Russian Oligarchs Investing in Trump Properties

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A recent article in Newsweek highlights gargantuan investments on the part of Russian oligarchs in Trump properties. President Trump, throughout the course of his 2016 campaign, repeatedly asserted that he had no investments or interests in the Russian Federation. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, underscoring his problems with veracity, Trump continues to insist that he has no ties with Russia. Yet, a constant stream of information continues to emerge.

In 2008, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, purchased a property from Trump in Palm Springs for almost $100 million dollars. According to many local real estate brokers in Palm Springs this represented a gross over-payment for the property. Rybolovlev never resided on the property and a mere two years after the purchase demolished the residence. This transaction prompted a great deal of speculation as to what, exactly, took place with this exchange of funds.

In New York, a number of wealthy Russians with ties to organized crime, either leased or bought high-priced Trump properties, including such infamous figures as Felix Sater.

The Extent of Investments by Russian Oligarchs in Trump Properties

First of all, the reason why Russian oligarchs invest heavily in U.S. real estate in the United States, is political and economic instability in the Russian Federation. Under Putin, what has transpired is an acceleration of economic disparity–the transference of gargantuan measures of power and wealth from middle and lower classes to the top 1% of the population. Sound familiar?

Secondly, it remains exceedingly difficult to assess the full extent of Russian investments in the U.S. real estate market due to loopholes in State and national disclosure practices under law. Frequently, foreign investors are able to hide their identities through the setting up of Limited Liability Companies or LLCs. Investors set up a company either through proxies often using monikers which sound innocuous and seldom tied, by name, to the name of the investor. Often, investments are made through a series of such companies making it nearly impossible to identify the actual property holder. As the Newsweek article points out, New York and Florida, due to State loopholes, have been particularly amendable to such practices.

It is estimated that Russian oligarchs have invested well over $100 million dollars in Trump properties in Florida alone. Among the Russian billionaires who have invested in such properties are the following;

Oleg Miserva: A former police commander who has received lavish praise from Vladimir Putin, he was accused of murder, blackmail and slander.

Alexander Yuzvik: A former Senior Executive with Spetstroi, a state-owned Russian company specializing in the construction of military facilities.

Vadim Valeryevich Gataullin: A politician from the semi-autonomous Russian Republic of Bashkortostan, an oil-rich region of the Russian Federation.

Alexey Ustaev: Founder of the St. Petersburg-based bank, Viking.

Pavel Uglanov: Former Deputy Minister of the regional government of Saratov from 2010 to 2011. He also has close ties with groups that have been sanctioned by the U.S. for their participation in the illegal annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation.

All of these men hold properties valued at over $1 million dollars sold by Trump in south Florida. Reuters reports that 63 individuals holding Russian passports purchased over $98 million dollars in seven Trump properties in South Florida.

The Blissful Assertion that this is Normal and Just Good Business

In some quarters, when confronted with such irregularities, Trump apologists are wont to note that the President is doing nothing wrong and nothing that other political figures have done—it’s just good business, they say. Really? Okay, name a former President who personally profited to the tune of $100 million dollars from the sale of properties to recognized figures from organized crime circles and politicians from a hostile foreign state. Take your time.

“But Hillary”, the common refrain and fallback position. Here’s the thing, we have 30 years of tax returns from the Clintons and their aggregate assets don’t come close to those of Donald Trump so don’t even go there. Be nice to see Trump’s tax returns so we could get a better idea of the extent of his Russian involvements. He did promise he would release those after his election to the Presidency. We’re still waiting. Yet again, Trump lied. He does that a lot. Meanwhile, keep holding on to that ludicrous notion that what we’re seeing–the piecemeal dismantling of our institutions–is, somehow, Making America Great Again. You can regret and weep later, right along with the rest of us….when our Republic ends up being a full-blown Kleptocracy just like Russia.

 

 

Alexander Porfirievich Torshin, Another Russian Mafioso in Trump Circle

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Alexander Porfirievich Torshin served as a Russian Senator from 2001 to 2015. He is also a close associate of Vladimir Putin and  the First Vice-chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. Additionally, he is also a billionaire oligarch with close ties to organized crime. Specifically, he is the purported Godfather of the notorious Taganskaya criminal organization.

According to Spanish authorities, who had Torshin under surveillance for some time, Torshin was directly involved with Russian crime figures operating on Mallorca in the Balearic Islands. The Spanish national police (La Guardia Civil) and Federal Prosecutors had tapped the phone lines of Taganskaya under-bosses and recorded conversations with Torshin, verifying his status as superior in criminal activities in Spain. While a number of Russian under-bosses have been taken into custody and face prosecution for charges ranging from money laundering to contract killing, Torshin evaded arrest. Spanish authorities believe that he was forewarned by Russian authorities.

An article in the Spanish newspaper, El Paisreported that a total of 33 phone conversations between Torshin and Russian crime boss on Palma de Mallorca, Alexander Romanov, reveal a close relationship between the two men and that Romanov was clearly a subordinate in the Taganskaya’s organizational structure.

In spite of the recorded conversations between the two men and a rather damning body of evidence that they had a close working relationship, a spokesman for Torshin released a statement noting,

Mr Torshin was acquainted with Alexander Romanov in 1990s, their contacts were informal in nature and terminated seven years ago. Mr Torshin has never intended to visit Alexander Romanov.

Member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Activities in the US

Torshin has managed to become a life-time member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and is prominent in a parallel organization in the Russian Federation called the Right to Bear Arms. The President of the Russian organization is Maria Butina, a close associate of Torshin’s who resides in Washington D.C.

Maria Butina

Maria Butina

On November 12, 2016 Butina held a birthday party at her residence in D.C attended by a number of Trump campaign members. The announced reason for the celebration was the winning of the election by Donald J. Trump.

Butina, an admirer of Putin has had a meteoric rise to prominence and that trajectory has been closely tied to the career of Torshin. As the President of Right to Bear Arms, her pro-gun stance has put her in good stead with the National Rifle Association. Torshin is a close friend of NRA President, David Keene.

The first direct interaction between Torshin and the National Rifle Association took place in May, 2013 when he traveled to Houston, Texas for the organization’s annual convention. Torshin wrote about his attendance some months later in the Washington Times, a pro-Trump media outlet.

Torshin’s Interface with Members of the Trump Family and Campaign

In security clearance application forms and subsequent congressional testimony, President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has repeatedly failed to fully disclose information regarding his contacts with Russian officials and business figures. Among those attempts to obfuscate and downplay interactions are apparent contacts–or attempted contacts-from Torshin.

At a National Rifle Association event held in Kentucky in May, 2016, President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., apparently sat next to Torshin. According to statements from Trump Jr. released by spokespeople for the First Son, the content of his conversation was innocuous. Nevertheless, this represents yet one more interaction between a member of the Trump family or the Trump campaign and a prominent Russian with close ties to Putin. At this point and in light of a stream of undisclosed meetings, e-malls and exchanges between Russians and those counted among the President’s inner circle continue to elevate suspicion.

Never in the history of the United States have we seen such unprecedented levels of involvement between prominent people of a hostile power and those close to a sitting U.S. President.

 

He Went to Jared: Yuri Milner Hits Kushner’s Backdoor

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We all know well by now of Jared Kushner’s poor memory and quixotic relationship with veracity. Somehow, a guy that runs a multi-million dollar business and managed to graduate from Harvard Law cannot accurately complete a damned security clearance form like tens of thousands of other government and private-sector officials manage to do each and every year. Not only can he not accurately complete the form once, but several times. There’s another term for such displays of purported ineptitude, its called lying.

