We’re starting to see the scale of Trump’s personal corruption — and it’s massive

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SALON NEWS)

 

We’re starting to see the scale of Trump’s personal corruption — and it’s massive

Mandatory stops at Trump resorts are the tip of the iceberg. This president has been “wetting his beak” all along

 

 

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HEATHER DIGBY PARTON
SEPTEMBER 9, 2019 1:20 PM (UTC)

So President Trump had a very normal weekend. He tweeted repeatedly about his mistake in telling Alabama it was in the path of Hurricane Dorian, insisting that it wasn’t a mistake at all. The controversy grew into something quite serious when it became obvious Trump was ordering an admiral to fall on his sword and take responsibility, and forcing political appointees at the NOAA to say his lie was actually the truth. Orwell has been mentioned. A lot.

Then Trump had an angry Twitter tantrum on Saturday night, announcing that he was canceling a secret meeting with leaders of the Taliban, that had apparently scheduled for Sunday morning at Camp David.

According to this tick-tock in the New York Times, Trump had decided to inject himself into the later stages of the negotiation with this Camp David gambit. But the whole thing was upended by his ego-maniacal desire to one-up Jimmy Carter and get credit for a big peace deal without having the first clue what he was doing or understanding the stakes. One of the parties he wanted for his photo-op was anathema to the Taliban, so they balked and then the whole thing fell apart — supposedly when Trump suddenly realized that the Taliban was still killing people. Nobody can quite figure out why he tweeted it out. One gets the feeling he doesn’t know either.

Those two stories dominated the news this weekend, but there was another brewing that will start to come into focus this week — if, that is, the Democrats do what they say they’re going to do. Congressional committees are reconvening and new reporting indicates they may have more information about Trump’s corruption than has been made public.

A couple of weeks ago I wondered if President Trump wasn’t hedging his bets a little bit on 2020 by accelerating the usual promotional activities for his properties. On some level he must know that he’s vulnerable, and perhaps sees that his window for using his power to benefit himself may be closing. In the last week we’ve received even more evidence that he’s been quite successful at dipping his beak ever since he became president.

Last Friday, Politico reported that the House has been investigating a strange incident in which the Air Force made an unusual refueling stop at a small government-owned airport in Scotland that just happened to be next to Trump’s failing golf course in Turnberry. The crew was befuddled at the order, and even more so when they ended up at Trump’s pricey club, feeling out of place and without enough per-diem money to buy food and drink. It was, to say the least, unexpected.

The reporting shows that many millions of dollars were spent since 2017 at this out-of-the way little airport, and more than just those airmen were shuttled to Turnberry to funnel government money into Trump’s pocket. The Guardian reported that that the airport gives complimentary rounds of golf and discounted rooms to some of the military personnel who stay at Turnberry, which suggests this is an orchestrated racket.

It’s highly unlikely that Trump would have directly given an order to do this. As Mike Pence’s spokesman said when the veep was criticized for staying at Trump’s Doonbeg resort on his recent trip to Ireland, it’s more like the president just “suggests” it. More likely people just know that pleasing Trump by putting money in his pocket is smart politics. He does love money.

It may be that this is not technically illegal. But it certainly appears to be massively unethical, especially if what the Guardian reports about the Scottish government’s involvement turns out to be true:

An investigation by the Guardian has revealed Glasgow Prestwick airport is a base for live missions by the US Air Force, while its executives have highlighted its close relations with President Trump’s nearby resort at Turnberry to promote its bid to become a spaceport backed by the US government.

The Scottish government knew all about this, apparently, clear back to Trump’s presidential campaign. If anyone still cared about the Constitution, that emoluments clause would clearly be in play here. From the looks of it, that clause is only in effect for presidents who take bags of cash in a paper bag from a foreign potentate. Other than that it’s no longer operative, and presidents are now allowed to take as much money from foreign governments as can be channeled into the businesses they refused to divest from when they became president. If the next Republican president isn’t already a businessman, he’ll have to set up some pass-through corporations so that he too can legally receive bribes from foreign governments.

