2017-07-13 05:17:07 UTC
Trump told his southern red-neck fans that Putin ain't the monster the
MSM and the Democrats want them to believe. And so, BBC News screamed
`I get on very well with Putin',
referring to Trump.
This poster thinks that the US president can be friend of whoever he
wants. It is an empirical fact and has simple logic behind it --- we
have the most powerful military and the most formidable diplomatic
resources to back him up.
But the president of this powerful country should treat other
countries with respect and with reciprocity. He should also have
greater respect for people's lives. The reason why terrorism has
spread to Europe and North America is simply because of the violence
Trump's predecessors have sown.
Trump doesn't need to start a new region of instability in the Far
Northeast of Asia. If he foolishly does, his adversaries who have
tried to pull him down with their Russian stories will surely seize on
the mess he but only he himself will have created and successfully
impeach him. So far, the DJT, Jr./Veselnitskaya affair is, according
to the slavic affairs expert Leonid Bershidsky, low level stuff that
won't rise to the level of impeachment. "Level" in fact has a clear
technical meaning in Russian politics, as he carefully explained.
So, Trump has a choice on North Korea. If he makes a wise one. I'm
pretty sure that he will have a second term. But if he makes a wrong
move there, well, all bets are off.
Trump's Low-Level Russian Connection
The lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. was no Kremlin power broker.
by Leonid Bershidsky
July 11, 2017, 8:16 AM PDT July 11, 2017, 9:35 AM PDT
In stories about her meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Natalia
Veselnitskaya, the unlikely celebrity in the latest installment of the
Trump-Russia story, is often described as someone with "connections to
the Kremlin." That's misleading, although her involvement still says
much about how power works in Russia.
The red-brick fortress at the center of Moscow is the wrong
architectural landmark in which to look for the ties that made
Veselnitskaya a successful lawyer. The right building is a hulking,
futuristic glass structure just outside the Moscow city limits, which
houses the government of the Moscow region -- the constituent part of
the Russian Federation which surrounds but doesn't include the city of
The Russian system of power -- at least its all-important informal
part -- has always been all about "levels." Russian President Vladimir
Putin often uses the word to discriminate between matters that are
worthy of his attention and those that aren't. The regional elites are
several notches below the Kremlin level, which explains Putin
spokesman Dmitri Peskov's snobbish reaction to news about
Veselnitskaya: "No, we don't know who that is, we cannot follow all
the meetings of all the Russian lawyers both inside the country and
During Veselnitskaya's rise, the region, run by Boris Gromov -- the
general who presided over the Soviet Union's withdrawal from
Afghanistan in 1989 -- was a mess of corrupt schemes that ultimately
led it to de facto bankruptcy. I know a few things about it because I
was the publisher of an investigative book about the period, written
by Forbes Russia journalist Anna Sokolova. The book's print run was
seized by police at a warehouse located in the Moscow Region. The
publishing company, Eksmo, fought the seizure and successfully sold
During the governor's 12-year tenure, the region set up a number of
quasi state-owned corporations, which issued billions of dollars'
worth of bonds in what later turned out to be Ponzi-like
schemes. Alexei Kuznetsov, the regional finance minister who was
married to New York socialite Janna Bullock, fled Russia in 2008,
after the schemes started coming apart, and was arrested in France in
2013. Extradition proceedings are still under way.
At the same time, the Moscow region was the arena of some of the
wildest land shenanigans in Russian history. Land, sometimes
enormously valuable because of its proximity to the Soviet elite's
traditional country residences, still used by top government
officials, was bought up on the cheap from collective farmers, and
then ruthless raiders fought bitterly over it. Their disputes, often
involving current and former regional government officials, became
Veselnitskaya's bread and butter.
Originally, she worked at the regional prosecutor's office. There, she
married deputy prosecutor Alexander Mitusov -- one of the region's
most influential law enforcement officials -- and set up a private
practice in the Moscow Region. Her success rate and reputation were
soon fearsome; she claimed in a recent U.S. court filing that she had
argued and won 300 cases.
