One of Russia’s most in-demand residential enclaves is called the Golden Triangle in St. Petersburg and now is the time to get in, local real estate agents say.
Is Trump going to fire Mueller? If yes, what will happen?
I’m coming to believe that Trump has to fire Mueller — and it will have almost nothing to do with “collusion” — or even the election. The simple math is that there’s no real downside — only upside. If Trump fires Mueller …
- Worst case — Congress moves rapidly to impeach. That’s not a conviction (see Clinton and Monica Lewinsky) — and it would take time.
- Bad case — process is delayed while another special prosecutor is secured — more time.
- Best case — Trump gets to argue his case of a “witch-hunt” in the court of public opinion again — and wins. Remember, this is the guy who famously said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any support! This is definitely a long-shot — but Trump’s a gamblin’ kinda guy!
Options #1 or #2 are the most likely — and in both cases he gets to delay his pending interrogation (currently on a dangerously fast track through Mueller). He can’t (ultimately) avoid it, but he HAS to delay being interviewed by investigators at all costs (and that’s the legal advice he’s getting).
Even though this first salvo from the special counsel’s office does not directly relate to Russia or activities of the campaign, if this action today says anything, it is a warning to the president’s lawyers to somehow make sure Trump is never interviewed by investigators, or to delay that as long as possible. Given Trump’s history with legal matters, especially depositions, the danger for him to create criminal liability for himself seems astounding. 
Firing Mueller would result in a delay — though not the end of the investigation (or any of the results of the investigation to date). Mueller’s first indictment’s (Manafort and Gates) are around the periphery, but make no mistake, the real target is Trump.
And there’s another need for a delay.
The charges against Manafort and Gates are very typical drug-cartel/crime-family stuff. Here’s the gist of it:
- Conspiracy against the United States
- Conspiracy to launder money
- Unregistered agent of a foreign principal
- False and misleading Foreign Agent Registration Act statements
- False statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
In effect, Manafort and Gates (allegedly) “laundered money through shell companies and foreign bank accounts in Cyprus, Seychelles, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In all, the indictment says, $75 million flowed through these accounts, and they funded Manafort and Gates’s lifestyles in the U.S.” 
Owning shell accounts and foreign bank accounts isn’t illegal, but where it is illegal is when the shell accounts and foreign banks are used for the express purpose of evading taxes — and that’s exactly what the indictment alleges Manafort and Gates did.
But U.S. citizens with foreign bank accounts with more than $10,000 at the start of the year they are filing taxes must, under U.S. law, report those accounts to the U.S. Treasury. They must also declare any foreign accounts to the Internal Revenue Service while doing their taxes. Manafort and Gates are alleged to have done neither. 
Mueller’s investigation is likely to lead to charges against Trump that would subpoena his taxes — and that would be tilt, game-over type stuff because Trump — like Manafort (and Gates) has been laundering money to avoid taxes for decades. This is why he can’t disclose them. If he did — they would result in immediate criminal prosecutions.
Now, remember this event? Where he *supposedly* turned over all his “investments” to his sons? No one was actually allowed to see inside these folders. It was a complete charade. Having created the illusion of “paperwork” for decades, one Hollywood producer went as far as to say the folders were just filled with blank paper (which definitely looks plausible). The only way the American public will ever see any of Trump’s real finances is by subpoena.
In some cases, Trump himself was the launderer for Russian oligarchs. At the level of tens/hundreds of millions of dollars, this is how the quid-pro-quo works.
“What do I have to do with Russia?” he replied to reporters’ questions at a press conference in Doral last summer (2016). “You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach … for $40 million, and I sold it to a Russian for $100 million.” 
Sidenote: This is what the property looked like — before it was completely torn down — and sold as 3 separate parcels. That’s right — the highest price ever paid for Palm Beach real estate ($95 million at closing) was subsequently torn down and sold as 3 ocean-front parcels. It’s unlikely that the original $95 million was (or will be) recouped on the sale of the 3 parcels (the largest of which sold for $34.34 million — smaller parcels would likely be less).
But I digress …
The history of the property is pretty amazing — and not atypical of the way Trump does real-estate deals. What Trump has learned is that on the global stage, there are wealthy buyers who aren’t always interested in the “value” of real estate as land, bricks and mortar — or what other neighborhood properties are selling for per square foot. If you’re a Russian oligarch, there are a myriad of legitimate needs to “park” huge sums of money in non-liquid assets — around the globe. Some of this is typical tax avoidance stuff and sometimes it’s a messy legal matter like divorce. Other times it’s just — hey — I can afford it and I want it. I don’t care about price.
This is also why we’ve never seen Trump’s taxes — and short of a subpoena — never will. And there’s more.
Turns out there are some other intersects with that same oligarch (the one who paid $95 million for the Palm Beach property) both during Trumps’s 2016 campaign — and earlier this year after Trump’s inauguration.
Federal Aviation Administration records reviewed by The Palm Beach Post and other news outlets have tracked Rybolovlev’s private plane to cities where Trump has traveled, both during his campaign and into his presidency.
In October, for example, Trump appeared at a campaign rally in Las Vegas. Rybolovlev’s plane arrived in that city an hour after the campaign event started.
A month later, FAA records show Rybolovlev’s plane, an Airbus 319, also landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, 90 minutes before Trump’s plane arrived. Trump was scheduled to host a campaign event there that day — Nov. 3 — five days before the presidential election.
The latest juxtaposition of Trump’s and Rybolovlev’s aircrafts occurred last month, the weekend of Feb. 10-12 (2017), when the oligarch’s plane landed at Miami International Airport while Trump was at Mar-a-Lago entertaining Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 
Back to the money laundering.
Russian oligarchs have been using banks in Cyprus (and other countries) for decades. The biggest bank in Cyprus is the Bank of Cyprus, PCL. Since 2014, Wilbur Ross has been the vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus. Just who is Wilbur Ross? None other than our new Secretary of Commerce — and his history with Trump dates back to Atlantic City and Trump’s [failed] casino ambitions.
In the late 1970s, Ross began his 24 year career at the New York City office of N M Rothschild & Sons, where he ran the bankruptcy-restructuring advisory practice.
In the 1980s, Donald Trump was in financial trouble because of his casinos in Atlantic City. His three casinos in Atlantic City were under foreclosure threat from lenders. Ross, who was then the Senior Managing Director of Rothschild Inc., represented investors in the casino. Along with Carl Icahn, Ross convinced bondholders to strike a deal with Trump that allowed Trump to keep control of the casinos. 
But this is all conjecture — speculation — and while it’s easy to connect the dots logically, there’s no legal proof. Which is where Mueller is hard at work. He’s taking all of these disparate threads and building the legal case with sufficient testimony and evidence to indict. Given this short thread, it’s easy to see the likelihood of a Trump indictment on one of possibly many legal charges — and while Trump can’t avoid an indictment — he can delay it — and firing Mueller would absolutely result in a delay. The ensuing media frenzy and political circus would chew up valuable time.
Also, unlike Nixon, Trump isn’t the kind of person who would be comfortable leaving his fate in the hands of a Pence pardon. The larger question then remains — can Trump pardon Trump? I think we’re about to find out, and either way, it likely means that Mueller needs to go overboard first in the likely sequence ahead. Whatever Trump’s ultimate future is — I’m convinced it will need a pardon to avoid jail. Tax evasion isn’t sexy, but it’s often how big whales get busted — and it’s a whole lot easier and quicker than proving (beyond a reasonable doubt) that Trump colluded with Russia to swing the election. Those dots are there too — they’re just harder (and longer) to prove.