Politico reported on Sunday that the Air Force was conducting a full review of the process after “additional instances of military personnel staying at Trump properties have been uncovered.” But Air Force personnel aren’t the only ones putting taxpayer money into Donald Trump’s Turnberry coffers. The Scotsman reported in 2018 that the State Department had paid for staffers to stay at the resort and that family members’ Secret Service details routinely spend tens of thousands at Trump hotels, Turnberry included, when their charges travel.

That’s nothing compared to the money that Republican officials, foreign dignitaries and fans spend at the Trump hotels, whose profits go directly into the president’s pockets. Nobody knows exactly how much money is being spent, but it’s in the tens of millions. The New York Times reported over the weekend:

Since Mr. Trump became president, there have been thousands of visits to his properties, not only by Mr. Trump himself, but by foreign leaders, lobbyists, Republican candidates, members of Congress, cabinet members and others with ties to the president. At least 90 members of Congress, 250 Trump administration officials and more than 110 foreign officials have been spotted at Trump properties since 2017, according to social media posts and counts by various watchdog groups.

That is undoubtedly a low estimate. And nobody knows how much money has really been spent. Some are looking for favors, some probably just want to be seen and some simply want to give the president money because they love him so much:

“President Trump has really been on the side of the evangelicals and we want to do everything we can to make him successful,” said Sharon Bolan Yerby, an evangelical minister from Dallas, who had dinner at the hotel last fall, and then headed over to the White House the next day for a “faith briefing” of religious leaders. “And if that means having dinner or staying in his hotel, we are going to do so.”

This is corruption in plain sight by Republicans, lobbyists, foreign dignitaries and supporters. Trump excuses it by saying that people just like his “product” and claiming that he’s actually lost $3 billion to $5 billion on this president deal. How could anyone possibly object if he makes a few measly million from people who appreciate his greatness?

 

HEATHER DIGBY PARTON

Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

MORE FROM HEATHER DIGBY PARTON

 

In ‘New India’, noose tightening on corruption, nepotism: PM Modi in France

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

In ‘New India’, noose tightening on corruption, nepotism: PM Modi in France

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Indian diaspora in Paris during his visit to France on Friday amidst chants of “Modi hai to Mumkin hai” at the UNESCO headquarters.

INDIA Updated: Aug 23, 2019 17:21 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets Indian community in France at UNESCO HQ in Paris,France, Friday, Aug 23, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets Indian community in France at UNESCO HQ in Paris,France, Friday, Aug 23, 2019. (Photo: Twitter/ @MEAIndia)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was the strength of 1.25 billion Indians that had powered the big decisions taken by his government in the first 75-days of re-election amidst chants of “Modi hai to Mumkin hai” during his address to the Indian diaspora at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on Friday..

He listed criminalizing the practice of “Triple Talaq” and indirectly referred to removal of the “temporary” provision of Article 370 that had granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir along with several other welfare schemes among the “big” decisions taken by his government.

“Triple Talaq, was an inhuman practice, we have ended the practice that hung like a sword over hundreds of thousands of Muslim women for years,” he said, adding that his government had set some goals for the country that were considered “impossible to achieve earlier”. He listed the “record number of new bank accounts” and the beneficiaries under PM’s Central health scheme as some important milestones.

“We have showed red card to several evil social practices in the last five years,” he said and added “In new India, the way in which action is being taken against corruption, nepotism, loot of people’s money, terrorism, this has never happened before.”

Watch | Modi’s Paris diplomacy: Macron fully backs India’s stand on Kashmir issue 

Modi’s Paris diplomacy: Macron fully backs India’s stand on Kashmir issue
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed media with French president Emanuel Macron on the first day of his three-nation tour. He spoke about Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan’s diplomatic campaign against India.
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“There was no place for temporary in India,” he said in a veiled reference to his government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. “It took us 70-years to remove temporary,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, the mandate given to him in 2019 elections was “not just to run India but to create a new India”, adding that the country had seen “several positive developments in the last five-years during which the youth, women, farmers and the poor were put at the center of government’s programmers.” He also said that several studies had confirmed rapid eradication of poverty in India.

