Putting The Picture Together

Evan Vucci

I've written a number of pieces over the last five days about elements of the Trump/Russia story - specifically, looking into the backgrounds of people who've been close to Trump over the last ten to fifteen years and just how they may fit into the picture. I want to pull them together in one place here. Because they fit together into a whole.

First, here's a look at Felix Sater, a business associate of Trump's over at least half a dozen years.

Second, Trump's lawyer for a decade, Michael Cohen. You've probably seen him a lot on TV as a top Trump surrogate ("Says Who?!?"). But he's also a key business figure in the Trump orbit and seems to be a key connection to Trump's growing reliance on capital from the states of the former Soviet Union starting about a decade ago.

Next, what did the CIA and the FBI know about Trump's ties to people in the Russian/FSU criminal underworld, reliance on Russia from money and other Soviet successor states? Largely because of Sater's role as an FBI informant, likely also working with the CIA, during the time he was a major Trump business partner, it seems they likely knew a lot.

Next, two posts on the potential 'innocent' explanation of what is behind all this smoke about Trump and Russian. Post #1 and Post #2. As I argue in these posts, I think it is possible to construct a generally innocent explanation of all the facts we know about Trump's ties to Russia. "Innocent" doesn't mean good. But by innocent I mean an explanation that doesn't rely or rely heavily on sex tapes or other kinds of blackmail or any corrupt or explicit bargain with people tied to the Russian government. As I explain in part #1, it's important to find the simplest, least extravagant theory that will explain everything we know. It's a good heuristic tool, since if and when it breaks, is controverted by new evidence, we'll know when such an innocent explanation is no longer tenable.

Finally, we've heard conflicting stories about who arranged that meeting for a Ukrainian MP to meet with Sater and Michael Cohen and present a 'peace plan' to be given to President Trump and Michael Flynn. Cohen has said Sater arranged the meeting. The Ukrainian MP said he's known Cohen for years and began talking to him about his peace plan early in the election cycle. Over the weekend the MP, Andrii Artemenko, went on FB and announced that the man who put the meeting together was Alex Oronov, a man who comes up repeatedly in my look Cohen's background. Oronov is Cohen's brother's father-in-law. In addition to saying Oronov had arranged the meeting, Artemenko also announced that Oronov died on March 2nd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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