The World

Jun 6, 2018

Manafort scandal exposes the real motives of Trump’s presidency

The moment when the genuine, actual, honest-to-God smoking gun appears – an email offering influence for financial favours, a lessening of the Trump organisation’s enormous debts – is getting closer.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle

Correspondent-at-large

Donald Trump in Pittsburg

Manchester, New Hampshire, January 2016, the primaries, and I was walking past the Radisson to the hole-in-the-wall coffee joint with only one person in the queue (it was Bill Kristol; for years I’d dreamt of taunting him about imposing Sarah Palin on the Republicans. What I did was pass him the Splenda, and say "here for the Bernie rally, Bill?" and we laughed like old mates).

Passed a tall, big-jawed mookish guy, stars 'n' stripes tie, Trump button, on a phone in a doorway, smoking a cigar at 8.30 in the morning. Two greasers drove by slow.

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12 thoughts on “Manafort scandal exposes the real motives of Trump’s presidency

  1. Humphrey Bower

    I’m with you up to the last sentence of the penultimate paragraph, Guy. Proof of an Arturo-Ui-style fascist-gangster putsch, absolutely; of the ‘conspiracy and secrecy that lies at the heart of the federal system that the founders put together in the late 1780s’ seems like a bit of a stretch.

    1. 1984AUS

      I assume Guy is referring to the Electoral College that enabled Trump to be elected.

      And if so Guy us absolutely spot on.

      Donald Trump was not elected on November 8 . Under the Constitution, the real election occured on December 19.

      That’s when the electors in each state cast their votes; and electors are not the high minded persons that the Framers envisaged, far from it, they’re party activists and hacks chosen for their loyalty.

      Trump – the product of an archaic, aristocratic, white, male, determinedly non democratic Electoral College scheme designed to deny women, slaves and other ‘minorities’ the vote.

      The United States is the only country that elects a politically powerful president via an electoral college and the only one in which a candidate can become president without having obtained the highest number of votes in the sole or final round of popular voting.
      — George C. Edwards, 2011

      The Electoral College was created by the Framers of the Constitution as a method of preventing average voters, who were not fully trusted, from directly electing the president.

      Legal scholars Akhil Amar and Vikram Amar have argued the original Electoral College compromise was enacted partially because it enabled the southern states to disenfranchise its slave populations.

      It permitted southern states to disfranchise large numbers of slaves while allowing these states to maintain political clout within the federation by using the three-fifths compromise.

      They noted that constitutional Framer James Madison believed the question of counting slaves had presented a serious challenge but that “the substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.”

      Akhil and Vikram Amar added that:

      The founders’ system also encouraged the continued disfranchisement of women. In a direct national election system, any state that gave women the vote would automatically have doubled its national clout. Under the Electoral College, however, a state had no such incentive to increase the franchise; as with slaves, what mattered was how many women lived in a state, not how many were empowered … a state with low voter turnout gets precisely the same number of electoral votes as if it had a high turnout. By contrast, a well-designed direct election system could spur states to get out the vote.

      — Akhil and Vikram Amar

      The fact that each state received the number of electors equal to their total number of representatives in Congress was also a way to ensure that slave states had sufficient influence in choosing presidents.

      The Constitution also mandated that slaves would be counted as 3/5 of a free person for population purposes, and in combination with equal representation in the Senate, the South was poised to have significant influence in the national government.

      The creation of direct democratic processes in 20th century state and local politics — including the initiative, referendum, and recall — would have been unthinkable in the early republic. Considering how we have fundamentally redefined democracy since the founding period, it is remarkable that we still even have the Electoral College.

      Those who support the Electoral College on constitutional grounds, specifically the intentions of the Framers, are in the untenable position of defending every other law and practice of the founding period that limited suffrage and participation. Besides, no one would even seriously think of arguing that we ought to have the Electoral College function the way the framers actually intended, as a group of free agents filtering public sentiment and coming to their own conclusion about who is most qualified to be president.

