Trump Aides and Russian Mobsters Pulled Strings in Putin’s Massive Ukraine Gas Scheme
Follow the money
by BRIAN E. FRYDENBORG
Before Donald Trump was president or a candidate, and when he was hurting for investors as Wall Street had all but shut down loaning operations to him, his businesses established extensive ties to Russian oligarchs, including some allegedly affiliated with organized crime.
At the same time, associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian government and future associates of Trump — most notably Paul Manafort, his future campaign chairman — were allegedly involved in a massive Eurasian natural gas and money laundering scheme worth billions of dollars, and part of Putin’s grand plan to control Ukraine.
At best, Trump may have had no knowledge of this scheme and these ties, but even this scenario highlights serious deficiencies in Trump’s judgment in terms of who he did business and politics with — and it is of urgent interest to the American people as Trump manages the nation as president.
While there is no direct proof of Trump’s knowing involvement or collusion in any single aspect of these dealings, the sheer number of them over a period of years and his close association with a number of key players, combined with his public statements as a presidential candidate, create a picture that stinks to high heaven and makes it more likely — not less — that something nefarious is going on between Team Trump and Team Putin.
We may never know exactly what happened or exactly who is responsible or exactly what Trump was and wasn’t aware of, but, despite ludicrous claims to the contrary, this has nothing to do with the media or with irresponsible speculation.
With so many questionable people, actions and circumstances, the only sane and responsible course forward is to continue to vigorously demand more answers to the questions Trump and his associates have raised because of their actions, especially since their accounts of these events and people keep shifting as more and more evidence comes to light.
After all, contrary to American civil criminal law, in the court of public opinion, the burden on a sitting president with so many questionable connections is for him to shed light on his dealings and to clear any hint of suspicion if he wants to earn the benefit of the doubt.
Time to go over what we do know, and what that information — when put together and given proper context — makes clear and what it suggests.
To begin to understand the big picture, let’s go back to 2004.
In 2004, Carter Page — later a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser — moved to Moscow to set up a branch for the New York investment firm Merrill Lynch. His bio on the website of Global Energy Capital LLC, which Page founded and where he is currently a managing partner, states that “[h]e spent 3 years in Moscow where he was responsible for the opening of the Merrill office and was an advisor on key transactions for Gazprom, RAO UES and others.”
As Page was setting up shop in Moscow, future Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort began running Victor Yanukovych’s political life.
Yanukovych is a notorious, scandal-ridden Ukrainian politician who first attracted global attention during the 2004 Ukrainian elections. Leonid Kuchma, the outgoing president during these elections, had appointed Yanukovych as his prime minister in 2002 and had backed him as a pro-Russian — and pro-Putin — candidate to succeed him in 2004.
Kuchna’s support extended to trying to rig the election for Yanukovych, which sparked the Orange Revolution that, in turn, led to victory for the more pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko, who had almost been killed by a mysterious poisoning incident.
Yanukovych had already developed a reputation for extreme corruption by this time, but that did not stop Manafort from running Yanukovych’s 2004 campaign. Despite the loss, Manafort stuck around and was hired to take charge of both rehabilitating the disgraced Yanukovych and strategizing for his political party, the Party of Regions.
This type of work was hardly out of the ordinary for Manafort, and his client list over the years has included dictators such as Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos, Somalia’s Siad Barre, Sani Abacha of Nigeria and Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi. Other clients included Jonas Savimbi of the Angolan guerrilla group UNITA, and the Kashmiri American Council, a front group for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.
Interestingly enough, the Associated Press recently published a bombshell of a story in which it was revealed that Manafort proposed in 2005 — through a formal memo, no less — a massive lobbying effort designed to discreetly promote Putin, the Russian government and their agenda while undermining their critics, with efforts concentrated in the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics.
Manafort sent the proposal to Oleg Deripaska, a fabulously wealthy Russian oligarch with ties to Russian organized crime who has a very close, generally good — if not always great — relationship with Putin and who was then working with Manafort to promote Russian interests in Montenegro.
Under the terms Manafort proposed, a contract was agreed upon in 2006 and lasted until at least 2009, one in which Manafort was paid $10 million a year and used a Delaware shell company — LOAV Ltd. — to conduct official business and transactions. AP obtained numerous documents, memos, and wire transfer records to corroborate its story.
