Trump, Putin and the mob. Research collection. Part 3: Ron Lauder, Bibi Netanyahu and their friends at Breitbart
This is Part 3 of my research collection. I realize it’s a lot, but I’d like to think it’s worth the trouble. Everything is well-researched and sourced.
The growing tide of right-wing, authoritarian leadership we see in Hungary and Israel is also advocated by the Trump administration and Breitbart News. This is certainly, in part, a result of the Kremlin’s efforts. However, they’re also the consequence of a select group of individuals whose paths keep intersecting with one another.
I’d like to spend a little time telling you about these men.
Some background on Ron Lauder, Arthur Finkelstein and Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu
Ron Lauder introduced Netanyahu to Arthur Finkelstein and convinced them to work together on Bibi’s 1996 campaign. (Additional source.) Arthur Finkelstein was the key strategist behind Bibi’s election in 1996.
According to the New York Times, “Mr. Lauder, whose mother founded the Estee Lauder Companies, created Central European Media in 1994.” Ron Lauder’s media company was in Ukraine by 1996 and had dealings with then-President Leonid Kuchma, as well as several individuals linked to the mob.
In the late 1990s, Arthur Finkelstein and Ron Lauder frequently travelled together from New York to Israel on Lauder’s private jet.
‘Arthur Finkelstein’s motive & opportunity to bring down Hillary Rodham Clinton’: Research and Twitter moment here.
‘Finkelstein’s Hungarian links point to both Putin & the Trump campaign’: Research and Twitter moment here.
Ron Lauder’s career timeline
In 1987, Ronald Reagan appointed Ron Lauder as the US Ambassador to Austria. Lauder’s #2 at the embassy in Vienna was Felix Bloch, who got caught up in the eponymous ‘Felix Bloch Affair’.
In 1989, Ron Lauder ran for the GOP nomination for NYC mayor. His campaign manager was Jim Murphy. More on him in Part 1, here.
Lauder’s chief strategists for his campaign were initially Roger Ailes and Arthur Finkelstein. Finkelstein eventually pushed Ailes out, but it didn’t matter much. Lauder lost (to Rudy Giuliani) badly.
I mentioned in Part 1 that Arthur Finkelstein served as a mentor to, among others, Lee Atwater and Roger Stone. One of Finkelstein’s favorite campaign strategies was one that he and his allies used over the years. It involved planting a third party candidate in campaigns in order to attack the more serious opponent of Finkelstein’s clients. It’s a strategy which Atwater and Finkelstein executed together during a 1978 campaign victory for Carroll A. Campbell Jr.
I believe this is the same tactic Arthur Finkelstein used in 1989 when he served as Lauder’s chief strategist for his campaign for NYC mayor. The third party candidate was Herbert London, and his campaign advisor was Eddie Mahe Jr. According to the New York Times, “London’s former campaign manager Gerry O’Brien, resigned in protest against ‘these people from outside New York who want to use Herb to attack and discredit Rudy Giuliani.’”
In the end, as I said earlier, Lauder lost badly to Giuliani, but it wasn’t for lack of trying on Arthur Finkelstein’s part.
Ron Lauder and Hungary
Ron Lauder’s connections to Hungary go back to at least 1990, when he purchased a 50 percent share of General Banking and Trust Co. of Budapest.
According to the New York Times, in March of 1990 Lauder formed a partnership with a man named George Lang to become co-owners in a restaurant by the name of Gundel in Budapest, Hungary.
The restaurant didn’t officially re-open until May 22, 1992, but it did so with George Lang and Ron Lauder remaining as partners. Why should we care?
According to the same New York Times article I cited earlier, “Toward the end of the final negotiations, [Lang] threw a party at Gundel’s for Budapest’s intelligentsia — a group he dubbed the Gundel Regulars. The guests of honor included the Hungarian President, Arpad Goncz, Sir Georg Solti, the Chicago Symphony conductor, who had just made a triumphant return to his homeland, and the novelist George Konrad.”
