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What Really Underlies the Impeachment Decision to Acquit Donald J. Trump?

[The Republican Party in Congress and Their Ties to Russian Money and Foreign National Donations]

“I’m going to try and make people realize that in order to live the life they are living, they need to have democracy, and it’s being threatened.”

Elijah Cummings

The Republican Party in the United States Senate has just taken a dump on the American people (and that includes craping on that part of the electorate that voted Trump into office in the first place). In addition, the United States Constitution has just been shredded while the Republican Party has thumbed their noses at all of us with glee.

Along with our democratic principles, and our moral convictions of what is right and wrong, the country has just been unceremoniously screwed by the Republican Party. People are outraged throughout the country, and do you want to know why The Republican Party voted as they did?

Answer

The pro-Kremlin elitists in the United States Senate (like Moscow Mitch and Leningrad Lindsay) have both taken large donations of money from Russian Oligarchs in the past, and have now created the conditions that ultimately threaten the national security of the United States. Said simply, they have been bought by the Kremlin. Because of the insidious penetration of Russians and Russian influence in our elections, impacting policy as well as votes, our country is now in great danger.

They pushed their Russian-inspired agenda and they let all of us be damned in the process. These pompous ass cowardly senators will never be forgiven and should be brought up on charges of treason. We’ve experienced many dark times in our history and survived. However, this betrayal of the country by the U.S. Senate makes Benedict Arnold look like a choir boy. It makes every senator who voted to acquit Donald J. Trump an idiot whose malfeasance will go down in history. They sold all of us out for Russian money.

Vladimir Putin, and his ring of thugs, is now doing cartwheels over the Senate’s verdict to acquit the most degenerate misfit miscreant to ever hold the Country’s highest office. On February 5, 2020 Republican senators voted to acquit President Donald J. Trump of the impeachment charges of Abuse of Power (The vote was 52 to 48) and Abuse of Congress (The vote was 53 to 47.)

This reminds me of the statement made by President Roosevelt on December 7, 1941 in which he said “a day which will live in Infamy.” February 5, 2020 will now be famous for its infamy just like the attack on Pearl Harbor, or the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 or the infamous September 11, 2001 date when our country was suddenly and viciously attacked by radical terrorists from the Middle East.

The vote to acquit Donald J. Trump was a deviant act of social and legal irresponsibility. As most sociologists know, deviance legally defined is as much a product of the “rule makers” as it is the “rule-breakers.” In this case, Senator Mitch McConnell was the “rule-maker” and Donald J. Trump was the “rule-breaker.”

This bizarre and unholy alliance between the rule-maker and rule-breaker reminds me of a bad cop taking bribes from a drug dealer by making an alliance with the devil and accepting bribes.

Motivation

The corrupt decision of the United States Senate was motivated primarily by greed and monetary gains, personal self-serving motives (like ambition and hoping for increasing the probability of re-election). Another motive of the turncoats had was fear and cowardice before the dictator in the White House. Republican Senators manifested a cowardly fear of Donald J. Trump. Other alternatives rather than appeasing a dictator in the White House were never calculated or considered. Donald J. Trump has lost support in every state he won since 2016. Lack of thinking outside the box by Republican Senators will, in the long run, be detrimental to their goal of getting re-elected. Right now they are living in a fantasy world. However, reality will eventually kick them in the teeth and face.

Now that they have acquitted Donald J. Trump in front of the whole country, they will be, for seventy-five percent on the voting population, on their “shit list.”

This acquittal was done despite the case put on by the House managers that was extremely compelling, intelligent, complete, intellectually thorough, and at times spell binding and elegant particularly in the case of presentations by Adam Schiff. It was a superior piece of work showing great craftsmanship in the final product and procedures (i.e., the way they carried themselves in their duties, and produced viable legally relevant charges).

The White House council team by comparison relied on an abbreviated presentation devoid of substance, facts, document or witness testimony and used tired and old Ad Hominin arguments (character assassination) of no relevance to the job at hand. Distractions and asides were their strategy. Nevertheless, they failed despite being good lawyers of some reputation for good work elsewhere.

Why did they really fail? Trump often had conflicts with his own lawyers. But look at what they had to work with: An arrogant guilty President who possesses a narcissistic personality, a God complex, interwoven with an additional inferiority complex (thanks to his dad Fred Trump and Donald’s mother during bygone years).

