I prefer not to write pieces about the Trump-Russia scandal, for a number of reasons. One, the investigation is ongoing. Two, the actual scandal is STILL ongoing. Three, inference is not fact. Drawing conclusions is art, not science. Hence drawing.
But a long-running theory/joke from during the election has resurfaced with the publication of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury:” that Trump never intended to win. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me, and it is certainly what I thought through the entirety of election season, even up to election night. I think Trump was as surprised as the rest of us that he won, and I am convinced he didn’t intend on victory.
Then there’s all of this collusion with Russia. If Trump didn’t intend to win, how could it be that he colluded with Russia? Wouldn’t you cheat and commit crimes to actually gain something? Yes, yes you would. And if you know Trump at all, you know there’s something he is always happy to gain: money.
Dot 1: Money Laundering
Fusion GPS, who hired Christopher Steele, who wrote the dossier that caught the public’s attention in regards to Russian collusion, demands that their testimony be released to the public. It is ten hours long. We know that it urges congress to investigate Trump’s connections to Deutsche Bank. We know that this bank has been fined $10 billion for previous Russian money laundering schemes. We also know that Trump has money there, and possibly loans, since American banks refuse to lend him money anymore (he’s quite famous for never paying his debts).
The Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United v. FEC allows for campaigns to receive anonymous money. It is illegal to receive foreign money. But when you can receive anonymous money, that law becomes difficult to prove. This creates a perfect money laundering apparatus between a campaign and a foreign power.
Dot 2: Election Hacking
We know that Russia hacked 36 states in the US before the 2016 election. Security experts say they were brazen and didn’t care about getting caught. And Donald Trump won. But…
Dot 3: Trump Declares the Election Rigged
Trump spent the last month of his campaign declaring that the election was rigged. Nobody had voted yet, there were no results, and there was no evidence. He didn’t even support his argument with evidence.
Now let’s assume that Trump intended to lose the election. Michael Wolff’s book compares this to the Mel Brooks production, “The Producers.” Creating something so terrible that it is guaranteed to flop so that some money can be laundered. In that story, the flop becomes a surprise success, creating more problems than anticipated.
That all makes sense if the conspiracy was only with the Trump campaign. It was long rumored that Trump intended to start his own conservative news network after the election, clearly showing he didn’t anticipate winning. He would have a good eight years of Hilary Clinton to complain about. Calling the election rigged would be something he could fire up his audience with throughout her administration. There was lots of money to be made doing just that.
But Russia wanted to play, too. Examine this scenario, that Clinton was an inevitable victory, from the perspective of the Russians.
Money laundering. The Magnitsky Act had frozen over a billion dollars of Russian money. The Russian government is an oligarchy, essentially an organized crime syndicate made up of millionaires. Now their money can’t be spent, and people are getting very angry about the lack of cash flow. With a SuperPAC in America (where that money is frozen), it is easy to move money around secretly, if you have help from someone running for office. Trump always wanted to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and had been spending plenty of time with the Russians since 1987. Whether blackmail or bribery, Trump was probably a sure thing.
So hacking the election. It’s win-win for Russia, regardless of the election outcome. If Trump wins with their help, they have an opportunity to unfreeze a ton of their money, and reverse other sanctions to enrich themselves. Good investment. If Trump loses, they’ve laundered some money, and all of their hacking is now evidence to support Trump’s election rigging claims. There is no concrete evidence as to what the Russians did with our election data either way, just that they were in there. Trump could easily point to the hacker breadcrumbs and have said “I told you all along, RIGGED.”
Putin has openly despised Hilary Clinton for years, and creating chaos for her administration would be a dream come true. Creating chaos in a Trump administration would be an effective last resort if their money could not be unfrozen. Since Michael Flynn got busted before the administration was even a month old, it quickly became apparent that the Magnitsky Act was here to stay.
And as Michael Flynn put it, in regards to taking $45,000 from Russia for a speech: “Well, it would only be a problem if we won.”