If you didn’t think it could get any worse for the Trump administration after the recent indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, along with a plea bargain from George Papadopoulos, which could have resulted in plenty of dirt being given to authorities, you were entirely wrong. Things are getting deeper and murkier for the Trump team after documents were leaked that revealed some fascinating information.
Leaked documents obtained by a German newspaper revealed that President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has had business ties to the Russians. He failed to report those ties during the confirmation process. Even worse, those ties were actually to what NBC describes as “immediate family” members of Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.
Holy moly macaroni.
The papers were provided to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. They are the organization that won a Pulitzer Prize for the Panama Papers. They allowed NBC access to what is being called the Paradise Papers.
NBC reported the papers reveal how major businesses and corporations do business overseas to avoid paying taxes. Along with the revelations about Ross, NBC described “more than 120 politicians and royal rulers around the world are identified in the leak as having ties or offshore finance.”
Zeroing in on Ross, NBC revisited his confirmation hearing and the information he provided. At that time, he totally promised he would ensure he would cut ties with any companies or officials who could cause a conflict of interest. According to NBC:
‘…Ross held financial interests in hundreds of companies across dozens of sectors, many f which could be affected by his decisions as commerce secretary. Any one of them could represent a potential conflict of interest, which is why the disclosures, by law, are supposed to be thorough…
‘…Ross pledged to cut ties with more than 80 financial entities in which he has interests.’
As usual, here’s the big “but” of the story. NBC reported he reported most of the holdings, but not all. Washington University’s Kathleen Clark, who specializes in government ethics, commented that, though it appeared he was honest, it was a “false transparency.”
‘I would say this gives the appearance of transparency. It’s sort of fake transparency in a sense.’
The holdings in question are valued at $2.05 million to $10.1 million. Though he listed the WLR Recovery Fund IV DSS AIV L.P. and WLR Recovery Fund V DSS AIV L.P. on his financial disclosure form, he did not include them on his list of assets he planned to keep.
Those senators who confirmed Ross are reportedly feeling betrayed. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) commented:
‘I am astonished and appalled because I feel misled. Our committee was misled, the American people were misled by the concealment of those companies.’
So, he lied. What about the connection to Putin? One of the clients of Ross’ holdings is SIBUR. SIBUR is owned by Gennady Timchenko, who is actually on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list. He’s not allowed to enter the U.S. due to being considered a “member of the Russian leadership’s inner circle.” Additionally, the Treasury Department has stated Timchenko is “directly linked to Putin.”
Former State Department sanctions coordinator under Obama Daniel Fried commented:
‘I would think that any reputable American businessman, much less a Cabinet-level official, would want to have absolutely no relationship – direct, indirect – … with anybdy in the character and reputation of Gennady Timchenko. I just don’t get it.’
Most alarming, however, is one of the shareholders of SIBUR is Kirill Shamalov, who is the SON-IN-LAW of Putin himself. If you didn’t catch that, he is the SON-IN-LAW of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Former ethics lawyer for the Bush administration Richard Painter commented:
‘Secretary Ross cannot participate in any discussion or decision-making or recommendation about sanctions imposed on Russia or on Russian nationals when he owns a company that is doing business with Russian nationals who are either under sanctions or who could come under sanctions in any future sanctions regime. That would be a criminal offense for him to participate in any such matter.’
This was the last thing the Trump campaign needed, especially after the recent moves from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This is damning evidence against the Trump administration and proves just how much these business people love Russia. If these are the people Trump associates himself with, then he surely has to have just as many if not more Russian connections.
Featured image by Olivier Douliery via Getty Images.