Writing

Piece 26; The Russian Connection Trump, Putin and the Buying of the Presidency By. Raimondo Graziano

The Russian Connection

Trump, Putin and the Buying of the Presidency

By. Raimondo Graziano

Written sometime after the 45th President’s Inauguration 

It is no secret, or wild fantasy that the current President of the United States and his connections with the Russian government, Russian business interests and moguls is raising eyebrows and questions on Capitol Hill and at dinner tables around the country as to whether the Presidency was bought by billionaire Donald J. Trump with the help of the Russians government; incentivizing the easing of sanctions for a hefty stake in what seems to be the only way the president knows how to speak – with his wallet. And a tremendous wallet at that. However, the web of connections tracing back years and linking the President with oil executives, high ranking members of the Russian government, and a reluctance to release his tax returns which would show a good deal of where his capital, investments and consequently conflicts of interest lie. However, over a month into his presidency and conflicts of interest, seem to be forgotten, or seldom talked about in the news cycle; and make no mistake,  the president and his administration know how to work the news cycle. Stories become non-stories within a matter of days, the public attention jumping and swaying from one scandal to the next, fabricated or otherwise.

To understand just how deep the President’s Russian connections, extend, it is important to understand that at its core, in all his dealings – the growth of his own wealth and those around him are paramount and take precedent before that of average Americans’, rather they are used as a tool to further advance his own agenda and the plans of those around him. His cabinet is cacophony of different actors, and players all with different hopes and ambitions that they’d like to squeeze out of this American nation. For the President, the growth of his wealth. For the Chief Strategist, Bannon, the deconstruction of the Administrative State, for Chief of Staff, Priebus, the advancement of conservative values – which there are many that have a grounding in logic, and are measured in their response to issues facing the country – though that is not how they are employed by so-called conservatives on Capitol Hill. They are beholden to their donors. Not to the American people. Not only must we as American citizens, those not on Capitol Hill, cease looking at ourselves and others as liberals and conservatives, democrats and republicans – things that divide, labels – rather we must look at ourselves as the American people, beholden to our neighbors, those not on Capitol Hill against the moneyed interests who care not for your families, or your well-being – but for the fattening of the pockets, and the lining of their inseams.

The story about to be woven will be a long one, so bear with me. While it is impossible to pin exactly how much the President may be in debt to particular companies or countries there are estimates based off of an ever-complicated tangling web of business interests and projects. Most notably the Bayrock Group – a chief financier of numerous projects headed by the real-estate mogul turned President and Blackstone, a company whose wealth management is linked to Russian business interests and the government of Russia itself.

It is being debated, though there is little evidence due to the reluctance to release tax returns, of the scale to which the President may owe Blackstone and Bayrock – those that have dealt with them in the past have likened them to working alongside organized crime, with owing favors coming in return for financial assurance. Adding to the interesting and compelling story is the Presidents work with Felix Sater, whose firm is Bayrock. The President has denied being aware of Mr. Saters past. Those that have worked with Sater, including former business associates, have accused him of threatening to kill them and he has been praised by top government officials for information that has led to numerous mob convictions and national security gains, both large and small, in his home country.

For context, the Russian economy is badly faltering under the weight of its over-dependence on raw materials which have seen a steep decline these last few years since the implementation of sanctions on the Russian government after its invasion of the Ukraine.  Exxon Mobil, under Rex Tillerson, brokered a deal with the Russian Federation in 2013 to lease over 60 million acres of Russian land to pump oil out of. That oil resource would go through pipelines in the Ukraine, who happen to heavily tax the proceeds; at that time the Ukraine was applying for admission into NATO, much to the discomfort of the Russian government for obvious reasons.

In a post-cold war world, the Russian government views expansion of NATO as a threat to its sovereignty, a defacto nation state, challenging Russia in Europe and increasingly Asia. The Russian President subsequently invaded Ukraine in 2014, securing the routes to export the oil tax-free by sea, by taking the Crimean Peninsula from by force. Now, after sanctions were imposed on Russia for the invasion, Exxon Mobil could only pump oil from approximately 3 of those 60+ million acres.