Lying about what? It’s very simple: He’s lying about his contacts with Russian individuals, companies and officials. But why would he lie about Such things? Simple. He has done something illegal or unethical or both. What, precisely? Well, we don’t know yet, but we’ll find out eventually. It will take tens of millions of dollars and perhaps years, but this rat is going to go down.

Who is Yuri Milner and Why Does Kushner Lie About Him?

Recently, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, released a trove of documents collectively referred to as the “Paradise Papers”. The Paradise Papers represent more than seven million documents granting us a look at how the world’s ultra-wealthy and very powerful screw the rest of us over, to be blunt. Within this corpus of sin and corruption are included details around the relationship between Jared Kushner and Yuri Milner.

The Russian State’s gas and oil company, Gazprom, and a Kremlin-backed bank invested huge amounts of capital in social media entities such as Facebook and Twitter and their point-man was Yuri Milner. It is well-known that the state-owned companies involved are often used as political tools by Vladimir Putin and Russian Intelligence agencies such as the FSB and GRU.  As an article in the Guardian reports,

The money flowed through investment vehicles controlled by Milner, who also invested in a startup in New York that Kushner co-owns with his brother. Kushner initially failed to disclose his own holding in the startup, Cadre, when he joined Trump’s White House.

Among the many things Jared forgot to disclose, his relationship in a joint-venture with a well-known technocrat frequently utilized by Russian State interests. Yeah, sure. How, exactly, could any American citizen who lived through the 2016 elections miss the import of Russian involvements during the campaign? Yet, this is what Mr. Kushner claims. He forgot to disclose the relationship when filling out his security clearance forms. Kushner is not some low-level flunky in the State Department or a CIA Field Officer: He’s a god-damned Senior Adviser to the President of the United States! If any of us were guilty of an omission of an event or relationship comprising even a fractional portion of this level of prevarication we’d not only be denied a security clearance we would be brought up on charges. And yet the American public has to watch this farce and pretend otherwise.

Top Secret Clearances

Top Secret Clearances

And not only do we have to pretend, at least to a degree, we have to pay the cost of going through the charade of probity in process—we’ll be forced to watch as tens of millions of dollars go out the window to prove he lied. It is just intolerable.

In July, Jared Kushner appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee and he had the temerity to state,

“I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector,

Now this is a guy who following the initial filing of his security-clearance forms, had to file four addenda to fill in all the information he forgot. He forgot to list over 100 foreign contacts with whom he had business dealings. He forgot to disclose multiple meetings with Russian officials, including some pretty well-known figures. He forgot to mention the now infamous meeting on June 21, 2016 between he, Paul Manfort, Donald Trump Jr. and a pack of Russians. He forgot to mention a number of e-mails, including one from Wikileaks, which he received from his brother-in-law and forwarded on to the Trump campaign. And, of course, he forgot to mention that one of his business partners was a billionaire Russian Technocrat who also happens to be a pal of Vlad’s.

How did this guy make it through Law School or pass the Bar? “Jared, is your case analysis for Torts prepared and ready for submission?” Oh, sorry, I forgot. Refresher for Senior Adviser Kushner: You are married to Ivanka and you have two children. You work in a place called the White House and you’re the son-in-law of an Orange Buffoon who also has a problem with the truth. You have a very high security clearance and you run a billion dollar business. Your Daddy is a convict and swindler, just like you. Any of this ring a bell, Jared? Oh yeah, and you relied on Russian funds to save your ass from going under and one of your business partners is named Yuri Milner, a Russian guy. But you know all this and now so do we.

Mapping Out the Lie and How Jared Bent Over for Bucks

It is well-known that when then 26 year-old (2007) Jared Kushner purchased a billion dollar property at 666 5th Avenue in Manhattan he paid far too much. It is also now well-known that the coalescence of his business interests with Russian Oligarchs bearing large bushels of cash has been documented endlessly. So, when you’re in way over your head and Russian mobsters and financiers hold your markers and your Daddy-in-Law gets elected President you have a clear path: You bend over when Yuri says drop your pants and you do whatever Putin directs you to do. Oh, and you thank your lucky stars.

Following Trump’s election, Jared began a furious spate of world-traveling, careening from Riyadh to London and from Europe to Africa. Ostensibly, you’re paving the way for a glorious new era of swamp-draining but which looks increasingly and suspiciously like raising revenues for your sinking investments. In short, you use your father-in-law’s presence in the Oval Office to cash in. When you’re a third generation sheister from Jersey, that’s what you do. Of course!

Russian State-run Gazprom channeled money through Kanton Services then through DST USA Investments and into Facebook and the guy who handled this was Yuri Milner. Another conduit was the VTB and Bank and another branch of DST investments, again handled by Yuri Milner. This channel paid for investments into Twitter. How much money did these Russian State funded interests channel into Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies? Well, apparently in excess of $191 million dollars. And the American-based company which operated in the space between these two funding channels was, wait for it, Cadre–a start-up co-founded and run by Jared. 

More on Jared’s Problems Completing Security Clearance Forms

Charles Phalen, the head of the office which conducts background checks in Washington D.C., went on record  before a House Oversight Sub-Committee last month to note that he has, ““never seen that level of mistakes,”

Again, Jared not only failed to disclose a wide range of rather important details on his initial security clearance form submission but he has filed four corrections in the form of addenda to his application. So, what’s the limit on something like that anyway? Five, seven, twelve? How many times to you get to lie to the American people when you have the highest security clearance in the land, with access to information that might jeopardize members, say, of our clandestine services community, before some penalty kicks in?

Jared Kushner has lied, repeatedly. There’s no other way to put it. He lied. He lied because he was in big trouble financially and he needed money. Nothing is sacred to this man: Not his country, not national security and certainly not the truth. He doesn’t care about our institutions or our values, he simply doesn’t care His continuing presence in the White House is an insult to the American people, period.

Why this man continues to hold a security clearance is something every single American should be shrieking from the rafters.

“Draining the Swamp” and the Intolerable Misery of Averted Just Desserts

Any sentient being who maintains that what we are seeing represents a “draining of the swamp” is simply too stupid to hold a conversation with—the dew has been off that pumpkin for some time now and it’s time to just knock it off with that shit.

Jared Kushner, were he any other regular American citizen, would have been fired the first time he had to file an addenda. He should have been booted out of the White House forthwith. That he continues to pollute the House of the People with his tainted and corrupt presence is intolerable. Any person of experience already knows, in watching this insolent brat and his many prevarications, that he is up to some shaky stuff. We know it. The evidence is there and its abundant. Yet we all know that this pretend, other-worldly Congressional sham, mirroring the prevailing sham of the Trump White House, will continue for some time.

One day, the plays will finally run out and Jared’s backside will get the toasting it so richly deserves. But the misery of it is that this prick, even if convicted of high crimes and misdemeanors, will at most do a couple of years in some minimum-security prison in Vermont and, when he gets out, he will still be a multi-millionaire. Not only that, but he’ll go on FOX bleating about how he has been a victim of the Deep State. Yes, it is intolerable. Jared’s not working on draining the swamp, he’s riding bitch for the biggest alligators…and most of them speak Russian.

