Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Do Trump's Murky Financial Ties to Russia Connect to Money Laundering? Wednesday April 26th, 2017 at 5:14 PM




Do Trump's Murky Financial Ties to Russia Connect to Money Laundering?

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aluxum/Getty
Federal investigators continue to dig into Russia's cyberattack on the US election and the Trump administration's possible involvement—but as bad as that intrusion and collusion may be, Trump's opaque financial dealings could prove even more perilous for the president.
Trump has blazed a decades-long trail of questionable financial dealings with Russian sources that could provide investigators with the grist they need for legal action. A wide array of Russian oligarchs with links to Vladimir Putin have invested tens of millions of hard-to-explain dollars in Trump properties. And Trump professes never to know who these people are or where they got the big bucks for their mostly cash deals.
Court cases and other legal documents show Trump and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.
Money laundering is the process of taking proceeds from criminal activity (dirty money) and making them appear legal (clean). Although the news didn't make much of a splash during the 2016 campaign, Trump paid a $10 million fine to the U.S. Treasury in 2015 for his bankrupt Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City because it failed to meet anti-money-laundering requirements. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Regulators said the casino failed to establish and implement an effective anti-money-laundering program, failed to implement an adequate system of internal controls, and failed to properly file currency transaction reports or keep other required records."
It is already a matter of public record that several Trump-affiliated businesses and associates are connected to alleged Russian money-laundering operations.

Banks

Many of Trump's business dealings involve Deutsche Bank or the Bank of Cyprus—both known for their connections with Russian oligarchs. Deutsche Bank is also Trump's biggest lender; he owes the bank some $300 million, as first reported by Mother Jones' Russ Choma and David Corn. The Guardian reported that Deutsche Bank paid $630 million in fines for failing to prevent $10 billion in Russian money laundering between 2012 and 2015.
The Bank of Cyprus is also well known as a money-laundering haven for Russian oligarchs. Trump's Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has invested heavily in the Bank of Cyprus (some $424 million in 2014, giving him an 18% stake) and he was once vice-chairman of the bank, according to the Guardian. Ross presided over deals that raise questions about his tenure at the bank and his ties to politically connected Russian oligarchs.
Ross shared his vice-chairman post at the bank with a deposit holder-turned-shareholder, Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, referred to in Russian media as a former KGB official and Putin ally.

Russian Oligarchs

The Washington Post has described Trump's 30-year history of business dealings with Russian oligarchs and government officials, which began when there was still a Soviet Union. "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets," Trump's son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. "We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."
"You're looking for transactions that are unusually or unnecessarily complicated, and make no business sense," said a former DOJ official.
According to an investigation by USA Today, wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics invested extensively in Trump's real estate developments over the years. Court cases and other legal documents show President Trump and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering, including:
  • Felix Sater, a major player in the Bayrock group that developed the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York and a twice-convicted felon who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man. Sater later scouted for Trump investments in Russia.
  • Alexander Mashkevich, a Kazakh mining billionaire,was another source of funds for Bayrock financing and the SoHo project, and was accused by Belgian authorities in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme.
  • Anatoly Golubchik, Vadim Trincher and Michael Sall are three owners of Trump condos in Florida and Manhattan who were accused in federal indictments of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia.
  • Viktor Khrapunov, a former Kazakhstan energy minister and mayor of Almaty, owns three units in the Trump SoHo through shell companies and was accused in a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in 2014 of hiding millions of dollars looted from his city, some of which was spent on three Trump SoHo units.
  • Peter Kiritchenko, a Ukrainian owner of two Trump condos in Florida, who was indicted in a money-laundering scheme involving a former prime minister of Ukraine.
According to USA Today, such dealings with Russian oligarchs concern law enforcement because many are suspected of corrupt practices intertwining Russia's business elite, government security services and criminal gangs. Real estate in London, New York and Miami is an attractive option for parking stolen money.
Besides banks and oligarchs, many of Trump's Russian transactions involve various shell companies– the kinds of business deals that attract law enforcement's attention.
"You're looking for transactions that are unusually or unnecessarily complicated, and make no business sense," a former Justice Department official told McClatchy recently. "In general, if someone is conducting transactions in a complicated way, using shell corporations, using offshore bank accounts or using accounts in countries where they otherwise aren't doing any business, it suggests that there may be a motive to conceal of disguise something."