The Prime Minister, who is on day long visit to France, said India-France ties were beyond friendship. There was no single platform in the world where the two countries had not worked together. So, I devote this day to India-France relations,” he said.

He said India and France partnership could be summed up by combining words “IN” (for India) with “FRA” (for France) to create “INFRA”. INFRA, he said, represented the joint efforts between the two nations in the field of “Solar Infra”, “Technical Infra” and “Space Infra” among others.

Also read | We met goals once considered unachievable: PM to Indians in France

First Published: Aug 23, 2019 15:14 IST

Prosecutor also attempted to intimidate Alexandre de Moraes to vote for arrest at second instance

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BRAZILIAN NEWSPAPER 247)

 

Prosecutor also attempted to intimidate Alexandre de Moraes to vote for arrest at second instance

The new chapter of Vaza Jato also reveals Deltan Dallagnol’s action in articulating street movements to pressure Teori Zavascki’s nominee Minister Alexandre de Moraes to vote for the arrest in the second instance – which, in fact, happened

(Photo: Marcelo Camargo – Brazil Agency)

247. Following the death of Teori Zavascki, Michel Temer appointed Alexandre de Moraes, then Minister of Justice, for the vacancy of Zavascki in the Supreme. “A year later, the minister became the target of an onslaught of movements coordinated by Dallagnol after the Federal Regional Court of the 4th Region confirmed, in January, the condemnation of former President Lula in the Guarujá triplex process,” reveal the new Vaza Jato’s messages, in the report by Rafael Neves and Rafael Mora Martins.

“Amid speculation about the probable arrest of the petista, circulated the information that the Supreme was studying to allow the sentence to be served only after the conviction was ratified Superior Court, the third instance. Attention then turned to Moraes, the only in the STF that had not yet cast a vote on the matter “, points out the text. Check out one of the dialogues below:

Three days after Lula’s sentence was confirmed, Dallagnol raised his concern to prosecutor Thaméa Danelon:

January 27, 2018 – Private Chat

Deltan Dallagnol – 20:41:03 – Tamis, as for the provisional execution, we have to make it more expensive for Alexandre de Moraes to change position

Thaméa Danelon – 20:41:26 – Of course

Danelon – 20:41:31 – What do you suggest?

Danelon – 20:41:49 – I saw that you replied a tt of a citizen.

Danelon – 20:41:54 – I will reply

Dallagnol – 20:43:56 – We have to gather information that in the past supported execution after trial of the SECOND degree and move the movements to hit it a lot.

Dallagnol – 20:44:09 – Letting face change

Danelon – 20:44:16 – Okay. I can move on to the moves.

Danelon – 20:44:31 – To Come to the Street and the Streets

Dallagnol – 20:44:33 – Show that change benefits Aécio and PSDbistas of the party to which he is linked

Danelon – 20:44:43 – Great

Danelon – 20:44:58 – I remember that he was in favor of the second instance.

Dallagnol – 20:45:00 – That will probably lose forum this year

Danelon – 20:45:06 – But I don’t remember how he stated that

“Whether because of the pressure or not, it is certain that a few days later, on February 6, Alexandre de Moraes did what Dallagnol, Danelon and Vem Pra Rua wanted: he voted in favor of the execution of federal deputy João Rodrigues, of the Santa Catarina PSD, which had a federal court conviction upheld in the second instance, “reporters report.

Brazil: Federation of Ceará confirms $ 30,000 Dallagnol fee, more walk in Beach Park

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL’S 247 NEWS)

 

Federation of Ceará confirms $ 30,000 Dallagnol fee, more walk in Beach Park

Dallagnol, coordinator of the Lava Jato task force, received a $ 30,000 fee to give a speech in 2018. The information that the prosecutor also stayed at the Beach Park hotel was confirmed by the board of the Federation of Industries state

(Photo: Agência Brasil)

From Forum magazine – Involved in accusations of collusion, along with Sérgio Moro and other prosecutors, Deltan Dallagnol, coordinator of the Lava Jato task force, received a sum of R $ 30,000 to give a lecture in 2018. The event was the project Ideas in Debate, promoted by the Federation of Industries of Ceará (Fiec), as informed by Mônica Bergamo, Folha de S.Paulo.

