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PostAny Trump Connections to Russian Espionage? (Boris Volodarsky, Austria, 01/13/19 4:08 am)
Our esteemed editor asked on 11 January: "Boris, what can you tell us about the Trump Clan's connections to Russian espionage? Is it still premature to know anything at all?"
My answer is: no, it is never premature to know but the whole case is extremely complex, especially because absolutely nothing must be taken for granted here. To explain, the famous case Browder versus Russia is a fraud. This is rather difficult to understand and accept because everything--as presented by Bill Browder and his teams of lawyers--seems so simple, clear and obvious, which in reality is not so.
I have already explained the Magnitsky case several times and to put it briefly, Sergei Magnitsky was not a lawyer, he had never worked for Browder, he had never investigated any money laundering and never reported about it to the Russia authorities. Bill Browder, Putin's friend and supporter, who profited smartly on his grandfather's CPUSA career, NKVD past and lifelong Stalinist views, at one time started to act against Kremlin's interests which many people close to the Presidential Administration did not like and could not tolerate. As a result, Browder was banned from entering Russia and his business activities there were investigated. Naturally, there were multiple flaws in his business schemes and of course his fund did not pay taxes because his multiple tax consultants--all of whom except Magnitsky escaped to London--helped him to avoid taxes. Magnitsky, an accountant working for one of Browder's law firms, stayed in Russia and had to respond to all accusations addressed to Browder. For a period of time he had been interrogated but when he applied for and was granted a British visa, was arrested to prevent him leaving the country. Magnitsky died in prison due to his bad health and criminal negligence of prison doctors.
Browder tried in vain to re-establish himself with the Russian authorities, he begged President Medvedev in Davos to help him and did not do anything until all his attempts failed. Then he started a counterattack. The death of Magnitsky, whom he presented in the media as his personal friend (I do not think they ever met) and honest lawyer helped him greatly as much as the death in London of Alexander Perepilichny, who had absolutely nothing to do with the Magnitsky case but had been pictured by Browder as an honest Russian whistleblower who revealed important facts (and documents) related to the Magnitsky case, which is not true.
At the end, using his money (made in Russia) and his several teams of lawyers, Browder managed to push the Magnitsky Act as his personal revenge to the Kremlin. Having in mind all this, the act is rather good (in terms of the US government's ability to sanction who it sees as human rights offenders banning them from entering the US), appeared in due time at the peak of the Second Cold War and is as appropriate and timely as was the Jackson-Vanick amendment in January 1975.
To the best of my knowledge, Natalia Veselnitskaya was charged with one count of obstruction of justice. In an indictment, US prosecutors alleged that Veselnitskaya worked "hand in glove with Russian prosecutors to block an attempt by American authorities to seize property thought to have been acquired with the proceeds of a massive tax fraud scheme." Because in reality there was no "tax fraud scheme" and Prevezon, whose solicitor Veselnitskaya was, had nothing to do with the money laundered by somebody else (still no "tax fraud"), the whole case based on this presumption is false. At the same time, as would all other Russian lawyers, Veselnitskaya rightfully collaborated with Russian prosecutors in this case. But technically, because the Magnitsky Act was adopted and the American justice decided there was a case of tax fraud (I stress again, this is wrong), she was correctly charged with obstruction of US justice.
A couple of weeks ago in Vienna, an Afghan thug sexually assaulted a young Swiss tourist at the city centre. She, a karate fan, broke his nose while defending herself. The case is in the newspapers while the Afghan is free and she is in preventive detention awaiting trial. Formally, the justice is right.
During the meeting with a few members of the Trump's team Vaselnitskaya discussed the Magnitsky Act directly related to her client's claims. If I remember correctly, the charge against Veselnitskaya "was not directly related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the president's relationship to the Kremlin and whether Trump conspired with Moscow's effort to interfere in US politics and catapult him into the Oval Office." As a lawyer, Veselnitskaya was involved in the legal dispute between Browder and Prevenzon.
Paul Manafort worked for the Kremlin--wittingly or unwittingly--because that brings a lot of money. It is a classic case. First-class trips to Moscow, unlimited possibilities, beautiful girls, best restaurants, very high fees... And I am sure he convinced himself he was acting in the best interest of his country and the West. Some time ago in one of my posts I mentioned Austrian parliamentary elections of October 2006, when all predicted that Wolfgang Schüssel's Christian-Democratic ÖVP would remain the biggest party in the next parliament thanks to Mr Schüssel's successful economic reforms and excellent performance of his government. Surprisingly, Alfred Gusenbauer's Socialists (Reds) won the elections.
Like Kilimnik, Gusenbauer was (and remains) Manafort's man. He had managed to keep the chancellor's post for only 11 months, then was fired and departed to the USA as the first Leitner Global Fellow at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs in New York to teach politics. Very soon, Gusenbauer was appointed personal advisor to Kazakh President Narsultan Nazarbayev and in September 2013 took the same post at the office of the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Vucic. Together with Manafort, Gusenbauer was heavily involved in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan and is now on Robert Mueller's list. But until it happened, he certainly considered himself a very clever and successful politician and businessman.
All this is an extremely long and complex story, but answering JE's question about the Trump Clan's connections to Russian espionage, I have to say I do not see any connection. And the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats/spies from the USA in connection with the Skripal case is good evidence to that. The Trump Clan could have had all sorts of relations with the Russian Presidential Administration, some Russian MPs and definitely a few Russian oligarchs, but I do not see any intelligence channels directly involved. From the Russian side, the SVR and partially GRU were certainly very active (the GRU pure technically), but their precise role has yet to be established.
JE comments: Boris Volodarsky describes a spider's web of countless threads. Even in this overview, we can see why Mueller needs a very long time to untangle it. Can't we gather from the above that there is a Browder-Trump connection, through two or three degrees of separation? Or maybe I'm getting lost somewhere in the web...