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- Donald Trump’s Russian Connections Prior to Campaign: Even before the 2000’s, Trump rented posh apartments to at least a few Russians mobsters. [TAI]. But Trump’s Russian connections were limited until he became a bad credit risk. [FT]. From 2004 to 2009, two Trump businesses entered bankruptcy and he couldn’t pay off a $40 million bank loan. [Newsweek]. As US banks stopped lending to Trump, he was forced to seek capital from billionaire kleptocrats and oligarchs in the former Soviet Union. [TAI]. Trump started finding these billionaires investors through Bayrock, a real estate company founded by Soviet emigres. [WaPo]. In 2007, Trump established a relationship with Sergei Millian, the head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce, an organization the FBI believes is a front for Russian intelligence. [FT]. With Millian, Trump strengthened his connection to Russian oligarchs. [FT]. In 2007, Trump also started complimenting Putin’s political prowess, while calling George W. Bush the worst president ever. [Motherjones; Adam Khan]. Soon, money from Russian oligarchs began flooding into the Trump Organization. [CNN]. Recently, Reuters estimated that Russians have purchased at least $98 million worth of lots in Trump Towers in Florida alone. In addition, one Russian oligarch bought a Trump mansion for $95 million in 2008. [FT]. Trump’s business with some of these oligarchs and kleptocrats continued until he ran for president. [see e.g. WaPo (2013 Moscow Beauty Pageant); NYT (Moscow Tower plan for 2015)].
- Paul Manafort’s Russian & Trump Connections Prior to Campaign: Before Paul Manafort was picked to head Trump’s campaign in March 2016, pro-Putin Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs and politicians paid him tens of millions of dollars for his services from 2004 to roughly 2015. [Wikipedia]. Most notably, from 2006 to at least 2009, he was paid ten million dollars a year to lobby the US and Europe on behalf of Putin’s government. [AP]. Manafort laundered much of the money he received from Russia and Ukraine through Cyprus and Cayman Island companies and banks, [BI], and US luxury properties, [NBC]. Its likely that Manafort knew Trump in some capacity since the late-1980s. [WaPo]. However, their relationship must have strengthened when, in 2006, Manafort bought an apartment in Trump Tower NY where Trump resided. [Slate]. The two were often seen chatting on the elevator. [Slate]. In 2008, Trump himself formed a Cyprus companies — he owned at least two Cyprus companies in December 2016. [HuffPost]. Manafort and Trump’s longstanding connections to Cyprus call into question Trump’s appointment of Wilbur Ross to Commerce Secretary. Ross previously co-owned and co-operated the Bank of Cyprus with Russian oligarchs close to Putin. [Motherjones].
- The Trump Campaign’s Russian Connections: Putin directed Russian intelligence to help the Trump campaign by hacking Democrats’ emails, leaking these emails via WikiLeaks, and flooding social media with anti-Hillary propaganda. [NYT]. Such influence by a foreign power was unprecedented in a US presidential election. [Reuters]. Roger Stone, a long-time Trump associate and Trump supporter served as a “back-channel” to a Twitter account run by Russian intelligence agencies as well as WikiLeaks. [Guardian(WikiLeaks); [WashTimes(Guccifer)]. In addition to Stone, Trump’s campaign regularly communicated with Russian officials and at least one Russian intelligence officer, [NYT; CNN]. Members of Trump’s campaign also had suspicious connections with organizations tied to Russia. For instance, (1) Michael Flynn was paid tens of thousands of dollars by Russian business entities, purportedly for speaking engagements, [WaPo]; and (2) in October 2016, Trump Jr. was paid at least $50,000 for attending private discussions hosted by a pro-Putin Syrian think tank, [WSJ].
- Much of Dossier is Confirmed or Corroborated: Also during the campaign, a former British spy sent the FBI a dossier claiming Trump colluded with Russia. [NYT; Buzzfeed]. It claimed, most notably, that Russia bribed Trump, coordinated propaganda efforts with his campaign, and videotaped Trump having sex with Russian prostitutes for blackmail purposes. [NYT; Buzzfeed]. US intelligence officials have confirmed the truth of substantial parts of the dossier. [NewYorker]. The head of an East European intelligence agency as well as CIA officers corroborated the dossier’s most salacious allegations. [BBC].
- Trump’s Russian Connections During Transition & Presidency: After Trump won the election, he picked nominees with ties to Putin and Russian oligarchs, such as Rex Tillerson and Wilbur Ross. [CBS; MotherJones]. He also picked Flynn for National Security Advisor, who during the transitions, infamously discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador over five phone calls on the day they were announced by Obama. [Reuters]. Trump shares Flynn’s concern with sanctions, and has persistently advocated removing them and working with Putin. [see e.g. Reuters, Politico]. However, Congress has preemptively thwarted Trump. [USAToday (even some Republicans have voiced support for sanctions)].
- US Intel Agencies and Allies: Officials in US intelligence agencies strongly suspect collusion between Trump and Russia, [Haaretz; WSJ], as do our Western European and Baltic allies, [Newsweek; Guardian]. Starting in late 2015, foreign intelligence agencies discovered many suspicious contacts between the Trump team and Russian officials, [Newsweek; NYT; CNN; Guardian].