In addition, his utter lack of knowledge and personal flaws make him mentally crippled to serve anyone except himself. Yet, his social perception of others left him with the erroneous belief that only he could run his own defense better than the lawyers. Remember when he said, “he knew more than the generals.” As they say, “a person, who wants to defend himself in court, as we all know, has a “fool for a client.” I don’t know exactly what went on between Trump and his lawyers, but rest assured the puppet master in the White House had his lawyers dangling on a string every step of his defense.

As mentioned above, tied in with the actual self-serving motivation of Republican Senators, was their underlying yet overarching motive for monetary rewards. The Republican led Senate just deep-sixed the principles of democracy, decency, and notions of right and wrong. Why? Because money rules people in Congress—make no naïve assumptions about that! Senate Republicans will throw anyone under the bus for a dollar.

Time does not permit me to fully discuss in detail types of direct evidence or circumstantial evidence, and how inferences are used or not used with either type of evidence. I’ll give you one hint. Lawyers know they can convince a jury when they have a lot of corroborating evidence, physical evidence or testimony and/or documents. There was a lot of corroborating evidence presented in the trial of Donald J. Trump. In fact it’s true. The evidence was really overwhelming, particularly witness testimony. Before John Bolton came forward the White House council said that the House’s witnesses didn’t have firsthand knowledge. Yet, when the chance arose to have at least four direct eyewitnesses, they then said no further witnesses or documents were needed. What a hypocritical argument that was.

Its counter intuitive I know, but “truth” is not what lawyers look for in criminal cases. One unethical technique they use quite often is to make a witness appear to be lying even though the lawyer knows the witness is actually telling the truth. It’s very similar to use of character assassination (attacking the witnesses) that was used in the impeachment trial by the White House defense team. This is because it is the jury’s responsibility to be triers of fact, not the lawyers. Why not the lawyers? Because winning cases is more important to them than “truth.” It is true (contrary to popular belief) that “truth is what we agree it is, nothing more and nothing less. But, one way to achieve agreement in a trial is to present the best evidence one can. Evidence of many kinds is used to get at the truth.

This is why the Republican Senators didn’t want any evidence at all. Evidence (particularly, witness testimony and documents) might lead to removal of their client, the President of the United States. That’s why the Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump was a fraud, cover-up or a judicial farce.

The jurors in the Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump were supposed to be triers of fact. Unfortunately, unlike jurors in a real criminal case, they just didn’t give a damn about the facts, the evidence or the truth. Personal desires for monetary and other political rewards resulted in the whole process being tainted from the very beginning. And one must remember, even before the trial began, Senate Republican Moscow Mitch declared he was working together with the defendant in this case. That’s like a jury foreman getting together with a criminal defendant and helping him or her to get away with the crime. If the public found out about the jury foreman’s behavior they certainly would make sure he too would go to jail. Evidently, senators play by a different set of rules.

Follow the Money

I mentioned in my last Blog that it is important to convict criminal offenders and many white collar offenders by following the money. I will share with my readers the laws of campaign financing. It appears that since Donald J. Trump took office there has been an easing of restrictions of campaign finance laws, making it easier to get foreign money for campaigning and personal slush funds.

Foreigners or foreign governments now influence whoever the hell they want. Russians can now buy politicians anywhere in the world, including the United States of America. What you’ll see below is the ways campaign financing laws were originally written. This will be followed by three articles.

The first article will be on foreign money in American politics by Brian Padden in U.S. Politics dated November 5, 2019. The title of the article is “Foreign Money Flows into U.S. Politics.” This will be followed by two articles by Ruth May for the Dallas Morning News. The first is dated August 3, 2017. The title of the article was, “GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia.” The second article by Ruth May was dated on May 8, 2018. The title of the article was “How Putin’s oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaigns.

 

Overview—U.S. Campaign Finance Laws

“Campaigns are prohibited from accepting contributions from certain types of organizations and individuals. These prohibited sources are:

  • Corporations, including nonprofit corporations (although funds from a corporate separate segregated fund are permissible)
  • Labor organizations (although funds from a separate segregated fund are permissible)
  • Federal government contractors
  • Foreign nationals
  • Contributions in the name of another

 

Under the category of foreign nationals we find several important restrictions dealing with Campaign Financing:

Foreign Nationals—Restrictions

Campaigns may not solicit or accept contributions from foreign nationals. Federal law prohibits contributions, donations, expenditures and disbursements solicited, directed, received or made directly or indirectly by or from foreign nationals in connection with any election— federal, state or local.