 

Jared Kushner, Wanker in the White House

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When I close my eyes and envision the archetypal wanker, my mind conjures up the face of Jared Kushner. You have to consider the lineage and biographical sketch of who this man is to fully appreciate the deployment of the epithet “wanker” in all of its opprobrium. Kushner has held up the figure of his father as his beacon and his idol. Let’s consider that against the backdrop of what his father did and who he is.

Charles Kushner, an attorney, helped his father–Jared’s grandfather–grow a New Jersey-based real estate business which, from the 1980s to early 2000s boomed. The business practices of the Kushner family concern were not exactly blemish-free. In 2004 Charles ran amok and came to federal attention when he was fined $500,000 by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for making campaign contributions in the name of his business partnership without obtaining authorization. The US Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, headed up by future governor Chris Christie, launched further investigations into the political involvements of Kushner and his associates. Dad’s sordid activities included the illegal placing of $90,000 in contributions under Jared’s name while he was at Harvard Law. What kind of a shit-head implicates his own son in illegal activities in such fashion?

Jared’s dad’s illegal doings ultimately resulted in 18 Federal Charges, including; illegal campaign contributions, witness tampering and tax evasion. He pleaded guilty on all 18 counts and was sentenced to 2 years in prison. In an attempt to undermine some of the charges through witness manipulation, Charles went about as low as it goes. Mr. Kushner sent his sister, Esther, a video-tape of her husband, William Schulder, with a prostitute that he had hired in order to discredit him as he was then cooperating with the federal investigation.

Charles Kushner, felon

Charles Kushner Sentencing

Jared’s Dad did 18 months in Federal prison in Montgomery, Alabama. The dutiful son visited his idol every week during his incarceration. How touching.

On his release from Federal prison, Charlies returned home to his empire, still a multimillionaire, and resumed business as usual. He brought along two friends–two former cell-mates, white collar criminals just like him–who were promptly hired through a Kushner company second-chance program. Most of us who have worked for justice reform would rightfully spew out this misuse of the second-chance moniker.

Jared, of course, had the ill-gotten empire of his father plopped right into his lap. Jared also carried a grudge: He would later play a decided role in exacting retribution against Chris Christie and his allies during the campaign…cos, you know, when you’re a spoiled rotten, privileged little shit who idolizes your felonious father you have all sorts of moral and ethical leverage to condemn the likes of Chris Christie.

Smirking Wanker Before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Given a Dead-Line

Yesterday, Jared was forced to appear yet again before a Congressional Committee investigating Trump Campaign activities and involvements with Russian interests. This time, the Senate Judiciary Committee. Lest we forget, the reason the poor wanker keeps getting dragged back before Congressional Committees is that he keeps lying. He lied about seeking to establish back-channels for communication with the Russian government. He lied when he filled out his security clearance forms. He has lied about his financial involvements repeatedly. He has failed to disclose his business associations over and over again and he has lied about meetings he either orchestrated or participated in with a variety of shady figures with Russian ties.

Jared’s name turns up over and over again and, due to his misstatements, shaky relationship with the truth and his failure to be forthcoming he has managed to become a special project of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigations. Jared isn’t a victim, he’s a smirking perpetrator.

His appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday did not quell questions nor did it put to rest what has fast become accelerated suspicions. Senators Grassley and Feinstein, in a bipartisan moment of clarity and commendable decisiveness, sent Kushner a letter ordering him to provide complete sets of documents noting that what he has submitted thus far is “incomplete”. Of particular interest are security clearance submission forms and listings and e-mails detailing his exchanges with Russian Officials. He has until November 27th to submit the missing documents. Ruh-roh. Smirk your way out of this one, Jared.

666 5th Avenue, Jared’s Money-Pit

The numerical marker seems darkly appropriate: While Evangelicals flocked to the banner of the Orange Beelzebub how fitting that the son-in-law of their Trumpenfuhrer should hold as his primary financial investment a property bearing the mark of the Biblical Beast.

Jared Kushner at 666 5th Avenue

Jared Kushner at 666 5th Avenue

You see Jared sank over a billion dollars (according to all with expertise an horrendously over-inflated price-tag) into a property in upper Manhattan which sits at 666 5th Avenue. Currently, Jared is unable to make payments on the real estate and has been for some time. He stood to lose everything if the deal went down. We know that Jared and other members of his family have engaged in some questionable schemes in an attempt to generate revenue to keep the family’s fortunes from tanking completely. One example was provided when Kushner’s sister, on a trip to China, dangled the enticement of HB1 Visas before prospective investors. During his tenure on the Trump Transition team, Jared jetted around the world moving and shaking, using his political clout with Ivanka’s pops to cash in.

Mueller and his team are scoping this out with deliberate focus and dedication, very discretely and exhibiting only the highest level of professionalism. They are building a case, tracking down all of the strands in this sordid drama.

Jared is smirking now, but he won’t be for long. Never, in the history of the Republic, have we seen this level of nepotism and corruption. Don’t worry, Jared, your idol crafted you well. But in the end you’re going to end up wearing an orange jump suit just like your father. You have besmirched the halls of power and your continued presence sullies everything we honor. It won’t be long before the smirk fades and all that will be left will be the pasty-faced, vacuous wanker that we all know you have been all along. It won’t be long.

 

Conspiracy of Dunces, Homeless Advocates Fudging Failure

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In a recent article from Public Record Media (PRM) entitled, “Looking back at the ten year effort to end homelessness in Hennepin County” author Mike Kaszuba provided a glance at the City-County effort as it unfolded during the time-frame, 2006-2016. The article provides some useful information but also misses the mark in terms of contextualization. PRM gathered over 5,000 e-mails and documents through open records requests in an attempt to shed some light on the abysmal performance of the City-County’s ten year plan then relied upon the mainstream advocates responsible for comment and analysis.

Therein’s the rub and so it has remained for decades. Now’s a good time to consider whether or not entrusting the problem to the same group of people is a good idea. A well-known Minnesota advocate who has been around for decades, referred to this group of people and the debacle of the 10 Year Plan in very apt terms. He called the effort and its leadership a “conspiracy of dunces”. Works for me.

Demographics and Representation: Those at the Table and Those Missing

As has reverberated throughout a variety of topical advocacy discussions across multiple issue areas in the United States many have repeated such refrains as, “nothing about us, without us”. The underpinnings behind such arguments include the following central points or beliefs;

  • That an experiential component within advocacy efforts and the delivery of services is imperative for it lends a level of understanding that cannot be acquired through academic or professional avenues. Furthermore, that those who have lived a problem will understand it in ways that those who haven’t simply cannot and that understanding will enhance effectiveness.
  • That from an ethical and moral standpoint those who have experienced a problem or issue such as homelessness should rise to the apex of address in advocacy efforts and within service-delivery systems. Not only will that serve to curb exploitation by those driven solely by financial or professional interest in the issue but  it also provides a visible, public demonstration that those who have suffered or lived the problem can rise and speak for themselves. This element should be viewed as a critical imperative to help detract from stereotypical characterizations of the homeless.
  • The contention that through true incorporation of marginalized populations within leadership roles and infrastructures helps dismantle exclusionary practices. Here, such considerations as institutionalized racism, stigmatization of those with mental health issues or physical disabilities or illnesses and justice interaction are of high import when set against the virtual uniformity of our statistical understanding of homeless populations. If 39% of the homeless people in Minnesota are African-American and not a single Black person serves in a leadership role at the State or major metropolitan level it not only smacks of institutionalized racism but sends a very exclusionary message and drives a wedge between those served and those who do the “serving”.