      Although the preamble begins with “We, the people,” and guarantees a “republican form of government” to all of the states, the word “democracy” is not mentioned in the text of the Constitution.

      When the Framers used the word themselves it was often a pejorative term.

      On the convention’s first day… delegate Edmund Randolph of Virginia warned that

      “none of the [state] constitutions have provided sufficient checks against democracy.”

      A week later, Massachusetts delegate Elbridge Gerry said

      the evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.”

      Father of the Constitution James Madison referred to

      “the inconvenience of democracy,”

      and Alexander Hamilton to the

      imprudence” of it.

    2. 1984AUS

      I assume Guy is referring to the Electoral College that enabled Trump to be elected.

      And if so Guy us absolutely spot on. Trump was elected on a system devised to retain the power of the white male propertied person.

      Donald Trump was not elected on November 8 . Under the Constitution, the real election occured on December 19.

      That’s when the electors in each state cast their votes; and electors are not the high minded persons that the Framers envisaged, far from it, they’re party activists and hacks chosen for their loyalty.

      Trump – the product of an archaic, aristocratic, white, male, determinedly non democratic Electoral College scheme designed to deny women, slaves and other ‘minorities’ the vote.

      The United States is the only country that elects a politically powerful president via an electoral college and the only one in which a candidate can become president without having obtained the highest number of votes in the sole or final round of popular voting.
      — George C. Edwards, 2011

      The Electoral College was created by the Framers of the Constitution as a method of preventing average voters, who were not fully trusted, from directly electing the president.

      Legal scholars Akhil Amar and Vikram Amar have argued the original Electoral College compromise was enacted partially because it enabled the southern states to disenfranchise its slave populations.

      It permitted southern states to disfranchise large numbers of slaves while allowing these states to maintain political clout within the federation by using the three-fifths compromise.

      They noted that constitutional Framer James Madison believed the question of counting slaves had presented a serious challenge but that “the substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.”

      Akhil and Vikram Amar added that:

      The founders’ system also encouraged the continued disfranchisement of women. In a direct national election system, any state that gave women the vote would automatically have doubled its national clout. Under the Electoral College, however, a state had no such incentive to increase the franchise; as with slaves, what mattered was how many women lived in a state, not how many were empowered … a state with low voter turnout gets precisely the same number of electoral votes as if it had a high turnout. By contrast, a well-designed direct election system could spur states to get out the vote.

      — Akhil and Vikram Amar

      The fact that each state received the number of electors equal to their total number of representatives in Congress was also a way to ensure that slave states had sufficient influence in choosing presidents.

      The Constitution also mandated that slaves would be counted as 3/5 of a free person for population purposes, and in combination with equal representation in the Senate, the South was poised to have significant influence in the national government.

      The creation of direct democratic processes in 20th century state and local politics — including the initiative, referendum, and recall — would have been unthinkable in the early republic. Considering how we have fundamentally redefined democracy since the founding period, it is remarkable that we still even have the Electoral College.

      Those who support the Electoral College on constitutional grounds, specifically the intentions of the Framers, are in the untenable position of defending every other law and practice of the founding period that limited suffrage and participation.

      Besides, no one would even seriously think of arguing that we ought to have the Electoral College function the way the framers actually intended, as a group of free agents filtering public sentiment and coming to their own conclusion about who is most qualified to be president.

      Although the preamble begins with “We, the people,” and guarantees a “republican form of government” to all of the states, the word democracy” is not mentioned in the text of the Constitution.

      When the Framers used the word themselves it was often a pejorative term.

      On the convention’s first day… delegate Edmund Randolph of Virginia warned that “none of the [state] constitutions have provided sufficient checks against democracy.”

      A week later, Massachusetts delegate Elbridge Gerry said

      “the evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.”

      Father of the Constitution James Madison referred to

      “the inconvenience of democracy,”

      and Alexander Hamilton to the

      “imprudence” of it.