The journalist had access to dialogues between Dallagnol and Sérgio Moro. The information that the prosecutor also stayed at the Beach Park hotel was confirmed by the board of the Federation of State Industries.

Dallagnol was hired via Centro Industrial do Ceará (CIC) for the event with businessmen. In the opportunity, he exposed the fight against corruption, which would be headed by the group of prosecutors of Curitiba, with then the judge Sérgio Moro.

With information from Eliomar’s Blog

Brazil: Reinaldo wants Moro’s resignation says he corrupted fight against corruption

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL’S 247 NEWS)

 

Reinaldo preaches Moro’s resignation and says he has corrupted the fight against corruption

“Moro is today a shadow of what he once was, and his current reputation is in line with his biography, and I think there is still a lot of adjustment to be made,” said columnist Reinaldo Azevedo

(Photo: Reproduction | PR)

247 – The journalist Reinaldo Azevedo reacted to the note of the minister Sergio Moro, in which he criticized the journalists who have divulged information of the Vaza Jato. “Moro is worried about the reputation of the journalists who publish the information contained in the material received by The Intercept Brazil?” “Well, do not tell me!” Instead of him, I would look in the mirror. the journalism that does its work and fulfills its function.How do we Moro authorize us – TIB, Folha, Veja and this journalist – to “publish something serious” Well, and who deems this seriousness? universal judge! “he quipped, in an article published in his blog .

“I will propose to the other vehicles that we meet with Moro when he decides to publish anything. If he gives his” imprimatur “, we publish it, if not then not! I would like to suggest that you give up on the brave: resign yourself! Moreover, you are still a minister, you should register: you campaign in favor of corruption, who corrupts the instruments of state to … fight corruption, “he concluded.

India: In CBI crackdown on corruption, nationwide raids at 110 locations in 30 cases

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

In CBI crackdown on corruption, nationwide raids at 110 locations in 30 cases

Earlier this month, the CBI had searched premises of 13 companies and bank officials across the country for alleged bank frauds amounting to ₹1,139 crore.

INDIA Updated: Jul 09, 2019 13:56 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
CBI,CBI crackdown,corruption
The Central Bureau of Investigation jointly serves as a national security agency and intelligence agency.(AFP Photo)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is conducting searches at 110 places across 19 states in its probe on cases of corruption and criminal misconduct/

“In a nationwide action, CBI is today conducting searches at around 110 places in 19 States/ Union Territories. CBI has registered around 30 separate cases relating to corruption, criminal misconduct and arms smuggling etc,” said a CBI official.

Searches were being conducted in various cities including Delhi, Bharatpur, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Jammu, Srinagar, Pune, Jaipur, Goa, Kanpur, Raipur, Hyderabad, Madurai, Kolkata, Rourkela, Ranchi, Bokaro, Lucknow and other places in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Andhraby Pradesh, Karnataka and Bihar.

Earlier this month, the CBI had searched premises of 13 companies and bank officials across the country for alleged bank frauds amounting to ₹1,139 crore.

The search and seizure was one of the biggest simultaneous, synchronised actions against bank loan defaulters in recent times. The CBI’s top-brass, including its director Rishi Kumar Shukla, directly monitored the countrywide action.

First Published: Jul 09, 2019 12:03 IST

Brazil: “Where do you run when the anti-corruption crusaders are dirty?”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL’S 247 NEWS)

(OPED: THIS IS AN EXAMPLE WHERE IT IS THE JUDGES AND THE PROSECUTORS ARE THE ONES WHO SHOULD RIGHT NOW BE ARRESTED AND THROWN UNDER THE PRISON WALLS)(oldpoet56) 

NYT: “Where do you run when the anti-corruption crusaders are dirty?”

