Into what Hell does Trump’s money trail lead us?

By Gary Kimsey

Follow the money.

The boldfaced sentence above was popularized by the 1976 docu-drama All the President’s Men where two Washington Post reporters chronicled the nefarious trickeries of Richard Nixon. In 2016, the sentence emerged again into our everyday lexicon when Donald Trump used it while campaigning against Hillary Clinton.

Gary Kimsey is a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor. Learn more about him…

In a classic twist of irony, it may now describe how Trump will be brought down.

The Trump-Russia Investigation has picked up the scent on a trail that may lead to shady, illegal international deals involving lots of money, Russia and Trump. Most Americans lack knowledge about international banking, money-laundering, bribery, and fraud. However, we’re rapidly learning—thanks to the news media’s ongoing coverage of Trump’s international business deals.

Some Americans ignore or could care less about Trump’s Russian connections. This is unfortunate for our country as a whole. It demonstrates a lack of thinking, reasoning, caring, and awareness among a segment of our citizens.  The Trump-Russia issue has the potential to be more adversely impactful upon the American psyche and self-worth than the Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s, Nixon’s ribald lying of the 1970s, and Bill Clinton’s sex scandals. On the other hand—for Americans who follow the Trump-Russian issue—it sometimes seems as if we’re wandering around with Dante through the nine concentric circles of Hell, the realm for those who have perverted “their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellow men.”

Create confusion: Trump knows an investigative journey into his finances is not good for him. His tactics to deflect the investigation have been of the same ilk as they were to avoid anti-Trump issues during the campaign and since the inauguration. When he wants to sidestep a topic, he relies on combative, nasty tweets and outlandish statements to change the national dialogue and redirect the public’s attention elsewhere.

Don’t forget to take the short poll at the end of this article.

As news gained ground in late July and early August about the Trump-Russian Investigation turning to Trump’s finances, the president suddenly steered us toward the brink of war with North Korea. He also crazily announced the possibility of using the U.S. military in Venezuela. He flip-flopped back and forth on the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacy related to the Charlottesville tragedy, and his inflammatory tweets and public proclamations switched the national dialogue to statues of Confederates and American heroes.

Learn more: This New Yorker article by Adam Davidson offers insights into money-laundering through international business deals and how Russia compiles extensive dossiers on businessmen like Trump with the purpose of blackmailing them at a later date. The article for the magazine’s August 21 issue is detailed and complex, and well-worth reading. The New Yorker illustration is by Oliver Munday; photograph of hand by Skynesher/Getty.

Trump also began a highly public Twitter offensive that attacked U.S. Senators in his own party for various issues such as the Senate’s inability to repeal and replace Obamacare. One attack began after Trump and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a profanity-laced phone conversation in which the president berated McConnell for not protecting him in the Russia probe. Next, Trump’s tweets insinuated that McConnell should resign over the Obamacare issue. Well, you get the point…Trump’s tactic is simple: Do what I say to stop the Russian probe or I will attack you on another topic.

Trump’s diversions serve two purposes. They appeal to many supporters in his political base. In addition, and more importantly for his own personal protection, they veer the public’s vision away from the money trail and such related issues as possible collusion between his campaign and Russians in the 2016 presidential election, a topic under scrutiny by the Trump-Russian Investigation.

Art of bad deals: Trump has a well-documented track record in the U.S. for defaulting on loans, business failures, bankruptcies, and deceptions. Years ago, almost every bank in the country started refusing to finance deals in which he was involved. “Trump has had a few successes in business, (but) most of his ventures have been disasters,” pointed out a 2016 Newsweek article which took an in-depth look at business deals he made over decades. “Call it the art of the bad deal, one created by the arrogance and recklessness of a businessman whose main talent is self-promotion.”

Without access to American financing, Trump turned to foreign countries for money for real estate and other deals: Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Georgia, India, the Philippines, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay. And Russia. One of Trump’s sons, Eric Trump, once admitted, “We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

Confused about all that has happened in the Trump-Russia issue? Check out a deeply comprehensive timeline detailing what actually happened and what’s still happening in the ever-changing story of the president, his inner circle and a web of Russian oligarchs, hackers and government officials. You can find the timeline on the website of newsman Bill Moyers: BillMoyers.com.

In contradiction to Eric Trump, the president’s lawyers have recently and artfully said Donald Trump’s Russia-related income in the last decade only includes $12.2 million for holding the 2013 Miss World contest in Moscow and $95 million from a Russia billionaire who in 2008 bought a Trump estate in Florida, property that only four years earlier Trump purchased for $41 million. The transaction with the Russian was tagged as the single biggest family home sale in the history of America. The Russian never lived there and the home has since been demolished. A good deal that fleeced the Russian? Or a good payoff for some shady deal? Or money laundering? We don’t know.