In 2014, Deripaska and Manafort had a dramatic falling out, resulting in a $19 million Cayman Islands court battle related to their alleged efforts to launder money for Yanukovych and his allies, but not before the aforementioned working relationship was well established.
The AP story broke just hours before CNN would report that FBI officials have information describing how “associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
The AP soon after reported that U.S. Treasury officials are investigating Manafort’s offshore financial dealings. If these interactions seem dramatic, Manafort’s machinations involving Ukraine are even more so.
Dirty gas money
Court documents allege that Manafort first became acquainted with Yanukovych in 2003, a time when he also began cozying up to Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs allied with Yanukovych and Putin.
Throughout the rest of the decade, Manafort entered into a variety of shady business deals with some of these oligarchs and others, deals that generally seemed to have some ulterior motive in advancing Putin’s agenda in the background.
In particular, around the same time he began interacting with Yanukovych, Manafort befriended Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch, natural gas businessman and Putin ally, according to court documents.
Firtash, featured in the Panama Papers revelations, had been the main middleman bringing in both Russian and Central Asian natural gas to Ukraine since 2002 and was linked to Semion Mogilevich, the essential head, or “boss of bosses” of the Russian mafia. Mogilevich is also a friend of Putin’s and was one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted fugitives from 2009–2015.
In mid-2004, Putin and outgoing Ukrainian president Kuchma created a Swiss-registered company called RosUkrEnergo [RUE] to replace the company represented by Firtash that handled Ukraine’s Russian-related natural gas imports.
The imports ostensibly came from Turkmenistan, but also involved shady deals that seemed mostly orchestrated and subsidized by Gazprom dominated by Putin allies. Additionally, the gas traveled through pipes wholly owned by Gazprom that went mostly through Russian territory.
But not much changed with RUE in that Firtash ended up owning 45 percent of the new company, a stake that is partially a front for Mogilevich to control the company. Gazprom owned 50 percent of RUE, making clear the incestuous nature of the entire arrangement.
But there was a bigger picture, a greater purpose, to all these machinations than just Gazprom dominance of the region’s gas industry, and the specifics of the deal make the following scheme quite easy to understand.
Gazprom would basically sell billions of dollars of gas to Firtash through RUE at a steal of a price. Next, Firtash would sell billions of dollars of gas at hiked-up prices to Ukraine, with the profits directed to funding pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Finally, Putin’s allies in the financial industry would open up lines of credit for Firtash in the billions of dollars so he could buy key Ukrainian assets and multiply his influence further.
It’s no coincidence that this scam came into being not long after Yanukovych’s defeat at the hands of a more pro-Western candidate. Unsurprisingly, some of the disputes between Ukraine and Russia involved fighting over gas deals. This all culminated in January 2006 when Russia shut its gas flow into Ukraine and therefore into much of Europe as well, which received the vast majority of its gas from pipes passing through Ukrainian territory.
After the shutoff, Firtash and his allies rearranged their business.
First, RUE became the exclusive and direct supplier of all natural gas coming from Central Asia and Russia, and, along with Gazprom and Gazexport — a subsidiary — it would sell to Ukrainian industrial customers via a joint venture with Naftogaz Ukrainy, Ukraine’s state-owned energy company.
The new joint venture was called UkrGazEnergo, and would sell gas to Naftogaz to distribute among Ukrainian households and municipalities.
But there was another key factor in the deal: RAO UES — Russia’s state-owned power company — would buy and import Ukrainian-generated electricity into European Russia, with the Ukrainian government providing that energy from the gas that RUE was being paid by Ukraine to import from Turkmenistan. And again, RUE would act as the intermediary.
One of the reasons for this confusing complexity is that at each stage along the way there was the possibility of marking up or down the price when it suited the purposes of those who set up the system in the first place.
Naturally, this overall deal was so unpopular with Ukrainians — who felt cheated at getting sold gas at hiked-up prices by entities with little supervision and with opportunities for massive corruption — that Ukraine’s parliament voted against the deal, albeit it ended up being a nonbinding vote and the agreement went ahead anyway.
This arrangement would last from 2006 through early 2009, when another dispute derailed it.
Which brings us back to Carter Page. It is important here to note that Page’s tenure at Merrill Lynch was from 2004–2007, and the only two companies his aforementioned current bio mentions in relation to this tenure are Gazprom and RAO EUS, claiming that he was an adviser on “key transactions” of theirs.