One of the world’s leading newspapers, The New York Times states that “the leaked messages show that Moro often overstepped his role as a judge”; “The leaks reveal an immoral judge, who joined prosecutors in order to arrest and convict individuals who already considered guilty,” criticizes

(Photo: Reproduction | Gustavo Bezerra)

247 – One of the leading newspapers in the world, The New York Times states that “the leaked messages showed that Moro often exceeded his role of judge – someone who should be impartial and prejudice-free – to act as consigliere [counselor] the accusation” . “The leaks reveal an immoral judge, who joined prosecutors to arrest and convict individuals they already considered guilty,” he criticized.

“He offered strategic advice to prosecutors: they should, for example, reverse the order of the various phases of the investigation, review specific motions they planned to file, accelerate certain processes, slow down many others. rebuked prosecutors when they were too late to carry out further attacks, endorsed or disapproved of their tactics, and provided them with early knowledge of their decisions, “the report said .

The newspaper continues, stating that “Moro became involved in press coverage issues and was concerned about getting public support for the prosecution.” “‘What do you think of these crazy statements from the PT national committee? Should we officially refute?’ He once asked federal prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, referring to a statement by the Lula Workers’ Party in which the accusation was considered a political persecution. Note the use of the word ‘we’ – as if Mr Moro and Mr. Dallagnol were on the same team, “adds the NYT.

“All this is, of course, highly immoral – if not totally illegal. It violates nothing less than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says: ‘Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him. “According to the Brazilian Criminal Procedure Code, judges must be neutral arbitrators and can not give advice to either party in a case. violated many provisions of the Brazilian Code of Judicial Ethics, particularly one that says that the judge must maintain “an equivalent distance from the parties,” avoiding any kind of behavior that may reflect ‘favoritism, predisposition or prejudice’.

IN THE U.S. A SITTING PRESIDENT IS ABOVE THE LAW: PERIOD!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Hundreds of former Justice officials assert Trump would be facing felony charges if he were not President

Washington (CNN)Hundreds of former Justice Department officials said in an open letter released Monday that President Donald Trump would be facing multiple felony charges stemming from the Russia investigation if he were not President.

The letter posted online by Justice Department alumni, who served under presidents from both parties, said the report from special counsel Robert Mueller contained repeated instances of Trump committing obstruction of justice, and that he would have been charged with obstructionif he was not protected as President by an opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that Mueller cited.
“We believe strongly that, but for the OLC memo, the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report,” the letter read.
The letter was posted to Medium and said it was being updated by the group Protect Democracy, a nonprofit group that has combated the Trump administration. CNN has reached out to Protect Democracy regarding the letter.
The letter was signed by officials from a wide-range of backgrounds, and included former US attorneys and other top officials from both parties.
The Washington Post, which previously reported on the letter, which said signatories to the letter included officials whose time in government included every administration since President Dwight Eisenhower.
The Mueller report as released by the Department of Justice showed the special counsel looked into whether Trump committed obstruction and laid out specific, unsuccessful instances by Trump to obstruct the special counsel itself. In the report, Mueller said he could not conclude “no criminal conduct occurred” on the topic.
Attorney General William Barr, who criticized the obstruction probe last year, said after the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation that both he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined Mueller’s evidence was “not sufficient” to support prosecuting Trump for obstruction.

Romania: Violence Erupts as Tens of Thousands Protest Corruption

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Violence Erupts as Tens of Thousands Protest Corruption in Romania

Image
The police used a water cannon on Friday to disperse protesters in Romania’s capital, Bucharest, that was organized to oppose government actions that many say will weaken the rule of law. CreditOctav Ganea/Inquam Photos, via Reuters

By Kit Gillet

BUCHAREST, Romania — Antigovernment protests in the Romanian capital turned violent Friday night as the police clashed with protesters, using tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds. More than 240 people, including some security personnel, were reported injured.

An estimated 100,000 people gathered throughout the day in Bucharest’s Piata Victoriei to express their anger at the government, with tens of thousands protesting in other cities across the country. Chief among their grievances are legislative changes that many say will weaken the rule of law.

“We want democracy and laws that defend citizens, not politicians,” said Moise Maracine, 33, who flew from Britain, where he lives and owns a business.