Paul Manafort

McClatchy and the New York Times have both written about the convoluted financial transactions of Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman who was let go last August because of questions about his financial dealings.
According to McClatchy, "The FBI, Justice Department and Treasury Department are examining whether any of Manafort's millions of dollars in consulting income from pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs were laundered from corrupt sources, whether he properly disclosed all his foreign bank accounts each year to the U.S. government and whether he paid taxes on all foreign income," two sources familiar with the inquiry said.
The day Manafort left the Trump campaign he created a shell company that he controlled that soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Trump.
Between 2006 and 2007, Manafort paid nearly $8 million in cash for three high-end homes, including a $3.7 million condominium in New York's Trump towers, McClatchy reported. In some cases he used shell companies and corporate names for the purchases. Manafort also reportedly had some 10 businesses and 15 bank accounts in Cyprus.
Manafort has not yet registered as a foreign agent, although the New York Times says he is now considering registering retroactively for his lobbying work on behalf of a pro-Russian government in Ukraine. He has not been charged with money laundering and he has defended his use of offshore accounts and his other business transactions as perfectly normal.
The Times also reported that the day Manafort left the Trump campaign (August 19th) he created a shell company that he controlled that "soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Mr. Trump, including one that partners with a Ukrainian-born billionaire and another led by a Trump economic adviser."
Russian financial ties to Trump are a complex picture that will keep investigators busy for a long time trying to unravel normal business practices from potentially illegal dealings. But one thing is already crystal clear: Trump was lying when he said last summer, as quoted by CNN: "No, I have nothing to do with Russia. How many times do I have say that? I have nothing to do with Russia."
Read the whole story

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Yates, Clapper To Testify In Open House Hearing On Russian Election Meddling : The Two-Way : NPR

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Then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., in 2016. Yates is scheduled to appear before the House committee on May 8. Pete Marovich/Getty Images hide caption
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Then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., in 2016. Yates is scheduled to appear before the House committee on May 8.
Pete Marovich/Getty Images
Two Obama administration officials will testify in an open hearing before the House Intelligence Committee as part of ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia attempted to help Donald Trump win the election. Investigations by the House, Senate and FBI are examining what exactly Russia did and whether the Trump campaign was involved, among other questions.
Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are scheduled to appear before the House committee on May 8.
White House Says It Didn't Interfere, But Will Russia Hearings Ever Get Going?
It's a long-delayed hearing. Yates and Clapper, along with former CIA Director John Brennan, were originally scheduled to testify in late March, but those plans were scuttled amid a simmering soap opera of distrust and missteps within the House committee.
Yates, specifically, was at the center of one portion of the drama: Multiple sources accused the White House of attempting to block her from testifying.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House committee, told NPR that the Trump administration worked behind the scenes to stop Yates' testimony. He said White House officials were worried about what she'd reveal about the administration's response when Yates told them about the investigation into Michael Flynn. (Flynn briefly served as national security adviser, resigning after it was revealed he'd concealed his contacts with the Russian ambassador.)
The Washington Post also reported that the White House tried to block Yates from testifying. The newspaper published letters exchanged by the Justice Department and Yates' lawyer, in which the Justice Department says Yates' communications are "likely" covered by executive privilege, which would mean it is up to the president whether they are disclosed.
The Trump administration has denied putting pressure on the House investigation and called the Post story "entirely false."
Yates and Clapper aren't the only high-profile witnesses appearing before the investigation.
FBI Director James Comey and National Security Adviser Mike Rogers — who already testified at an open hearing last month — will also appear before the committee in a closed hearing on May 2.
A number of Trump campaign members, including Roger Stone, Carter Page and Paul Manafort, have volunteered to give testimony. Flynn has suggested he will testify if he's given immunity from prosecution. All those men have been under scrutiny over ties to Russia.
'Unmasking' 101: The Next Chapter In The Trump-Russia Imbroglio
As part of the investigation into Russian meddling, Republicans on the House committee are also extremely interested in a different set of issues: who leaked classified information about ties between the Trump team and Russia, who requested that names of Trump associates be "unmasked" and whether intelligence was abused for political purposes.
Trump Embraces One Of Russia's Favorite Propaganda Tactics — Whataboutism
Some Republicans on the committee are likely to pursue that line of questioning during the testimony of the Obama administration officials.
Meanwhile, there are reports, citing anonymous sources, that the Senate Intelligence Committee's parallel investigation into Russian meddling efforts is stagnating.
The Senate investigation, unlike the House investigation, is taking place almost entirely behind closed doors.
Tim Mak of The Daily Beast reports that there are no full-time staff members working on the Senate inquiry and that "no interviews have been conducted with key individuals."
And Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News reports that the committee "has yet to issue a single subpoena for documents," in addition to failing to interview any central witnesses.
Read the whole story