According to the Wilder Foundation’s report, “Homelessness in Minnesota: Findings from the 2015 Minnesota Homeless Study”, the demographics of homelessness in the State, there were 9,315 homeless people in the State on October 22, 2015 according to the Point-in-Time (P.I.T.) survey conducted on that date. The demographics of those surveyed include the following;

  1. African-Americans: 5% of Minnesota’s general population, 39% of the homeless. In the Twin Cities Metropolitan area African-Americans comprise 50% of homeless.
  2. Native-Americans:  Less than 1% of the State’s population, 8% of the homeless. In Greater Minnesota 16% of the homeless are Native while it is 4% in the Metro.
  3. Hispanic-Latino: Comprise 4% of the State population yet represent 7% of those who are homeless in the State–this percentage is the same in the Metro.
  4. Asian-Americans: 4% of the State’s population, 2% of State-wide homeless, 3% in the Metro.
  5. Mixed or Other Race: Comprise 1% of State population, 4% of the homeless.

Thus, in terms of the demographics of race, people of color comprised 60% of the homeless in Greater Minnesota and 66% of the homeless in the Twin Cities, Greater Metropolitan region.

In terms of gender, according to a 2015 report from SAMHSA, the homeless population was approximately 51% single men and 24% single women. Another 23% are families, often single mothers and their children. Men have long disproportionately experienced homelessness at far higher rates than women, due to a variety of reasons including veterans status, differences in inability to access health care, justice involvement and higher incidences of substance and alcohol abuse. Among those defined as ‘chronically homeless”, by HUD definition, the rates of homelessness among men are even more disproportionate–in some studies and surveys, chronically homeless men constitute as high as 80% of the total.

By age, according to Wilder, 9% of the total number of homeless in Minnesota were 55 or older–sharp increases in this population have been noted over the last 10 years. 39% of the total are between age 24 and 54. 35% of the total are children under the age of 17 who are with their parents while unaccompanied youth ages 24 and younger represent 16% of the total count. More than three quarters of the homeless adults in the State possess a High School Diploma while 37% report having at least some College.

There has been criticism, in some quarters, of the homeless population along the lines of areas of origin–people noting that disproportionate numbers of the homeless are people who are not from Minnesota. According to the same Wilder study from 2015, “77% of homeless adults have lived in Minnesota for three years or longer, and an
additional 7% lived here at some point previously” (p. 18). Over 48%, nearly half, had lived in Minnesota for 20 years or longer.

Many people experiencing long-term homelessness (64%) reported serious mental health issues. Over half (53%) reported a chronic physical health condition or illness and 25% of long-term homeless report a serious substance abuse disorder that has been diagnosed. 63% of homeless men and 30% of homeless women reported prior incarceration at some point in their lives while 19% had been incarcerated in the previous two years.(p.28).

Demographics Reflected in Service Delivery and Advocacy Continuum?

Using the data as extracted from the Wilder Foundation’s 2015 survey as presented above, what would a “typical” homeless person look like and how might their life experience, in composite, be depicted or portrayed? Male over the age of 24 with an High School education or higher who has been incarcerated at some point in his life and who is also likely to have been diagnosed with a mental health or substance abuse disorder. By race, he would be more likely to be Black than any other race.

So, with that composite in mind, are these demographic considerations reflected within the leadership of advocacy and service-delivery systems in Minneapolis and Hennepin County? Let’s put this another way, if you were to take all of those employed by emergency shelters and Homeless service-delivery organizations, leading consultants, those in leadership in the big advocacy organizations, local offices of Federal and State agencies how would representation look?

Of the five large emergency shelters in Minneapolis, all five Executive Directors are white women over the age of 40. None of them, at least in terms of public disclosure have ever experienced homelessness, nor have they publicly disclosed prior incarceration, diagnosed mental health or substance abuse disorders and none of them served in the military (8% of total homeless). The Hennepin County-City of Minneapolis has had three directors, all white, two male, one female. In the faith-based continuum of service-delivery organizations, aside from the Emergency shelters aforementioned, all directors are white, predominantly females over 40–again, sharing none of the characteristic experiences delineating the “face” of homelessness.

Thus, while our composite or “typical” homeless person in Minneapolis and Hennepin County, as noted, might be a black guy over 24 with the aforementioned sets of life experiences characterizing those living the issue, the overwhelming majority of paid homeless advocates and service providers are white women over the age of 40 who have no publicly disclosed life experience(s) characteristic of the manifestation of homelessness.

For your reference, and with this demographic composite of the “face” of homelessness in mind, here are the “faces” of those who are well-paid to serve and speak on their behalf;

The Staff of Our Saviors Community Services

Simpson Housing Services

St. Stephens Human Services and Shelter (no photos on their site, but leadership is as noted above).

Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative

Lutheran Social Services

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Tubman 

Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans

This selection represents a sampling of organizations dealing with the issue of homelessness in Minneapolis and Hennepin County. The leadership of the Office to End Homelessness, those working in Federal agencies in the City and Hennepin County and all of the major non-profit organizations are run and dominated by people who have absolutely nothing in common with the population for whom they have abrogated the authority to speak. Are they bad people? No, invariably they are very nice people. Yet they are nice people who operate as a very exclusive, well-paid and insular club whose primary impetus is not to serve the homeless or undertake effective actions and efforts that would shift the balance in quantifiable terms. The primary focus is funding and self-promotion. Additionally, they simply do not understand how to organize well and that reality is demonstrated again and again over the course of decades. A group of 30-35 people run the show on homelessness in Minneapolis and they have been doing so for 20 years and more.

The thinly-veiled inference that no qualified black men, formerly homeless, formerly incarcerated people in recovery who have experienced the issue of homelessness first-hand could be found over the course of twenty years is ludicrous. One of the most fundamental of problems in the mess of homelessness in Minneapolis and Hennepin County is that those running the show cannot speak to the problem from an experiential podium of authority. You cannot acquire the sort of passion and commitment required through any other means–you have to live it. The refrain needs to be, “Nothing about us, without us!”

One refrain, repeated endlessly by homeless advocates in the region, is, “I could earn a lot more in the corporate sector or in business”. The inference being that their work in homelessness derives of compassion–a laughably false and purportedly self-effacing proclamation that simply doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The director of one of the major homeless shelters in Minneapolis earned 89K per year. He held a B.A. in German. Now I have no idea what sort of quasi-reality one has to live in to engage in the act of self-delusion which believes you can earn 89K a year with a B.A. in German in the corporate sector, especially when your German sucks. The State Director to End Homelessness holds a B.A. in Photography.

This same insular, self-congratulatory and highly defensive coterie of advocates and providers brooks no challenge and abides no dissent. In addition, their modus operandi has never been to partner with community organizations in any true sense of the word. Over and over again, I watched how they operate. They exploit, engage in co-option of the efforts of others and then give each other awards and promotions. Seriously, this is how they roll.

How does this pan out over time? Well, as Mike Kaszuba and PRM point out, you don’t fix much of anything, really. You spend exorbitant amounts of money over the course of decades then wring your hands in dismay when you fail to achieve results, like Director Mikkel Beckman. No, Mikkel, you are not doing the same thing as advocates in Utah and in an upcoming piece we will highlight the “why” of this statement.