You’ll notice that one of the names there is now former Hungarian President, Arpad Goncz, who served from May 2, 1990 to August 4, 2000. During Goncz’s last two years as President, who was it that served his first term as Prime Minister? None other than current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Well, as I discussed in Part 2, Viktor Orban is Vladimir Putin’s man in the EU and NATO, but even more importantly for our interests, Arthur Finkelstein and his business partner George Birnbaum began advising Orban in 2008. (Related thread.)
Orban was once a self-described ‘liberal’ but in 2009, he did a complete about face and has been Putin’s puppet ever since. Orban’s regime has, since then, become increasingly extremist and authoritarian, just as Putin wants.
Interestingly, Sebastian Gorka received his fake PhD from one of Orban’s advisors, Andras Lanczi, in 2008, before moving to the US to begin his career as a “terrorism expert” (aka Kremlin propagandist). I’ve mentioned this before, but Andras’s son, Tamas Lanczi, worked for Arthur Finkelstein spreading more Kremlin propaganda.
Why do I bring this up again?
Because, according to Forward, “In 2006, Gorka defended the use of the Arpad flag, which Hungary’s murderous Arrow Cross Party used as their symbol.”
Guess who was a member of the Arrow Cross Party?
None other than George Lang, who was Ron Lauder’s business partner in Budapest, Hungary.
What else is interesting?
According to LobeLog, “Gorka acted as an adviser to Orban and his Fidesz party, at various times between 1998 and 2006, according to a number of accounts.”
The same years Orban served as Prime Minister while Arpad Goncz was President. The same Arpad Goncz who was a dinner guest of George Lang and (presumably) his business partner, Ron Lauder.
(Another Hungarian worth mentioining: Laszlo Pasztor. He worked with Nixon, Reagan, Dole and the RNC for decades. Arthur Finkelstein and Roger Stone worked for all four as well for decades. Laszlo fled Hungary in 1956, and he was another member of the Arrow Cross Party just like George Lang. The same Arrow Cross Party that Sebastian Gorka defends.)
Ron Lauder in Ukraine
As I said earlier, Lauder intended to create a vast media empire in Eastern Europe, starting in 1991. One of the places he looked was Ukraine, but it appears his time there didn’t go too well. Lauder got caught up in corruption scandal, which came to light in 2001. According to the New York Times, “The payments being examined took place in 1996 after Ukraine’s licensing body granted a potentially lucrative license to Mr. Lauder’s company despite the fact that the Ukrainian Parliament had imposed a moratorium on new licenses.”
The article goes on to say, “Mr. Lauder’s bid to gain the television license in Ukraine began in 1995. That year, he met in New York with Oleksandr Volkov, a top adviser to Ukraine President Leonid D. Kuchma, to discuss business opportunities.”
In addition to Oleksandr Volkov, Lauder and his company also dealt with two men linked to the Russian mob. They are Vadim Rabinovich and Boris Fuchsmann. Just this past year, Vadim Rabinovich was touting himself as the Trump of Ukraine.
Why so much mob?
Given these connections, I find it interesting that mob ‘Boss of Bosses’ Semion Mogilevich moved to Budapest, Hungary in 1991, right around the time Ron Lauder purchased a bank and restaurant in the city.
It’s interesting then that Semion Mogilevich sprung one of his lieutenants, Vyachelsav Ivankov or “Yaponchik”, from jail in 1991. Then, in 1992, Semion sent him to live in Brighton Beach, New York. Later that same year, Yaponchik ended up living in Trump Tower.
Pretty weird, all these coincidences, huh?
Some of the reasons Leonid Kuchma’s involvement with Ron Lauder is significant:
Viktor Medvedchuk’s daughter has a godfather. His name is Vladimir Putin. The godmother? The wife of Putin’s Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, Svetlana Medvedeva.
Viktor Medvedchuk is also under 2014 US sanctions put in place by the Obama administration after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine (specifically, Crimea).
Viktor Medvedchuk also has confirmed contacts with the Trump campaign in 2016, which of course, he denies took place.