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James Comey’s Influence on the Election

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ELLIOTT B. JACOBSON
SCARSDALE, N.Y.
To the Editor:
Even if the F.B.I. finds that there was Russian influence on the 2016 election, no one is reasonably suggesting that the Russians somehow hacked voting machines (which are not connected to the internet) or altered vote counts. No one is suggesting that the Hillary Clinton campaign emails that the Russians may have passed to WikiLeaks were not authentic or were in any way altered.
So, at worst, the Russians may have made available to American voters true and accurate information about Mrs. Clinton that may indeed have influenced votes. Of course, none of this would had happened had Mrs. Clinton and her staff been more responsible with email security.
STANLEY MOGELSON
PHILADELPHIA
To the Editor:
No matter his intentions, James Comey’s actions helped enable Donald Trump’s victory. Now, by vigorously pursuing the F.B.I.’s investigations into the relationships between Mr. Trump, his campaign and Russian intelligence agencies, he could help enable Mr. Trump’s impeachment. Poetic justice?
DAVID HILL, MILL VALLEY, CALIF.
To the Editor:
As your article noted, President Barack Obama was reluctant to go public with the news that it had been determined that the Russians were trying to influence the election. And then Attorney General Loretta Lynch could have issued an order forbidding James Comey to go public with the news of the reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton but did not. The explanation for this was that the administration did not want to be perceived as interfering in the election in a partisan manner.
This contrasts sharply with what we have gotten from Republicans over the years, as they are not above using any dirty trick necessary to win — from the 2000 presidential election, when the vote recount in Miami was interrupted by Republican rioters, to the Republican effort to suppress voters in the guise of preventing voter fraud. The Republicans have not had to pay a price for that and now control all three branches of government.
DOUG GERBER, NEW YORK
Continue reading the main story
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Sarin in Syria - Google Search

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Trump's 'huge tax cut for the rich' would slash taxes for businesses and wealthy

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Administration officials were short on details of the plan that, if passed, would be the largest overhaul of the US tax system since the Reagan era
The Trump administration unveiled what it called the biggest tax cuts “in history” on Wednesday, in a move that will simplify the US tax system, slash taxes for businesses large and small – including his own – eliminate inheritance taxes and set the president on a collision course with Congress over the likely $2tn-plus cost of the proposal.
Critics immediately called it “basically a huge tax cut for the rich”.
Continue reading...

Trump reveals tax plan, hides tax returns 

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Got a minute? As Trump moves to change the tax code… ‘the president has no intention’ of releasing tax returns… North Korea briefing for senators… and everything today in US politics. By Tom McCarthy
Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, both former Goldman Sachs executives, unveiled Donald Trump’s tax plan, which they touted as “the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country”.
The tax plan would slash taxes on corporations and allow owner-operated businesses such as the Trump organization to significantly reduce their tax burdens. But what will Congress think of it? The plan was sketchy, with few details.
White House one pager on this. Not mentioned: the deficit pic.twitter.com/DzvCTCxd4i
The president has no intention, the president has released plenty of information, and I think has given more financial disclosure than anybody else.
– Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, on whether the president will release his tax returns
It might take just a minute to catch up on the latest politics news. But good journalism takes time and costs money. If you like the Guardian’s politics coverage, please consider joining us by becoming a member for only $6.99 a month. Thanks for reading!
In an unusual field trip, senators piled onto two tour buses for a trip to the White House, where they had been promised a North Korea briefing, which was criticized afterward as rather thin. “I’m not sure I would have had it,” the foreign relations chairman said.
If you look closely there's duct tape holding the window down on the back of this bus filled with US Senators headed to the WH: pic.twitter.com/eH3fUjzTBe
Paul Ryan strategy is waiting for Pence to get sworn in as President... pic.twitter.com/DwaMg5gEtg
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our @FLOTUS, Melania! https://t.co/rYYp51mxDQ pic.twitter.com/np7KYHglSv
Always inspired by your powerful contributions @Beyonce. You are a role model for us all. Thank you for investing in our girls. pic.twitter.com/kuXDdYz6JV
Continue reading...
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Trump Has A Red Desk Button, But It Doesn't Do What You'd Expect 

