Hiding in Plain Sight

Let me share a few thoughts on the latest developments in the Trump Russia story, or perhaps better to say, elements of it that don’t seem to be getting a great deal of attention.

There’s been a fair amount of discussion of Donald Trump’s multiple business ties to people from the Russian criminal underworld. This is not primarily contacts or associations that came up during the campaign but ties that go back in most cases a bit more than a decade. The regimes of Russia and other post-Soviet states are heavily kleptocratic. So the lines separating oligarchs from governments from organized crime bosses can be very hard to draw and in many cases are close to non-existent.

Most reports and observers of the Trump/Russia story have tended to look at this morass of ties and associations and see this as the swamp in which the smoking gun or extensive evidence of Trump’s ties to Russian intelligence and hacking will be found. I think there’s a quite good chance that that’s true – for a number of reasons I hope to get to in coming days. It’s a solid assumption.

But this assumption has tended to hide an extremely relevant story in plain site: namely, Donald Trump had and continues to have extensive and deep ties and business dependence on organized crime figures in the US, Russia, Ukraine and a host of other countries. If we’d never heard about Russian intelligence hacking of the 2016 election or Carter Page or Paul Manafort or Sergei Kislyak this would seem like an extraordinarily big deal. And indeed it is an extraordinarily big deal.

What that means is that we – as reporters and as a concerned public – should probe these relationships on their own terms just as much as the most logical place to hunt looking for the evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Perhaps another way to put it is, let’s find that needle. But don’t forget the haystack is a huge story in itself. It may end up being the bigger one. That story goes not only to Donald Trump but what US law enforcement and intelligence knew about Donald Trump, his connections to the world of oligarchs and organized crime long before the DNC’s and John Podesta’s emails started appearing out of thin air to help saw the 2016 election. There is a whole lot there.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Sincerely,
TPM Staff
Latest Edblog
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Reporters:
Newswriters:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: