LATER TODAY, President Donald J. Trump will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin for (what we’ve been led to believe is) the first time. On the agenda: the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Russia, imposed after Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimea.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the FBI’s classified investigation into the alleged ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, with an emphasis on Russian hackers and the seemingly bizarre behavior of FBI Director James Comey.
Today, the focus is on (potential) bribery and graft. The below timeline illustrates how Donald Trump and his associates may benefit materially from their ties to Putin and his associates in Russia:
July 19, 2016
In his intelligence report, Christopher Steele tells of a meeting between Donald Trump foreign affairs adviser Carter Page and Igor Sechin, the head of Russian state oil company Rosneft and a “Putin close associate and US-sanctioned individual”—that is, someone personally blacklisted by the U.S. government. Sechin “raised with Page the issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related Western sanctions against Russia.” Page reacted positively to the discussions, Steele reports. (Steele dossier, p. 9).
October 18, 2016
In his intelligence report, Steele reveals more information about the summer rendezvous between Page and Sechin. “[T]he Rosneft company president was so keen to lift personal and corporate [W]estern sanctions imposed on the company that he offered PAGE/TRUMP’s associates the brokerage of up to a 19 percent (privatized) stake in Rosneft in return. PAGE had expressed interest and confirmed that were TRUMP elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.” (Steele dossier, p. 30)
7 December, 2016
Putin and Igor Sechin, head of Russian oil giant Rosneft, announce a plan to privatize 19.5% of the company. The price is 10.2 billion euros. The brokerage commission of the sale is, conservatively, worth hundreds of millions of euros.
—>As @adm points out, the 19.5% bears striking similarity to the 19% stake mentioned by Steele in the dossier.
8 December, 2017
Carter Page meets with Rosneft senior executives in Moscow.
12 December 2017
Rex Tillerson is nominated to be Secretary of State. While CEO of Exxon, Tillerson signed a deal with Russia to drill in the Arctic; for this, he received the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin. The Arctic project was scuttled on October 10, 2014, after the sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. government. At the time, Exxon had discovered a new field there with an estimated 750 million barrels of oil.
13 January, 2017
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump suggests that Russian sanctions could be lifted if Russia proved an ally.
20 January, 2017
Donald Trump is inaugurated president of the United States.
25 January, 2017
Reuters reports that a month after the Rosneft deal, it is still not clear who exactly purchased the aforementioned 19.5% stake in the Russian state oil company.
Meanwhile, Russia arrested a top cybercrime expert who worked for the secruity company Kapersky, as well as Sergei Mikhailov, deputy head of the information security department of the FSB, Russia’s national security service, the latter on the charge of treason. Both men were rumored to be involved in the hacking of the DNC.
—>The arrests create the impression that Putin is cracking down on Russians who tampered with the election, probably as a PR move, or to influence Trump, or both.
27 January, 2017
In advance of the planned called between President Trump and President Putin, which the latter announced on Russian TV, Kellyanne Conway confirms that the lifting of the Russian sanctions is a possibility. “All of that is under consideration,” she says.
Meanwhile, Business Insider reports that “the privatization deal was funded by Gazprombank, whose parent company is the state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom.”
—>While we don’t know for sure, because Trump has not released his taxes, it is plausible that Gazprombank is one of his many creditors.
28 January, 2017
President Trump and President Putin speak on the phone for the first time.
—>If sanctions are lifted, either today or in the future, both Putin and Trump, as well as Tillerson and Page, stand to benefit materially, in a big way.
Connect the dots and this narrative emerges: Putin ordered the sale of the stake in the oil company in order to generate revenue to use to tempt Trump to lift the sanctions. It sure looks that way. But even if the events in the timeline turn out to be a giant coincidence and that narrative proves untrue, even the appearance of financial impropriety by the U.S. president, especially as related to foreign governments, is what prompted the framers to include the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution. As Zephyr Teachout wrote this week in the Washington Post, “The framers knew what a headache [the Emoluments Clause] could become, but they included it anyway because of the lessons of history. They knew that foreign governments would necessarily attempt to influence U.S. policy, and they wanted the Constitution to protect against that.”
It should also be pointed out that, because we have not seen Trump’s taxes, we don’t know how much, if anything, he owes creditors in Russia, although a large debt seems likely. Also: there doesn’t have to be a big deposit in some offshore account for Trump to benefit here. Perhaps his “brokerage commission” would be paid by simply absolving him of his outstanding debt to Russian banks.
In any case, the President of the United States is today engaging in negotiation with the leader of a foreign government that has the ability to blackmail him, whether with personal or financial disclosures, as the Steele dossier alleges, and the CIA confirms. This is a violation of the Constitution, if not an outright act of treason.