Medvedchuk also stated that he did not know anyone in the Trump campaign, which is false. He knew former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort by, at the latest, 2004. Medvedchuk and Manafort also met in 2014, something Viktor confirmed himself. So, let’s call a lie a lie.
Also, it’s worth noting that Viktor Medvedchuk also owns a significant stake in Ukrainian media companies. He uses those companies to push the same Kremlin propaganda that Finkelstein used in Hungary.
What else is interesting about Medvedchuk? He’s reportedly FSB, but he’s also from the region of Ukraine known as Transcarpathia (aka Zakarpattia Oblast). This region of Ukraine shares a border with Hungary, and as I mentioned in Part 2, there are roughly 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Ukraine, many in this same region.
Nestor Shuyfrych, a close ally of Medvedchuk, worked with Paul Manafort in Ukraine. Shuyfrych is also from Transcarpathia (like Viktor Medvedchuk), on the border of Hungary. Nestor has a history of semi-regular visits to Hungary. He also wrote a thesis titled “Development and Transformation of agrarian industry in Hungary”.
Viktor Medvedchuk was also, reportedly, involved with the 2017 Ukraine “Peace Plan” that was also crafted by Felix Sater. Documents were delivered to Michael Cohen who then gave them to Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn. (Related thread.) We recently learned that Michael Cohen and Felix Sater were also working together on the Trump Tower Moscow project during Donald Trump’s campaign for president.
So, to summarize, Ron Lauder has been friends with Trump since they were kids. Lauder remains a Trump surrogate, and in the mid 90s, he interacted with Ukrainians linked to Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump campaign member Michael Caputo.
Who is David Horowitz?
According to the Washington Post, David Horowitz is “a former ’60s radical who became an intellectual godfather to the far right through his writings and his work at a charity, the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Since its formation in 1988, the Freedom Center has helped cultivate a generation of political warriors seeking to upend the Washington establishment. These warriors include some of the most powerful and influential figures in the Trump administration: Attorney General Sessions, senior policy adviser Miller and White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.”
The intersection between David Horowitz and many of Donald Trump’s aides and most fervent supporters occurred (at the latest) sometime in the mid-1990s. I’ll do my best to break down the details.
David Horowitz, Breitbart, Ron Lauder, Arthur Finkelstein and Benjamin Netanyahu are linked to each other in lots of different ways.
Earlier I talked about Eddie Mahe Jr.’s work during the 1989 NYC mayoral campaign. He’s not a well known name, but Mahe Jr. was a longtime political consultant. He was involved in one of the three scandals meant to undermine and ultimately impeach Bill Clinton.
In 1992, “Troopergate” involved Eddie Mahe Jr., Peter W. Smith and Newt Gingrich.
The Senate Whitewater Committee investigation into Bill and Hillary Clinton was chaired by Al D’Amato (also a Trump campaign surrogate). Who was his top aide at the time? Arthur Finkelstein. George Birnbaum, Finkelstein’s future business partner (2003–2017) also worked for D’Amato during this period.
Then, of course, came the Lewinsky scandal. The scandal first broke on The Drudge Report, run by Matt Drudge. How did he obtain his information? Leaked pictures were sent to him by Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway.
Newt Gingrich, along with Al D’Amato and Arthur Finkelstein, all pushed for Bill Clinton’s impeachment based on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. These efforts, of course, ultimately failed.
What’s interesting is how many of the players involved knew and worked together then and now.
The eventual founded of Breitbart News, Andrew Breitbart, was working for Matt Drudge and considered Drudge a mentor.
When Matt Drudge ran into legal trouble in 1997, David Horowitz paid Drudge’s legal fees.
David Horowitz was a founding member of a group called ‘One Jerusalem’. Ron Lauder (who, again, introduced Arthur Finkelstein and Netanyahu prior to the 1996 election) spoke at an event for One Jerusalem in February 2001.
David Horowitz has known Trump aide Stephen Miller since 2001, when Miller invited Horowitz to speak at his school. They remain friends.