After leaving the prosecutor's office, Mitusov became deputy transport
minister under Pyotr Katsyv, Gromov's deputy and the regional
transport minister. The minister ran one of the state companies that
ended up insolvent, leaving the regional government on the hook for
its debts, but kept his job, leaving the transport ministry only after
Gromov was removed by the Kremlin. Katsyv has since worked in top jobs
for Russia's railroad monopoly and a major hydrocarbon transport
Veselnitskaya did legal work for the Katsyv family. Among other
things, she defended Pyotr in a libel suit against a local activist
who accused the regional minister of involvement in shady real estate
deals (she won). In the U.S., Veselnitskaya is known for working with
the American defense of Denis Katsyv, Pyotr's son, accused by former
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of laundering money from a
Russian tax scam.
That wasn't just any scam but the Magnitsky affair, made famous by
investment fund manager Bill Browder, whose lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky,
many believe was tortured and killed in a Russian prison after
exposing a massive fraud perpetrated by Russian tax officials and
their accomplices. The affair inspired the Magnitsky Act, sanctioning
participants in the scheme and any other Russian human rights
violators. The Russian parliament retaliated by banning U.S. adoptions
of Russian children, and President Vladimir Putin signed the bill,
denouncing the Magnitsky Act as a domestically motivated political
attack on Russia. (The governments of Canada and the U.K. have both
backed Magnitsky-inspired legislation this year.)
Talk of Veselnitskaya's Kremlin ties comes from her efforts to lobby
for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act -- which is what Donald Trump,
Jr., claims she tried to do when she got her meeting with him,
presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump campaign manager Paul
Manafort. She got the meeting through a string of Moscow Region
contacts. The introduction was made by Rob Goldstone, the former
U.K. tabloid journalist who promoted Russian-Azerbaijani pop singer
Emin is the son and heir of real estate billionaire Aras Agalarov, who
is also often described as close to Putin. Like many Russian
businessmen who want to stay in the Kremlin's good graces, Agalarov
takes on projects on government orders, even at a loss, such as the
construction of a university in the far east and two soccer arenas for
the 2018 World Cup. But his real power base is in the Moscow
Region. His enormous expo center, concert hall and shopping complex
are located right next to the regional government building. Agalarov
even built the subway station, Myakinino, that low-ranking regional
bureaucrats use to get to work.
It was with the Agalarovs that Trump partnered for the 2013 Miss
Universe pageant, held in Moscow. That's how Goldstone, who arranged
the presence of Trump and the contestants in an Emin Agalarov music
video, knew Donald Jr. Emin, for his part, knew Veselnitskaya, queen
of the regional courtrooms. Before he was elected, Trump's level of
communication in Russia was no higher than that of the Moscow Region's
elite, several notches below the Kremlin. Aras Agalarov said of Trump
in a recent interview with the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda:
It's one thing when he communicates with me. That's, like, one
level. But it's a different matter for him to communicate with the
president of the Russian Federation.
It was Rex Tillerson, the current secretary of state, who, as chief
executive officer at Exxon Mobil, enjoyed the highest level of
access. Trump just wasn't important enough. It's entirely possible
that a Kremlin effort to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton reached to
lower levels because that's where it was easiest to establish contact
with Trump's family. But it's more likely that Veselnitskaya, the
tenacious and ambitious lawyer who could pull every string in the
Moscow Region, did so to get her pet issue -- the repeal of the
Magnitsky Act, which was getting her major client in trouble -- in
front of some important Americans. That kind of effort would have been
on the right level.
Even if that meeting didn't help, Veselnitskaya has every reason to be
happy Trump won. He fired U.S. Attorney Bharara in March, and in May,
the case in which Denis Katsyv was involved ended in a surprise $6
million settlement, agreed by Bharara's successor Joon Kim. Katsyv
escaped with just the payment, without admitting any guilt. No lawyer
in Veselnitskaya's situation could have asked for more.
`I get on very well with Putin'
In another interview, with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he also
said he gets along "very well" with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
His comments came days after his much-anticipated meeting with Mr
Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg.
"People said, oh, they shouldn't get along. Well, who are the people
saying that? I think we get along very, very well," he said.
Trump and Putin: Comparing the men
Imagining the fateful meeting
Putin and Trump in their own words
Mr Trump cited the recent ceasefire in south-western Syria as an
example of how co-operation with Mr Putin worked.
He said he was sure the Russians would have preferred to have Democrat
Hillary Clinton in the White House.
Why? "If Hillary had won, our military would be decimated," he said.
"Our energy would be much more expensive. That's what Putin doesn't
like about me. And that's why I say, why would he want me?"