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Ellen Page Examines What Trump Means For The LGBTQ Community 

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Trump Has 'No Intention' Of Releasing His Tax Returns, Treasury Secretary Says 

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WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump has “no intention” of releasing his tax returns, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday.
“The pr...

Trump's Tax Proposal Would Be Ridiculously Good For Rich People 

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WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump’s top economic advisers on Wednesday proposed trillions of dollars in tax cuts for millionaires under a plan b...

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Donald Trump Stands to Make Millions Off His Own Tax Plan - Vanity Fair

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Vanity Fair

Donald Trump Stands to Make Millions Off His Own Tax Plan
Vanity Fair
Later today, Donald Trump will reveal his massive, big-league plan to “reform” the tax code—or, more accurately, slash the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. Without any proposal to pay for such a massive cut, the White House proposal is unlikely to ...
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Russian Ties Continue to Haunt Trump Administration as FBI, Congressional Probes Persist - Atlanta Black Star

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Atlanta Black Star

Russian Ties Continue to Haunt Trump Administration as FBI, Congressional Probes Persist
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There Is a Peaceful Way Out of the North Korea Crisis - The Atlantic

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Daily Beast

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James Comey's Influence on the Election - New York Times

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New York Times

James Comey's Influence on the Election
New York Times
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Defining Trumpism: Making sense of the Trump's first 100 days - The Hill (blog)

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Analysis: Do Trump’s murky financial ties to Russia connect to money laundering? 

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FBI Director James Comey set to testify before Senate judiciary committee - CNN

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4 out of 10 of Americans think Russia meddled in election - Daily Mail

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Do Trump's Murky Financial Ties to Russia Connect to Money Laundering?

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aluxum/Getty
Federal investigators continue to dig into Russia's cyberattack on the US election and the Trump administration's possible involvement—but as bad as that intrusion and collusion may be, Trump's opaque financial dealings could prove even more perilous for the president.
Trump has blazed a decades-long trail of questionable financial dealings with Russian sources that could provide investigators with the grist they need for legal action. A wide array of Russian oligarchs with links to Vladimir Putin have invested tens of millions of hard-to-explain dollars in Trump properties. And Trump professes never to know who these people are or where they got the big bucks for their mostly cash deals.
Court cases and other legal documents show Trump and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.
Money laundering is the process of taking proceeds from criminal activity (dirty money) and making them appear legal (clean). Although the news didn't make much of a splash during the 2016 campaign, Trump paid a $10 million fine to the U.S. Treasury in 2015 for his bankrupt Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City because it failed to meet anti-money-laundering requirements. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Regulators said the casino failed to establish and implement an effective anti-money-laundering program, failed to implement an adequate system of internal controls, and failed to properly file currency transaction reports or keep other required records."
It is already a matter of public record that several Trump-affiliated businesses and associates are connected to alleged Russian money-laundering operations.

Banks

Many of Trump's business dealings involve Deutsche Bank or the Bank of Cyprus—both known for their connections with Russian oligarchs. Deutsche Bank is also Trump's biggest lender; he owes the bank some $300 million, as first reported by Mother Jones' Russ Choma and David Corn. The Guardian reported that Deutsche Bank paid $630 million in fines for failing to prevent $10 billion in Russian money laundering between 2012 and 2015.
The Bank of Cyprus is also well known as a money-laundering haven for Russian oligarchs. Trump's Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has invested heavily in the Bank of Cyprus (some $424 million in 2014, giving him an 18% stake) and he was once vice-chairman of the bank, according to the Guardian. Ross presided over deals that raise questions about his tenure at the bank and his ties to politically connected Russian oligarchs.
Ross shared his vice-chairman post at the bank with a deposit holder-turned-shareholder, Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, referred to in Russian media as a former KGB official and Putin ally.