Miller, Horowitz and Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer worked together at Duke in 2007 to “educate” students on the threat of “Islamofascism.”
Horowitz runs a website called Frontpagemag.com. Sebastian Gorka has been featured there, as has Stephen Miller. Another man who published articles there is Ronn Torossian. Guess who he writes articles with (including but not exclusively published on Horowitz’s site)? George Birnbaum, Arthur Finkelstein’s business partner (2003–2017). David Horowitz is also a frequent contributor to Breitbart.com. He even wrote an article there in February 2017 praising Stephen Miller in the most glowing terms.
This matters because Arthur Finkelstein is the man who engineered Netanyahu’s first term as Prime Minister in 1996. Guess who else was a chief of staff for Netanyahu? George Birnbaum. (Also recall Ron Lauder’s continued support of Netanyahu.)
Guess who was in the room and helped convince Andrew Breitbart to form Breitbart News in 2007? Benjamin Netanyahu.
What I’m getting at here is that Arthur Finkelstein has been called the Kaiser Sose of the Republican Party. He spent his life behind the scenes. He never gave interviews and there were few pictures of him that were made public before his death in 2017. Quite remarkable, for a man who began his work in politics during Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign for president.
Yes, few people spoke few words about Arthur directly over the years, but his influence has been remarked on by many former clients and associates, often in the most glowing of terms. He was, in fact, so instrumental in Netanyahu’s victories over the years, that his influence over Netanyahu’s actions was alluded to even up to days before Arthur’s death. Bibi seemed to trust no man more than he trusted Arthur, and I believe Bibi was in the room with Andrew Breitbart in 2007 because of Arthur Finkelstein.
Now, I’d like to provide some additional context to explain why this matters.
Let’s talk about Steve Bannon
According to The Daily Beast, “A year before Donald Trump hired Breitbart News’ executive chairman to be his presidential campaign’s CEO, Stephen K. Bannon boasted, ‘I’m Trump’s campaign manager’ via email.”
One such email was sent August 30th, 2015 to one of Bannon’s former colleagues, Julia Jones.
This story got some attention at the time it was initially released, but it was quickly lost amid the mountains of muck related to the 2016 presidential campaign.
In light of the fact that Bannon rejoined Breitbart News on the same day he was fired as Trump’s Chief Strategist, it’s now safe to say what many already assumed — Steve Bannon never actually left Breitbart. (We also now know that Sebastian Gorka never actually left either.)
The Trump campaign build-up
There was, perhaps, a time when I assumed all of this had been planned for years and years, with “this” being Donald Trump’s 2016 victory. I realize now that life is never quite this simple. These men were not necessarily planning Trump’s victory all these years, but they’ve been planning the formation of a right-wing, hard-line, pro-Kremlin movement in America for many years now with Breitbart News leading the way.
Whether or not Donald Trump won in 2016 was probably irrelevant for the most part to this group. Even if Trump hadn’t won, the chaos he created was always going to endure in the political landscape, which is exactly what Putin and oligarchs wanted to happen. At a certain point during the campaign, the effort to elect Trump did ratchet up, but it was certainly never any kind of forgone conclusion. Still, contingencies would have been ready for what became Trump’s eventual victory.
Remember, Steve Bannon joined the Trump campaign, officially, along with Kellyanne Conway, who became the campaign chairman after Paul Manafort’s resignation. When Steve Bannon said he was Trump’s actual campaign manager in 2015, I believe he was telling the truth, but it was also much more complicated than that. Hopefully, I’ve adequately explained what I mean by that.
(It’s probably also worth mentioning that George Birnbaum recently joined a PR firm founded by Trump’s first campaign chairman, Corey Lewandowski. Despite Lewandowski’s firing, he continued to be paid and work for Trump throughout the campaign. Perhaps the media should consider that the split was not as fraught as they liked to portray it.)
Here are some of the dates which help provide context and are worth noting.
1999: George Birnbaum becomes Netanyahu’s “chief of staff”. This link explains.
