MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow may have solved the puzzle of Donald Trump’s Russian influence scandal by following the money straight to his new Secretary of Commerce.
The Republican majority in the US Senate confirmed investor Wilbur Ross just yesterday. Moments before the vote, Sen. Charles Schumer appeared on the Senate floor and denounced the White House for withholding Ross’s written answers to questions about his work as vice chairman of the Bank of Cyprus.
In particular, Schumer had asked Ross about Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. But as Maddow explained yesterday evening, the Bank of Cyprus is connected to more than one Russian oligarch, and Schumer did not ask about the right one.
She focused instead on Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Bank of Cyprus shareholder who once bought a gaudy Florida mansion from Donald Trump for $100 million in a bid to protect his assets during a nasty divorce. It’s not clear that Rybolovlev ever even visited the property.
The deal, which netted Trump a cool $60 million profit, took place through an undisclosed middleman. As Maddow suggests, who else but Secretary of State Wilbur Ross, a longtime financial adviser to Trump, was in a position to connect him with Rybolovlev?
Furthermore, at the time Donald was closing this golden deal, he was struggling to avoid repaying loans to Deutsche Bank — another financial institution known to launder the fortunes of Russian oligarchs, and one of the few banks still willing to do business with the chronically bankrupt Trump.
Maddow drew the picture for her viewers: a bank known for washing Russian money wanted its money back from Donald Trump, so Ross apparently arranged for a Russian buyer to bail out his friend. At last, we have a simple story that explains Trump’s glowing affection for Moscow.
Like the Cypriot banking system, Ross has reportedly specialized in aiding Russian “flight capital” this way for a long time. Rescuing the Bank of Cyprus after it nearly failed in 2013, he brought in Josef Ackermann, a former chairman of Deutsche Bank, and quickly became the industry leader.
As Rachel Maddow reminds us, the Justice Department recently fined Deutsche Bank $630 million for taking part in a $10 billion phony trading scheme to launder Russian money. By comparison, Russian regulators gave the bank a $5000 slap on the wrist.