It is hard to imagine transactions more “key” than those involving natural gas being transported from Central Asia and Russia to Ukraine and Europe, the creation of RUE, and RAO’s subsequent deal with Ukraine.
If Page is telling the truth about his role, then it is virtually inconceivable — considering that he advised both Gazprom and RAO and the way they would be tied together starting in 2006 — that he would not be aware of what was going on.
And after all, as someone with a Ph.D. and an MBA and a graduate the U.S. Naval Academy, Page would certainly have been aware of the geopolitics of these deals, and that they went against American interests at a time when Ukraine was trying to escape the stranglehold of the Kremlin.
However, Julia Ioffe’s profile of Page raises important questions about whether Page is exaggerating his role, and her story is filled with anecdotes from people knowledgeable about these types of deals who had never heard of Page — and people who did know of him suggested he was a nobody.
Maybe Page deliberately kept a low profile. Without a more formal investigation, it is impossible to know what the full picture is. Even if Page exaggerated his role, if he was still talking to people at both Gazprom and RAO at this time — even if his discussions interactions may have been more informal than formal — it is certainly a realistic possibility that he still knew a lot and performed an advisory role, one that was perhaps unknown by his colleagues at Merrill.
Finally, if he knew what was going on and was involved, there is certainly a possibility of interest being piqued if he came to know that Manafort — another American — was involved on the other side of these deals, with the same being the case with Manafort. Interest on either side could have led to either one making contact with the other, which may have led to some sort of coordination.
This is admittedly speculative, but a real possibility nonetheless, and is certainly not one bit less speculative than an enormous portion of the mainstream media discussion and reporting on both the e-mail/server situation with Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.
The question of a possible Manafort and Page link, and the fact that they were involved on one level or another in the massive Eurasian gas scheme, deserve more official scrutiny and need to be answered through a formal investigation, because it is clear that those in question have no intention of sharing the truth.
Manafort and Putin’s allies prep Yanukovych’s comeback
As for the dispute that derailed the 2006 gas deal, the foundations were laid with the unpopular deal itself.
In 2007, Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and gas tycoon in her own right and a co-leader of the Orange Revolution, rose to become prime minister again. It was clear that she was on a mission to drive out Russian domination of the whole gas system and push against Russian influence in Ukraine overall.
This meant taking on Firtash, Mogilevich and the Russian mafia, and RUE.
Tymoshenko’s first step was to get rid of UkrGazEnergo, run by RUE and Naftogaz, but then Tymoshenko set her sights on taking RUE and Firtash — and thus Mogilevich and the Russian mobsters — out of the loop, which lead to a series of hostile exchanges between Russia and Ukraine.
In October 2008, Tymoshenko finally worked out a deal with Putin to remove RUE from Ukrainian gas deals, but they were subsequently unable to agree on pricing, leading to Russia to again shut off gas going into Ukraine, and by extension, most of Europe, for almost three weeks in January.
But on Jan. 19, 2009, a long-term, 10-year agreement was reached, and only a few days later normal flows were restored, much to the relief of not only Ukraine, but also Europe, as it was the middle of winter. Additionally, the parties agreed to take future disputes to arbitration in an international commercial dispute court in Stockholm, Sweden.
If it seemed the players of Team Putin gave up too easily on having RUE taken out of the game, they had other plans in motion to counter Tymoshenko’s effort to limit Russian influence in Ukrainian politics.
Manafort linked to possible money laundering during crackdown
Even before Putin agreed to let Tymoshenko shut down RUE, his agents — including Firtash, Mogilevich and Yanukovych (the latter with Manafort acting as his right-hand man) — were already putting in place plans to go around and escape her efforts.
Some of these involved setting up a U.S. investment fund initially capitalized with $100 million. Firtash paid Manafort and Rick Gates — who had joined Manafort’s efforts as part of his consulting firm in 2006 — $1.5 million to handle the money. The main purpose of the fund was to allegedly act as a conduit to launder money from the Firtash gas dealings that were being scrutinized by the Tymoshenko government.
Among the various deals Firtash and Manafort went into was one in 2008 for $895 million for the site of the famous Drake Hotel on Park Avenue in New York, with Firtash wiring $25 million toward the project to make it look legitimate, and a further $25 million was later laundered through the project, according to a U.S. court indictment.
But rather than move forward and apply the money to the project, the Drake property was never actually purchased.