What happens when the same 30-35 people run the show for 20 years? The bureaucracies and organizations in which they work expand, for one thing. The Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, in its preamble and goals, highlighted a number of important targets, among them;

  • The importance of data
  • That the number of emergency shelter beds would be vastly reduced
  • That the numbers of homeless would be substantially reduced
  • The importance of working in effective partnerships.

The PRM article hits the mark roundly when noting that County and City Staff failed to collect and disseminate data effectively—to the point where they couldn’t even do mandatory reporting on federal programs. The astounding assertion that, somehow, that lack of data was someone else’s responsibility is simply unacceptable. Shelter beds have not been reduced by even one bed and, in fact, have expanded. Community partnerships? Nah.

In the wake of what can only be deemed a colossal failure, those responsible do what? Well, one tactic is to throw a bunch of crap up against the wall and hope it sticks: You blame the 2011 tornado in Minneapolis, for example–even though there’s absolutely no data whatsoever to substantiate the assertion that it contributed to longer-term homelessness in Minneapolis. You whine about the lack of funding, in spite of the fact that the effort actually received more funding than had been projected in 2006 at inception of the plan. You rail on and on about the foreclosure crisis while not demonstrating direct correlations with homelessness. In short, the failure to achieve is not their fault, it’s everyone else’s, but not theirs.

What’s the solution? Well, there are many things that could be done, but the first step toward addressing this problem has to be getting rid of the aforementioned 30-35 people. They have had more than two decades to make a dent. They had ten years and tens of millions of dollars, 2006-2016–and they failed miserably. Quit asking them for their analyses and their opinions. Their constant assertions that they earn far more in the corporate sector….Fine!! Please, go for it! Get out of the way at last. If you really wanted to end or seriously curb the numbers of homelessness in Hennepin County the first thing you might do is clear a path for those who might actually be able to make a dent. P.S. Good luck earning 120K a year with your photography degree at 3M–I’ve seen you work, you’ll get fired the first week (smile).

Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll be taking a much closer look at aspects of the problems of homelessness and affordable housing in Minneapolis and Hennepin County–that “look” will include tracing some of the career trajectories of the people running this expensive shit-show. We will also provide some illustrations of the tactics this crowd has utilized and what happens when someone comes along who disagrees with how they do things. Actually, we’ll provide a number of instances drawn from a variety of sources over the course of years. This issue area needs an expose. The public needs to come to understand who these people are and what they do.

Nothing about us, without us! The secretive, non-public meetings of leadership need to stop. The endless self-promotion needs to come to an end. The impermeable coterie of vested leadership needs to be challenged and accountability needs to be raised to the level of a battle-cry and we need to call failure, failure.

Father and Son, Impending Flynn Indictments

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As rumors began circulating on social and in print media that Special Counsel Bob Mueller would soon hand-down indictments, Michael Flynn, Jr. took to Twitter to thumb his nose at Federal Prosecutors;

Mike Flynn Jr., Tweet

Mike Flynn Jr., Tweet

“SJW” means ‘Social Justice Warriors’ in case you’re wondering. Just to hone in on what that means a bit further. It means when you’re a colossal dip shit whose academic achievement culminated in an Associate’s degree in Golf Course Management (what does that even mean?) who gets to ride daddy’s coat-tails into a White House transition team position for which you have absolutely no qualification and people call you out on it, you rummage through your addled, under-developed mind and tear a page of out the Breitbart book of epithets.

You call us social justice warriors, let’s translate that into real-time meaning: People who have actually done something with their lives aside from tee-up balls on the green for Daddy and his pals. Smug bastard. He is the embodiment of all that is wrong with the United States at this point. If he doesn’t get handed a ten year sentence it will not be a sign of innocence, but proof positive of just how broken our justice system really is.

Lest we forget, this is the same dimwit who helped propagate the Pizzagate story. You know, that Hillary Clinton was running a child-sex ring out of a pizzeria in Washington D.C. The story culminated in a tragic event: a right-wing lunatic actually went to the pizzeria and shot the place up. Oddly, no child sex workers were discovered in subsequent investigations. Now, not a fan of the Clintons, but in comparison to Flynn Jr., well, there’s no comparison. This is what happens when a greens-keeper whose daddy’s military service lands him a spot in the public limelight gets to hold the mic for a minute. Junior, go to the back nine and shut up. Wait for the indictment…maybe you can fetch balls for the cons in the Big House. The good news is daddy might be there to protect you cos, son, you gonna need it.

Just can’t let it go. One could, literally, walk into any Starbucks in a major metropolitan area in the US, toss a handful of pebbles over the counter and hit half a dozen brighter, more qualified people than the likes of Mike Flynn, Jr., or Eric and Don Trump Jr., for that matter. Their very presence anywhere near the Oval Office besmirches our Republic.

The Transgressions of Flynn Senior

One hates to see it, on the one hand; a man who spent his life in service to his country with all the self-sacrifice that entails, who opts to sell himself out for cash at the end of it all. It is truly disheartening. And yet, that’s precisely what he has done. Michael Flynn, Sr., unlike his troglodyte of a son, actually did something with his life and now he has thrown it all away.

General Flynn will go down in history, on a first count, as the man who served the briefest term as National Security Adviser to the President of the United States. His tenure in office, a harrowing 24 days. He was forced out when it was found that he had–ostensibly–lied to Vice President Pence. Now that position (that Pence is an uninformed and not-culpable actor), is a topic for another posting. Flynn was forced out when it was discovered (har har) that he had lied about his meetings with Russian officials–among other now manifest misdeeds.

Michael Flynn Sr.

Michael Flynn Sr.

Both during the campaign and during his short tenure in office, Flynn engaged in a variety of activities for which he will soon be indicted. Among those, that he engaged in a quasi-official capacity during the campaign, in discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and may have traded potential policy favors for actions or the promises of action.  He also failed to register as a foreign agent and failed to disclose revenues he netted from both Russian and Turkish sources and interests. His dealings took him into direct contact with Vladimir Putin and Turkish dictator Erdogan.

The Turkish-Erdogan connection and Undisclosed Revenues and Involvements

As we now know, Michael Flynn accepted over $500,000 in payments for his work on behalf of Turkish interests. He failed to register as a foreign agent on multiple occasions, lied about it, then belatedly registered when he was caught. Pretty hard to argue, at this juncture and in the wake of his late registration, that he was an unwitting actor or that he simply forgot. A General who commanded divisions that forgets to report 500K. Nah.

It is being widely reported that Flynn, on the eve of the November, 2016 Presidential election, wrote a bizarre Op-Ed highly supportive of the Turkish regime. He also apparently participated in the planning of a scheme to kidnap Fetullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric and chief opponent of Erdogan, from his residence in Pennsylvania. Yeah, hard to make this stuff up…because when you’re a man who purportedly dedicates his life to the values of civil society what you should do is help foreign dictators kidnap political opponents in your country. Can anyone say the words, “conduct unbecoming”.

Fetullah Gulen

Fetullah Gulen

One thing that sets Flynn apart from the other pegs under scrutiny or indictment in this administration is that some of the things he allegedly did occurred while he was in office as a senior cabinet member in the Trump Administration. As has been widely noted, there’s also the lingering question as to why, 24 days after the stories broke about his involvements, he was allowed to prance around the capitol with one of the highest security clearances in the land. Yeah, that’s a problem.

