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Sun May 21, 2017, 08:56 AM

Listen carefully ReTHUG rats

Jump ship now

On July 24, 1943, the United States and Great Britain launched Operation Gomorrah, a seven-day-long attack on Hamburg, Germany, that destroyed much of the city and killed more than forty-two thousand German civilians, yet resulted in unusually few Allied casualties. The mission was successful in part because airmen in the bombers threw strips of paper that had been coated with aluminum paint out of the planes. This new decoy system, code-named chaff, so confused German radar that it cut the usual rate of downed aircraft by two-thirds.

Donald Trump has long deployed what might be called the chaff approach to evading legal scrutiny in his business dealings. Parts of his labyrinthine business holdings seem to be likely targets of investigation. He was sued for civil fraud over promises made to students of Trump University (a case that was settled after Trump became President). He talked on CNBC about the need to pay bribes when doing business overseas. His Atlantic City casino, the Taj Mahal, was in violation of anti-money-laundering laws when Trump owned it. He has had ties to New York Mafia figures. Yet he has never been indicted nor, for all we know, did any prosecutor consider pursuing a criminal case. Perhaps this is because the structure of Trump’s business has been, like chaff tossed out of a bomber, a remarkably effective defense. There is no one thing to look at when investigating Donald Trump. There’s not one company, there are hundreds, possibly thousands. Every deal he does has its own legal structure, its unique set of participants and business model. Rarely—and less often in the past decade—is Trump the primary owner and visionary of a project. More typically, he has sold a license to put his name on someone else’s project.

Robert Mueller, who was recently appointed as a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the Presidential election, has the authority to clear up the picture. Mueller was given an expansive brief to investigate any links between “anyone associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and the Russian government as well as, basically, anything fishy he might turn up along the way. It seems reasonable to expect that the investigation will take a careful look at Trump’s business history. During the campaign and over the several years before it, Trump had business deals with several figures who are close to the Kremlin. To discover if there was collusion in 2015 and 2016, an investigator would surely want to better understand these earlier business relationships.

To take one example, Trump has tweeted and talked about his strong relationship with Aras Agalarov, the Azerbaijani-Russian billionaire and Putin ally who partnered with Trump on the Miss Universe pageant that was held in Moscow, in 2013, and from which Trump made a twelve-million-dollar profit, according to his lawyers. At the time, Trump tweeted about his hope that the pageant would be the occasion for him and Putin to become close. (“Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?”) A few months later, Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference, “I was in Moscow a couple of months ago, I own the Miss Universe Pageant and they treated me so great. Putin even sent me a present, a beautiful present.”

Lots more at link

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