This prohibition includes contributions or donations made to political committees and building funds and to make electioneering communications. Furthermore, it is a violation of federal law to knowingly provide substantial assistance in the making, acceptance or receipt of contributions or donations in connection with federal and nonfederal elections to a political committee, or for the purchase or construction of an office building.

This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, acting as a conduit or intermediary for foreign national contributions and donations.

 

A person acts knowingly for the purposes of this section when he or she has:

  • Actual knowledge that the funds have come from a foreign national;
  • Awareness of certain facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that there is a substantial probability that the money is from a foreign national; or
  • Awareness of facts that should have prompted a reasonable inquiry into whether the source of funds is a foreign national.

 

Pertinent facts that satisfy the “knowing” requirement include knowledge of:

  • Use of a foreign passport or passport number;
  • Use of a foreign address;
  • A check or other written instrument drawn on an account or wire transfer from a foreign bank; or
  • Contributor or donor living abroad.

 

Definition of foreign national

 

A foreign national is:

  • An individual who is not a citizen of the United States, and not lawfully admitted for permanent residence (as defined in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a) (20)); or
  • A foreign principal, as defined in 22 U.S.C. § 611(b). Section 611 defines a foreign principal as a group organized under the laws of a foreign country or having its principal place of business in a foreign country. The statute specifically mentions foreign governments, political parties, partnerships, associations and corporations.”

 

US Politics

Foreign Money Flows into US Politics

By Brian Padden

November 05, 2019 07:16 PM

WASHINGTON – Untold amounts of foreign donations are flowing into America’s political system, with little accountability or limits.

Although election experts say it’s impossible to accurately estimate the extent of foreign financial influence over U.S. elections, many agree it has increased substantially since a landmark Supreme Court ruling nearly a decade ago opened the flood gates.

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporter’s on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, May 30, 2018.

Recent headlines have highlighted ways in which foreign donations can enter America’s political bloodstream, including the revelation that business associates of presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani were indicted for pumping foreign money into federal and state campaigns and political action committees.

But experts say that stopping the flow of foreign money into U.S. elections is hampered by legal loopholes, illicit financial maneuvers and ultimately a lack of political resolve.

 

WATCH: Foreign money plays a huge part in US elections

Ideological Divide Persists Over Impact of Foreign Money in U.S. Elections

Republicans and Democrats vociferously oppose foreign interference in U.S. elections, noting it is prohibited under federal campaign law and undermines the democratic process. But both parties reportedly have received foreign donations, either legally through American corporate subsidiaries, or illicitly through shell companies and political action committees (PACs).

How much, to weed out foreign contributions are ideologically-fraught questions. Advocates for transparency in government, for example, want to end privacy restrictions that allow anonymous donations to political action committees, known as PACs — non-profit organizations that advocate for political causes but do not work directly for a party or campaign. The shielding of donors makes it harder to detect foreign financial contributions.

“The more this information that’s sort of hidden behind closed doors, the less accountability we’re going to have in U.S. politics and the greater the opportunities become for foreign money and foreign influence to sneak in and affect U.S. elections,” said Ben Freeman, the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy in Washington.

But privacy advocates say forcing the disclosing of the identity of donors to political advocacy groups would do more harm than good. “We have documented evidence of people [whose donations become public] being fired from their jobs or companies not really wanting to fire them but feeling they had to because they were being boycotted or harassed. We have evidence of people being in some cases physically attacked,” said Brad Smith, the chairman of the Institute for Free Speech.

 

Trump focus 

President Donald Trump and some of his top advisers have been the focus of increasing scrutiny by Democrats and the Justice Department for purported ties to foreign money and influence.

Businessmen connected to Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani were recently indicted for funneling foreign money to federal and state campaigns and PACs that included the pro-Trump America First Action, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and a campaign committee for Pete Sessions, a former Republican congressman from Texas.