Most importantly, as a New York Times article pointed out in May, the revelation by Trump’s lawyers leave “other questions unanswered, including whether Mr. Trump or his firms received Russian income or loans from entities registered elsewhere or whether he derived income from Russian-linked partnerships that file their own returns.”

Trump has claimed time and again that he has never had business deals with Russia. He deceitfully crafts such statements so listeners think he means all and any Russians. But, if one reads between the lines and does the research, it becomes obvious he specifically means only the Russian government. It appears to be true, in fact, that he never has had a business deal with the government.

However, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t tried. On August 27, the Washington Post published an insightful article about Trump and his organization attempting to create a deal with a Russian bank—one that is largely owned by the Russian government—to build a massive hotel in Moscow. The effort went on in secret while Trump was a candidate in late 2015 and early 2016.

No, it has nothing to do with sex: The Trump-Putin romance is about money and quite possibly blackmail. This mural of Trump and Putin adorns the outside wall of a barbecue restaurant in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Painted by local artist Mindaugas Bonanu, the mural was unveiled in 2016 and quickly received international attention. Read the Washington Post article about the mural…

Trump and his organization have deep connections with foreign companies, countries, and oligarchs (business elites with close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin) strongly associated with and influenced by Putin and the Kremlin. As The New Yorker reported in its August 21 issue, some of these Trump partners have committed or are being investigated for money-laundering, fraud, illegal loans, and bank theft of billions of dollars.

Prevailing theory: The most common theory—which the Trump-Russia Investigation is following—is that Trump has profited through business arrangements with these Russia-associated companies, countries and oligarchs, and such arrangements are illegal under American and international laws. The other part of the theory is that Putin has secret information about Trump’s involvement in illegal deals. As a result, Putin has significant blackmail leverage over Trump.

The idea that Russia uses blackmail as a political tool is not new. The Russians have a name for it: kompromat. Putin and his government have craftily developed kompromat into a major component of foreign policy. They cultivate “marks” like Trump for years, enticing them with money and other promises, involving them in business deals and sometimes sexual opportunities. Remember the dossier about Trump and Russian made public earlier this year? (Read the dossier.) On August 23, the Senate Judiciary Committee spent 10 hours interviewing the owner of the company that commissioned the private investigation into how Trump was cultivated and used by Russia.

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Thus, our president dons kid gloves when it comes to Putin. Thus, Trump dismisses proof about Russia’s interference in the presidential election. Thus, Trump is Putin’s lapdog. Thus, America is in jeopardy; democracy endangered.

All of this, of course, brings us back to the Trump-Russian Investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller has assembled a formidable team of lawyers with expertise in criminal law, organized crime, money-laundering, racketeering, counterterrorism, cyber security, and foreign bribery. Not unexpectedly, Trump doesn’t like the team. On July 27, he tweeted, “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history—led by some very bad and conflicted people!”

Regardless of Trump’s views, the Mueller team will continue to focus on Russian connections. Trump will continue to try to discredit the investigation and change the national dialogue. Nonetheless, Americans have opportunities through news reports to learn more about the complexities and possible illegalities of Trump’s international business deals.

What is our role in this journey? Quite simply, we must not get distracted by Trump’s nasty tweets and wild statements; nor by the the Kafkaeque nature—the nightmarishly complexities—of Trump’s international business deals. There are layers and layers of shell companies designed to hide illegal transactions in these international deals. To make matters more complicated, Trump and his organization make it a practice to destroy records and sometimes keep a second set of secret books, as plaintiffs in some of the 3,500 lawsuits filed against Trump over the last three decades have discovered.

The most important action we can take at this moment is to keep abreast of news about his involvement with Russia and their associates. Read. Watch. Listen. Discuss. If the investigative trail leads to where many believe, put heavy pressure on our congressional representatives to vote for impeachment.

Whether Trump is proven guilty or innocent of collusion or other illegal activities, the Trump-Russian Investigation is a historic endeavor that will be discussed by pundits and historians for decades.

If innocence is on Trump’s side, we’ll face more of the same that we currently see under the Trump administration: an emboldened Alt-Right, more pollution of our air and waterways, tax incentives for the rich, fewer civil rights, and, among other things, less economic opportunity for many Americans.

If he’s guilty, well, then, we’ll have the opportunity to claw our way out of Trump’s purgatory and back into being a nation that is governed rather than ruled by hateful tweets.

Keep your eyes on the money trail.

 

Learn more: Read the following articles by respected media outlets:

Congress Forgets: Healthcare Impacts Real People, Real Lives

By Alan Vitello

My wife, Ann, is a pediatric physician assistant at a publicly funded community health center in Aurora, Colo.

