27 July 2018

Why Is Donald Trump Afraid of Putin

After the Helsinki spectacle where Donald Trump almost gave Vladimir Putin a public foot massage, the usual suspects rose again with their "this is it, the straw that will break the Orange Camel" cries.

They hollered Trump's subdued performance was treasonous and it was proof that Putin had some compromising tape on him and he was Putin's poodle.

There were also, to my eye, homophobic depictions of their relationship.

What I don't understand is how long will this "I can't believe his base is not deserting him" discourse go on. After ever scandalous tweet they rush to quiz the Trumpkins and they all gleefully say that they love the Man.

Neither do I understand the liberal conviction that Putin has something on Trump, which is why the Orange Man is behaving in a strangely decile manner.

This time, I didn't bother with another "nothing will derail Donald Trump" post.

There is no point in repeating the axiomatic truth that there is virtually nothing Trump can do that will turn his evangelical, white privileged, racist and affluent base off.

You can show that he colluded with Russia to win the elections and his folks will say, good for him.

However, there is one thing Trump is afraid of and it is why he is extremely cautious in dealing with Putin. It has to do with my prediction about how his presidency will likely to end. And as one of my most popular posts, it is still on the right hand margin.

My view is that, nothing other than financial fraud, money laundering and associated crimes can bring Trump down. But those crimes, when revealed, will almost certainly force him to resign.

As I explained in that post in some detail, in mid-2000s, after six bankruptcies, Trump was toxic and no financial institution would lend him money. So, to develop residences, hotels and golf courses, he began working with Russian, Kazakh, Georgian and Azeri businessmen, like Felix Sater, Tevfik Arif, Alexander Shnaider, Tamir Sapir and the Mammadov family.

There is a long list of dubious development projects here and you can click on them to see the problem in each instance.

The people whose name I mentioned are all shady characters with extensive links to criminal groups and in my opinion it is very likely that they used the Trump Organization to launder hundreds of millions of dollars. They financed properties, Trump slapped his name on them, the units got sold, hotels and golf courses managed and fresh smelling money came out from the other end.

Financial fraud would be problematic for Trump for two reasons: One, unlike sex allegations, which are of "he-said-she-said" narratives, money laundering is easily proven and him helping some foreign criminals clean up their ill-gotten gains would give pause even the staunchest Trumpkin.

There are some hard-to-believe projects.

As the New Yorker's Adam Davidson put it:
Although we cannot say that Trump himself knowingly engaged in money laundering, we do know with certainty that much of his business in the past decade was in the industries most known for money laundering, in the locations most conducive to money laundering, and with people who bear the key hallmarks of money launderers.
Moreover, associated crimes like tax evasion could become a serious headache for him. And it would be difficult for Fox News to claim bothsideism as there is nothing like this on the Democratic side.

But perhaps more importantly, such a scandal would destroy the Trump brand and make it impossible for him to profit from the presidency and his business model (putting his name on other people's properties and getting a license fee) would vanish overnight.

Faced with such a situation, Trump would make a deal and simply resign.

As you might remember, I maintained throughout that this outcome was more or less inevitable because of Trump's stupid feud with intelligence agencies. They know where the bodies are buried and they will unearth them when it is appropriate.

It turns out your humble soapbox operator was on to something.

Recently, an editor at the New Yorker concurred with the general outline of this analysis.

According to several Russia experts "kompromat" does not necessarily refer to a compromising video clip that can be used for blackmailing.

You know the apocryphal pee-tape.

Instead, it should be thought of pieces of information being held by different players within the "sistema" or system, which is an informal structure of hierarchy where the players constantly shift position relative to others.

In this case "kompromat" is about Trump's past business dealings with these guys.
If there truly is damaging kompromat on Trump, it could well be in the hands of Trump’s business partners, or even in those of their rivals. Trump’s Georgian partners, for example, have been in direct conflict with other local business networks over a host of crucial deals involving major telecommunications projects in the country. His Azerbaijani partners were tightly linked to Iranians who were also senior officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. 
And the reason why Trump is being nice to Putin is this:
The scenario that, to my mind, makes the most sense of the given facts and requires the fewest fantastical leaps is that, a decade or so ago, Trump, na├»ve, covetous, and struggling for cash, may have laundered money for a business partner from the former Soviet Union or engaged in some other financial crime. This placed him, unawares, squarely within sistema, where he remained, conducting business with other members of a handful of overlapping Central Asian networks. Had he never sought the Presidency, he may never have had to come to terms with these decisions. But now he is much like everyone else in sistema. He fears there is kompromat out there—maybe a lot of it—but he doesn’t know precisely what it is, who has it, or what might set them off.
Hence the reluctance to release tax returns and insistence that his business dealings are off-limits to Mueller.

And of course his super nice guy routine with Putin.

Because he doesn't know how much Putin knows and he is worried.

And he will do anything to make sure that it is not a problem.

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