One More Time: Follow the Money

Irakly (Ike) Kaveladze, now identified as the “eighth man” in the infamous June 2016 meeting with Junior, Mr. Ivanka and Paul Manafort, is suspected of being involved in Russian money laundering.  Imagine that!

Scott Balber, Kaveladze’s attorney, confirmed to The Washington Post and other news outlets that he had been contacted by a representative of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and complied with a request to identify Kaveladze as among the attendees at the meeting. …

… Kaveladze, whose online resume says he “oversees a global business portfolio that includes large retail ventures as well as commercial and residential real estate projects” figured prominently in a Nov. 2000 story in The New York Times about money laundering.

The Times reported that investigators found that Kaveladze had opened accounts at American banks that were then used to launder more than $1.4 billion from “unknown Russians and other Eastern Europeans.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., speaking with NPR’s Geoff Bennett, said he understood that Kaveladze has “a colorful history.”

According to Reuters, Balber also has ties to the president. The news agency says he “represented Trump himself in the New York businessman’s 2013 lawsuit against comedian television host Bill Maher, demanding the $5 million Maher offered to give to charity if Trump could prove his father is not an orangutan.”

The lawyer says Kaveladze attended the meeting as a translator, but found out nobody needed him to translate, so he didn’t say anything.

Charles Pierce gets to the gist of the matter —

It was always about the money. The reason we never saw the tax returns was because of what they would show about the money. The reason we can’t get a straight answer about the family’s dealings with the Russians is the money. Preet Bharara got fired because of the money and how the money had been allegedly laundered. James Comey got fired because of the money. Without the money, specifically the money from Russia, the Trump empire likely would have collapsed under a hail of writs and the paterfamilias would have been rendered invisible, even in the mirrors of Mar-a-Lago.

It always was about the money. The meeting on June 6, 2016 ultimately was about the money, as we learned today from CNN. The network reported that it had identified the eighth participant in that now-famous Trump Tower confab. Contrary to the previous load of hooey dispensed by Junior and the first family, this dude was not a translator.

This is from the 2000 New York Times story:

In a a nine-month inquiry that subpoenaed bank records, the investigators found that an unknown number of Russians and other East Europeans moved more than $1.4 billion through accounts at Citibank of New York and the Commercial Bank of San Francisco.

The accounts had been opened by Irakly Kaveladze, who immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1991, according to Citibank and Mr. Kaveladze. He set up more than 2,000 corporations in Delaware for Russian brokers and then opened the bank accounts for them, without knowing who owned the corporations, according to the report by the General Accounting Office, which has not been made public. …

… The G.A.O. report said nothing about the sources of the money. In view of past investigations into laundering, this wave was highly likely to have arisen from Russian executives who were seeking to avoid taxes, although some money could be from organized crime.

More than $800 million was wired from abroad to 136 accounts that Mr. Kaveladze opened at Citibank for Russian clients, and most of that was then sent to overseas accounts, said the report, which was provided to The New York Times by government officials who want to see its findings receive maximum exposure. … About $600 million moved through the Commercial Bank, the investigation found.

In spite of the strong appearance of shadiness, it seems Kaveladze was never indicted for anything, much less convicted. But the banks closed his accounts anyway.

On top of everything else, we learned yesterday that Trump had an undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin while he was in Germany. This happened after the much discussed public meeting.

Hours into a dinner with world leaders who had gathered for the Group of 20 summit meeting, President Trump left his chair at the sprawling banquet table and headed to where President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was seated. …

… The dinner discussion caught the attention of other leaders around the table, some of whom later remarked privately on the odd spectacle of an American president seeming to single out the Russian leader for special attention at a summit meeting that included some of the United States’ staunchest, oldest allies.

No one else from the U.S. government was in on this conversation, which was facilitated by a Kremlin translator. No one knows what they talked about for as long as an hour. This might have be en innocent, but Trump’s seeking out Putin, as if Trump were someone currying favor with a patron, looks bad, considering everything else going on.

Getting back to money laundering … I keep giving these lectures that the Trump-Russia collusion thing is about something bigger than just election meddling. Trump has changed positions on nearly everything he ran on, but he keeps coming back to being buddies with Putin. One does wonder why that’s so. What does Putin have on Trump? Earlier this year, John Oliver wondered this, also.

It’s all about the grift, folks. Follow the money.