  2. zut alors

    Compare the above to the worst thing Trump could dredge up against Obama ie: accusations of a phoney birth certificate & that the newly-born infant, Obama, scandalously faked his own birth announcement in a Hawaiian newspaper.

    The world’s finest fiction writers couldn’t match this material.

  3. graybul

    Whatever Trump’s point of ignition Guy; America needs focus upon home affairs (no pun intended) guns/borders/race, and allow space for more stable heads capable of reasoned engagement with diverse world leaders? Trump possessed; conflicted by choice . . . implosion v explosion.

  4. klewso

    If the law of the land doesn’t apply to the President down – then who does it apply too?

  5. Markadarka

    It’s so easy to be smug about Trump, his administration, and his supporters – both political and electoral. But the lies, obfuscations, and misdirection coming from his twitter feed, the constant Fox News propaganda, his congressional allies, and the outright lies disseminated and televised by his surrogates are slowly turning the American public against the Mueller investigation.

    Trump and Co have a very clear plan and, at the moment, Trump is winning.

  6. 1984AUS

    It’s always been about the money and the loans from the Russian banks to Trump.

    Wilbur Ross and the Bank of Cyprus.

    Ross’ many financial entanglements… the Bank of Cyprus …partly owned by a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin; Igor Putin, the cousin of Russia’s president, Vladimir, sat on the board of a Moscow bank which held accounts involved in the fraud.

    The White House has been accused of withholding information from Congress about whether Donald Trump or any of his campaign affiliates have ever received loans from a bank in Cyprus .

    Ross built lucrative connections to Russian business during a 40-year career that banked him an estimated fortune of $2.9bn, making him comfortably the wealthiest member of Trump’s cabinet.

    Transactions through the bank involving Paul Manafort [charges have been laid against him by the Mueller Russia Trump investigation] , Trump’s former campaign chairman, are reportedly part of the federal inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

    Ross also entered Russian markets through other industries.

    A German intelligence report cited by Der Spiegel at the time suggested that Russian deposits in Cyprus banks were worth between $8.5 to $37bn.

    Ross recruited a high-profile banker with close ties to Russia, former Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann, to serve as chairman of the bank.

    In his letter, Booker asked Ross to explain why he had appointed Ackermann as chairman of the bank, noting that Deutsche Bank is the Trump Organization’s largest creditor.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-banks-idUSTRE50F1Q720090116

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/20/trump-campaign-russia-hearing-key-points

    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/05/trump-commerce-secretary-wilbur-ross-business-links-putin-family-paradise-papers

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/27/commerce-nominee-wilbur-ross-bank-of-cyprus-putin#comments

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/british-banks-handled-vast-sums-of-laundered-russian-money

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/the-global-laundromat-how-did-it-work-and-who-benefited

  7. 1984AUS

    “the spectacle of the President of the United States openly musing as to whether he could pardon himself, and finding the answer was yes (“the finest minds, the most beautiful legal minds …”). It’s worth a recap: the President says he can pardon himself, his lawyer-consigliere has had his office raided over secret payoffs to a porn star, his former campaign manager has been indicted, and may well be afresh for perversion of justice, and the inquiry is spreading in all directions.”

    Remember this is the conservative Republican Party, and Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes.

  8. 1984AUS

    Thanks Guy for this article I’ve been following the insanity that is the Republican President .

    And you are so on the money here:

    “the real scandal is elsewhere. For years, Trump, locked out of US and European financing, has been going to lenders of last resort: Russian banks, then Georgian banks, then Azerbaijaini banks, and so on. What’s required is clear evidence that his tilt for the presidency was at least partly a way of getting out of a tightening man-trap (and Caucasus banks? These guys do not muck around. Man-traps are a literal thing for them).”

    Re the Azerbaijaini banks. The Trump Republican disaster is a family affair with nepotism rife.