The deal, like their other deals, never closed and eventually fell through after many third parties had spent a lot of time and money trying to close it out and after many employees were not paid, but not before Manafort, Firtash, Mogilevich, Yanukovych and their allies were able to keep substantial funds away from the prying eyes of Tymoshenko and Ukrainian authorities during crucial periods of her time as prime minister.
Unfortunately for Firtash, Mogilevich and their backers, natural gas is not something that can be laundered. In early 2009, Tymoshenko orchestrated a seizure by Ukraine’s own state-run Naftogaz —allowed under the agreement she made with Putin — of 11 billion cubic meters of gas from RUE’s gas stockpiles, a quantity worth billions of dollars at the time.
Tymoshenko had effectively cut out the middlemen who had been hiking up prices and using those profits to poison and pollute Ukrainian politics.
Playing a longer-term game, Firtash initiated a lengthy arbitration process through Stockholm.
Other planted crops were already bearing fruit. Unfortunately for Tymoshenko, though she had risen to be prime minister late in 2007, in that election and even in the prior 2006 parliamentary elections, Manafort had built Yanukovych’s Party of Regions into a political force that campaigned with modern, highly effective techniques and tactics.
In both elections, the Party of Regions ended up having the most seats in parliament of any single party by significant margins, but ended up being in the opposition because of alliances made between Tymoshenko’s bloc and other parties.
Of course, Manafort and the Party of Regions were operating with a gigantic advantage — the enormous amount of money flowing from the massive Eurasian gas scam.
All this meant that Yanukovych’s opposition was certainly within striking distance of taking over the government, and that even by 2006 Manafort and the gas scheme had already achieved great success in rehabilitating Yanukovych and his party.
The distance would close in 2010.
The downfall of Tymoshenko
Early in 2010, Yanukovych won the presidential race, defeating Tymoshenko in a runoff election, the culmination of over five years of work with Manafort and the whole gas scheme crew. Not long after, Tymoshenko lost her position as prime minister in a vote of no-confidence.
Meanwhile, in the wake of his victory, Yanukovych worked to undo many of the Orange Revolution reforms, curbing democratic freedoms in areas ranging from the courts to the press. Most notably, in December 2010, Tymoshenko was retroactively charged with abusing her power during her stint as prime minister, and, after a widely condemned politically-motivated show trial, was sentenced to prison in October 2011.
Paul Manafort and Rick Gates actually lobbied American lawmakers on behalf of Yanukovych’s government from 2012–2014, defending the imprisonment of Tymoshenko and trying to discredit her, as well as trying to improve the image of their client and his government. They did this without disclosing their lobbying activities as required by U.S. law.
Incidentally, these efforts were paid in part by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s wealthiest man for the last eight years, a client of Manafort’s since his earliest days in Ukraine, and for whom Manafort helped arrange a meeting with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.
Manafort and Akhmetov utilized the services of two Washington, D.C. lobbying firms, including Podesta Group Inc., run by the brother of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman and later victim of Russian-government hacking and WikiLeaks disclosures.
The day after this information was made public in mid-August 2016, Manafort resigned from his role as the chairman of the Trump campaign. As for Gates, it was unclear at the time if he had stayed on board or left and the Trump campaign refused to clarify the matter.
Lobbying efforts throughout the Yanukovych period were also hardly limited to Manafort and Gates, with those efforts having for years been tied to prominent Republicans in the United States.
Perhaps most prominent among the lobbyists, former Kansas senator and 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole — for whom Manafort had been a strategist — was paid more than half a million to lobby for Deripaska, who was then, and is still, denied a U.S. visa for his links to the Russian mafia.
Yuri Bokyo, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and a close Yanukovych ally, and a former minister of several energy-related sections of Ukraine’s government — and was heavily involved in setting up the Eurasian gas scheme — paid nearly $100,000 to a Washington lobbyist to meet with top Republicans.
Barbour Griffith & Rogers, co-founded by the former Republican governor of Mississippi and influential GOP insider Haley Barbour, was also paid more than $800,000 for lobbying efforts by a lawyer who “structured” the legal aspects of the Eurasian gas deal.
Though Mogilevich had been on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, he strangely enough has been able to retain the lawyerly services of William Sessions, a Republican who was the FBI director from 1987–1993, to lobby on Mogilevich’s behalf for deals with the U.S. government to clear his charges.