Organizers sought to draw Romanians living outside the country to this demonstration, the latest in a series.

Stelian Onchioiu, 43, who works in Dublin as a driver, said that he came back “because I want to change the system in Romania.” After a decade in the military, Mr. Onchioiu said, he has spent the past two years living in Ireland. “It’s important for us to come back,” he said. “There is too much corruption.”

While the protests started peacefully, demonstrators’ efforts to push back the police barricades were met with strong resistance. Some among the crowd threw bottles and rocks at the police, and tensions grew as the night wore on.

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The protests came about 18 months after protesters staged the largest demonstration in Romania since the revolution that overthrew communism in 1989.

In February 2017, a half-million people took to the streets to oppose an emergency decree that effectively decriminalized low-level corruption. Since then, the Social Democrat-led government has continued to push through legislation that critics believe will undo anticorruption steps taken after Romania joined the European Union in 2007.

Last month, the chief prosecutor of the country’s anticorruption agency, Laura Codruta Kovesi, was fired after falling afoul of the government.

Antigovernment demonstrations have become a regular occurrence in Romania, but in recent months numbers have dropped significantly as fatigue has set it. Friday’s protests were the largest in months.

Previous demonstrations had passed with few incidents of violence. The use of tear gas by security forces stationed outside the main government building angered many in the crowd, and as the night wore on they refused to disperse.

Shortly after 11 p.m., security forces began to forcibly clear the square of protesters.

Klaus Iohannis, who holds the largely ceremonial post of president and has been an opposition leader in the past, denounced the violence in a statement on Facebook.

“I strongly condemn the brutal intervention of the gendarmerie, strongly disproportionate to the manifestations of most people in Piata Victoriei,” he wrote. “Trying to break people’s will through a violent reaction of law enforcement is a reprehensible solution.”

Russia: Keep an Eye on the Magnitsky Act

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF MOTHERJONES.COM)

 

Keep an Eye on the Magnitsky Act

ITAR-TASS/ZUMAPRESS

Back in 2016, when Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya met at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, the alleged topic of conversation was the Magnitsky Act.

Now bear with me here. The Magnitsky Act is named after Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky, who discovered a $230 million fraud among Russian tax officials back in 2009. Naturally Magnitsky himself was arrested, since the powers-that-be in Russia don’t abide these kinds of accusations, and he was eventually beaten to death while he was in prison. His friend Bill Browder was outraged and publicized what had happened, which led to Congress passing the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act in 2012 by a vote of 92-4. Russia, as expected, was infuriated, because it targeted the country’s most powerful oligarchs in the only way that really hurts them: by freezing their money and their travel overseas. Julia Ioffe explains:

The first decade of Putin’s rule was a bonanza for state security structures. Using tactics similar to those used in the Browder-Magnitsky case, government officials, especially those in Putin’s native FSB, enriched themselves….They pillaged and nearly wiped out small and medium-sized businesses in Russia, jailing many of their owners in the process. Government programs and projects were dreamt up not to be built or actualized, but to allow their proponents to pocket parts of the state budget.

….Back then, a Russian businessman told me it felt like “the day before Pompeii,” with everyone stealing as much as they could as quickly as possible—and then whisking it out of the country….The families of the Russian elite often don’t live in Russia. They live in Paris, in London, Geneva, New York, Los Angeles. That’s where their money lives, too, and where their children go to school and where their families seek medical treatment—which is one of the reasons the Russian education and medical systems are falling apart, robbed by corruption of what little resources they had.

….What made Russian officialdom so mad about the Magnitsky Act is that it was the first time that there was some kind of roadblock to getting stolen money to safety. In Russia, after all, officers and bureaucrats could steal it again, the same way they had stolen it in the first place: a raid, an extortion racket, a crooked court case with forged documents—the possibilities are endless. Protecting the money meant getting it out of Russia. But what happens if you get it out of Russia and it’s frozen by Western authorities? What’s the point of stealing all that money if you can’t enjoy the Miami condo it bought you? What’s the point if you can’t use it to travel to the Côte d’Azur in luxury?

