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News Foreign Policy Tuesday, Nov 1 2016

Trump: «Я не русский шпион»

Nov 01, 2016

or… “I am not a Russian spy.”

Was Donald Trump in long-term direct communication with a Russian bank using a secret server? Trump’s campaign denies it — but remember that time Donald Trump, Jr. said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” And there’s that other time when Trump asked, with evident enthusiasm, “[W]ill [Putin] become my new best friend?” Also that time Donald Trump and Mike Pence both said that Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader than the sitting President of the United States.

Needless to say, questions remain. All the more so, given former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort — who helped arrange anti-Nato protests for a pro-Putin Ukrainian political party — is under FBI investigation over his ties to Russian interests. The concerns raised by the FBI investigation are intensified by a new Mother Jones report citing a “former Western intelligence officer” who alleges sources say “there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.”

Trump’s plausible deniability on his and his campaign’s deep Russian ties is only credible up to a point, and the preponderance of evidence is pushing that limit.

Former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort’s Deep Ties To A Pro-Putin Political Party 

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump‘s chief campaign adviser, did work for Ukraine’s pro-Putin political party and had an office in Kiev as recently as May 2016, according to a New York Times report. The investigation also uncovered that Manafort may have received as much as “$12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments” from the pro-Russia political organization.

And then the Times of London uncovered that Manafort was also behind “a series of [2006] anti-Nato, anti-Kiev protests in Crimea led by Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions — now designated a criminal organisation.”

Further reports on Manafort’s ties to “undisclosed” — possibly illegal — foreign lobbying on behalf of a pro-Putin group reveal that Manafort’s firm “directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party, attempting to sway American public opinion in favor of the country’s pro-Russian government — something Manafort never disclosed, despite a legal obligation to have done so.

Now, the FBI has launched an inquiry into Manafort’s foreign ties.

Former Trump Foreign Policy Adviser Carter Page’s Russian Investments And Ties

Another sketchy character with even more direct ties to Putin’s Russia is Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page. In July, Page visited Russia to push for a strengthened U.S.relationship with Russia — “[j]ust days before Republicans adopted a new, more Russia-friendly plank into their party platform. Previously, Page advised Gazprom, a mostly-state-owned Russian gas producer, counselling the company on investments and deals. As recently as March 2016, Page told Bloomberg that he remained an investor in the Russian company.

And in September, it was reported that a recent Page trip to Russia and his meetings with “some of the most powerful men in Moscow” were being actively investigated by U.S. officials. So there’s that.

Trump advisers have since played dumb on Page’s ties to the campaign, but Trump explicitly named Page as a foreign policy adviser in March of this year. 

Trump‘s Pivot To Pro-Russia Foreign Policy And Kremlin Talking Points

Ordinarily, it would be shocking to see an American presidential nominee embracing pro-Russia foreign policy doctrine dictated by such pro-Putin advisers. But Donald Trump is no ordinary candidate — nor are his Putin-connected aides typical campaign advisers. And that’s what explains Trump:

Published: Nov 1, 2016

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