Thursday, February 22, 2018

Alfa Bank, van der Zwann indictment and how it might relate to President Trump

Since the Steele Dossier came to light, so has a bank mentioned in it with many names and many branches...but the group is known as Alfa Bank. The indictment of a an attorney, Alex van der Zwann,  unconnected with the investigation until now may have far more significance than we might imagine.  The attorney has a family relationship to the bank and the Steele Dossier indicated that  Alfa bank figured in a large loan to the Trump organization.  The Steele Dossier may be considered unverified so far, but it may be in the process of being verified by  Special Counsel Robert Mueller.   Raising further suspicions is that the Mueller staff has a large number of prosecutors experienced in investigating financial crimes. We could say the plot is beginning to thicken a bit and no one outside the Mueller team really knows because they are so tight lipped. However, connecting the dots is still a fascinating exercise.  For the record, I am making note of this for what I suspect will be referred to in the future.

A Moscow bank keeps popping up in the Trump-Russia affair. Ben Schreckinger reports with the latest.
On Tuesday, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller made another surprise indictment, this time of a London-based lawyer for allegedly lying to the FBI.
Like two of Mueller’s previous targets, Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates, the lawyer—a man named Alex Van Der Zwaan—had done work for Ukraine’s previous, pro-Russia government, which was overthrown in a popular uprising in 2014.
And according to the indictment, the false statements in question were about communications he had in 2016 with Rick Gates and an unnamed “Person A” related to that work.
So on its surface, Tuesday’s indictment relates solely to a single branch of Mueller’s investigation: Paul Manafort’s dealings with the pro-Russia faction in Ukraine.
But search beyond the scant details offered in the two-page indictment and there’s an intriguing link to a whole other branch of Trump-Russia inquiry: the Alfa Bank mystery.
As it so happens, Van Der Zwaan, the lawyer indicted Tuesday, is the son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan. Khan is a director and co-owner of Alfa Bank and one of three key leaders of its parent company, the sprawling conglomerate Alfa Group.

From November 11, 2017 posting:
Observations 2/23/18
Note to the reference to the Steele dossier, so far unverified, but it may become verified in the future.
For sometime the rumor has been circulating that Trump had $300 million in loans, debts he owed to the Russian private bank, Alfa, and that the Russians had evidence which was termed “salacious” (with conspiracy theorists thinking there may had been a honey trap involved). That these rumors and allegations made in the agent’s “report “were taken seriously was most likely because many of both sides of the aisle were puzzled why Donald Trump was constantly apologizing or was in sympathy with the policies of Russia. They were trying to find a reason why Donald Trump had made comments supportive of Russia’s territory grabbing in the Ukraine,Crimea, and Georgia, letting Russia finish and dominate the Syrian civil war, weakening NATO’s mutual defense responsibility and endangering the Baltics by failure to be protected from Russian expansionism, or denying of Russian interfering is US elections and hacking.. Sometimes Trump’s Putin bromance was owed to Trump’s vulnerability to flattery, and especially from the Russian president , whose leadership Trump openly admired. It was also owed to political connections and friendship of his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, with the deposed president of the Ukraine and an associate of Putin. The “report’ was called trash by Trump’s surrogates and spokespeople. All media, even the reporting Buzzfeed and CNN , referred to the report as unproven.

It stands in sharp contrast with the GOP presidential candidate himself, Donald Trump, who has been advocating a foreign policy that strangely runs parallel to the same as Russia's, from declaring NATO obsolete, not objecting to the Russian threats and incursions into Eastern Ukraine, and recognizing Russia's grab of the Crimea.  In fact, the mutual comments between Trump and Putin have been so complimentary that it has been timed a "bromance" of mutual admiration.

Not only is this a major issue in foreign policy, but in calls into question whether Trump can even negotiate with Putin in America's and our alliies' security interests without giving away the store to Russia.  Negotiation means give and take and the question remains what Trump would give away to make a deal. ""

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Some background: (Note, the Steele Dossier is may haveen the key, here.)
 For some time, the question has been why has Donald Trump been so cozy with Russia? There has been a great deal of speculation ranging from Trump's debts to Russia oligarchs to blackmail , the connection with  the Russian Alfa Bank, with embarrassing pictures (a victim of a honey trap).  Fingers have been pointed to influencing Trump's views of Russia was his campaign manager, who departed the campaign mid year, Paul Manafort, who was an advisor to the ousted  president of the Ukraine who sought refuge in Moscow after a coup.  Congressional investigations into Russian influence and hacking  in the US elections are just getting underway.  Ukraine is involved. The Russians have conducted a stealth takeover of the eastern parts of that country and the West punished Russia with economic sanctions.  The Flynn issue involves lies about his pre- January conversations with the Russian ambassador over lifting those sanctions. The question arises was this a thank you for the role Russia played in helping Trump win by planting false news stories and by hacking and revealing damaging information regarding Hillary Clinton.

That there are many concerned about why Donald Trump only ever has kind words for Russia and their president Vladimir Putin, while being critical of even our closest allies and even calling NATO, our mutual defense treaty with Europe, obsolete.  It has set our Eastern Europe members of NATO on edge and one of President Obama's departing actions was to announce the placement of US troops in Poland as a signal to Russia not to mess with our Baltic members.  Trump and others, including libertarians, had already expressed concern about going to war to support the small trio of Baltic nations in spite of their NATO membership. Russians have always seen the Baltics, with their ports to the sea, as part of theirs since there is a large number of Russians living in those areas left over from the old Soviet  military occupations days when the Baltics were their satellites.  Russia has a modus operandi of using "saving discrimination against Russian minorities" as an excuse to grab territory and the Baltics are ripe targets.  Their membership in NATO has made Russia think twice. Ukraine, Crimea, and Georgia, recent targets of Russian grabs, are not part of NATO and are not under NATO's protections.  Flynn was Donald Trump's closest campaign adviser on foreign affairs throughout  the campaign.

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