2001: David Horowitz and Ron Lauder involved with ‘One Jersusalem’.
2001: David Horowitz meets Stephen Miller.
2004: Steve Bannon and Andrew Breitbart meet.
2005: Andrew Breitbart leaves the Drudge Report on good terms. Breitbart.com and Drudge work together periodically (linking to each other’s articles) going forward.
2006: Michael Cohen becomes Donald Trump’s personal lawyer (fixer).
2007: Bibi Netanyahu is in the room with Andrew Breitbart and Larry Solov when Breitbart News is founded (the information is on their own website).
2007: Stephen Miller works for Congresswoman Michele Bachman.
2009: Stephen Miller begins working for Senator Jeff Sessions.
2009: Bibi’s second term as Prime Minister begins in March of this year.
2010: Richard Spencer creates AlternativeRight dot com.
2010: Steve Bannon provides office space to Andrew Breitbart (for free) in February, allowing him to operate Breitbart.com.
2010: Steve Bannon makes a propaganda film for Stephen Miller’s former boss, Michele Bachmann, titled ‘Fire From the Heartland: the Awakening of the Conservative Woman’. Bannon said Sarah Palin’s 2008 VP run inspired him to make the film.
2011: Robert Mercer invests at least $11 million into Breitbart News.
2011: Steve Bannon’s propaganda film for Sarah Palin, “The Undefeated” is released.
2011: Trump considers running for president with Roger Stone’s help. He decides against it.
2011: Donald Trump meets Steve Bannon.
2012: Steve Bannon appointed executive chairman of Breitbart News following the death of Andrew Breitbart.
2012: Finkelstein remained a close confidant of Netanyahu’s at this time. (I include this because it was often difficult to track his movements.)
2013: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg partners with political consultant Jon Lerner, another Finkelstein protégé.
2013: Donald Trump holds the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow.
2013: Ronn Torossian writes an op-ed praising PR firm Ketchum and Vladimir Putin.
2015: Geert Wilders speaks at an event organized by David Horowitz. Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller were in attendance.
2015: In December, Ben Carson hires George Birnbaum as a foreign policy advisor for Carson’s presidential campaign. Another of Carson’s foreign policy advisors is George Papadopolous, who went on to work for Trump’s campaign and tried to setup meetings with the Kremlin.
Here are some additional connections between this group worth noting
Connie Mack IV worked with Arthur Finkelstein from 2004–17. Mack’s work in Hungary is ongoing, and it includes meetings and emails with Trump’s VP, Mike Pence.
Jamestown Associates. Arthur Finkelstein. Stone Group (Roger Stone). Fabrizio and McLaughlin on Connie Mack IV’s campaigns. (Screenshots here.)
Tony Fabrizio and his former partner John McLaughlin both worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign through election day.
Here’s a Washington Post article describing how Weitzner worked directly with Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to create ads during Donald Trump’s campaign.
Larry Weitzner and his company, Jamestown Associates, also worked directly with Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner and Brad Parscale during the campaign.
Here’s an archive on Ronn Torossian’s articles published by Newsmax.
Ronn Torossian works with “Putin’s favorite DJ”, DJ Fenix.
According to Politico, “A Breitbart national security editor, Sebastian Gorka, was paid by Donald Trump’s campaign for policy consulting last year. According to Federal Election Commission filings, Gorka was paid $8,000 in October.”
Richard Spencer travels to Hungary and interacts with other right-wing groups there.
Roger Stone and Craig Murray, DNC hack link is discussed here.
Roger Stone is half Hungarian as well.
Beny Steinmetz and Lev Leviev linked to Jared’s real estate deals. They also tie into Hermitage Capital and the Magnitsky Act case. (Related thread here.)
Important to note: Gorka’s advisor, Andras Lanczi and his son Tamas Lanczi who was an employee of Finkelstein. Lanczi is quoted in the nytimes in Dec 2015 attacking Merkel’s stance on immigration/EU. Then in Aug 2016, Lanczi quoting DC leaks & attacking Soros.