12 July 2017

Kushner's Qatar Involvement and Donnygate: A Surkov Moment?

I sometimes wonder if Trump is pulling a Surkov.

I mentioned Vladislav Surkov two years ago in connection with "Oh Dear" theory of political discourse.

He is the avant garde performance artist who became Deputy Prime Minister and then Putin's senior advisor. His work is guided by Jean Francois Lyotard's "postmodern condition" which is "characterised by the recognition of multiple perspectives and micro-narratives. For Lyotard, in this diffuse situation, dominance of information is power."

In practical terms, this means that Surkov removes facts and truth and beliefs from the political discourse and sets the daily agenda by feeding a dizzying array of fake, contradictory and seemingly true narratives through various associations, small parties and news media outlets he controls.

These multiple and often incomprehensible narratives prevent the opposition from forming a cohesive and intelligible response. They also allow Kremlin to push its own version of reality as the actual truth.

Surkov, for instance, orchestrated a complicated media campaign prior to the annexation of Crimea which gave the impression that the whole peninsula was rooting for unification. This was how the whole situation was reported in the West without anyone realizing that it was a wholly fabricated Surkov theater.

He is also very good at changing the subject: when corruption accusations against Putin got traction, Surkov got him to pass a "gay-propaganda law" and next thing you know, everybody was discussing that.

These examples are from a recent Vanity Fair article about him that examines the possibility that Trump's unhinged tweets and fact-free statements might be part of a Surkovian strategy.

Now, I believe Trump is too dumb to be able to do it himself but Prince of Darkness Steve Bannon and Boy Blunder Jared Kushner might be the ones pulling a Surkov.

I will give you a perfect illustration.

Last week, the Financial Times published a follow up piece to their October 2016 investigation which had concluded that "one Trump venture has multiple ties to an alleged international money laundering network."

The new report discusses the Trump connections to the Bayrock/Sapir group which financed Trump Soho and Feliz Sater, a Russian born businessman who helped Viktor Khrapunov move last sums of money into US real estate companies, including the Trump Organization.

I summarized some of these shady deals in a recent post.

The FT piece suggested that Robert Mueller was focusing on these questionable arrangements.
Robert Mueller, the former FBI chief running the investigation, recently hired Andrew Weissmann, an experienced fraud prosecutor to work on the probe. Mr Weissmann, then an assistant US attorney in New York, signed Mr Sater’s 1998 plea deal. Other reported hires have expertise in tracking illicit money flows from the former Soviet Union. 
When I read this, I thought, well, this should be rather worrisome for Trump.

Then something else popped up.

The Intercept published an investigative expose about Kushner's infamous 666 Fifth Avenue building.

You might remember it, as I recently discussed the story of that building and how Anbang, a shadowy Chinese conglomerate almost saved Kushner's seriously underwater investment by agreeing to put in a sum of money several times more than the actual value of the building.

The deal eventually collapsed amid "conflict of interest" outcries.

It turns out that there was more to it than the Chinese connection.

Apparently, Kushner tried to raise the money for his troubled building from Qatar.

The former Emir's Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs (for the entire duration if his reign), Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani (known as HBJ) is one of the wealthiest men in the world and he has an investment company known as Al-Mirqab.

HBJ was willing to put up $500 million provided that Kushner raised the rest of the money needed. When Anbang pulled out, HBJ's condition was unmet and the deal collapsed.

According to the Intercept, the two events seemed connected as the Saudi blockade came out of the blue since a few days earlier the Emir of Qatar was in Jeddah before Trump's visit and things seemed fine.

When the Saudi ultimatum was announced Trump immediately sided with the Saudis and tried to take credit for stopping terrorist financing. Which, as I said, made as much sense as siding with Hitler against Petain in the fight against anti-Semitism.

Rex Tillerson, possibly not wanting to contradict his boss, tepidly called  for mediation and an end to blockade.
Within hours, Trump, at a White House ceremony, contradicted Tillerson, slamming Qatar again and claiming it had “historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.”
Interestingly, according to Mark Perry writing in the American Conservative, Trump's remarks were authored by UAE Ambassador Yousef Al-Otaiba and delivered to Trump by Kushner.
Tillerson’s aides, I was told, were convinced that the true author of Trump’s statement was U.A.E. ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, a close friend of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. “Rex put two-and-two together,” his close associate says, “and concluded that this absolutely vacuous kid was running a second foreign policy out of the White House family quarters. Otaiba weighed in with Jared and Jared weighed in with Trump. What a mess.”
Now, think about it for a second.

Qatar was supposed to lend Kushner money to save his building.

They failed to deliver and next thing you know, Trump is slamming the country which is hosting the largest US military base in the region, which happens to be the first line of defense if hostilities broke out between Iran and Israel.
If the deal is not entirely dead, that means Jared Kushner is on the one hand pushing to use the power of American diplomacy to pummel a small nation, while on the other his firm is hoping to extract an extraordinary amount of capital from there for a failing investment. If, however, the deal is entirely dead, the pummeling may be seen as intimidating to other investors on the end of a Kushner Companies pitch.
And an American President is turning what a UAE Ambassador said into official US policy pushing aside his own Secretary of State.

Just to secure a real-estate deal.

This is very serious stuff indeed.

So, going back to "pulling a Surkov."

The week where serious allegations of Trump money laundering surfaced and possibly criminal misuse of American foreign policy by Boy Blunder to secure a deal was revealed, what did we talk about?

Fredo's inane email exchanges with a Russian attorney.

Maybe there is a method to Bannon's madness after all.

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