Week 35: A Double Scoop of Dossier Dirt
Movie sequels almost never capture the panache of the original, so the hope that Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson’s interview before the House Intelligence Committee (Nov. 14) would break news beyond the disclosures contained in Simpson’s earlier interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee was foolish. And yet Simpson’s mighty tongue broke new ground, the way The Godfather: Part II did in its era, advancing what we know about the Trump Tower scandal as House transcripts were released this week. The journalist-turned-opposition-research-artist who commissioned the Steele Dossier displaced for the moment the question of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and directed it on informed speculation that Donald Trump had engaged in money laundering with Russians for years.
Simpson told the committee that he had found general “patterns of buying and selling that we thought were suggestive of money laundering” between Trump and the Russians, namely “fast turnover deals and deals where there seemed to have been efforts to disguise the buyer.” Would the Russian government have known if Russian organized crime had laundered money through purchases of Trump golf courses or Trump condos? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) asked.
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“What is well known and well established in criminology now is that the Russian mafia is essentially under the dominion of the Russian government and Russian intelligence services,” Simpson said. “And many of the oligarchs are also mafia figures.”
In a statement released this week, Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee who would easily win best supporting actor if this drama was a movie, noted that the allegations of money laundering harmonized with what former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon sang to Michael Wolff for his book Fire and Fury. “You realize where this is going,” Bannon said. “This is all about money laundering.”
“There were a lot of real estate deals where you couldn’t really tell who was buying the property,” Simpson claimed. “And sometimes properties would be bought and sold, and they would be bought for one price and sold for a loss shortly thereafter, and it really didn’t make sense to us.”
Simpson expressed bafflement in his interview at Trump’s repeated trips to Russia—at least five dating back to the Soviet years—from which he returned without signing development deals.
“One of the reasons the whole thing struck me as mysterious, because it seemed like he had been there, you know, numerous times and never come back with a deal,” Simpson said. “There could be an innocent explanation for that, which is that he could never find somebody that—you know, an honest partner.” Simpson surmised that Trump used his high-profile Russian proposals—like trying to build a Trump Tower Moscow—to develop “different kinds of business relationships with the Russians” from which he could profit, like the Miss Universe pageant, his vodka business, condo developments not in Russia, and alternative financing.
The Simpson interview made headlines worthy of a scene out of Dr. Strangelove when he told the committee that the Russians had infiltrated the National Rifle Association. That’s right, one of the most extreme right-wing organizations in the world appears to have been tainted by former Commie scum despite the fact, Simpson said, that “Vladimir Putin is not in favor of universal gun ownership for Russians.” Schiff told New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg that his committee hopes to investigate whether there was “an effort to either create a back channel through the NRA, or provide funding through the NRA.”
Russian penetration of the NRA is only the beginning, Simpson told the committee, inadvertently echoing Strangelove’s General Jack D. Ripper. “They targeted various conservative organizations, religious and otherwise,” Simpson said without specifying which ones, thus leaving ample room for a sequel to this sequel should Congress request another interview.
Simpson indicated that years of dealings with Russians might have given them blackmail-quality leverage over Trump. But in that regard, they’re not necessarily alone. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen used a private Delaware company to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels, who purportedly had a sexual affair with Trump. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was paid $130,000 via Cohen.
The Stormy Daniels story provided ample embarrassment for the president—his lawyer, Michael Cohen, told the Wall Street Journal that his client “vehemently denies any such occurrences”— but the relentlessly logical editor of ThinkProgress, Judd Legum, pointed out how damaging the sex spree tale is to his reputation. Trump’s payment 1) all but proves his willingness to lie about the sexual escapades that have earned him a Masters in Venereal Arts; 2) is consistent with tales of other illicit Trump liaisons (see the Jessica Drake and Karen McDougal stories) and; 3) appears to show how vulnerable Trump has made himself to blackmail and extortion—and his eagerness for transactions that he thinks will protect him. The quick finding from the Stormy Daniels episode is more than just that Trump is deathly afraid of sharks. If Trump was reckless enough to hook up with a porn actress in the United States, perhaps he was nutty enough to partake in the sordid sexual exercise described in the Steele Dossier, the sex acts said to have resulted in Russian kompromat on him.
What sort of movie do we find ourselves trapped in? All those scenes on Capitol Hill make it one part Advise & Consent. Every time the action switches to Russia, the taste of The Spy Who Came In From the Cold or some other Cold War drama forms on the back of the tongue. Donald Trump Jr.’s frequent appearances call to mind Fredo in The Godfather: Part II and the constant comic intrusions return us to a Strangelovian state of mind. But all of this is prelude. After a year of scandal, we all crave a satisfying High Noon.
Hasn’t it occurred to you that the naughty want to get caught? Send your risky business theories to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts took a vow of abstinence upon reaching puberty. My Twitter feed has no morals but my RSS feed has a taste for blackmail.
via POLITICO Magazine
January 20, 2018 at 04:02PM