Because it’s bagmen all the way down.
With last week’s deluge of Trump investigation stories, I think we’re in danger of forgetting what the impetus for the Mueller investigation was. The investigation was a counterintelligence investigation, not a Trump mistress or emoluments investigation (or a tax fraud investigation. Or an inauguration embezzlement investigation. Or a…). As some asshole with a blog has said all along, if Trump goes down–and that’s definitely far from given–it will probably be over money laundering, not paying off a liason (or three. Or more?). While I don’t share the optimism about Trump et alia getting their just rewards in this clip (it’s 80 seconds), I do agree that Trump’s problem is that he has very likely engaged in money laundering.
Because it’s worth remembering what Mueller has been concerned about for years (boldface mine):
We have seen a shift from regional families with a clear structure, to flat, fluid networks with global reach. These international enterprises are more anonymous and more sophisticated. Rather than running discrete operations, on their own turf, they are running multi-national, multi-billion dollar schemes from start to finish.
We are investigating groups in Asia, Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East. And we are seeing cross-pollination between groups that historically have not worked together. Criminals who may never meet, but who share one thing in common: greed.
They may be former members of nation-state governments, security services, or the military. These individuals know who and what to target, and how best to do it. They are capitalists and entrepreneurs. But they are also master criminals who move easily between the licit and illicit worlds. And in some cases, these organizations are as forward-leaning as Fortune 500 companies.
This is not “The Sopranos,” with six guys sitting in a diner, shaking down a local business owner for $50 dollars a week. These criminal enterprises are making billions of dollars from human trafficking, health care fraud, computer intrusions, and copyright infringement. They are cornering the market on natural gas, oil, and precious metals, and selling to the highest bidder.
These crimes are not easily categorized. Nor can the damage, the dollar loss, or the ripple effects be easily calculated. It is much like a Venn diagram, where one crime intersects with another, in different jurisdictions, and with different groups…
These groups may infiltrate our businesses. They may provide logistical support to hostile foreign powers. They may try to manipulate those at the highest levels of government. Indeed, these so-called “iron triangles” of organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders pose a significant national security threat.
In those remarks, Mueller concluded, in what was an amazing act of premonition:
But we are also building a long-term strategy for dismantling these enterprises. Last year, we set up two units, called Threat Focus Cells, to target Eurasian organized crime. The first focuses on the Semion Mogilevich Organization; the second on the Brother’s Circle enterprise.
For those of you not familiar with either group, their memberships are large, their reach is global, and their scope of operations is broad, from weapons and drug trafficking to high-stakes fraud and global prostitution. If left unchecked, the resulting impact to our economy and our security will be significant. Indeed, Semion Mogilevich is on the FBI Top Ten Most Wanted List, and he will remain so until he is captured.”
Guess who received money from Mogilevich (boldface mine)?
If one tracks Trump’s ties to Russia, the name Mogilevich pops up more than any single name, beginning in 1984 when alleged Mogilevich operative David Bogatin bought five condos in Trump Tower for $6 million in cash. Over the years, no fewer than 1,300 Trump-branded condos were sold in all cash purchases to anonymous shell companies—the two criteria that set off alarm bells among anti-money laundering authorities. In 2002, after Trump had gone belly up in Atlantic City, Bayrock, a real estate development company that allegedly had ties to Mogilevich, moved into Trump Tower and partnered with Trump—in the process bailing out the bankrupt real estate mogul and putting him in a position to eventually run for the presidency.
What little we do know about the Trump Organization structure suggests that it is primarily structured, not for tax evasion, but for money laundering. His legitimate (if slimy) dealings include such wonderful people as the main money man for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Real estate is an excellent way to move illegally gotten funds around, and he seems to have a lot of investors with very curious timing.
Had Trump lost, and the Mueller investigation continued, Mueller probably would have cut a deal with various Trump family members, and worked his way to Mogilevich and others like him. But when one of the intermediate steps is the President of the United States, then the investigation becomes a very different beast.
Like I said, I have no idea what will happen. But Mueller’s long game isn’t payoffs to Stormy Daniels, it’s an iron triangle, which happens to include people in the White House.
Otherwise, Trump would be just another guy who flips. Never trust a bagman.