Prosecutors said two men, Ukrainian-born Lev Parnas and Belarus-born Igor Fruman, who helped Giuliani investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, conspired to pass along $1 million from an unidentified Russian businessman to various U.S. candidates.

These criminal charges from the Justice Department arose amid a congressional impeachment inquiry of Trump for prodding Ukraine to investigate Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The president denied knowing the Giuliani associates, even though a photograph has surfaced, posted last year, that showed Trump posing with one of the men at the White House.

Earlier this year, the Special Counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election found extensive “sweeping and systematic” interference that “violated U.S. criminal law”, but stopped short of accusing the Trump campaign of coordinating with the Russian government.

Bipartisan problem

Democrats have also come under investigation for foreign entanglements.

This month, American entrepreneur Imaad Zuberi plead guilty to making thousands of dollars of illegal donations in 2012 on behalf of  Saudi tycoon Sheikh Mohammed Al Rahbani to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.

Zuberi has raised millions of dollars for both Democrats and Republicans, and prosecutors said he has worked on behalf of several foreigners.

Gregory Craig, a former White House counsel for President Obama, was recently found not guilty after being charged with lying to the Justice Department about his work for the Ukrainian government. Craig maintained that his legal work in Ukraine never “crossed the line” into advocacy or lobbying that would require him to register as a foreign agent.

Shell game

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, has made it more difficult to track foreign backing for U.S. political activity. The 2010 decision barred the government from limiting political spending and fundraising by nonprofit organizations, including PACs. The result, say critics, has been a flood of “dark money” that is difficult to track in American politics.

“The American political system is at a historical high point in its vulnerability to foreign influence. There are just so many avenues for foreign money to have an impact on U.S. elections,” said Freeman.

Beyond financial contributions, the rising role of social media in U.S. campaigns also gives foreign powers new means to meddle in elections by funding and amplifying extreme or disruptive political elements.

Privacy advocates argue that the impact of foreign interference is being exaggerated by mostly-liberal groups seeking to limit the ability of conservatives to operate freely in the political realm.

“It appears that Russians spent a couple hundred thousand on Facebook ads [during the 2016 U.S. presidential election]. And this has triggered this massive effort to find out the source and to start proposing all kinds of new legislation that imposes significant burdens on American citizens,” said Smith.

Both sides of the political aisle agree more could be done to crack down on foreign nationals using American shell companies, which have no real business operations, to process illicit campaign donations.

Complex regulations can obscure the legal line between foreign and domestic donations. For example, American subsidiaries of foreign owned companies can donate to American campaigns. And American lobbyists can raise foreign funds while making U.S. campaign contributions, but are supposed to keep the two activities separate.

Experts say the ability of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to enforce campaign finance laws has also been undermined by gridlock and dysfunction in Washington. Trump has been slow to nominate, and the Republican-led Senate equally slow to confirm, replacements for vacancies at the commission, which currently lacks the quorum needed to make new rules and levy any fines.”

 

Dallas Morning News Article

GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

Party loyalty is often cited as the reason that GOP leaders have not been more outspoken in their criticism of President Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it’s because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

During the 2015-2016 election seasons, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

Marco Rubio’s Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million through Blavatnik’s two holding companies. Other high dollar recipients of funding from Blavatnik were PACS representing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at $1.1 million, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at $800,000, Ohio Governor John Kasich at $250,000 and Arizona Senator John McCain at $200,000.

In January, Quartz reported that Blavatnik donated another $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee. Ironically, the shared address of Blavatnik’s companies is directly across the street from Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York.

Len Blavatnik, considered to be one of the richest men in Great Britain, holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the U.K. He is known for his business savvy and generous philanthropy, but not without controversy.

In 2010, Oxford University drew intense criticism for accepting a donation of 75 million pounds from Blavatnik for a new school of government bearing his name. Faculty, alumni and international human rights activists claimed the university was selling its reputation and prestige to Putin’s associates.

Blavatnik’s relationships with Russian oligarchs close to Putin, particularly Oleg Deripaska, should be worrisome for Trump and the six GOP leaders who took Blavatnik’s money during the 2016 presidential campaign. Lucky for them no one has noticed. Yet.

Oleg Deripaska is the founder and majority owner of RUSAL, the world’s second largest aluminum company, based in Russia. Len Blavatnik owns a significant stake in RUSAL and served on its Board until November 10, 2016, two days after Donald Trump was elected.

