Donald Trump: “Manchurian Candidate”

Donald Trump is a business man. There’s nothing wrong with that. America needs business men. Sometimes business men have to do business with foreign governments. That’s an understood. How much Donald Trump does business with Russia is a legitimate issue though. It could be very dangerous for our nation, if he is elected President.

If I could, I’d love to dismiss the presence of the DNC E-Mail leaks, and the fact that they were probably caused by Russians hacking the DNC, I can’t. Since I can’t though, let me just start all this off by saying that I don’t have any idea if Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are coordinating these efforts. My sense is that both are smart enough to not do that. Even if Putin is acting independently, he’s certainly acting on the behalf of Trump, in an effort to help him win the Presidency. There’s a good reason for that- they have lots of close ties:

“Officials also noted Trump’s own connections to the Russian government. Putin has publicly praised the nominee, who said he was “honored” by the compliment. Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was a consultant for Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who was ousted for his pro-Moscow orientation (and now lives in Russia). One of Trump’s top national security advisers, retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn, sat with Putin at a dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of Kremlin-backed media network RT and was paid to give a speech at the event; Flynn later retweeted an anti-Semitic message that called into question any Kremlin-Trump link. Another Trump adviser, Carter Page, recently denounced America’s “often-hypocritical focus on democratization” while in Moscow. And last week, Trump said that he might not come to the aid of U.S. NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression unless they paid what he thinks they owe for Europe’s common defense.”

In other words, it is fair for Mr. Putin to believe that he and Donald Trump are on the same page when it comes to American foreign policy. Trump’s advisors are all pro-Putin. Trump’s stated policies are all pro-Putin. So what though? What does that prove? Does it prove that Trump is Putin’s patsy?

I would like to say no right here and end this discussion. I’d like to just attack Donald Trump’s beliefs as wrong, and call his pro-Putin rhetoric disgusting. That doesn’t do it justice though. The truth is that Donald Trump may be beholden to Putin in a way that would compromise his ability to serve as President. From the TPM piece that has people talking:

“1. All the other discussions of Trump’s finances aside, his debt load has grown dramatically over the last year, from $350 million to $630 million. This is in just one year while his liquid assets have also decreased. Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks.

2. Post-bankruptcy Trump has been highly reliant on money from Russia, most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs and sub-garchs close to Vladimir Putin. Here’s a good overview from The Washington Post, with one morsel for illustration …

Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world.
“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.”

3. One example of this is the Trump Soho development in Manhattan, one of Trump’s largest recent endeavors. The project was the hit with a series of lawsuits in response to some typically Trumpian efforts to defraud investors by making fraudulent claims about the financial health of the project. Emerging out of that litigation however was news about secret financing for the project from Russia and Kazakhstan. Most attention about the project has focused on the presence of a twice imprisoned Russian immigrant with extensive ties to the Russian criminal underworld. But that’s not the most salient part of the story. As the Times put it,

“Mr. Lauria brokered a $50 million investment in Trump SoHo and three other Bayrock projects by an Icelandic firm preferred by wealthy Russians “in favor with” President Vladimir V. Putin, according to a lawsuit against Bayrock by one of its former executives. The Icelandic company, FL Group, was identified in a Bayrock investor presentation as a “strategic partner,” along with Alexander Mashkevich, a billionaire once charged in a corruption case involving fees paid by a Belgian company seeking business in Kazakhstan; that case was settled with no admission of guilt.”

Another suit alleged the project “occasionally received unexplained infusions of cash from accounts in Kazakhstan and Russia.”

Sounds completely legit.

Read both articles: After his bankruptcy and business failures roughly a decade ago Trump has had an increasingly difficult time finding sources of capital for new investments. As I noted above, Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks with the exception of Deutschebank, which is of course a foreign bank with a major US presence. He has steadied and rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia. At a minimum the Trump organization is receiving lots of investment capital from people close to Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s tax returns would likely clarify the depth of his connections to and dependence on Russian capital aligned with Putin. And in case you’re keeping score at home: no, that’s not reassuring.”

Donald Trump’s interest in Russia is financial, as is common with people in business. Russia’s interest in Trump is geopolitical. Given his company’s need to stay in the good graces with Russia, Trump needs to give Russia what it wants, right? Back to the TPM piece to illustrate how hard he’s working to deliver for Russia:

“7. Here’s where it gets more interesting. This is one of a handful of developments that tipped me from seeing all this as just a part of Trump’s larger shadiness to something more specific and ominous about the relationship between Putin and Trump. As TPM’s Tierney Sneed explained in this article, one of the most enduring dynamics of GOP conventions (there’s a comparable dynamic on the Dem side) is more mainstream nominees battling conservative activists over the party platform, with activists trying to check all the hardline ideological boxes and the nominees trying to soften most or all of those edges. This is one thing that made the Trump convention very different. The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the platform. So party activists were able to write one of the most conservative platforms in history. Not with Trump’s backing but because he simply didn’t care. With one big exception: Trump’s team mobilized the nominee’s traditional mix of cajoling and strong-arming on one point: changing the party platform on assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine. For what it’s worth (and it’s not worth much) I am quite skeptical of most Republicans call for aggressively arming Ukraine to resist Russian aggression. But the single-mindedness of this focus on this one issue — in the context of total indifference to everything else in the platform — speaks volumes.”

Not one piece of this puzzle on it’s own proves Donald Trump is owned by Russia. All of it together makes a damned good case though. Russian hackers hacked the DNC and released e-mails through an anti-America site in an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Trump is speaking out about not following the pledges made in the NATO treaty for some nations in Eastern Europe. Trump has a bunch of pro-Putin advisors running his campaign. Trump has major financial interests in Russia, including capital loans for his projects. Trump is changing RNC orthodoxy to be more pro-Putin. Again, no proof that he’s working with Putin in some sort of scam. Lots of reasons to believe so though.

Donald Trump could put this to bed by releasing his tax returns and letting the world see whether or not he has ties to Russia that would compromise him. Is he under the control of Russian oligarchs and Vladimir Putin? Without definitive proof, it’s hard to take his denials seriously.

America cannot elect a President who may or may not be compromised by Moscow. If Donald Trump is deeply indebted to Russian banks, Vladimir Putin will use that to control him and get the outcomes he wants. In fact, he may be doing that already. It seems to be a very fair question, one which Donald Trump is refusing to answer- is he the Kremlin’s candidate? If he is, he must be stopped from ever winning office.

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