She sees roughly 400 patients per month. That’s usually 20 to 25 patients a day. (Yes, you read that right.)

Alan Vitello is a writer and an award-winning cartoonist who lives in Colorado. Learn more about Alan…

Twenty to 25 children, poor children, immigrant children, refugee children, children with serious physical, psychological and emotional problems, foster children, homeless children, children from two-parent homes, children from single-parent homes, children who have been sexually abused, children who have been physically and mentally abused, children with fetal alcohol syndrome, autistic children, children whose mom or dad or mom and dad work three fast food jobs (each) to make ends meet, children who’ve gotten pregnant and don’t know why or how, children with sexually transmitted infections, newborns, toddlers, little boys, little girls, tweeners and teens, some children struggling with issues of gender and sexuality, sick kids, injured kids, children in for a well-baby visit and children in for a sports physical, children who speak English, children who speak only Spanish, children from Africa, and the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, and children from the good ol’ US of A…and on and on.

All day. Every day.

Think you could hack it? I’m pretty sure I couldn’t.

…and that’s to say nothing of the 12-hour days, and the up-late every night, sitting with the laptop, finishing patient charts, just to go to bed at midnight, to get up to do it again, tomorrow.

Like I said, think you could hack it? I’d like to see you try.

And guess what? She’s not alone. She has five very dedicated co-workers: pediatricians, fellow PAs, nurse practitioners who do the exact same thing, every day.

And that’s only the pediatric side of the house. The other side of the clinic sees adults.

The providers who see adults don’t see as many patients per month as the pediatric side does, but the problems they see can be exponentially more complex.

Complex because of age. Complex because of cultural issues. Because of language issues. Because of lack of insurance or lack of money. Complex because the patient is a refugee who has been in the United States a week and doesn’t know anything, like how to fill out a form in English or how to ride a bus to reach the clinic. Complex because poor people—because they may not have any insurance, or enough insurance, or because they may not have enough money—wait until a health problem becomes a health crisis before seeking help at the clinic. Complex because of domestic violence or substance abuse. Complex because of homelessness or transience. Complex because of joblessness. Complex because life is more complex when you are on the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder.

And this is only at Ann’s clinic.

The organization she works for runs or provides staff members to 20 clinics—from pediatrics and mental health to school-based clinics and family practice—all over the Denver metropolitan area. Twenty clinics providing basic healthcare to tens of thousands of people, every day, every week, every month, every year, year and year out.

That’s 126,700 individual patient medical visits in 2015 alone (to say nothing of mental health visits or pharmacy, wellness, substance abuse, or dental or school-based visits).

That’s 126,700 human beings depending on 535 people in Washington, D.C.—members of the U.S. Congress—to make a wise decision on health care that will have a profound and far-reaching impact on human lives, and the lives of their spouses and children and parents and…

My wife sees the REAL WORLD on her doorstep every, single day. Every day.

For Ann, and her incredibly dedicated and hard-working co-workers, “Healthcare” is not some wonky, abstract idea that people like Rep. Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, majority leader of the Senate, bat around to score political points.

It’s not about “winning.”

It’s not about “getting something done in the first 100 days,” just to say you did.

Nor about getting revenge on Barack Obama and his Democrat cohorts. Or about sticking it to Obama’s legacy.

It’s REAL. It’s living, breathing human beings. Real children. Real parents. Real circumstances. Real world. Reality.

When we stop talking about the “real” in healthcare we lose the thread. We lose the key that must drive the conversation.

Real people. That’s where it starts and stops.

Americans must demand members of congress answer these questions:

  • Which one, or ones, of Ann’s patients are you going to tell they can no longer afford care, or because of cuts to Medicaid, will have no prospect for care, at all?
  • Which ones are you going to decide are worthy enough, or lucky enough, to have the chance at life; their life, their real life?
  • Which ones would you tell that their chances have run out, because for you, “winning” is more important than “caring?”

With a straight face, I’d like to see members of congress tell them that “party” beats “compassion,” and “politics,” well, sorry, but that’s simply more important than common sense and common decency.
I mean really tell ’em, face-to-face. In person.

But, unfortunately, it’s likely not to happen until we make it happen. As we’ve seen in the last few weeks, many of our elected officials are avoiding meetings with concerned citizens; some have even ducked out of back doors when a town hall event got too tough with questions and comments.

Many of our elected officials have forgotten they have the power to impact real people’s real lives. Everyday in Ann’s exam rooms, and the dozens of other exam rooms, all over Denver, all over Colorado, all over the United States. Millions of real lives that don’t care about scoring political points.

Something to nosh on. Then contact your U.S. representative or senator to provide them your thoughts.