So many of Trump’s close inner circle of advisers and appointees have close ties with Russia, have met with Russian operatives and/or ambassador, or have lucrative business deals with Russian oligarchs, real estate or Rosnift (the Russian state owned oil company) that it’s becoming complex to keep score. Below is an informal list, with very brief descriptions of each player. (Strike-throughs indicate that this person has already resigned or been removed from their position.) This list is expected to get longer as more information is revealed about the Trump camp.
1. Paul Manafort: Trump’s one time campaign manager, Paul Manafort – was a longtime
consultant to Viktor Yanukovich, the Russian-backed dictator/ president of Ukraine who was overthrown in 2014. Manafort also has done multi-million-dollar business deals with a variety of notorious Russian oligarchs. Secret ledgers found in Yanukovich’s mansion in Ukraine contained references to $12.7 million in payments earmarked for him. Manafort initially denied ever working for Yanukovich, and vehumently denied receiving payments, before so much evidence came forward. According to The Hill, Manafort also helped Ukraine secretly pay US lobbyists. The NY Times report said that the party of former Ukraine president and pro-Russia ally, Viktor Yanukovych, had set aside the payments for Manafort as part of an illegal and previously undisclosed system of payments. ( Time Magazine has a good outline.) Evidently, Manafort went from installing the pro-Russia dictator to working to install a pro-Russia “president” in the USA.
2. Carter Page: Trump’s foreign policy adviser during his campaign, Carter Page has made
almost his entire fortune from investments and deals in Russia. He has “built a career on deals with Russia and its state-run gas company, Carter Page says his business has suffered directly from the U.S. economic sanctions imposed after Russia’s escalating involvement in the Ukraine. ” –Bloomberg Carter Page reportedly is close with Putin, and lectures in Russia often — and is known to “bash” the United States at paid speeches. In fact, he left the campaign later in the summer amid controversy over a speech he gave in Moscow in early July criticizing American foreign policy and sanctions against Russia. – USAToday Of course, he returned to Moscow after having to quite tRump’s team. NYTimes
3. Michael Flynn: UPDATE Flynn Resigned 2-13-2017 tRump’s appointed foreign policy adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, flew to Moscow last year to attend a gala banquet celebrating “Russia Today”, the Kremlin’s propaganda channel, and was seated at the head table near Putin.On December 29, the same day President Barack Obama announced more sanctions against Russia, Flynn was in contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Although he at first denied mentioning the sanctions, upon being shown transcripts from several intelligence agencies, he changed his statement to reflect that he “didn’t recall” discussing sanctions.
Yet, a dossier presented by top US Intelligence officials to Donald Trump alleges that through Flynn, the campaign made a deal with Russia:
..(The) Tump campaign agreed to minimize US opposition to Russia’s incursions into Ukraine in exchange for the Kremlin releasing negative information about Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. The timing of events supporting this allegation also lines up.” – Business Insider
4. Rex Tillerson – Until his appointment by tRump to Secretary of State, Tillerson was CEO of Exxon-Mobile, the largest oil company in the world, with the exception of Rosnift, the Russian state oil company. He personally brokered the largest oil deal in history – $500 Billion Dollars – between Exxon and Rosnift to drill in the Arctic. Exxon and Russia stand to make a fortune sanctions are lifted and they can resume drilling – which would be unimaginably tragic for our environment. Tillerson is reported to be very close to Putin, and was personally awarded by Putin, The Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia gives to a foreign citizen.
In fact, his close relationship with Russia is one of the major reasons Tillerson was selected to succeed Lee Raymond as CEO of Exxon () in 2006, according to Steve Coll’s book “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.”
Once he became CEO, Exxon bet billions on Russia’s vast but notoriously-elusive oil resources through a bold partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft. Putin himself attended the 2011 signing ceremony for the deal with Rosneft, which is majority owned by Moscow.- Money.cnn.com
More about this environmentally deadly, but extremely lucrative oil deal can be found on Reuters.
5. Wilbur Ross – Recently confirmed as US Commerce Secretary has been in a long –standing business partnership with Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire and Putin ally. The men worked together on refinancing the Bank of Cyprus, once a favourite offshore destination for some $30 billion in Russian wealth and the center of Russian money laundering.
