Daily Check-In 08/28/2018

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018.

 

THE RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION

AUB’s success came despite the Russia Central Bank’s 2006 warning against doing business with AUB. The key to overcoming allegations of financial impropriety? Installing former American officials — specifically onetime GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole, as well as former senator J. Bennett Johnston — on its board.

While Dole’s involvement with the bank didn’t generate much coverage in the United States, it played a seminal role in revealing just how easily supposedly pro-democracy American officials could be bought. As one former Kyrgyz official told ThinkProgress about Dole, “I remember being disgusted by how cheap U.S. politicians [were] on sale.”

For years, it’s been a mystery how and why Dole ended up joining AUB’s board. Not anymore. ThinkProgress spoke with Eugene Gourevitch, one of the key players in AUB’s operations, about Dole’s role with the bank. Described by Bloomberg as a “finance whiz” — and identified by Foreign Affairs as Kyrgyzstan’s “premier financier” — Gourevitch, an American citizen, was sentenced in 2014 on fraud charges stemming from his work in Kyrgyzstan.

Gourevitch — who was recently released from prison — described to ThinkProgress how Dole, who didn’t respond to ThinkProgress’s request for comment, first joined the bank’s board, how few questions Dole asked about the bank’s operations, and what that said about the state of affairs in Washington.

The story about Dole was this: Back in 2006, the Russian Central Bank issued a letter basically instructing its client banks to suspend all operations with AUB because AUB was involved with an [illegal] imports scheme. The Western partners that AUB had, they came running to us saying, “We can’t possibly continue clearing your dollar and Euro transactions, because even though this is Russia, it just doesn’t look good on us to continue doing this.” We had a brainstorm and said, “Well, what is it we can do to sort of fight back against this?” One of the ideas that we had was to bring in, since we had U.S.-based shareholders, a U.S. consulting company to see if there was anything we can to do to sort of reassure Western partners.

We brought in [U.S.-based PR firm] APCO Worldwide, and APCO Worldwide already had a reputation for taking on risque clients. We approached them, and their recommendation was, “Well, why don’t we get somebody on your board who’s really a heavyweight and who will sort of stand up and say that the bank is a squeaky clean institution and that it’s doing absolutely nothing wrong, etc., etc.” We asked who they could get, and they started throwing around names that we honestly thought there was no way they could get. My feeling was that there was absolutely no way any of these reputable people would ever get involved with a bank in a small country, and I certainly wouldn’t expect a former presidential candidate to even consider it.

But I didn’t know how Washington worked, and that people are basically willing to sell their reputation to the highest bidder, which we now keep seeing again and again and again.

What really surprised me, jumping ahead a bit, was how little understanding the senators and the professionals at APCO had about anything having to do with the banking business. And I like Dole — he’s obviously a war hero, and it’s not like I have anything personally negative to say about him. But there was this lack of even the most basic curiosity about what we do, even just as simple as asking, “How is this Central Asian bank able to generate the money to pay me what they pay me?”

Dole’s and Johnston’s job was they had to show up in [Kyrgyzstan] once or twice a year, and we had to charter a private plane and bring their whole entourage there. We would also show up and have a board meeting in Washington once in a while, and come there, and we’d bring the financial reports and presentations, but that was all. And the senators would pat us on the back and congratulate us on doing a tremendous job, to keep doing it. It was all this fluff.

At first, there was just a sense of disbelief — when [they] brought up Dole’s name, our jaws universally dropped. We thought, like, maybe APCO can get some former junior congressman no one had heard of — but they said Dole would listen. But then they brought him in, and the guy didn’t ask any questions. My expectation was Dole would say, “You guys are all fucking insane, how dare you even suggest this, don’t you know who I am.” And then when I met him, and he looked at the presentation and was open to it, it was just a revelation. It was absolutely surreal.

With Dole, it was like if I was invited to join the board of an aerospace engineering firm. I could pretend to know what was going on, but I wouldn’t really. It was the same thing with Dole. He had no expertise in banking or Central Asia. In my opinion, he was there for the money.

There’s always been this weird, dangling thread that’s hung off this tale like that one dangling string from the collar of a new shirt from the discount bin at Penney’s.  And, just like tugging on that thread unravels everything, asking this question brings down the entire facade of this operation.

Why was Bob Dole on the Board of Directors for a Kyrgyzstan bank that was so corrupt even Russia noped the fuck out of there?  Money.  A truckload of money.  Enough money that a former Senator and Presidential candidate didn’t even ask questions as to how the bank makes money, wants him, or can afford him.  He’s the face of legitimacy endorsing the lousy product.  He’s Krusty the Clown, and that bank is the Krustyburger franchise that sells deep fried rat.

Manafort’s trial showed his connections to AUB, and in turn their connections to Bob Dole.  That name stuck out like a sore thumb.  That’s like hearing about the cops raiding a Meth Den and finding out that the High School Principal was in the building when they showed up.  The first question you ask “what the fuck is that he doing there?”