So, Here We Are, Waiting on the Indictments

Multiple sources have reported that indictments of both Flynn and his son will be handed down shortly. Or, have they already been handed down and they remain sealed? Let’s not forget that months ago Flynn’s attorneys approached Congressional Committee members seeking immunity from prosecution. Publicly and purportedly, these advances were rebuffed. But were they?

For all we know Flynn may have pleaded months ago and he may have been working with authorities since March, 2017. Publicly, the rumors circulating are that indictments are coming and that they are using Flynn Jr. (or used) to pressure his father into turning over. Perhaps this is the reason Jethro the greens-keeper is talking shyte: Daddy already cut a deal and he knows he ain’t going to prison. That would explain it. Don’t celebrate too son, Junior, given this in your resume you won’t be working in any government office in the future. Remember, when they pull Daddy’s shingle you’re still amply qualified for any number of positions in the janitorial arts.

 

 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Ties to Putin

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Trump Administration’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed to disclose a set of lucrative of investments in a Russian company owned by Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law during his Congressional confirmation hearings. Yesterday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) began releasing a series of documents which are being called the Paradise Papers. A total of more than 13.4 million records detail a wide range of records exposing ties between a number of politicians, including Wilbur Ross. The papers reveal that the Russian-held shipping company in which Ross holds a stake netted over $68 million in profits since 2014.

As the Paradise Papers reveal, more than a dozen names of Trump major donors, cabinet members and advisers appear in the leaked records which were obtained by the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Details of Ross’s Involvements with Putin’s Son-in-Law

Kirill Shamalov is married to Katerina Tikhonova and is Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law. He is part owner of a Russian gas company named Sibur. Sibur, as leaked documents and public filings show, partners up with a off-shore shipping company called Navigator. The partnership escalated from 2014 forward in the wake of Russian aggression in the Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea.

Kiril Shamalov

Kiril Shamalov

The financial holdings and investments held by Ross were obscured through a series of off-shore tax havens administered by law firms such as Appleby and former subsidiary Estera–which spun off as a stand-alone entity in 2016. The opening salvo from the ICIJ’s web-site notes,

“Nearly 7 million records from Appleby and affiliates cover the period from 1950 to 2016 and include emails, billion-dollar loan agreements and bank statements involving at least 25,000 entities connected to people in 180 countries. Appleby is a member of the “Offshore Magic Circle,” an informal clique of the planet’s leading offshore law practices. The firm was founded Bermuda and has offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and other offshore centers.”

These secretive havens afford opportunities for the one percent to hide their investments and avoid paying taxes on their revenues through an elaborate series of shell companies. Ross, a billionaire himself, hid his involvements and investments in Russian companies through such scheming. His failure to fully disclose these interests during Congressional confirmation hearings add yet another Trump administration member’s name to the growing number of administration members with ties to Putin.

Revisiting Ross’s Failure to Disclose Investments by Congressional Members

Senator Richard Blumenthal, confirmation committee member who participated in the questioning of Ross, noted,

“Our committee was misled, the American people were misled by the concealment of those companies.”

The involvement of Ross and Shamalov dates back to 2011, as the source discloses. In that year, Ross began to heavily invest in Navigator through his investments company WL Ross. His investment gave him two seats on the company’s board. In 2012, WL Ross gained control of Navigator through the investment of $110 million from the faltering bank, Lehman Brothers.

Shamalov is the son of Nikolai Shamalov, one of Putin’s oldest friends. In 2013, Navigator became a publicly-traded stock on the New York Stock exchange and the collaboration between Shamalov and Ross increased exponentially. In September 2014, Shamalov increased his holdings in Sibur when he purchased $1.3 billion worth of shares in the company from Gennady Timchenko–the financing was provided by Gazprombank. Timchenko is currently under U.S. Sanction. The Gazprombank’s Deputy Director is Shamalov’s brother.

The President Who Has Claimed Not to know Russians

President Trump has repeatedly claimed that he knows no one in Russia, has no ties or business interests in the country and that the whole “Trump-Russia” thing involving collusion between members of his administration is just a ruse.

And yet, name after name from his administration pops up with regularity as investigations proceed. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Commerce Secretary, is just the latest player whose multiple and lucrative ties to Russia prove rather damning. Ross is merely the latest of those in the Trump circle who has misrepresented or lied and then been caught.

Felix Sater’s Relationship with President Donald J. Trump

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On March 22, 2017 a Motion to Intervene, Second Circuit was filed by Forbes Media, LLC and Richard Behar in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Second Circuit. Behar is an award-winning journalist who serves as Forbes Magazine’s Contributing Editor of Investigations. The motion seeks to unseal to court records relating to the trial and conviction of Felix Sater on federal charges in 1998. In the preliminary statement, intervenors set forth cause,

“Through this motion, Forbes and Behar (together, “Intervenors”) seek to vindicate the public’s right of access to the record of this proceeding, which includes documents critical to understanding a story of pressing political consequence: President Donald Trump’s connection to Felix H. Sater, who is well known as a conduit to Russian oligarchs and organized crime.”

The statement goes on to note that Sater worked directly with Trump and his organization on real-estate projects around the world and that he maintained offices in Trump Tower. It is further noted that as of 2010 Sater carried a business card identifying him as a “senior adviser” to Donald Trump. However, it is noted that in 2013 Trump had testified that he wouldn’t recognize Sater if he were in the same room. But as multiple sources have indicated, there did in fact exist a close working relationship between the two men and that the relationship had been maintained over the course of years.

Forbes and Behar are seeking to unseal the court records involved in the prosecution and conviction of Felix Sater in 1998.

Biographical Information on Felix Sater

Born in 1966,  Felix Mikhailovich Sheferovsky to Mikhail Sheferovsky, a Russian mafia underboss who worked directly for the notorious boss of all bosses in the Russian underworld, Semion Mogilevich.  His family had emigrated to Israel when he was eight years old, citing religious persecution as the reason for their relocation. The family subsequently moved to the United States and Sheferovsky, who changed his name to Sater, grew up in Brooklyn, New York.

Sater moved in a variety of circles. He maintained close associations with organized crime organizations; Eastern European (Russian, Ukranian) and Italian-American. His associations involved a wide range of Russian and Ukranian oligarchs, some with direct ties to Vladimir Putin. He also developed and maintained a wide range of relationships with both foreign intelligence agencies and their respective corollaries in law enforcement, ranging from Russian GRU (military Intelligence) and FSB (the Russian Federation’s primary law enforcement agent) to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and various offices of the US intelligence community–including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

He has been the subject of multiple criminal investigations, including a aggravated assault and money laundering. In 1991 he was convicted for assault after he stabbed someone in the face with a broken wine glass in a bar dispute. In 1998 he was convicted on a variety of Federal charges, though the details of the case are unclear–thus the unsealing action sought by Forbes Media and Behar. It was during the course of these proceedings that he began working as an FBI informant.

In 2000, Operation Street Cleaner resulted in the arrest of 19 people, including a number of individuals with alleged mob ties. According to US law enforcement officials he proved a source of valuable information utilized after September, 2011 to go after members of Al-Qaeda. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who had served as US Attorney for the Eastern District at that time, testified during her confirmation hearings that, “providing information crucial to national security.”

His involvement in money laundering and a series of “pump-and-dump” schemes-which led to his indictment and conviction in 1998–finished him on Wall Street, so he turned to a less-regulated and watched arena, real-estate.

