As the Trump/Russia investigation heats up, it’s important to keep track of the shady underpinnings gurgling away beneath the entire sordid affair. At this point, the Gordian Knot of Trump’s tangled Russian relationships can only be severed through Impeachment and expulsion from the White House. That said, each new detail is another piece of evidence that can be pinned to Trump when his day of judiciary judgment comes.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Russian bank that Jared Kushner – Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor – met with in secret helped to pay for the Toronto Trump International Hotel and Tower.
The bank, Vnesheconombank (VEB), previously made news for its connections to Russian spy agencies. On top of that, at one point Vladimir Putin served as Chairmen of the bank’s Supervisory Board. VEB was also the target of sanctions under the Obama Administration in retaliation for Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
Kushner met with the bank’s CEO back in December and failed to disclose the meeting at the time. Now, it’s become clear why. The WSJ has revealed that VEB bought $850 million of stock in a Ukrainian steelmaker from Alexander Scnaider, the man responsible for building the Trump property. Scnaider had originally purchased the stock for a relatively paltry $70 million. The massive sale, which was approved during Putin’s tenure at VEB, was in turn used to finance the Toronto Trump Tower.
During an interview in April, a lawyer for Scnaider confirmed the financing deal, saying it amounted to $15 million pumped into Trump Tower. The next day – perhaps after urging from Russian officials – he recanted and said he couldn’t confirm that any money went to the Trump property.
The pipeline here is clear. VEB gave money to Scnaider, who turned around and invested the money in the Trump property. As far as Russian dark money goes, this a fairly simple and easy-to-follow transaction. It’s clear evidence that VEB, and by association Putin, has heavily supported Trump endeavors in the past.
If more evidence of Russian funneling of money to Trump is exposed in the future, it will look like this, funds moved through different companies to hide the source. The FBI’s investigation into Trump/Russia money laundering is likely to lead to similar stories.
Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.