Deripaska controls RUSAL with a 48 percent majority stake through his holding company, EN+ Group, and the Russian government owns 4.35 percent stake of EN+ Group through its second-largest state owned bank, VTB. VTB was exposed in the Panama papers in 2016 for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Vladimir Putin and is under sanctions by the U.S. government.

Deripaska has been closely connected to the Kremlin since he married into Boris Yeltsin’s family in 2001, which literally includes him in the Russian clan known as “The Family.” According to the Associated Press, starting in 2006, Deripaska made annual payments of $10 million to Paul Manafort through the Bank of Cyprus to advance Putin’s global agenda.

Len Blavatnik’s co-owner in RUSAL is his long-time business partner, Viktor Vekselberg, another Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. Blavatnik and Vekselberg hold their 15.8 percent joint stake in RUSAL in the name of Sual Partners, their offshore company in the Bahamas. Vekselberg also happens to be the largest shareholder in the Bank of Cyprus.

Another oligarch with close ties to Putin, Dmitry Rybolovlev, owns a 3.3 percent stake in the Bank of Cyprus. Rybolovlev is known as “Russia’s Fertilizer King” and has been in the spotlight for several months as the purchaser of Trump’s 60,000 square-foot mansion in Palm Beach. Rybolovlev bought the estate for $54 million more than Trump paid for the property at the bottom of the crash in the U.S. real estate market.

The convoluted web that links Putin’s oligarchs to Trump’s political associates and top Republicans is difficult to take in.

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Trump and Putin have a common approach to governance. They rely heavily on long-term relationships and family ties. While there have been tensions between Putin and Deripaska over the years, the Kremlin came to Deripaska’s rescue in 2009 when he was on the verge of bankruptcy by providing a $4.5 billion emergency loan through state-owned Vnesheconombank (VEB), where Putin is chair of the advisory board.

VEB, known as President Putin’s “pet bank,” is now in crisis after sanctions applied by Europe and U.S. in 2014 have isolated it from the international banks that were the sources of its nearly $4 billion in hard currency loans that, according to Bloomberg, mature this year and in 2018.

Russia’s international currency reserves are near a 10-year low, which has put further pressure on the president of VEB, Sergey Gorkov, to find sources of international rescue capital. Notably, it was Gorkov who met secretly with Jared Kushner in December at Trump Tower. Kushner’s failure to report the meeting with Gorkov has drawn the attention of the Senate intelligence committee that now wants to question Kushner about the meeting.

Ruth May is a business professor at the University of Dallas and an expert on the economies of Russia and Ukraine. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Twitter: @ruthcmay

CORRECTION, 12:11 p.m., August 7: The headline on an earlier version of this column incorrectly said Blavatnik is Russian. He was born in Ukraine during the Soviet era.

An earlier version of this column used the name Leonid “Len” Blavatnik. He changed his first name to Leonard.

The column has also been updated to remove language describing the online presentation of a press release about Blavatnik resigning from the RUSAL board because it lacked context.”

Ruth May wrote an update article for the Dallas Morning News that is worth reading because it gives a lot of information. It was written on May 8, 2018. The title of the article was “How Putin’s oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaigns.

How Putin’s Oligarchs Funneled Millions into GOP Campaigns

“Campaign finance reports show troubling connections between a group of wealthy donors with ties to Russia and their political contributions to Trump and top Republican leaders.

Editor’s note May 8, 2018: This column originally published December 15, 2017. New allegations about $500k in payments from a Russian oligarch made to Trump attorney Michael Cohen have placed it back in the news.

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team probes deeper into potential collusion between Trump officials and representatives of the Russian government, investigators are taking a closer look at political contributions made by U.S. citizens with close ties to Russia.

Buried in the campaign finance reports available to the public are some troubling connections between a group of wealthy donors with ties to Russia and their political contributions to President Donald Trump and a number of top Republican leaders. And thanks to changes in campaign finance laws, the political contributions are legal. We have allowed our campaign finance laws to become a strategic threat to our country.

