Donald Trump, GoodFellas Edition

So there was an FBI wiretap in Trump Tower! Just not placed there by Barack Obama and not targeting Donald Trump. Between 2011 and 2013 the FBI had a court approved warrant to eavesdrop on a Russian organized crime and money laundering operation out of the 63rd floor of Trump Tower.

Here’s one interesting little nugget.

For two years ending in 2013, the FBI had a court-approved warrant to eavesdrop on a sophisticated Russian organized crime money laundering network that operated out of unit 63A in Trump Tower.

The FBI investigation led to a federal grand jury indictment of more than 30 people, including one of the world’s most notorious Russian mafia bosses, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Known as the “Little Taiwanese,” Tokhtakhounov was the only target to slip away, and he remains a fugitive from American justice.

Five months after the April 2013 indictment and after Interpol issued a “red notice” for Tokhtakhounov, the fugitive appeared near Donald Trump in the VIP section of the Moscow Miss Universe pageant. Trump had sold the Russian rights for Miss Universe to a billionaire Russian shopping mall developer.

On the one hand this may seem like guilt by association. Trump has a bunch of buildings. Some tenants must be crooks. But the context is important. When you start piecing together the Trump story, basically everywhere you look, whether it’s residents in his Trump-branded buildings, or his business associates or investors in his projects, Trump is – there’s simply no other way to put it – tied up with it not just Russians but in many cases Russians tied to the criminal underworld and money laundering.

People still remember when Trump joked that he could shoot a guy dead on 5th Avenue and still keep his supporters on Team Trump. Well, one of his tenants, Eduard Nektalov, a diamond dealer from Uzbekistan, actually was shot to death in broad daylight on 6th Avenue in a gangland assassination. He was reported cooperating at the time with the Feds.

Many are cases like this one in which Reuters looked at various public records to show that a substantial proportion of the units sold in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in Florida were sold to people with Russian passports or those with addresses in Russia. The vast majority of units were purchased by LLCs which hid the true owners identity. So the real number is likely much higher. That is likely no more than targeting well-off Russians looking for a place to stay in the US and a place to park money.

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But many other cases are more sinister.

As I told someone yesterday, sometimes it’s helpful to clear away any suggestion of geopolitical or intelligence shenanigans from the Trump story and see what’s left. What’s left is a guy who almost lost everything and then clawed his way back with a lot of pretty unsavory money. Look at Trump, any of his business partnerships and really anything else and you keep finding Russians with tons of money and frequent attention from the FBI. The idea that Trump associates may have connived with a Russian intelligence operation against the US electoral process is such a shocking and singular possibility that it tends to obscure this pretty shocking set of facts that are pretty much in plain view.

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