Your Handy Guide to the Trump-Russia Controversy, Because Someone Has to Do It

Even before the election there’s been a lot, and I do mean a lot, of speculation on what on earth Trump’s ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin are. The reactions range from denials to conspiracy theories that Trump is a Manchurian (Siberian?) candidate out to destroy the country in an unholy alliance with Putin. I am just going to tell you right now that the Siberian Candidate thing is probably not true based on what we know. But what do we know that can actually be proven? It’s damning, and it would destroy almost anyone else, or would have done so earlier, but these are strange times. So let’s begin.

The best place to start is the ‘90s, where two things happen: Trump begins his famous financial meltdown (the first of many) and the Soviet Union falls. Trump at this time is basically being hounded by everyone to cough up the money he’s lost and owes people, and he needs cash fast. At the same time, people who are former Soviets, which includes the criminal underground (called The Organization, because sometimes life is a gangster film), oligarchs, and other assorted people most would not care to be associated with, have a unique opportunity to get some money flowing into new areas and get rich. Trump, needing their money, takes it.

First of all, this is dirty money already. The kind of money you don’t ask questions about. Given that Trump isn’t exactly the curious type, this goes very well. At this time, two people make their way into Trump’s inner circle: Michael Cohen, one of his lawyers who married into a Ukranian ethanol oligarch’s family, and Felix Sater, a Russian national who is a blatant gangster.

Enter two new actors: Vladimir Putin, who quickly incorporates The Organization into the Russian government in many ways large and small, and the FBI, which recruits Sater essentially to be a mole for them. Now this is a very risky thing to do and the kind of thing the FBI doesn’t usually like to do unless it involves the Witness Protection Program or a lot more up-front collaboration, since it can burn them easily. The Whitey Bulger case is a famous example of how this can go wrong, as a criminal can use this to move up in the world. So the FBI is using Sater to collect info and collecting info on Sater all as he moves closer to Trump, and that’s when they find it: Trump has enormous amounts of ties to Russia, with them replacing his line of credit since U.S. Banks no longer give him money. Now, this is very bad, illegal even, but the FBI has no reason to do anything drastic as long as Trump stays in his lane: he’s only a reality tv star, not someone who’s a threat.

And then he decided to run for President. We all know how that turned out, but there’s a simple fact to consider: an enormous amount of people in Trump’s circle have Russian ties. In fact, it’s easier to list the ones who don’t have Russian ties. Now, the benign explanation is that since Trump wants to run an autocracy, he surrounds himself with people with that kind of experience. But that doesn’t make total sense: Trump’s campaign advisors and managers like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone have longstanding ties to Russia (Stone himself being friends with the Russian hacker who raided the DNC and smeared them), Jeff Sessions turning from a hawk to being chummy with the Russian ambassador, almost everyone having a stake in Russian banks under sanction (including Trump’s son-in-law) and the constant, weird praise Trump gives to Putin. I mean, you’d think that he’d throw in a condemnation once in a while, just to throw people off the trail.

So what are we left with? Simply put: Trump is incredibly financially compromised with the Russian state-owned banks, has committed money laundering for The Organization, seems to be in love with Putin, may be getting blackmailed (according to the famous Steele Dossier, which keeps getting verified in various aspects) and, to cap it all off, his campaign may have collaborated with a hostile foreign power to win an election. Whether or not Trump was personally a part of the last part (probably, at least he didn’t care), doesn’t matter: the point is that he’s crooked and compromised. Even if he was the biggest liberal on the planet, he would not deserve to be president under these circumstances and with his praise of a tyrant. Not now and not ever.