An example is Len Blavatnik, a dual U.S.-U.K. citizen and one of the largest donors to GOP political action committees in the 2015-16 election cycles. Blavatnik’s family emigrated to the U.S. in the late ’70s from the U.S.S.R. and he returned to Russia when the Soviet Union began to collapse in the late ’80s.

Data from the Federal Election Commission show that Blavatnik’s campaign contributions dating back to 2009-10 were fairly balanced across party lines and relatively modest for a billionaire. During that season he contributed $53,400. His contributions increased to $135,552 in 2011-12 and to $273,600 in 2013-14, still bipartisan.

In 2015-16, everything changed. Blavatnik’s political contributions soared and made a hard right turn as he pumped $6.35 million into GOP political action committees, with millions of dollars going to top Republican leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.

In 2017, donations continued, with $41,000 going to both Republican and Democrat candidates, along with $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.

So is this legal?

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democratic leader on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News in September: “Unless the contributions were directed by a foreigner, they would be legal, but could still be of interest to investigators examining allegations of Russian influence on the 2016 campaign. Obviously, if there were those that had associations with the Kremlin that were contributing, that would be of keen concern.”

Under federal law, foreigner nationals are barred from contributing directly or indirectly to political campaigns in local, state and federal elections.

Should Blavatnik’s contributions concern Mueller’s team of investigators? Take a look at his long-time business associates in Russia.

The Oligarchs

Oleg Deripaska is said to be one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs, and he is founder and majority shareholder of Russia’s Rusal, the second-largest aluminum company in the world. Blavatnik holds a stake in Rusal with a business partner.

Further, nearly 4 percent of Deripaska’s stake in Rusal is owned by Putin’s state-controlled bank, VTB, which is currently under U.S. sanctions. VTB was exposed in the Panama Papers in 2016 for facilitating the flow of billions of dollars to offshore companies linked to Putin.

Earlier this year, The Associated Press reported that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, began collecting $10 million a year in 2006 from Deripaska to advance Putin’s interests with Western governments. Deripaska’s name turned up again in an email handed over to Mueller’s team by Manafort’s attorneys. According to The Washington Post, in the email dated July 7, 2016, just two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president, Manafort asked an overseas intermediary to pass a message on to Deripaska: “If he [Deripaska] needs private briefings, tell him we can accommodate.”

Viktor Vekselberg is one of the 10 richest men in Russia. He and long-time business partner Blavatnik hold a 20.5 percent stake in Rusal. (They met while attending university in Russia.)

In 1990, Blavatnik and Vekselberg co-founded the Renova Group for large-scale investments in energy, infrastructure, aluminum and other metals. One of their earliest investments was in Tyumen Oil Co. (TNK), founded in 1995. TNK is best known for its contentious partnership with British Petroleum after the two entities formed a joint venture in 2003. That rocky relationship ended 10 years later when they sold out to the state-controlled energy giant, Rosneft, under pressure from the Russian government.

As for BP, that pressure took the form of growing harassment and intimidation from Russian authorities who at one point, according to Forbes, refused to renew visas for BP employees, forcing BP’s joint venture chief Robert Dudley (who is now chief executive of BP) to flee Russia and manage TNK-BP from a foreign outpost in a secret location.

Vekselberg has connections to at least two Americans who made significant GOP campaign contributions during the last cycle. They are among several Americans who also merit Mueller’s scrutiny.

The Americans

Andrew Intrater, according to Mother Jones, is Vekselberg’s cousin. He is also chief executive of Columbus Nova, Renova’s U.S. investment arm located in New York. (FEC records list his employer as Renova US Management LLC.)

Intrater had no significant history of political contributions prior to the 2016 elections. But in January 2017 he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee. His six-figure gift bought him special access to a dinner billed as “an intimate policy discussion with select cabinet appointees,” according to a brochure obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Alexander Shustorovich, chief executive of IMG Artists, attempted to give the Republican Party $250,000 in 2000 to support the George W. Bush presidential campaign, but his money was rejected because of his ties to the Russian government, according to Quartz. So why didn’t the Trump team reject Shustorovich’s $1 million check to Trump’s Inaugural Committee?

Simon Kukes is an oil magnate who has something in common with Intrater. From 1998 to 2003, he worked for Vekselberg and Blavatnik as chief executive of TNK. Redacted CIA documents released in 2003 under the Freedom of Information Act said “TNK president Kukes said that he bribed local officials.” The CIA confirmed the authenticity of the reports to The Guardian newspaper but would not comment further. In 2016, Kukes contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund. He had no significant donor history before last year’s election.

