There will be matters still to be resolved related to Trump Russia beyond the pardons.
Like the counterintelligence limits of the Mueller report, there are still slender skeletons to be revealed in the corruption of US interests. Trump’s inquiry about a strike against Iran last week was not about Iran’s nuclear proliferation as much as it was part of much larger regional conflict among nuclear powers. Did Kushner secretly sell off US nuclear company Westinghouse to a Russian money front.
This is a long piece by Tamsin Shaw but worth your time if you need a reminder about the continuing problems of nuclear proliferation made worse by Trump.
The impeachment may have been another diversion that only touched on Trump’s kowtowing to Russian interests, among others. Ukraine was not simply about a weapons deal for Biden dirt but about Trump supporting Russian influence in its energy sector.
The possibility of a Michael Flynn pardon in the closing days of the Trump regime only makes the story more intriguing, and more for Congress and the Justice Department to investigate in 2021. Jared Kushner still has involvements that need further investigation that only begin with financial dealings. What became weirder in terms of the election was Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to remind us of the impeachment and his connection to Russian agents via Paul Manafort. There are more cover-ups coming on matters still to be resolved related to Trump Russia.
There are now three questions we need to ask.
First, did the Trump administration in the end take actions, through the Westinghouse purchase or otherwise, that helped Russia retain its grip on Ukraine by controlling its nuclear energy?
Second, and most importantly for U.S. national security interests, did the Trump administration permit Russia to gain excessive influence over the nuclear fuel cycle in the United States?
Third, in failing to negotiate any new multilateral non-proliferation measures, while weakening further the already declining U.S. position in this sector, has the Trump administration deprived the United States of leverage in international negotiations over the spread of nuclear power and nuclear technologies, just as countries across the Middle East are embracing these technologies at an alarming rate?
Russia’s desire to control Ukraine through energy dominance has found support in the Trump White House. It was clear to the Trump team during the 2016 presidential campaign that Russia wanted the lifting of sanctions imposed over its 2014 invasion of Ukraine, without giving up any control of Ukrainian territory. Trump and his senior campaign officials seemed to have little or no concerns with this position in theory.
During the campaign and transition various figures had suggested their own idiosyncratic solutions to the Ukraine problem. Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Konstantin Kilimnik (a Russian intelligence agent, according to the report produced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) put together a proposal that according to Mueller’s report “was about a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort has since acknowledged was a ‘backdoor’ means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine.” Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych played a central role in it and apparently wanted to be elected head of an independent republic in eastern Donbas, which even Manafort in retrospect claims to think was slightly crazy.
The Westinghouse sale went through on August 1, 2018. Three days later it was announced that Brookfield Properties, another subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management that had just purchased Westinghouse, would buy Jared Kushner out of his catastrophic real estate deal involving 666 Fifth Avenue.
So who are Brookfield Business Partners, or BBU? They are a Bermuda-based LLP, one of the partners in the extremely opaque Brookfield financial group. The registered owner, I discovered, is Alan Kestenbaum. The very Alan Kestenbaum who was at the center of the Vostok Project, apparently using his then company, Marco International LLC as a front for the Russians. This clearly raises the question of whether CFIUS overlooked a potentially significant Russian investment in one of America’s most important nuclear assets. An alternative explanation is that Kestenbaum may have been fronting for the Russians in the Vostok Project, but was not connected with Russians in the Westinghouse deal. When he made a bid for the Carolina Panthers in 2018 there were concerns about his rumored connections to Russian mining interests, but as far as we know they were not substantiated.