The Russian-Trump Laundromat

Video excerpt of Brian Williams’ interview with Craig Unger, from his article in the New Republic, “Trump’s Russian Laundromat,” published 13 July 2017.

Unger’s research revealed Russian oligarchs and mafia clamoring to buy Trump properties in New York and Florida with many under FBI investigation for illegal gambling rings, prostitution and money laundering.

The “tower full of oligarchs,” as Bloomberg called it, became a model for Trump’s projects going forward. All he needed to do, it seemed, was slap the Trump name on a big building, and high-dollar customers from Russia and the former Soviet republics were guaranteed to come rushing in. Dolly Lenz, a New York real estate broker, told USA Today that she sold some 65 units in Trump World Tower to Russians.

The impetus to buy anything with the Trump name on it dates back three decades, says Unger. Dirty cash from Russian crime syndicates along with the largesse of Russian real estate developers brought Trump out of financial ruin to host The Apprentice, gain traction as a business success and launch his presidential bid.

Whether Trump knew it or not, Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling, and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.

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Russian Oil Comes To Florida – Part 1

The Itera/Areti Building in Jacksonville’s Deerwood office park. In 2017, Itera was bought out by the Russian state’s largest oil-producing entity, Rosneft.

In 1991, a married couple from Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia immigrated to the United States. They left their home on the banks of the Volga River to settle at another river city, Jacksonville, FL.

A few years after arriving, the wife Raisa Frenkel, was the named officer of a corporation, along with Jacksonville resident Theodorus Kavalieros. That business is the Itera International Energy Corporation, a rapidly expanding enterprise that many locals long-viewed as mysterious. During its 20-something year existence, Itera has produced a number of spin-off businesses. Today, it operates from a massive, Gothic style building in the upscale commercial district of Deerwood. Continue reading

Low Ranking State Rep Meets High Ranking Russian Official Over DPRK

On the morning of 4 April, North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. As news broke of this provocative incident, it was easy to miss a single tweet from the innards of the U.S. State Department. After all, world media was focused on the cryptic response from the Secretary of State.

“North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea,” Tillerson said. “We have no further comment.”

Yet, as Tillerson was issuing his “No comment” response, an uncelebrated foreign policy expert was en route to Moscow to talk with “Russian officials” about North Korea. Continue reading

The Terrifying Possibilities of the Presidential Pardon Power

Five days after Donald J. Trump won the electoral college vote, an attorney made a prediction.

Robert Kelner recorded that forecast. He now represents Lt. General Michael Flynn, the retired Army general, former Defense Intelligence Agency director under Obama and recently fired head of the National Security Agency under Trump.

Three months after Kelner made his projection, Flynn was outed for secret talks with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, exposed in his botched cover-up of those chats, and placed under investigation by the Army for possibly violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The general was accused of lying to VP Pence, accepting cash from the Russian government, violating protocol by negotiating with an adversary during Obama’s administration, and endangering national security as a blackmail risk.

But let’s return to that Kelner tweet and the many questions surfacing after-the-fact.

In the history of presidential pardons, there are few that fit a “novel and unusual” profile. The one that stands out is Ford’s pardon of Nixon in 1974 following the Watergate scandal. Nixon resigned before he was impeached and was not charged with a crime. Nonetheless, Ford took the extraordinary step of issuing a “full, free and absolute pardon… for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in…”

The situation today is similar but not the same. To duplicate Ford’s pardon, it would be Pence (not Trump) issuing the order. Thus, Kesler’s prediction would be off the mark in this instance.

What is possible is frightening. Trump could pardon attorney Kelser’s client even if Flynn is not charged with or convicted of an offense. This would equate to Ford’s forgiveness of Nixon. For that matter, Trump could issue all-encompassing pardons for anyone embroiled in the Russiagate scandal – with qualifications.

The pardon privilege granted to the president is sanctioned in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:

The President…shall have the power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

The president can only forgive federal offenses, including violations of civil and criminal laws. The second qualifier is that impeachment cases are excluded from the privilege.

Therefore, if Trump followed Ford’s precedent, he conceivably would have the power to forgive federal violations against Flynn, Paul Manafort and Carter Page. He could pardon VP Pence, Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Rep. Devin Nunes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell  – literally anyone caught up in the ongoing investigations of Russian collusion – even before they are charged with a crime. The two exceptions: these individuals cannot be impeached and Trump cannot issue pardons if he is impeached.

This scenario is indeed “novel and unusual”. The possibility exists that Trump and friends could wreak unimaginable damage to this country, knowing they have a get-out-of-jail-free card and a GOP-controlled House that shows no compunction to bring about the impeachment process.

The ramifications are terrifying.

The Internet. Our Election. And A Reminder: Stay Calm and Vote.

The concern over possible internet interference on Election Day is not a hoax. Major service providers (AT&T, Comcast, Time-Warner, Cox, T-Mobile, Direct TV, Verizon) along with online news sources (CNN), social media (Facebook, Twitter), entertainment (Netflix, Hulu), gaming and email communication providers have all suffered outages in the past several days. Continue reading