THE RED FLAG PRESENTS A BROKEN PROMISE: TRUMP AND THE SECRECY WORLD OF PANAMA PAPERS PART ONE

I have on several occasions promised myself not to write anymore about Donald Trump, but stick to the "sponsors" that helped him into office.  I have, like others who think America never lost its greatness, have been accused of being a "dumb liberal" and a "sore loser," because I cannot accept that Donald Trump won.  This is not completely true.  I hate that Trump won because I love my country and as an African American I have no other home to immigrate to because of Slavery, I don't know which country in Africa my ancestors were kidnapped from.  I am not foolish enough like other adjective-hyphenated-Americans thinking they can return to a mythical home-nation, when all they ever can be is an American.  So for the present, Iowa is my home, and the United States is my nation.  But like the cartoons you see on Google images of the Statue of Liberty with tears running down her face, that is how I feel when I think of Donald Trump occupying the White House and destroying all the protections that the American have come to expect as its government's Constitutional duty to WE the people.  The Mob itself seems to be occupying the White House and the U.S. is slowly being turned into a Third World nation state.  Libertarians and Tea Partiers may disagree because they are the "successes" in the society making up the 1% while, we as the 99% are losers.  However Jake Bernstein writes a tale that even the Trumpsters may find enlightening.

Jake Bernstein in Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation Of Illicit Money Networks and The Global Elite (2017) makes a connection between the Trump election and the Russians in "The Secrecy World Enters The White House."   Bernstein posits that despite a majority of the electorate viewing him unfavorably, the stars aligned for Trump: Mainstream Republicans, democrats, and the media stumbled on how to handle an unconventional candidate.  Trump faced a flowed and unpopular opponent in Hillary Clinton, who misread the electorate and ran a poor campaign.  FBI director James Comey broke with precedent and inserted himself into the election, parceling out negative judgments and suggestive details on what turned out to be a fruitless Clinton email investigation.  And Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a massive cyber-attack on the United States in an attempt to influence the outcome.

The Kremlin-backed attack included hacking the email server of the Democratic National Committee, flooding social media with fake news, and attempts to compromise individual state election databases.  According to a declassified intelligence assessment, Putin targeted Democrats and the U.S. electoral system in part because he was furious over the Russian revelations contained in the Panama Papers.  The details about the illicit cash flows swirling around the Russian leader had filled newspapers and news broadcasts worldwide.  Putin blamed the damaging data leak on the Obama administration.

However, Putin's tilt toward Trump appeared to have been motivated by something deeper than a desire for revenge against Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration.  Putin and Trump shared a similar zero-sum worldview and penchant for operating in the shadows.  Each man viewed the idea of a free press with contempt.  They both believed that financial interests should be passed down to their children to create family dynasties.  For years, Russian money helped keep Trump's business empire afloat.  He and his campaign staffers maintained multiple business connections with Russian oligarchs closely allied to Putin.

Trump and Putin were also both conversant with the secrecy world, practiced hands at using anonymous companies to wall off their activities and keep their business affairs secret.  During the campaign, trump reported that he had 378 individual Delaware companies, but the full extent of his business dealings remained hidden.  Trump was the first presidential candidate in forty years not to release his tax returns.

The Panama Papers reveal at least nine of Trump's foreign business partners had connections to Mossfon [head of the Panama tax avoidance services].  Several of Trump's business partners who used the secrecy world allegedly mixed legitimate businesses with illegal activities such as prostitution, bribery, and tax evasion. 

When asked about such allegations, Trump claimed ignorance.

Trump had long made a practice of consorting with dodgy characters for financial gain.  News organizations reported that in New Jersey and New York he regularly conducted business with people connected to the Mafia.  He had leased the site for his first casino from two men with Mob ties.  Building unions known to be controlled by the Mob continued to service Trump's work-sites, even when they went on strike elsewhere.  Suffering no ill consequences for his sketchy associations, Trump doubled down when he was later forced to transform his business.

