made in sweat shops in Asia and South America — or Latin America. So we needed someone else for that. So there were other things. We were not totally focused on Russia at that time, but we were at a point where we were — you know, we’d done a lot of reading and research and we were drilling down on specific areas. Scotland was another one.
So that’s the answer. What happens when you get to this point in an investigation when you’ve gathered all of the public record information and you’ve begun to exhaust your open source, you know, resources is that you tend to find specialists who can take you further into a subject and I had known Chris since I left the Wall Street Journal. He was the lead Russianist at MI6 prior to leaving the government and an extremely well-regarded investigator, researcher, and, as I say, we’re friends and share interest in Russian kleptocracy and organized crime issues. I would say that’s broadly why I asked him to see what he could find out about Donald Trump’s business activities in Russia.
Q. So in May or June 2016 you hired Christopher Steele to, as you’ve just indicated, find out what he could about Donald Trump’s business activities in Russia. Did something in particular trigger that assignment?
A. No, I don’t think I could point to something in particular as a trigger. I mean, the basis for the request was he had made a number of trips to Russia and talked about doing a number of business deals but never did one, and that struck me as a little bit odd and calling for an explanation.
And that “explanation” is the RED-Line, that Mueller dare not cross, as he was once warned by a marginally more rational Donald. Funny though, his Investigatory Authorization mentions no such restriction.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.