“Cyprus banks have a long and painful history of laundering dirty money from Russians involved with corruption and criminality,” said Elise Bean, a former Senate investigator who specialized in combating money laundering and tax evasion. “Buying a Cyprus bank necessarily raises red flags about suspect deposits, high-risk clients and hidden activities.” The Russian business and government elite have often sought financial security in the Mediterranean island’s banking system. Oligarch Dmitry Ryvoloviev took a nearly 10 percent stake in Bank of Cyprus in 2010. Two years earlier, amid the U.S. financial crisis when real-estate prices were softening, Ryvoloviev purchased Donald Trump‘s Palm Beach mansion for $95 million. The transaction generated questions because of its inflated market price, about $60 million more than Trump had paid for the Florida property four years earlier. Esquire
The bank collapsed in 2013, and during its restructuring a large portion of its assets were converted into shares, ostensibly giving Russian nationals majority ownership of the bank. In 2014, Ross led a €1 billion takeover of the bank that offered Russian shareholders a buyout. In the process, Vekselberg’s Renova Group became the bank’s largest foreign stakeholder. All legal, yet completely corrupt.
Ross proposed a new 16-member board of directors in October that year that included six Russian businessmen as well as several former Bank of Cyprus executives. Ross was named a vice chairman as was Vladimir Strzhalkovskiy, who previously sat on the bank’s board and who reportedly served with Putin in the KGB in the 1980s. MotherJones
6. Jeff Sessions UPDATE 3-1-17 Sessions, a man who was considered too racist to become a judge back in the 1980’s is tRump’s pick to be Attorney General.(!) He reportedly met twice with Russian ambassador during the campaign, and lied to Congress about it. Stay tuned to see if he resigns, is fired, or if the GOP lets it slide. Incredulously, Sessions, as Attorney General, would be the person in charge of investigating the Trump team’s Russia contacts. UPDATE 3-3-2017: Sessions has “recused” himself from any investigation regarding Trump’s ties to Russia, but this appears to be an attempt to diffuse the many questions about his role in whatever cooperation seems to have happened between Trump team and Russia.
7. Michael Cohen– tRump’s personal lawyer is alleged to have hand-delivered a plan created by Andrey Artemenko, a far-right member of Ukraine’s parliament, to Trump – which included plans to lift sanctions on Russia. Artemenko said he met with Cohen and Sater at the Loews Regency New York on January 27, 2017 to tRump on the so called, “Russia-Ukraine peace proposal”. White House denied receiving the plan. – Business Insider
8. Jared Kushner – tRump’s son-in-law and senior adviser “smuggled” the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak into Trump Tower by the back door so that Kushner, Mike Flynn and Kislyak could meet without the scrutiny of the press. Kushner has long standing financial and personal relationships with Russian oligarchs, going back to his father’s empire building while expanding their real estate business. Kushner has his own contacts within Russia including Lev Leviev, diamond tycoon and a self-professed “true friend” of Vladimir Putin. He is a part of a triad of leadership advisers together with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon – and it seems highly unlikely that anything he does is not directly ordered by Trump.
9. Roger Stone – Hilariously, Roger Stone went on Russian Television to defend Russia from revelations that it hacked the DNC on tRump’s behalf – right before 17 intelligence agencies confirmed that this was indeed the case. He’s an outspoken racist, and unhinged conspiracy nut, like many on the tRump team, having often been interviewed on Alex Jones’ infowars. On January 19, 2017, The New York Times reported that American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are investigating “intercepted communications and financial transactions” between Russian officials and Trump allies Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page. The report notes that the “continuing counterintelligence means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him.” From The New York Times:
10. Jeffrey D.Gordon – The Trump campaign’s national-security policy representative for the Republican National Convention, has a military background, and has previously worked for Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Herman Cain. (In fact, he wrote an article arguing that Palin was smarter than President Obama.)
Gordon met with the Russian ambassador at the GOP convention, and told CNN on Thursday that he pushed to alter an amendment to the GOP’s draft policy on Ukraine at the Republican National Convention last year to further align it with President Donald Trump’s views.
J.D. Gordon insists Donald Trump himself led the charge in pushing for the platform change, and that Trump had been doing so since March of that year – four months before the convention. – Palmer Report
Gordon’s remarks represent a dramatic shift from previous comments, and they come as Attorney General Jeff Sessions faces intense scrutiny over two previously undisclosed meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the US — one of which was timed to the convention. – Business Insider