Bayrock Group, partnership with Tevfik Arif

Tevfik Arif, another Russian emigre, had served as a Soviet Official before also relocating to the United States. It was in 2000 that he and Sater teamed up and founded the Bayrock Group. Bayrock, ostensibly a property development and management group, served as a front for money laundering, racketeering and a variety of other financial scams, as future investigations and court proceedings would reveal.

In Kriss v. Bayrock plaintiffs sought injunctive relief from Arif, Sater and Schwarz, as principals of Bayrock, on a variety of counts. Suit was brought for “violations of its conspiracy provision and from all Defendants for violations of substantive, aid and abettance and conspiracy provisions of state law.” The suit further alleged, “almost everything they took from Bayrock, the $8,000,000 Sater took, the $4,000,000 Schwarz took, and the $15,000,000 Arif took, came from crime rather than legitimate profit.” The suit went on to elaborate Bayrock’s financial scam,

“Using artifices to defraud architected by Roberts & Holland and Duval and Stachenfeld in conspiracy with them, Arif, Sater and Schwarz arranged for up to $250,000,000 of Bayrock’s profit as the co-developer of Trump Soho to be laundered, untaxed, through a sham Delaware entituy to Iceland (and reportedly then Russia), intending to evade up to $100,000,000 of U.S. taxation.”

The Trump Organization’s Involvement with Bayrock

As previously noted, Sater had carried a business card from the Trump Organization which listed him as a “Senior Adviser” to Donald J. Trump. Sater and his affiliates maintained office space on the floor beneath Trump’s offices and during Bayrock’s run, Trump himself met with Sater on a regular basis.

Aside from the well-covered inter-connection between Sater, Arif and Trump, Bayrock showcased in the Trump Soho development, the company actively worked on Trump developments in Arizona and Florida. Despite our current President’s attempts to distance himself from Arif and Sater, the record is rather damning.

In 2010, Arif was taken into custody by Turkish authorities. He was charged with running a sex-traffic ring which used underage girls of Middle Eastern and Eastern European descent. Though subsequently acquitted in 2012, many ascribed his acquittal to corruption through the pay-offs of Turkish officials rather than to his innocence. During this time-frame he continued his relationship with Trump and the members of family and with the President himself.

Arif, world-class criminal

Arif with Ivanka and Donald Trump

President Trump’s Hollow Plaints About our Justice System

As the Trump-Russia investigations proceed the President’s plaints about our broken justice system should be taken seriously. Our President is lying, unabashedly. His ties to Russian oligarchs, criminals and officials are well-documented and of long duration. These ties are incontestable. His assertion that he wouldn’t be able to pick Sater out of a room full of people is utter bullshit.

Sater, Arif and their associates, to this day, roam free-as does our current President. Trump’s repeated misstatements and outright lies about his relationships and dealing with Russian financiers and criminals are unacceptable. While hundreds of thousands of non-violent drug offenders rot in prison for offenses far less egregious these scum-bags live opulent lives from the proceeds of those whom they have ripped off and our justice system does nothing about it. Trump and his incessant whining about Muslim and Mexican criminals should be contrasted against the enormity of the crimes perpetrated by the Russians in his immediate circle.

This ball of fetid yarn is unraveling. As the layers of corruption and misdeeds are peeled away all Americans should be hoping for one thing: that all of these scam artists ultimately get dragged and dumped into court dockets and are forced to face their transgressions. This includes the 45th President of the United States and more than one member of his family. It is our great hope that our justice system might yet rise to the occasion and put this whole crowd right where they belong–in a 6 X 10 Federal jail cell for many, many years. God only knows they all have it coming.

No one should—for one minute—take Trump’s repeated denials of Russian ties seriously. He is lying, without shame  and without remorse. Our President represents the worst layer of excremental excrescence produced by a society of plutocrats who operate beyond the parameters of law and justice, with pugnacious impunity.

Trump Campaign Co-Chair Sam Clovis, Another Russian Stooge

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Yesterday, former national co-chair for the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, Sam Clovis, withdrew his name from consideration for a top position with the Department of Agriculture. Clovis announced his withdrawal when it came to light that he had testified, without the knowledge of the White House, before a Grand Jury hearing.  Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s interest in Clovis was linked to former campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos’ revelation in the entrance of a guilty plea, that a senior campaign supervisor had encouraged his liaisons between the campaign and Russian representatives.

Clovis is currently serving as senior White House adviser to the Department of Agriculture. His consideration for appointment to serve as the top scientist had come under criticism due to his lack of anything approaching suitable credentials for the job-as if that were a barrier to appointment in this administration.

Sam Clovis, Education and Professional Life

Clovis was born and raised in Kansas. Upon graduation from High School, he was accepted at the U.S. Air Force Academy and went on to serve for 25 years before retiring as a Colonel in 1996. He obtained his M.B.A. from Golden State University and a PhD in Public Administration from the University of Alabama. He further studied national security at Georgetown.

On his retirement from the Air Force, he served as Inspector General of the United States Space Command. He became a fully tenured professor at Morningside College in Iowa where he taught from 2005-2015 where he taught economics. Additionally, he worked for the Homeland Security Institute from 2004 to 2010.

Conservative Talk Radio Host: Impact With Sam Clovis

Clovis hosted a conservative talk radio program on station KSCJ-AM in Sioux City, Iowa for a number of years. The program was entitled “Impact with Sam Clovis”. In Iowa Tea Party circles he achieved notoriety. The content of his program was familiar in right-wing radio talk circuits; ostensible fiscal conservative values, railing against Democrats and the Left, assailing big government and stilted interpretations of American values. He provided a summary of his program’s content in his preliminary announcement for the show. He also advocated strongly for the shrinking of the United States’ colossal defense expenditures.

He made a series of inflammatory remarks on minorities and cast some egregious aspersions upon President Obama. Specifically, in 2013 he noted that the only thing preventing Obama’s impeachment was race–that he “claimed he was black“.

The success of “Impact with Sam Clovis” encouraged him to up the ante and he decided to throw his hat into the political ring.

Political Career and Involvements

In 2014, Clovis unsuccessfully ran for a Senate seat vacated by then retiring Democratic Senator Tom Harkin. Iowa Republican Joni Ernst went on to win her party’s primary and the Senate seat. Clovis was one of four candidates in the Republican primaries, the other three in the race. In addition to Ernst, Mark Jacobs and Matt Whittaker also competed. Ernst ultimately went on to take the GOP primary, garnering 56% of the votes. Rick Santorum backed Clovis in his unsuccessful bid. Ernst went on to defeat Democratic opponent Bruce Braley by a nine point margin.

Clovis run for Iowa Senate

Clovis Iowa Senate Campaign

As Rachel Maddow covered in her evening broadcast on November 2, 2017, one interesting aspect of his unsuccessful Senate in 2014 was his pro-Russian remarks, rather unusual for a Midwestern Republican at that point in time.

During the preliminaries leading up to the 2016 Presidential election, Clovis had backed Rick Perry’s candidacy and served as his Iowa State Campaign Chair before withdrawing in August, 2015.

