Mueller, Trump, and the Putin connection

Submitted by AWL on 1 May, 2019 - 12:04 Author: Barrie Hardy

Sergei Mikailov was in for a nasty shock at his works meeting in Moscow in December 2016.

Proceedings started when a bag was placed over his head and he was unceremoniously frog marched out of the room. This was the Lubyanka, and the FSB was cleaning house.

Loose tongues had been wagging about Russian interference in the US Presidential election. Mikhailov, deputy head of the FSB’s cyber security arm, soon found himself facing a secret trial which landed him with 22 years in prison for “treason”.

Three other servants of Putin’s secret state met similar fates.

Such career endings are an occupational hazard for spymasters employed by an authoritarian state. An ignominious end in prison is a marginal improvement on a bullet in the back of the head, so progress of a sort since Stalin’s time!

Nevertheless, it transpires the Kremlin didn’t need to worry overmuch, because the highly anticipated Mueller Report apparently found no evidence of actual conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian state.

It is still too early to tell whether Mueller’s findings are a damp squib or contain enough explosive information to damage Trump. The Trump appointed stooge who is Attorney General Bill Barr has conducted a damage limitation exercise to spin the report by making out that it somehow clears his boss.Legal experts claim Barr is acting as Trump’s “defence Lawyer”.

Barr’s strategy seems to be to release the findings a bit at a time. A heavily redacted version has been released, and will be followed by episodic unveilings of various blacked out sections. The logic is that a drip-drip release of damaging details minimizes the overall impact.

The Trump team may not have actually conspired with the Russian state, but it certainly actively courted its help. There’s plenty of evidence for that, from Trump imploring the release of “incrimination” emails at his rallies, to the infamous Trump Tower meeting to discuss “Russian adoptions” (code for getting sanctions on Russian oligarchs dropped so that they could resume spending in luxury shops and buying up US real estate with their stolen cash).

There’s the mysterious change in the Republican Party Platform which watered down support for Ukraine, and Manafort’s handing over of polling data on swing states to an associate of a Putin-linked oligarch. The fact that key members of Trump’s circle lied about numerous encounters with Russian operatives suggests their behaviour was far from innocent.

Unhinged “shock jocks” like Alex Jones had prattled about a “deep state” conspiracy to oust Trump, but the outcome was nothing like that. Mueller appeared reluctant to upset the domestic constitutional apple cart.

Partly that may be due to the narrow focus of the probe. Trump said he regarded it as crossing a red line if Mueller investigated his business affairs, and it doesn’t seem that was done in any systematic manner.

Trump has been suspected of laundering money for Russian oligarchs and Putin cronies for a couple of decades. An oft-cited dodgy deal was the sale of a Trump-owned Palm Beach mansion to fertiliser billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. It went for $95 million – way above the asking price for comparable properties. Rybolovlev had no intention of living there and went on to demolish the mansion.

As if to make things even more peculiar, on several occasions Rybolovlev’s private jet appeared to be following Trump around various airports during his campaign.

Pro-Putin sentiment is not confined to a venal maverick president. It extends into other sections of the American capitalist class. The days are long gone when the Republican Party denounced Russia as an evil superpower intent on destroying “the American way of life”.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has had millions of dollars pumped into it from Russian oligarchs subject to economic sanctions. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s billionaire Commerce Secretary, has been the business partner of Putin’s son-in-law. Substantial connections also exist between American oil conglomerates and Russian oligarchs.

“Libertarian” American capitalists see in Putin’s crowd kindred spirits whose desire for self-enrichment takes precedent over anything associated with the public good. If only the American state could conspire more fully with corporate pillage like their Russian counterparts do!

The Trump family circle are especially determined to further enrich themselves by exploiting their positions in government.

Whether or not Mueller’s report leads to impeachment, there are at last count still another 16 investigations going on into Trump affairs. Should any of those hasten his undoing, it would be welcome. However, most reliable means of being rid of him must be via the 2020 election.

The working class should not look for saviours in the American establishment, though. Instead, socialists need to campaign on a number of issues.

There is a particular need to address the substantial democratic deficit in its various forms, such as voter suppression and electoral gerrymandering. Answers also have to be found as to how best to establish an independent socialist party presence.

Trade union militancy and (general, unformed) sympathy for socialist ideas in the USA are enjoying a promising phase. Let us hope that full advantage can be taken of these opportunities.

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