Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Evangelical Christians And Trump's Ties to Russian Monsters and Money Launderers

There is more than enough moral bankruptcy to go around within today's Republican Party and its base of support.  Examples range from Rep. Devin Nunes trying to protect Donald Trump and cover up possible treason to Paul Ryan's disingenuous claims of devout Catholicism while waging war on the poor and less fortunate.  But in some ways, the hypocrisy and bankruptcy the most off the charts is that of white evangelical Christians, 81% of whom voted for a serial molester, adulterer and generally abhorrent individual.  These people worry about others using contraception, what goes on between same sex couples, dancing and/or use of alcohol in some instances, etc., yet Trump's foul business connections and boasting about sexually harassing women meant nothing.  I again ask myself, why does anyone give these people deference or respect?  They simply are not nice or decent people. A lengthy piece in USA Today looks at Trump's disturbing ties to Russian mobsters and criminals - all of which seemingly is just fine with these self-anointed "godly folk."  Here are some article highlights (as you read the piece, keep reminding yourself that this is what is fine with the likes of Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Tony Perkins and a host of other liars and hypocrites who wrap themselves in religion):
To expand his real estate developments over the years, Donald Trump, his company and partners repeatedly turned to wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics — several allegedly connected to organized crime, according to a USA TODAY review of court cases, government and legal documents and an interview with a former federal prosecutor.
The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.
Among them:
• A member of the firm that developed the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York is a twice-convicted felon who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man and later scouted for Trump investments in Russia.
•  An investor in the SoHo project was accused by Belgian authorities in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme.
• Three owners of Trump condos in Florida and Manhattan were accused in federal indictments of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia.
•  A former mayor from Kazakhstan was accused in a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in 2014 of hiding millions of dollars looted from his city, some of which was spent on three Trump SoHo units.
•  A Ukrainian owner of two Trump condos in Florida was indicted in a money-laundering scheme involving a former prime minister of Ukraine.
Trump's Russian connections are of heightened interest because of an FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russian operatives to interfere in last fall's election. What’s more, Trump and his companies have had business dealings with Russians that go back decades, raising questions about whether his policies would be influenced by business considerations.
Trump told reporters in February: "I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. I have no loans with Russia at all."
Yet in 2013, after Trump addressed potential investors in Moscow, he bragged to Real Estate Weekly about his access to Russia's rich and powerful. “I have a great relationship with many Russians, and almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” Trump said, referring to Russians who made fortunes when former Soviet state enterprises were sold to private investors. 
Five years earlier, Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. told Russian media while in Moscow  that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets" in places like Dubai and Trump SoHo and elsewhere in New York.
New York City real estate broker Dolly Lenz told USA TODAY she sold about 65 condos in Trump World at 845 U.N. Plaza in Manhattan to Russian investors, many of whom sought personal meetings with Trump for his business expertise.
Dealings with Russian oligarchs concern law enforcement because many of those super-wealthy people are generally suspected of corrupt practices as a result of interconnected relationships among Russia's business elite, government security services and criminal gangs, according to former U.S. prosecutor Ken McCallion, as well as Steven Hall, a former CIA chief of Russian operations.
“Anybody who is an oligarch or is in any position of power in Russia got it because (President) Vladimir Putin or somebody in power saw some reason to give that person that job,” Hall said in an interview. “All the organized crime figures I’ve ever heard of (in Russia) all have deep connections and are tied in with people in government.”
FBI Director James Comey acknowledged at a  congressional hearing into Russian interference in the U.S. election March 20 that many wealthy Russians may have close ties to the Kremlin and may be acting on its behalf.
[T]he deals, and the large number of Russians who have bought condos in Trump buildings, raise questions about the secrecy he has maintained around his real estate empire. Trump is the first president in 40 years to refuse to turn over his tax returns, which could shed light on his business dealings.
Among Trump's partners in the SoHo project was Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant who spent a year in prison for the 1991 stabbing. He later cooperated with the FBI and the CIA for a reduced sentence after he was convicted in a $40 million stock manipulation and money-laundering scheme in New York state.
Federal indictments in New York, California and Illinois allege that people who bought Trump condos include felons and others accused of laundering money for Russian, Ukrainian or central Asian criminal organizations.
One indictment describes Anatoly Golubchik and Michael Sall, who own condos in Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and Vadim Trincher, who owns a unit in Trump Tower in Manhattan, as members of a Russian-American organized crime group that ran an illegal gambling and money-laundering operation.
Money laundering was an issue for Trump's Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, which was fined $10 million in 2015 for failing to report suspicious transactions. Federal rules are designed to protect the U.S. financial system from being used as a safe haven for dirty money and transnational crimes, Jennifer Shasky Calvery, then-director of the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen), said at the time. It was the largest penalty the agency ever levied against a casino since reporting requirements began in 2003, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Trump SoHo project "was largely financed by illegally obtained cash from Russia and Eastern European sources, including money provided by known international financial criminals and organized crime racketeers," former prosecutor McCallion wrote on his blog in October. McCallion was an assistant U.S. attorney in New York from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s under presidents Carter and Reagan.
In an interview with USA TODAY, McCallion said he spent years looking into the Trump Organization, the businesses and individuals that dealt with it, and the possibility that Trump's real estate empire may depend on hundreds of millions of dollars from Russians.
“The FBI is always concerned if public officials can be blackmailed,” McCallion said. “It’s Russian-laundered money from people who operate under the good graces of President Putin. If these people pull the plug on the Trump Organization, it would go down pretty quickly.”
There's much more in the article.  The take away is that Trumps is in bed with criminals and money launderers.  Such behavior is now apparently a "Christian value" based on Trump's support from the falsely pious and hypocrisy filled evangelical Christians.  These people deserve no respect or deference and, in fact, are walking billboards of why one should not want to claim the Christian moniker.  

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