By the mid-1990s, Trump's bankruptcies and penchant for civil lawsuits dried up funding from most U.S. banks.  He moved away from developing properties himself, focusing instead on selling his brand and seeking revenue abroad.  He now licensed "signature" developments that bore his name and were built to his precise specifications.  In the case of hotels, the Trump organization would often manage the property for a percentage of the revenue.  Outside the United States, he became even less picky about the origins of the money that came his way.

Following the 2016 election, Trump's foreign business entanglements escalated to national security and constitutional concerns.  While his business partners hoped to profit in new ways from their relationship with the president of the United States, it became increasingly difficult to determine whether the Trump administration's actions were in the public interest or in pursuit of personal gain.  At the same time, the White House, allied with Republican Congress, pushed a new policy approach toward the secrecy world that better reflected their shared laissez-faire ideology.

During its eight years in office, the Obama administration had attempted to nudge government policy in the direction of increased transparency and oversight of the offshore system.  In addition to signing the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act in 2010, the administration tried to tamp down on states like Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming that offered themselves as safe harbors for foreigners bent on tax evasion and criminal activity.

Most important, the Obama administration had increased taxes on wealthy Americans.  Trump and the Republican Party saw taxes, particularly on the wealthy, as theft by government edict to be eliminated whenever possible.  Under Obama, efforts to increase funding for the resource-starved Internal Revenue service, the front-line troops in the fight to stop Americans from evading taxes through the secrecy world, died in the face of Republican resistance.  During the campaign, Trump praised himself for doing everything he could to escape paying taxes.  When Clinton accused him of avoiding federal income tax for years, Trump responded, "That makes me smart."

The Economic Future, What Does 2018 Hold?

3:51

Noel King talks to David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center at the Brookings Institution, for a look back at 2017's economy, and what it teaches us about what we can expect economically in 2018. https://www.npr.org/2017/12/26/573464317/the-economic-future-what-d...

Within weeks of Trump's inauguration, the new president and the Republican Congress signaled an end to Obama's approach to the secrecy world.  In one of its first significant votes, congress repealed an anti-corruption measure that had forced oil, gas, and mining companies to file an annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing their payments to foreign governments where they did business.  The intent of the original legislation had been to reduce bribery, and its abolition was a gift to the extractive industries that had helped fund the Republican Party's political campaigns through millions of dollars in contributions.  The repeal could also benefit several of Trump's foreign business partners, who were heavily invested in the oil and mining industries.

Trump was already on record against efforts to tamp down on foreign corruption.  In a phone-in appearance on CNBC in 2012 he called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forces U.S. companies to investigate the people with whom they do business to ensure that they are not cooperating with illegal activities, "a horrible law," which should be changed.  "Every other country goes into these places and they do what they have to do," Trump said.

"If American companies avoid bribery, "you'll do business nowhere," said Trump.

 Iraq war victims: Drug companies' bribery led to death of US troops

Aamer Madhani (USA TODAY-IC Press-Citizen): Wednesday, October 18, 2017:  The families of dozens of U.S. troops killed or injured during the war in Iraq filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against several U.S. and European pharmaceutical and medical supply companies, alleging that the corporations knowingly financed the anti-American militia Mahdi Army through bribes and kickbacks to officials at a government ministry controlled by the group.

The lawsuit in U.S. District court in Washington, D.C., against some of the biggest names in the industry--including GE Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Roche--claims that the companies regularly paid kickbacks to officials in Iraq’s Ministry of Health through their local agents.

Officials at the ministry in turn used the proceeds to help fund the militia that carried out attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, the suit alleges.

In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, Iraq's health care spending surged, and the Health Ministry's budget ballooned from $16 million during Saddam Hussein's final year in power to about $1 billion in 2004.

Western companies looking to break into the Iraq market were willing to pay kickbacks--billed as "commissions" or "free goods"--that amounted to as much as 20 percent of the value of a contract to ministry officials, the lawsuit alleges.

Another way the defendants allegedly made the illegal payments was by including language in the contracts promising after-sales support and other services related to the product they sold and funded those services by giving money to their local agents.

"In reality, such services where illusory and functioned merely to create a slush fund the local agents could use to pass on 'commissions; to corrupt (ministry) officials," the lawsuit alleges.