With Tillerson as our current Secretary of State, and the President expressing a desire to unilaterally end sanctions – though this seems to be on hold for the time being, given the forthcoming information regarding the deepening of ties between the campaign, and the president and the Russian government – it seems that both the President and Tillerson will profit from such a move. Tillerson received a personal award from President Putin for his business partnership with Russia’s State-owned oil company Rosneft. Rosneft, will make half a trillion dollars from that much untapped oil, all pumped tax-free through Crimea, forcibly and cunningly taken by the Russian government. Furthermore, Russia can’t affordably get at 80% of its reserves and reduce its per barrel cost to compete with the United States’ at $45 or Saudi Arabia at $39. With the lifting of sanctions, there is increased competition for the Russian government to compete. The President has spoken of reemploying Iranian sanctions, and ending the nuclear deal – a boon to Russian oil competitiveness, and revenue intake. Going further, ExxonMobil, which is in possession of patented extraction knowledge that could help the Russian government extract 45% more oil at a significant cost savings to Russia, however this is wholly inaccessible now due to American imposed sanctions. Now the question, what does the President of the United States have to gain from a strong Russia?

It is rumored and this is speculation, though with recent dealings between the campaign of the President and advisors within the administration and their meetings over the course of the last few years with notable Russians – one can’t help but wonder– it is rumored that the President of Russia offered then candidate Trump a significant stake in the Russian oil company, Rosneft – roughly 20%  – only if there would be an easing of sanctions, and a de-escalation of rhetoric, as well as significant NATO pullback – so one can’t help but wonder, given both his warm words towards the Russians, and inflammatory rhetoric towards a western institution the United States spearheaded – NATO.

Now, after the president’s election – a 19.5% stake in the Russian state-owned oil company was privatized and put into the possession of an unknown holder, probable a shell company. The question is who owns this stake? Could it be the President? And with the recent continuing revelations of his and others in his administration and their ties to Russia – the question only becomes more pertinent.

His second campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has ties to the Russians. According to Robert Reich, former labor Secretary: Information hacked from Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s daughter’s phone refers to “politically-damaging evidence” related to an alleged 2012 meeting between Trump and Serhiy Tulub, a close associate of Ukraine’s former president, the pro-Russian strongman Viktor Yanukovych. The text appears to come from Ukrainian parliamentarian Serhiy Leshchenko. Manafort confirmed the authenticity of the hacked texts from his daughter’s phone, and said he had received similar texts to his own phone from the same address appearing to be affiliated with Leshchenko.

His former, National Security Advisor pick (Lt Gen Flynn) has twice appeared on Russia’s RT propaganda news station, and was ousted over his alleged ties to the Russian government. Attorney General Jeff Sessions we now know met twice with the Russian ambassador, and lied, under oath to Congress regarding the matter. He has since recused himself from the possibility of an investigation into these ties. We know the President did not take well to this news, based on leaks from the White House as he left for Mar-a-lago last weekend. In regards to Mar-a-lago, another source of contention, due to the rising security costs that the United States government is paying to the Trump Organization for protection both at the resort, and at his tower in Columbus Circle.

The three Mar-a-Lago getaways, combined with the hundreds of thousands of public dollars spent on Secret Service protection during two international trips Trump’s adult sons have taken to promote their father’s business, cost taxpayers about $11.3 million over the first month of his presidency, according to the UK-based Independent.  Curiously, CEO of Blackstone has ridden on Air Force One with the President, and heads his Business Advisory Council – the same Blackstone that it is rumored he owes hundreds of millions to. Now with the possibilty of this stake in a Russian owned oil company, atop the United States paying the Trump Organazation security costs not only does the president possibly pay off his debts, he profits. This is all without even mentioning treason.

The President has shown a propensity for avoiding scandal, and deflecting it quite masterfully – from the release of his tax returns, to the conflicts of interest which were ‘resolved’ by transferring control of the organization to his two sons, hardly the recommended actions by the Office of Government Ethics. To insinuate that he would put his own wealth and interests of his family over that of countries is not a far stretch – he has shown that loyalty, and family mean a great deal to him. Yet he has no qualms about tossing aside members of his American family; his countrymen. The question of whether or not the actions of the President are in pursuit of greater monetary gain, at the cost of American security and influence abroad is a question of real concern – not only is he destabilizing the international community, but he is eroding trust in our institutions and if this is due to the influence and coercion of a foreign power, than that needs to be answered for. What are his motives? Could it truly, and simply just be greed and not those of one who would seek total rule? Regardless of party, regardless of political leanings, we are talking about the bedrock and foundation of our country and whether we fundementally survive the next four years. Make no mistake, the country and the world will endure far beyond this man’s presidency – whether eight or four years. However, how much we change is a question of great magnitude, and if not answered soon the United States as we know it and  the world as we know it, is headed for an immense period of shift and tumult.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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