Those talks, which failed, were arranged by Neil Livingston, a prominent consultant whose firm, GlobalOptions, serviced many Russian and former-Soviet-republic-businessmen. GlobalOptions was introduced by Barbour Griffith & Rogers to a shell company called Highrock Holdings used by none other than Firtash as a prominent vehicle for money laundering in the Eurasian gas scheme.
Highrock paid GlobalOptions for at least two projects, one a mysterious “special operation” as named in a subsequent lawsuit for an unnamed member of the Ukrainian government. And just to give one example of Firtash’s European outreach, his relationship with several Conservative MPs in the United Kingdom may prompt an official investigation.
For his part in engineering Yanukovych’s comeback and Tymoshenko’s downfall, Firtash also got some $3 billion in gas assets returned to him that had been seized by Tymoshenko’s government as a result of proceedings at the arbitration court in Sweden.
Which was a logical move. Once Yanukovych was in power, Ukraine and Firtash essentially became the same party in the case, with Ukraine’s lawyers dropping opposition to Firtash’s attempts to recover the seized gas — and now quite happy to see $3 billion in gas go from the ownership of the Ukrainian people back to Firtash.
It was clear that Yanukovych’s government was willing to fight for the interests of Putin and Firtash, but not its own people. Without Ukraine’s representatives making any case whatsoever, the court simply sided with Firtash in June 2010.
Firtash also got his aforementioned credit lines from Putin’s bankers not long after Yanukovych’s victory, specifically some $11 billion in credit from a consortium of banks arranged by Gazprombank, the flagship banking arm of Gazprom.
Gazprombank would not disclose which other banks were part of this arrangement, but by itself it lent him $2.2 billion, the largest possible amount under Russian law and almost one-quarter of the bank’s total capital, making him Gazprombank’s single largest individual borrower.
Firtash used this cash to expand his holdings — especially in the chemical and fertilizer industries — and power in Ukraine, all while staying close to Yanukovych. These moves actually made him the fifth-biggest fertilizer maker in Europe and helped him establish relationships with politicians throughout the continent.
When reporters asked him where all the money came from to enable him to do all this, he coyly replied: “It’s a secret.”
From January 2011 on, Firtash was again buying Gazprom gas at a discount through shady international front companies, then selling that gas back at a far higher price to his new assets, to the tune of billions in questionable profits to his shell companies, in something of a return to the old system before Tymoshenko had rocked the boat.
But the spirited Tymoshenko was not content to only be on defense during this period. During her trial and from prison, she filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan in April 2011. In it she named Firtash, Manafort, Mogilevich, Yanukovych and their front companies as defendants, including initially RUE — although RUE was switched out to name the front companies that controlled it for Firtash and Mogilevich in later amended complaints.
The suit accused them of setting up a series of racketeering, fraud and money laundering enterprises in the United States designed to keep dirty gas money away from Ukrainian authorities when she was prime minister, and that such activities resulted in material harm for her since they contributed to the downfall of her government and her unjust trial and imprisonment.
After being rejected several times, a fourth and final version of the suit was rejected in September 2015. While not ruling out criminal wrongdoing on the part of the defendants, the judge ruled that the higher-than-average standards for convictions under the RICO statute were not met.
Still, in the longer ruling rejecting the third complaint, it was noted that “the Court accepts as true the allegation that some of the money that passed through the U.S. Enterprise was ‘funneled back to Ukraine’ — albeit by unidentified actors — and somehow used as ‘financing’ for Tymoshenko’s ‘persecution.’”
Putin allies expelled from Ukraine
Yes, after the 2010 election, everything was going perfectly in regards to Ukraine for Putin, Yanukovych, Manafort, Gates, Firtash, Mogilevich and their teams. But, as in 2004, there was one thing that they did not plan well for, and it was the same thing that confounded Soviet leaders for decades and led to the downfall of the USSR.
Many Ukrainians — especially younger ones — realized what was happening to their country, and were hopeful of better opportunities and a better future by having Ukraine orient itself more to the West, toward Europe and the United States. Yanukovych sought to placate these desires by courting a major trade deal with the European Union.
But in November 2013, protests erupted over Yanukovych’s about-face backing out of this long-desired E.U. trade deal in the face of a Russian counteroffer.
Protests erupted in a main square in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, which became known as the Euromaidan protests. After months of a tense situation, security forces shot and killed dozens of protesters on Feb. 20, 2014. In response to state violence, the protests swelled exponentially, fueled by mass public outrage at the bloodshed. By Feb. 22, the Ukrainian parliament had voted Yanukovych out of office.
