Trump Inauguration Donors and the Venezuelan Russian Connection. New Swamp – Old Water

by Richard Cameron

Donald Trump,

during his campaign both for the GOP nomination and during the general election, spoke often about the corruption of his opponent as well as the influence of special interests and lobbying on the federal government and the White House.

“I don’t want lobbyists, I don’t want special interests,” he told host John Dickerson on CBS’s “Face the Nation”.  “I don’t want any strings attached,” Trump said. “I turned down $5 million last week from a very important lobbyist because there are total strings attached to a thing like that”.

“He’s going to come to me in a year or two years,” he added. “And he’s going to want something for a country that he represents or a company that he represents. That’s the kind of money I won’t take”.

And then there were the tweets – these from January and March of last year:

In the immediate run up to the GOP Convention in Cleveland, Trump told audiences at rallies,

If I am elected president, I will end the special interest monopoly in Washington, DC,” he said. “The choice in this election is a choice between taking our government back from the special interests, or surrendering, really, the last scrap of independence to the total and complete control of people like the Clintons.

The operatives that Trump brought into his campaign under the aegis of Paul Manafort were a patent contradiction of Trump’s empty boasts.  Amazingly, one of them was Bill McGinley, a DC-based lawyer who at the time was not registered as a lobbyist but wrote a chapter of the American Bar Association’s Lobbying Manual.

All of this persisted up to the very day of his election and then reality began to manifest itself, even though his faithful supporters were still in denial mode – even when it was reported that his transition team (organized in part, by House Member Devin Nunes, R-CA) became clogged with corporate and industry interests from petrochemical, agriculture, banking, telecommunications, defense contracting, etc.

The Inauguration Committee Kitty

But one aspect of all this blatantly exploitative and fraudulent campaign narrative of Trump’s, was longer in surfacing – having specifically to do with the influence peddling connected to the President-elect’s inaugural eventsCNBC reports that, “The president’s inaugural committee raised $106.7 million, about double what was raised for President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, a Federal Election Commission filing shows”.

Of particular interest are the contributors. Consider the fact that even though federal election rules make it difficult to purchase large blocks of clout during a campaign – except in the form of PAC money; after the election, corporate interests and the wealthy, can gain control by bankrolling the inaugural events.

AT&T was the heaviest hitter in the Telecom industry, kicking $2 million into the kitty – joined by Qualcomm at $1 million. The “Swamp” on Wall Street was strongly represented with BofA, American Financial Group, J.P. Morgan-Chase, coughing up millions between them. Microsoft and Google hacked into the festivities, representing the tech sector.

From aerospace, Boeing made a curious appearance. Was all that noise from Trump about AirForceOne simply window dressing?

Hedge fund kings bought seats at the table with Steven A. Cohen giving $1 million, Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone CEO and chairman of Trump’s business council, contributed $250,000.  John Paulson,  hedge fund manager and Trump campaign advisor, also donated a quarter million along with Kenneth Griffin’s  $100,000.

The sports business joined the game in a ‘bigly’ way, with Robert Kraft, owner of the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots ponying up $1 million, joined by L.A. Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Houston Texans’ owner Robert McNair and the Madison Square Garden Company – owners of the NBA’s New York Knicks and the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers.

You can see the entire and lengthy list of reward shoppers at Open, but perhaps most intriguing of all, is the litany of petrochemical industry contributors. Chevron and Exxon were in for half a million each. Trump Secretary of State Rex Tillerson no doubt signed the Exxon-Mobil check.

Citgo Petroleum – Doing Business As …

Then there is Citgo Petroleum – or at least that is the name they go by when doing business in the U.S.  Citgo Petroleum is a front for the actual owner of Citgo – Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). You might be saying, “hmmmm, that has Venezuela in the company name”.  Good observation.

Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., according to Wikipedia, is the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company that was nationalized in 1976 and has since been one of the few cash generating industries in Venezuela that has propped up the regime of the late national dictator Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro, President of the only authorized party in Venezuela – the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. 

You may have been noticing how the citizens of Venezuela are, to put it mildly, in a state of unrest – really a state of revolt, over the way Chavez and Maduro’s regimes have ruined the economy, causing shortages of consumer goods, basic groceries and even – beer. You can suffer many indignities but when beer is no longer available, open rebellion cannot be far behind – and it isn’t, with countless thousands of citizens protesting in the streets, clamoring for a new national election.

The Guardian explains why this donation is very problematic – as if it isn’t on it’s face:

Foreign donations are banned under US law, but the Venezuelan company, PdVSA, made the donation through a US affiliate, Citgo Petrol, soon after offering  a nearly 50% stake in Citgo to Rosneft as collateral for a $1.5bn loan.

Rosneft is a $92 billion  Russian oil giant – the largest petro-conglomerate in Russia  that the Russian government has a majority stake in. Matters become even more complicated when it is discovered that not only is Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. indebted to Rosneft for billions, but it has also been disclosed that actors within Donald Trump’s presidential campaign were  involved as conduits both to and from Russian officials subordinate to Vladimir Putin.

Enter “The Dossier”

Although some critics on the right have questioned the legitimacy of the document prepared by former MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele, known as “the Dossier”, the FBI takes them very seriously in their ongoing investigation of Russian influence on last year’s presidential election. In the dossier, of which many of the elements have been confirmed, Rosneft is identified as a central element of the  conspiracy. Steele asserts in the report that Igor Sechin, a close associate of Vladimir Putin, met one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, Carter Page, and offered him brokerage in the sale of 19% of Rosneft shares.

It’s all a tangled web and it is hard to imagine Trump hasn’t been caught in it. That is why we need to see his taxes, among other things.

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