Clovis very quickly thereafter was signed on as Co-Chair for Donald Trump’s Campaign. He came under considerable criticism in the wake of the appointment due to his previous remarks on Trump. In an editorial in the Des Moines Register, it was noted that many Iowa Republicans questioned,

“How (Clovis) reconciles endorsing Trump with his previous stances and statements, and whether he was motivated less by ideology and more by the promise of a big paycheck from a business mogul who has said he is willing to spend as much as a billion dollars to get elected”

Trump Campaign’s National Co-Chair

Thrust upon the national stage with his appointment to the position of national co-chair for the Trump Campaign, Clovis set forth his reasons for boarding the Trump train, citing the need to unravel or assail big government and entrenched interests. Among his public statements on policy matters during the course of the campaign might be mentioned;

  • March 2, 2016 Caiden Cowager Program Interview: Clovis floats Trump campaign position on corporate taxation rates, noting that lowering corporate rates would encourage the repatriation of off-shore assets fostering an economic boom that would benefit Americans.
  • May 11, 2016, at an event sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation: He sets forth Trump’s position on entitlement reform, noting, “After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. We’ll start taking a hard look at those to start seeing what we can do in a bipartisan way. … Right now, we’re not going to touch anything because we can’t predict the growth. We have to start taking a look not just at Medicare and Social Security but every program we have out there, because the budgetary discipline that we’ve shown over the last 84 years has been horrible”.
  • April 8. 2016 in an article in the New York Times, he touched upon Trump plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), noting, “A lot of it depends on what initiatives we can get through Congress. … The trend will eventually be that employers will provide income to buy insurance on your own, and the employers will get out of the group policy business.”
  • October 18, 2016 in an interview with the Boston Herald Radio, Clovis defended candidate Trump’s repeated claims of widespread voting by undocumented immigrants. He stated, “I’ve done a lot of work and study in this area, so here’s what happens: you have the opportunity for illegal immigrants to come to the state, and the state loosens its laws to provide for individuals to get driver’s licenses in the state, illegal or otherwise. … Then, through fraudulent documentation, because you’ve used fraudulent documents to achieve a status in this country, then you are able to register to vote because you’ve established residency. And people are no longer interested in whether you are a citizen and eligible to vote. The fact of the matter is, you’re a resident and they assume you’re eligible to vote.”

Clovis also, during the campaign raised eyebrows when he noted that Republicans should back Trump “or just shut the Hell up“.

Russia Investigations Continuing and Clovis Comes Under Increasing Scrutiny

As mentioned, Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s interest in Sam Clovis and the decision to have him testify before a Grand Jury was heightened by the Papadopoulos unsealed indictment which noted that a Senior Campaign supervisor had encouraged his meetings with Russian interests.

Victoria Toensing, Clovis’ lawyer, issued a statement to the effect that Papadopoulos’ communications relating to Russian interests were “self-generated”, further noting that Clovis did not then believe that an enhanced relationship with Russia should form a pivotal point in the Trump foreign policy agenda—a claim that doesn’t match his previous statements on the matter.

The revelations about Clovis must again be placed firmly within the context of the incredibly high incidence of pro-Russian, pro-Putin, pro-Kremlin voices within the Trump campaign. We venture that continuing to argue that this overwhelming presence of Russophiles in the Trumposphere was (and is) merely coincidental will be met with escalating scorn and ridicule.

 

 

Trump Campaign Foreign Policy Adviser Carter Page

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Carter Page was one of five people who was named by then GOP candidate Donald J. Trump during the course of an interview with the Washington Post on March 21, 2016.  Page’s name has come up repeatedly for his many involvements with Russian interests both during the campaign and subsequent investigations. Today, Page is slated to appear before members of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee in closed session.

Biographical Sketch of Carter Page

Page was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1971 to Allan Robert Page and Rachel (Greenstein) Page. Following his graduation from High School he attended the U.S. Naval College, graduating in 1993. He went on to serve in the Navy on active duty for five years during the course of which he was posted as a Naval Intelligence Officer to a UN peace-keeping mission in Morocco. In 2994 he completed a Master’s Degree at
Georgetown. After his departure from the Navy, he finished a Fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations. Page next went on to work for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker based in London then transferred to the company’s Moscow Office where he served as Vice President of operations. His dealings involved working with Gazprom and other leading Russian energy interests.

In 2012, Page received his PhD from the University of London. He also taught a course at NYU and ran an international affairs program at Bard College. In the main, his professional career has centered energy policy and development. According to multiple sources he is an avid supporter of Vladimir Putin and has repeatedly promoted Russian interests.

Involvement with the Trump Campaign

As aforementioned, Page’s name first came to public attention in March 2016 when then candidate Donald Trump named him as foreign policy adviser. His areas of expertise? Russia, energy policy, Russian energy policy. In the wake of his being named as one of the Trump campaign’s advisers, Page was thoroughly investigated by multiple journalists.

For openers, Page doesn’t speak Russian. During the course of a speech he gave before Moscow’s New Economic School he had to have questions translated into English for him and his speech was given in English. Perhaps more troubling was that during the same speech Page quoted Vladimir Putin (in faltering Russian), ““We never meddle in the internal political affairs of other countries. Unlike the USA.” Yes, that’s a desired quality in a senior campaign adviser, undercutting American legitimacy before an audience in the capital of a chief adversary.

Aside from the fact that he lacks facility in the Russian language, there’s also the little problem that among experts in Russia and Russian energy policy he was unknown to experts in Russia and Russian energy policy until he was named as an expert by the Trump campaign. In an article in Politico, one expert noted,

“He’s a nice guy, but of the people that I know that have Russian foreign policy experience or access and contacts, he wouldn’t be in the last decile, but he’d be in the second-to-last decile,”

Though Page has repeatedly touted his dealings with the denizens of the inner circles at the apex of Russian financial and energy sectors, implying a level of intimacy with power-brokers, many of those who actually do move in those circles had no idea who he was until he was named by the Trump campaign.

Trump campaign

Trump ties to Kremlin

Take his averred connections with Alfa Bank, lead Russian financial institution in the west. Pyotr Aven, one of the banks two founders, when asked about his relationship with Page, simply stated, “I don’t know this person.” In terms of Page’s purported meetings with Rosneft and major players such as Sechin, a spokesman noted,

“It’s bullshit. Just bullshit. You need to understand who Sechin is to even ask this question. It’s hard to have a meeting with him at all. It’s absurd.”

Nevertheless, lack of fluency in the language or acknowledgement from those with real expertise in Russian affairs apparently served as no impediment in his elevation to the position of senior adviser on Russia and energy policy in the Trump campaign. He did, however, possess one attractive attribute shared by many in that circle: Unabashed and effusive support for Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s agenda. Throughout 2016, Page engaged in a number of meetings and contacts with Russian officials while maintaining a working relationship with Trump campaign staff. As investigations into whether or not the campaign colluded with Russian interests, Page’s name has surfaced repeatedly and continues to do so.

Trump Foreign Policy Adviser Comes under Scrutiny

By the Summer of 2016, as subsequently came to light, Page was under surveillance by the FBI for suspicion that he might have been acting as an agent of the Kremlin. Both Senate and House Intelligence Committees have taken an interest in Page’s activities and he has been asked to surrender records of all contacts he had with Russian interests during the course of the campaign.

Today, Page will, as mentioned above, testify in a closed session before members of the House Intelligence Committee.

How a relatively unknown figure became a Senior Trump campaign adviser must be set against the backdrop of a wide range of other Trump appointees whose sole claim to fame is seemingly an unflinching support for Russian leader Vladimir Putin. It has become increasingly difficult to buy that the many Trump appointees sharing this attribute are merely coincidental. As the investigations progress Page, like many others in the Trump campaign and Presidency, will come under ever-increasing levels of scrutiny.