Tymoshenko was freed from prison — in a wheelchair, recovering from what she said was physical abuse and ill-treatment at the hands of her guards and authorities — and Yanukovych fled the city. Soon, he would flee the country to Russia with the help of none other than Putin. Today, he is still wanted by Ukrainian authorities for the deaths of the protesters, but he hopes to one day return to Ukraine again as president, which he still contends he is legally.
Putin had overplayed his hand. His royal straight flush of an ace of natural gas, a king in Yanukovych, a queen in Firtash, a jack in Mogilevich, and a 10 in Manafort did not anticipate a wild-card joker in the form of Yanukovych’s allies fleeing him.
But Putin had invested a lot into Ukraine over many years — and into controlling its politics and energy sector through gas. Faced with his whole house of cards collapsing in on itself in the face of popular resistance, and with a government hostile to him, Putin went to Plan B — the dismemberment of Ukraine and war.
Firtash has fled Ukraine as well, and is also wanted by U.S. authorities for a separate racketeering and bribery scheme. He was living in a sort of exile in Austria, but just late last month, a U.S. extradition request based on bribery and corruption charges in a Chicago-based case was approved in Austrian court, though in a bizarre twist he was arrested mere minutes after the ruling by Austrian authorities on a Spanish warrant related to charges of money laundering and organized crime.
In light of ties to Manafort and the related implications for Trump’s presidency, the scandals and ensuing war in Ukraine, the connections to the Russian organized crime, and importance to Putin, this could be one of the most sensational and important internationally focused trials in many years.
And, not to be macabre, but it is highly doubtful that either Putin or the Russian mobsters will give Firtash the chance to prove his loyalty or show his disloyalty, as powerful men willing to orchestrate murder for far less have little reason to allow him to be tried and risk so much.
Meanwhile, Manafort and Gates made millions.
Hand-written records from the office of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions show the party had set aside payments totaling $12.7 million specifically for Manafort from 2007–2012 alone. Gates was also involved with Manafort in the $19 million Cayman Islands fiasco with Deripaska, who accused both of the other two of illegally bailing out on him.
The fate of that $19 million is still unknown. All of this is totally apart from the newly-revealed annual $10 million Manafort got from his Deripaska-brokered deal.
The culmination of their work for over a decade can be seen in the first war on European soil in two decades. And it was this resume which earned them spots on Trump’s campaign as he sought to become the leader of the free world and succeeded. For some time it even seemed Manafort had more influence on Trump than anyone whose last name was not Trump.
Less is known about Gates and his role, but after he was brought onto the Trump campaign by Manafort, he was important enough to be trusted with the vetting of Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech, a task at which he famously failed.
It was not clear what Gates’ status was once Manafort resigned, but reports have indicated he kept a low profile afterwards and acted a link between the Trump campaign and the RNC.
Once Trump won, Gates apparently planned Trump’s inauguration, and since then he was shipped off to a pro-Trump and strangely quiet-ish nonprofit called America First Priorities, where he stayed until the new reporting on Manafort’s pro-Putin proposal, after which it seems Gates was nudged out just days ago.
As for Page, it still isn’t even clear who brought him into the Trump campaign.
Julia Ioffe’s account of Page, the most exhaustive yet, illustrates how multiple answers have been given and none have been confirmed. What is known — and it isn’t much — is that he was one of only five foreign policy advisers Trump could actually name in a Washington Post interview from a year ago, suggesting his influence on Trump could be far from insignificant.
As his relationships with important Russian businessmen are being looked into by the U.S. government, to simply dismiss him as being a charade would be premature — especially in light of information on Page apparently meeting with Russian officials coming out of the partly-substantiated dossier from an ex-MI6 intelligence officer.
What is certain is that questions about Page’s role remain, questions which need to be answered, especially in light of his incredibly anti-American, pro-Kremlin views that could just as easily be coming from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov or a “pundit” on RT and his continued investment in Gazprom.
This is part one of a two-part story. The second part will detail how Mogilevich simultaneously links the Eurasian gas scheme to multiple crooked Trump real estate deals.
Brian E. Frydenborg is a freelance writer and consultant based in Amman, Jordan. You can follow him on Twitter: @bfry1981. This is a condensed and edited version of the original story. The full version with expanded analysis is available here.