So far, 49 of Russia’s richest and most powerful oligarchs, all of them friends of Putin, have been targeted by the Magnitsky Act:

  1. DROGANOV, Aleksey O.
  2. KARPOV, Pavel
  3. KOMNOV, Dmitriy
  4. KHIMINA, Yelena
  5. KRIVORUCHKO, Aleksey
  6. KUZNETSOV, Artem
  7. LOGUNOV, Oleg
  8. PECHEGIN, Andrey I.
  9. PODOPRIGOROV, Sergei G.
  10. PROKOPENKO, Ivan Pavlovitch
  11. SILCHENKO, Oleg F.
  12. STASHINA, Yelena
  13. STEPANOVA, Olga G.
  14. TOLCHINSKIY, Dmitri M.
  15. UKHNALYOVA, Svetlana
  16. VINOGRADOVA, Natalya V.
  17. BOGATIROV, Letscha
  18. DUKUZOV, Kazbek
  19. LITVINOVA, Larisa Anatolievna
  20. KRATOV, Dmitry Borisovich
  21. GAUS, Alexandra Viktorovna
  22. TAGIYEV, Fikret
  23. ALISOV, Igor Borisovich
  24. MARKELOV, Viktor Aleksandrovich
  25. KLYUEV, Dmitry Vladislavovich
  26. STEPANOV, Vladlen Yurievich
  27. KHLEBNIKOV, Vyacheslav Georgievich
  28. AKHAYEV, Musa
  29. SUGAIPOV, Umar
  30. KRECHETOV, Andrei Alexandrovich
  31. DAUDOV, Magomed Khozhakhmedovich
  32. ALAUDINOV, Apti Kharonovich
  33. GRIN, Victor Yakovlevich
  34. STRIZHOV, Andrei Alexandrovich
  35. ANICHIN, Aleksey Vasilyevich
  36. KIBIS, Boris Borisovich
  37. URZHUMTSEV, Oleg Vyacheslavovich
  38. LAPSHOV, Pavel Vladimirovich
  39. ANTONOV, Yevgeni Yuvenalievich
  40. PLAKSIN, Gennady Nikolaevich
  41. LUGOVOI, Andrei Konstantinovich
  42. KOVTUN, Dmitri
  43. BASTRYKIN, Alexander Ivanovich
  44. GORDIEVSKY, Stanislav Evgenievich
  45. MAYOROVA, Yulia
  46. KATAEV, Ayub Vakhaevich
  47. PAVLOV, Andrei
  48. SHESHENYA, Alexei Nikolaevich
  49. KADYROV, Ramzan Akhmatovich

So what’s the point of all this detail? Just this: Britain passed its own version of the Magnitsky Act earlier this year. Ditto for the Netherlands. Estonia too (“we won’t leave such unfriendly steps without a due response,” Russia threatened). There’s even a move afoot to pass an EU-wide Magnitsky Act, which would truly be a disaster for Russia’s elite. So perhaps it’s no surprise that at the Helsinki summit Putin specifically called out Bill Browder, the man who’s probably more responsible than anyone for getting the original Magnitsky Act passed. Here’s what Putin said:

Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They never paid any taxes, neither in Russia nor in the United States, and yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent huge amount of money, $400 million as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Well, that’s the personal case. It might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal.

This is not the kind of personal shout out we usually get from Putin at these events. But he’s desperate. So with all this out of the way, let’s go back in time to the Trump Tower meeting and ask again: what was that all about? Well, it was about the Magnitsky Act, which the Russians urgently want repealed. But it was also about delivering dirt on Hillary Clinton. And this is the dirt: $400 million in sketchy campaign contributions from Bill Browder and his cronies. That didn’t work out—largely because it wasn’t true—but not for lack of trying. No matter where you turn, the Magnitsky Act is staring you in the face. If there’s any single thing that Vladimir Putin is pissed off about, this is it.

So what did Putin and Trump talk about in their secret 2-hour meeting with no aides present? If I had to take a guess, I’d say it was the Magnitsky Act. Keep an eye on this over the next few months.