The plaintiffs charge that through the transactions the companies aided and abetted the militants, violating the U.S. anti-terrorism act....

By 2005, the Health Ministry, beset by corruption, came under the control of loyalists of Muqtada al-Sadr, an Iranian-backed cleric.  Al-Sadr's political clout grew amid dissatisfaction among some Iraqis over the U.S. military presence and sectarian fighting among the country's majority Shiite and minority Sunnis populations....

Trump was ALL smiles walking the red carpet at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in November 2013.  His trip to Russia had gone amazingly well, even if Vladimir Putin was a no-show.  The previous June, trump had sounded like a besotted teenage girl when he speculated-via-tweet whether the Russian leader would attend.  "Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow," Trump asked. "If so, will he become my new best friend?" Putin sent a decorative lacquered box and a personal note instead.

In April 2000, Bayrock Holdings S.A. incorporated in the Bahamas, after which Arif established Bayrock companies in Delaware, Florida, and New York.  He based Bayrock's operations out of the twenty-fourth floor of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.  Trump joined forces with Bayrock in 2005 offering a brand name behind which Arif's money could coalesce.  Their best-known project was Trump SoHo, a forty-six-floor hotel-condominium in one of Manhattan's trendiest neighborhoods.  Trump announced the project on his television show, The Apprentice, in 2006.  For the use of his name and input, Trump received a 15 percent cut of sales, with another 3 percent parceled out to two of his children, Ivanka and Donald Jr.


This program aired on December 26, 2017.

When Trump spoke with Turkish president Erdogan on election Night, he put in a plug for Ivanka.  She was a big fan and supporter of Erdogan, Trump told the Turkish president.  On the call, he credited his daughter with the success of Trump's Turkey project, for which he had licensed his name.

'He Lost His Mind,' Trump Says After Bannon Reportedly Slammed Russian Meeting

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was quoted in Fire and Fury, a book about the Trump White House by journalist Michael Wolff.Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET

Steve Bannon, President Trump's former chief strategist, once called a now-famous meeting among Donald Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and a group of Russians "treasonous," according to accounts of an upcoming book.

Responding to the story, the White House issued a statement from Trump stating, "Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind."

Bannon is being quoted making the remarks in Fire and Fury, a book about the Trump White House by journalist Michael Wolff. After The Guardian cited an advance copy of the book (which will be released next week), news of Bannon's comments quickly spread.

Trump is now calling Bannon, who served as his campaign CEO, "a staffer" who joined the campaign after his nomination was assured. "Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn't as easy as I make it look."

Trump stated:

"Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books."

An excerpt from Fire and Fury was also published on New York magazine's site late Wednesday morning, with the title "Donald Trump Didn't Want to Be President." According to the magazine, Wolff compiled quotes from 18 months of interviews and said he was allowed to occupy "something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing."

The Trump Tower meeting took place in June 2016, but it wasn't publicly revealed until last summer. Discussing it with Wolff, Bannon reportedly said, "Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately."

Wolff quotes Bannon as saying, "The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn't have any lawyers," according to The Guardian.

The members of Trump's inner circle were drawn to the meeting by the promise of damaging information about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. They were joined at Trump Tower by Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, British-born businessman Rob Goldstone, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and Soviet-born American businessman Irakly "Ike" Kaveladze.

The Trump Tower meeting has been a focal point in reports about the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russia's attempts to influence last year's U.S. election.

Discussing the president's son and the investigation's potential path, Bannon reportedly told Wolff, "They're going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV."

When Goldstone contacted Donald Trump Jr. about the potential for dirt on Clinton, Trump Jr. replied, "If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer."

After news of the meeting became public, Trump Jr. said the Russians had not produced any "meaningful information."  https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/03/575295244/steve-...

It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders
Journalist Dan Rather on Trump, Patriotism, and 'What Unites Us'
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0:45:41

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Comment by mary gravitt on January 3, 2018 at 12:52pm

Happy New (Women's) Year.  It's going to take a village of Women to save America.  But that's for another blog.  Take time to get the backstory before you make a political decision for 2018.  Learn where the bodies are buried and go dig them up.  The post is long.  If you don't have time to read the text, look at the pictures.

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