The combination bragging session and press conference at Trump Tower today gave us a disturbing peek into what we can expect once Donald Trump assumes office, signaling his imperious style, lack of self-awareness about corruption and disregard for facts.
Trump also took another shot at American government intelligence services, in effect telling them not to ever again look into his personal conduct.
But it was his avoidance of a single letter that was most revealing in his testy performance, which could be titled “The Art of Deception.”
By avoiding that one letter, Trump created the false impression that there is no reason to worry about his divided loyalties between the United States of America and Russia. And make no mistake, when you repeatedly, and gratuitously, praise the murderous autocrat who rules in Russia and even invite his intelligence apparatus to interfere in American presidential elections by hacking your political opponent you are revealing divided loyalties.
A reporter asked “does Russia have any leverage over you, financial or otherwise? And if not, will you release your tax returns to prove it?”
“I tweeted out that I have no dealings with Russia,” Trump replied. “I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia,” Trump said, adding, “I have no loans with Russia at all.”
The deception was in his careful avoidance of that missing letter—“n.”
While Trump denied involvement with Russia, a government, Trump didn’t mention Russians.
Trump said not about word about his many dealings with Russians, deals still in place with Russians and money borrowed in deals with Russians, nor the extensive litigation over his hiding the violent criminal past of his longtime business partner, adviser and frequent traveling companion Felix Sater.
Five times Trump has tried to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. His oldest children and Sater have been together in Moscow when Sater was trying to make one of those deals.
Trump sent sales agents to Moscow when he built Trump Tower. At Mar-A-Lago he met with Russian oligarchs and other Russians whose money Trump solicited. For years Trump collected a fee each time a condo in three identical Trump branded towers was sold in Sunny Isles Beach, a Florida town known as “Little Moscow.”
Trump is a material witness in an alleged quarter billion tax fraud, a deal he authorized, that involved Sater, a former Russian government minister and untaxed profits that flowed to Iceland and, insiders allege in court papers, on to oligarchs in the former Soviet Union.
In 2013 Trump collected millions for holding his Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, boasting that he met with virtually all the oligarchs.
Trump even performed in a Russian music video featuring Emin Agalarov, a pop singer hopeful who is the son of Aras Agalarov, a Russian oligarch who is close to both the president elect and Vladimir Putin.
Then there’s the mansion near Trump’s Mar-A-Lago home and resort that he says he bought in late 2004 for $40 million and sold to Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian oligarch, less than four years later for $100 million through a front, a deal that if done by any elected official would have prompted intense scrutiny because the pricing could be seen as a payoff.
In 2008, Donald Jr. said “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” The namesake son also told a real estate conference in New York, “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
There are so many connections between Trump and rich Russians that James S. Henry, a lawyer and economist who has devoted four decades to exposing corrupt international banking and business deals, wrote a 10,000-word article about them titled The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections.
While writing the introduction to that piece. I told Henry that for all the stunning facts he had compiled it seemed he was only an inch or so below the surface. Henry said he agreed.
“Trump is the Houdini of news fakery,” Henry says. “He deals with Russian and former Soviet Union oligarchs and other crooks taking flight capital, plus proceeds from kleptocracy, out of Russia and the former Soviet Union,” while boldly stating he has nothing to do with Russia.
Trump is in so deep with Russians that the American people need a deep understanding of his conduct, whether or not it involved “golden showers” from prostitutes (which Trump denies) or anything else that Russian intelligence may have done to compromise Trump, information known there as kompromat.
Trump refused to take questions from CNN, telling its reporter his organization does fake news. In fact, what CNN did was report—accurately—that American intelligence officials had briefed Trump and President Obama about a dossier that suggests Trump may be compromised. That’s not fake news even if the underlying document is, as Trump claims, nonsense.
That is what intelligence agencies do—they gather whatever they can and then evaluate it to separate the damning from the trash. We don’t know if this report is, as Trump says, trash or is in fact a peek into a man who cannot faithfully execute the duties of president of the United States.
Trump is angry that the document got out. But his comments were not limited to that understandable upset. Instead he tried to argue that the document was both classified and not official.
He ended his first press conference since July by dodging the most important question of the day. “Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?”
Trump’s response went on for 238 words, roughly a full minute, in which he denigrated American intelligence and praised himself. But he never denied that he or his campaign had contact with Russia during the campaign.