Turns out, he was there for money.  But digging into this instance of someone cashing out by unethical means digs up a hornet’s nest of shadiness.  Dole was hired by the bank after an audit was performed by an industry leader named Kroll’s, but Kroll’s didn’t do a full audit because they were only hired to audit one portion of the company, and only that portion was audited because Dole was joining, and Dole joined because of Kroll’s, and so on.  They’re all giving each other plausible deniability.  A said B said X was clean, B said C said X was clean, and C said A said X was clean, but no one actually looked at X.  It’s like if the Krustyburger from earlier only had the freezer inspected by the Health Department because Krusty showed up and asked for the freezer to be inspected because it was a new freezer and the installer wanted to impress Krusty, but everyone closed their eyes and said the rest of the place was clean because the freezer worked.

This raises several questions.  How many of these sweetheart deals where ex-politicians serve on company boards are dirty AF and only using them to gussy up their image?  How many have other problems under the surface?  How many companies are involved in this whitewashing game?

 

According to two people familiar with his trip across the pond who requested anonymity to discuss the chairman’s travels, Devin Nunes, a California Republican, was investigating, among other things, Steele’s own service record and whether British authorities had known about his repeated contact with a U.S. Justice Department official named Bruce Ohr. To that end, Nunes requested meetings with the heads of three different British agencies—MI5, MI6, and the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. (Steele was an MI6 agent until a decade ago, and GCHQ, the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, was the first foreign-intelligence agency to pick up contacts between Trump associates and Russian agents in 2015, according to The Guardian.)

A U.K. security official, speaking on background, said “it is normal for U.K. intelligence agencies to have meetings with the chairman and members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.” But those meetings did not pan out—Nunes came away meeting only with the U.K.’s deputy national-security adviser, Madeleine Alessandri. The people familiar with his trip told me that officials at MI6, MI5, and GCHQ were wary of entertaining Nunes out of fear that he was “trying to stir up a controversy.” Spokespeople for Alessandri and Nunes did not return requests for comment, and neither did the press offices for MI5 and MI6. GCHQ declined to comment.

If this sounds familiar, Devin’s aides tried the same thing with Christopher Steele last summer.  It’s not uncommon for the head of the Intelligence Committee to meet with British Intelligence, but it is highly unusual that it’s for a dirt digging mission against an American bureaucrat, and even more unusual that said head can’t meet with anyone higher up than a mid-level manager.

Pace might be on to something.  Check his statement in the Rumor Mill.

 

 

TRUMP THE RUSSIAN ASSET

How Christian

 

Google

 

GSA

 

 

IMPEACHMENT AND INDICTMENT TALK

 

TRAITOR TOTS

 

FIGHTING BACK

 

IMMIGRATION

 

COLD WAR 2.0

 

#NEVERAGAIN

 

PUERTO RICO

 

McCAIN

 

 

FIXING THE INTERNET

 

THE PROPAGANDA MACHINE

This is not the first time that Giuliani has copped publicly to the game he’s playing. He has admitted that he aims “to attack the legitimacy of the investigation” and said he’s mostly preparing for the potential impeachment battle lying ahead — given that it appears Mueller doesn’t believe he can indict a sitting president. “It is for public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach, not impeach,” Giuliani said in May.

But the latest comment is especially telling. Giuliani isn’t just saying that the investigation is illegitimate — as he has many times before — or that he’s preparing for the after-action. He’s admitting that job No. 1 is to undermine the man in charge of it. It’s the end that justifies all the unholy means. It’s the thing that makes him a good lawyer for his client.

It’s often said that politics ain’t beanbag, and that’s true. We should probably expect that a lawyer like Giuliani would have this goal, and it’s certainly what Trump demands of his lawyers. But what’s remarkable here is the wager that Giuliani has placed on that whole strategy, his admission that it is all just a strategy and the cost at which it may come for him personally.

Giuliani’s defense of himself isn’t, “What I’m saying is just the truth,” but instead, “What I’m saying is working because it’s tearing down my opponent,” who happens to be a respected longtime law enforcement official. It’s a uniquely Trumpian philosophy, so perhaps it’s only appropriate that it’s become Trump’s chief line of defense in an increasingly embattled presidency.

Can we PLEASE ignore Rudy now?

 

SCOTUS

 

WHITE HOUSE CHAOS

 

TRADE WAR AND ECONOMY

 

STUDENT LOANS

 

GOP: THE PARTY OF LINCOLN IS DEAD

 

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

 

PRIESTS

 

#METOO

 

ELECTION 2018

 

PROGRESS IS PROGRESS

 

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE…

Take the time to watch this.  It is funny as fuck.

 

RUMOR MILL

 

That’s it for Tuesday.  It’s a little light on some of the extras, but that’s what happens from time to time.

One thing I’m absolutely thrilled about was Rachel Maddow’s A block.  Instead of starting off with election coverage, she went into explicit detail about Bruce Ohr’s history, and focused quite a bit on his work against Russian Mafia Boss of Bosses Semion Mogilevich.  Semion’s name is getting air time, and not just on any show, but on Rachel Fracking Maddow.  He’s now tied to this mess.  If there’s one thing he hates, it’s exposure, and being prominently featured on the opening segment of the most watched cable news program in America sure isn’t helping him keep a low profile.

 

Thank you, and have a good one.

 

“Without Journalists, it’s just propaganda.”

– Katy Tur

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