If you haven’t been more than a little queasy over the hand-in-glove relationship some senior Trump staffers have with the Kremlin and Trump’s own history of Russophilia and Putin-lust then you haven’t been paying attention.
What has been lost in the muddle is the uncomfortably close ties between Bill and Hillary Clinton and their inner circle to Vladimir Putin’s phalanx of oligarchs. While not as obscenely blatant as hiring an alleged Russian mob fixer to manage your campaign, the ties are real and call into question the relationship of Hillary Clinton with Russia.
We know some of the story. For instance, we know that Hillary Clinton collaborated with a deep pockets donor to the Clinton Foundation to sell mining rights to most of the uranium in the United States and Canada to a Russian company. We know that a flow of money from Russia to the Clinton Foundation resulted in a Russian company that is basically an industrial espionage front being given access to US high tech companies. We know that Vladimir Putin confidant, billionaire oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, funneled millions into the Clinton Foundation.
Some of the more troubling links, though, involve the Podesta Group, a
money laundering lobbying group that has as its ringleaders John and Tony Podesta. If you’ve been following the release of documents by Wikileaks, you know that Podesta was in the small inner sanctum that controlled virtually every aspect of Hillary Clinton’s political life.
Now another interesting Podesta story has emerged.
…The story begins in 2011 when the solar energy startup Joule Unlimited announced that Mr. Podesta had been elected to its board of directors. In a company press release, Joule’s CEO at the time lauded Mr. Podesta’s “extensive experience within the US government and internationally as well.” No one claimed Mr. Podesta was a scientific expert, but the company’s founder expressed the hope that their new associate “can help Joule build the lasting relationships needed for long-term success.”
…About eight months after Mr. Podesta joined Joule in 2011, an investment fund backed by the Russian government, Rusnano, announced plans to invest about $35 million in the company. Several months later, Joule announced that Rusnano Chairman Anatoly Chubais was joining its board of directors. Around the same time, Mr. Podesta joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board.
The interesting thing about Rusnano is that it is owned by the Russian government and Putin appoints the Director General and, since June of this year, one of its major investment partners has been the Chinese government.
Podesta seems to have realized that his passionate spit-swapping with a Russian government-owned investment bank would leave a peculiar odor in the air and set about to hide his association. In 2014, Podesta declared he had divested himself of his holdings in Joule Unlimited.
This is where the story gets a little more complicated. The emails published on WikiLeaks show that around the time he was returning to the White House, Mr. Podesta wrote to Joule requesting the transfer of his shares to an entity called Leonidio Holdings, LLC, which had been created just weeks earlier.
Leonidio shares an address with Mr. Podesta’s daughter Megan Rouse, a financial planner who lives in California. When reached by telephone on Tuesday, Ms. Rouse told us that she did not have time to discuss the issue, thanked us for the call, and then hung up.
On Wednesday a Clinton campaign spokesman told us that Mr. Podesta cut his ties with Joule when he returned to the White House in 2014, “transferred the entirety of his holdings to his adult children” and “recused himself from all matters pertaining to Joule for the duration of his time at the White House.”
But WikiLeaks also shows Mr. Podesta receiving a bill for legal expenses related to Leonidio’s incorporation in Delaware. We wonder how often people pay the bills to create corporations in which they have no interest.
Mr. Podesta left the White House around February of 2015. He later received a bill from the law firm Steptoe and Johnson for legal work related to Joule performed in April of 2015. This also was published on WikiLeaks, and it says a Steptoe attorney spent half an hour working on “Joule request for consent to appointment of Mr. Akhanov.” Dmitry Akhanov, who runs Rusnano’s U.S. office, is now listed as a member of Joule’s board of directors. It would be highly unusual for a company to seek approval on a board appointment from someone who no longer has any ties to the business. Did Mr. Podesta resume his formal relationship with Joule and the Russian government’s investment fund right after leaving the White House and just before joining the Clinton campaign?
So it seems that Podesta made a transaction in which his investment in Joule Unlimited appeared to be liquidated but, in reality, it was merely transferred to a shell company whose sole business is holding Podesta’s investment.
In the federal government many of the panels are peopled with experts who have direct and indirect ties to the subject at hand. The way these obvious conflicts of interest are addressed is by full disclosure of investments, speaking fees, contract, grants, etc., given by the relevant industry to members of the panel. The thought is that once the conflicts are disclosed they cease to be an issue because disclosure allows the actions of panel members to be fully examined. The conflicts that are truly dangerous are those which are kept from public knowledge.
Following this same logic, a Paul Manafort or Carter Page may have very ugly ties to the Kremlin but we know about those ties. So when the Trump campaign decides, as it did in Cleveland, to give Ukraine to Vladimir Putin we have enough knowledge to understand that this was the result of people who are either owned or rented by Putin — or who want to be his sex slave — currying favor with their master. Actions by Podesta and both Clintons are much more nefarious. They are going to great lengths to keep their cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin and his inner circle hidden and by doing so become a much greater danger to the United States that Trump’s transparent Putin worship.