    #Trump owns a hotel in Azerbaijan which appears to operate as an Iranian money launderer “Donald Trump’s Worst Deal”#ImpeachTrump

    “One contractor told me that his firm was always paid in cash, and that he witnessed other contractors being paid in the same way. At the offices of Anar Mammadov’s company, he said, “they would give us a giant pile of cash,” adding, “I got a hundred and eighty thousand dollars one time, which I fit into my laptop bag, and two hundred thousand dollars another time.” Once, a colleague of his picked up a payment of two million dollars. “He needed to bring a big duffelbag.”’

    Donald Trump likes to brag about his prowess at doing deals. One of these has the potential to deal him out of the White House.

    The U.S. has legislation called The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

    Hundreds of U.S. companies have been prosecuted over the years under the FCPA. They include Cadbury Limited, GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Hitachi, BHP, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Avon Products, Hewlett Packard and Alcoa.

    The U.S. Treasury Department has the responsibility of enforcing American laws against financing terrorists and money laundering.

    Democrat Senator Sharrod Brown has asked the Treasury Department to look into the Baku deal and the Trump family’s connections around the world. Senator Brown, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s new Treasury secretary.

    Senator Brown asked whether Mnuchin had requested or received from Trump a complete list of international investors and business partners. He has had no reply to date. Nor have any Trump tax returns been released.

    The Trump Organisation cut its ties to the Baku project a month after Trump was elected President, but this may have been too late to forestall FCPA action. In another attempt to avoid prosecution, the Trump Organisation claims that their involvement in the Baku project was minimal.

    This claim was explored by Davidson in an interview with a Azerbaijani lawyer who told him:

    “We were always following their instructions. We were in constant contact with the Trump Organisation. They approved the smallest details.”

    In addition, the hotel’s designer Pierre Baillargeon and several contractors visited Trump Tower in New York to get approval for their plans.

    A senior Trump Organisation member, none other than Ivanka, made an official visit to the Baku project in October, 2014 to visit the city and give advice. She even chose such small details as the type of wood to be used for panelling.

    She posted a picture of herself on her website, wearing a hard hat inside the half-completed hotel

    Ivanka has overseen the development of Trump International Hotel and Tower Baku since its inception, and she recently returned from a trip to the fascinating city of Baku to check in on the project’s progress

    …a bizarre 33-storey “Trump Towers Baku” in Azerbaijan.

    Azerbaijan is one of the most corrupt countries on earth, according to Forbes.

    Ivanka Trump has West Wing office and will get access to classified information

    Ivanka Trump, not elected, who holds no official title in administration and is not serving as government employee is to be given access

    Ivanka Trump’s role in her father’s administration is expanding. Though the president’s eldest daughter currently holds no official title in the White House, she is working out of a West Wing office and will soon get access to classified information, even though she is not technically serving as a government employee.

    Jamie Gorelick, an attorney and ethics adviser for Trump, said Monday that the first daughter will not have an official title but will get a West Wing office, government-issued communications devices and security clearance to access classified information.

    Since Donald Trump took office, his eldest daughter has been an increasingly visible presence in the White House, where her husband, Jared Kushner, already serves as a senior adviser. On Friday she participated in a meeting on vocational training with the president and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

    As in other former Soviet Union countries, oligarchs control the wealth and have a finger in every lucrative pie. Foreign Policy dubbed them: ‘The Corleones of the Caspian.’

    All this aroused the suspicions of New Yorker reporter Adam Davidson, who went to Baku and investigated the deal for three months. What he found was a barrel of worms, involving money laundering and links with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which revolved around Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov.

    Billionaire Minister Mammadov and his son Anar were heavily involved in the Trump deal and had also awarded multimillion-dollar contracts to Iranian construction company Azarpassillo, … The Revolutionary Guard is involved in drug trafficking, sponsoring terrorism abroad and money laundering.”

    https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/azerbaijans-trump-tower-and-the-iran-revolutionary-guard,10100

    Makes the Klondite whore and booze empire of the first Drumpf to come to America look tame.

  9. Andrea

    Will it still snow in 2024?

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