There is no doubt that Kukes has close ties to the Putin government. When he left his job as CEO of TNK in June 2003, he joined the board of Yukos Oil, which at the time was the largest oil company in Russia owned by the richest man in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Four months after Kukes joined the board, authorities arrested Khodorkovsky at gunpoint on his private plane in Siberia on trumped up charges of tax evasion and tapped Kukes to be CEO. This decision could only have been made at the highest levels in the Kremlin. The arrest of Khodorkovsky rattled the nerves of international investors and was the first tangible sign that Putin was not going to be the kind of leader that global executives and Western governments had expected him to be when he first took office in 2000.

Khodorkovksy was given a 13-year sentence in a Siberian prison and served 10 years before being released by Putin in December 2013, a month before the start of the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, as a sign of goodwill. As for the fate of Khodorkovksy’s company, its largest oil subsidiary was sold in a sealed bid auction to Baikal Financial Group, a shell company with an unpublished list of officers. Baikal was registered at an address that turned out to be a mobile phone store in Tver, Russia. Three days after the auction, all of Baikal’s assets were acquired for an undisclosed sum by Rosneft, the Russian oil giant that went on to buy TNK-BP in 2013.

In total, Blavatnik, Intrater, Shustorovich and Kukes made $10.4 million in political contributions from the start of the 2015-16 election cycles through September 2017, and 99 percent of their contributions went to Republicans. With the exception of Shustorovich, the common denominator that connects the men is their association with Vekselberg. Experts who follow the activities of Russian oligarchs told ABC News that they believe the contributions from Blavatnik, Intrater and Kukes warrant intense scrutiny because they have worked closely with Vekselberg.

Even if the donations by the four men associated with Russia ultimately pass muster with Mueller, one still has to wonder: Why did GOP PACs and other Trump-controlled funds take their money? Why didn’t the PACs say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” like the Republicans said to Shustorovich in 2000? Yes, it was legal to accept their donations, but it was incredibly poor judgment.

McConnell surely knew as a participant in high level intelligence briefings in 2016 that our electoral process was under attack by the Russians. Two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement in October 2016 that the Russian government had directed the effort to interfere in our electoral process; McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings. The PAC took another $1 million from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings on March 30, 2017, just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey publicly testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s interference in the election.

And consider Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s campaign finance chairman. Could he have known that the Trump Victory Fund, jointly managed by the Republican National Committee and Trump’s campaign, took contributions from Intrater and Kukes? Mnuchin owned Hollywood financing company RatPac-Dune with Blavatnik until he sold his stake to accept Trump’s appointment as the Treasury secretary.

Which PAC officials are making the decisions to accept these donations?

 

The Supreme Court

The contributions are legal because the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling, Citizens United, and several subsequent decisions, allowed American corporations and citizens to give unlimited amounts of money to PACs and non-profit 501c4 organizations, regardless of how they make their money, where they make their money, or with whom they make their money. The only caveat is that PACs and non-profits cannot coordinate their activities with the political candidates they support.

The man who led the winning fight for Citizens United was David Bossie, president of the conservative non-profit since 2001. In 1996, Bossie was hired by Republican Rep. Dan Burton to lead an investigation into President Bill Clinton’s campaign fundraising. Burton fired him 18 months later for manipulating recordings of conversations among law officials and Webb Hubbell, a Clinton confidant who resigned as associate attorney general and pleaded guilty to tax fraud during the Whitewater investigation. CNN reported at the time that Newt Gingrich, who was speaker of the House, called Bossie’s tampering with the Hubbell recordings an embarrassment to the Republicans. Bossie served as Trump’s deputy campaign chairman.

The Super PAC, Make America Number 1, is primarily funded by Trump’s largest donor, Robert Mercer. His Renaissance Technologies hedge fund donated $15.5 million to the PAC. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, assumed control of Make America Number 1 in September 2016 and is now tainted by her role in the communications between Wikileaks and Cambridge Analytica, the firm that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hired for $5.9 million to handle the digital portion of the Trump campaign.