Russian Oligarchs

The Washington Post has described Trump's 30-year history of business dealings with Russian oligarchs and government officials, which began when there was still a Soviet Union. "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets," Trump's son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. "We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."
"You're looking for transactions that are unusually or unnecessarily complicated, and make no business sense," said a former DOJ official.
According to an investigation by USA Today, wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics invested extensively in Trump's real estate developments over the years. Court cases and other legal documents show President Trump and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering, including:
  • Felix Sater, a major player in the Bayrock group that developed the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York and a twice-convicted felon who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man. Sater later scouted for Trump investments in Russia.
  • Alexander Mashkevich, a Kazakh mining billionaire,was another source of funds for Bayrock financing and the SoHo project, and was accused by Belgian authorities in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme.
  • Anatoly Golubchik, Vadim Trincher and Michael Sall are three owners of Trump condos in Florida and Manhattan who were accused in federal indictments of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia.
  • Viktor Khrapunov, a former Kazakhstan energy minister and mayor of Almaty, owns three units in the Trump SoHo through shell companies and was accused in a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in 2014 of hiding millions of dollars looted from his city, some of which was spent on three Trump SoHo units.
  • Peter Kiritchenko, a Ukrainian owner of two Trump condos in Florida, who was indicted in a money-laundering scheme involving a former prime minister of Ukraine.
According to USA Today, such dealings with Russian oligarchs concern law enforcement because many are suspected of corrupt practices intertwining Russia's business elite, government security services and criminal gangs. Real estate in London, New York and Miami is an attractive option for parking stolen money.
Besides banks and oligarchs, many of Trump's Russian transactions involve various shell companies– the kinds of business deals that attract law enforcement's attention.
"You're looking for transactions that are unusually or unnecessarily complicated, and make no business sense," a former Justice Department official told McClatchy recently. "In general, if someone is conducting transactions in a complicated way, using shell corporations, using offshore bank accounts or using accounts in countries where they otherwise aren't doing any business, it suggests that there may be a motive to conceal of disguise something."

Paul Manafort

McClatchy and the New York Times have both written about the convoluted financial transactions of Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman who was let go last August because of questions about his financial dealings.
According to McClatchy, "The FBI, Justice Department and Treasury Department are examining whether any of Manafort's millions of dollars in consulting income from pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs were laundered from corrupt sources, whether he properly disclosed all his foreign bank accounts each year to the U.S. government and whether he paid taxes on all foreign income," two sources familiar with the inquiry said.
The day Manafort left the Trump campaign he created a shell company that he controlled that soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Trump.
Between 2006 and 2007, Manafort paid nearly $8 million in cash for three high-end homes, including a $3.7 million condominium in New York's Trump towers, McClatchy reported. In some cases he used shell companies and corporate names for the purchases. Manafort also reportedly had some 10 businesses and 15 bank accounts in Cyprus.
Manafort has not yet registered as a foreign agent, although the New York Times says he is now considering registering retroactively for his lobbying work on behalf of a pro-Russian government in Ukraine. He has not been charged with money laundering and he has defended his use of offshore accounts and his other business transactions as perfectly normal.
The Times also reported that the day Manafort left the Trump campaign (August 19th) he created a shell company that he controlled that "soon received $13 million in loans from two businesses with ties to Mr. Trump, including one that partners with a Ukrainian-born billionaire and another led by a Trump economic adviser."
Russian financial ties to Trump are a complex picture that will keep investigators busy for a long time trying to unravel normal business practices from potentially illegal dealings. But one thing is already crystal clear: Trump was lying when he said last summer, as quoted by CNN: "No, I have nothing to do with Russia. How many times do I have say that? I have nothing to do with Russia."
Read the whole story
 
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Yates, Clapper To Testify In Open House Hearing On Russian Election Meddling : The Two-Way : NPR

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