Robert and Rebekah Mercer are major investors in Cambridge Analytica. According to The Wall Street Journal, Rebekah Mercer asked Cambridge chief executive Alexander Nix if the firm could compile stolen emails related to Hillary Clinton so that they could be more easily searched. (This suggestion came from someone she met at an event supporting Sen. Ted Cruz, according to The Hill. Cambridge Analytica had worked on digital marketing for Cruz before he dropped out of the Republican primary.)

Nix confirmed that he had asked Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to forward the Clinton-related emails. Assange said he declined the request.

Rebekah Mercer also heads the non-profit Making America Great, formed in March 2017. The non-profit ran a seven-figure ad campaign highlighting Trump’s achievements. Bossie is the group’s chief strategist.

Erik Prince, brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, contributed $150,000 to Mercer’s Make America Number 1 PAC and another $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. Prince has recently testified to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about his trip to the remote Seychelles for a secret meeting in December 2016 with a close ally of Putin, Kirill Dmitriev, and head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. The purpose of the meeting was allegedly to setup a back channel of communication between then president-elect Donald Trump and the Russians, though Prince has denied this allegation. Before the 2015-16 elections, Prince’s political contributions totaled a mere $31,800 as far back as 2007, according to FEC records.

The hybrid super-PAC, The Committee to Defend the President, was formed in 2013 under the name Stop Hillary PAC. It is managed by Dan Backer, the lead attorney who won the McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission case in 2014. The Supreme Court decision eliminated the cap on how many wealthy individuals can donate to federal candidates, parties and PACs in a single, two-year election cycle.

Like Bossie, Dan Backer helped to open the floodgates to millions of dollars of influence brought to bear on incumbents and their political challengers who are now pressured to kowtow to their donors with the biggest bank accounts, even if their billions are earned in Russian rubles.

Backer was born in Russia and emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1978.

The changes to our campaign finance laws created an avenue for Russia to try to influence our elections. There are holes in our firewall and they aren’t on the internet.

Ruth May is a business professor at the University of Dallas and an expert on the economies of Russia and Ukraine. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Twitter: @ruthcmaygraphics by Michael Hogue/Staff Artist

Final Comments

     It is astonishing to know our Republican United States senators sold us out for personal self-aggrandizing motives centered on money, getting re-elected and power. They didn’t give a rat’s ass about your safety or your concerns of any kind. As they say, it’s true; ‘we have the best politicians money can buy.’ Senate Republicans and near-do-wells like House Republicans are the most despicable politicians on the face of the earth. I don’t say this lightly; the Republican Party prior to 1994 used to be worthy and was honorable.

The current Senate Republican “pack of wolves” has dishonored their country and their reputations forever; they have a perverted sense of values that are truly un-American. The hypocrisy and phoniness of Republicans, including the White House Defense Team, reeks of shame in their attempt to shield the paper tiger in the White House.

During the trial the White House defense team said how important it was to protect the voter’s 2016 decision to vote for the President. Impeaching Donald J. Trump somehow violated the sanctity of their right to vote. Since the Republican Party routinely cheats the American voter through voter suppression sponsored programs, and the gerrymandering process, those topics never came up in the discussions during the trial—now did they?

More than Donald J. Trump was on trial during his impeachment hearing in the United States Senate. Truth and character were also on trial. Consequently, because of their decision, democracy is now dead in the United States. The Constitutional Republic is no more.

To all the Republicans in the land and especially conservative Republicans I want to say two things from the bottom of my heart: Fuc# Yo# and May God have mercy on your soul if you have one!!!

Republicans may fear the wrath of Donald J. Trump. But what they really should fear is the wrath of the American people. If he gets to November 2020 he’s going down.

In the meantime more impeachment charges should be leveled against Donald J. Trump, particularly from the Mueller Report. And newspapers like the Washington post should publish all secret interviews, but from reliable sources, like insiders currently in the Trump Administration. Other newspapers like The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and many others should hover over Trump from now on “like a fly on do-do.”

Republican Senators should be further investigated for taking any bribes, both foreign and domestic. As Donald J. Trump said recently in reference to U. S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, “She will be going through some things.” Senate Republicans can now count on one thing in the future: “They too will be going through some things.” And, they damn well deserve everything that will happen to them. What a God damn disgrace they are!!!

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