Unpacking the Trump/Russia Cast of Characters

Despite its well-defined status as the unabashed leader of the anti-Trump “Resistance”, the New York Times is, IMO, THE leading political newspaper. Beginning July 8, the NYT has done a superb job unpacking the details of the June 2016 Don Jr. “I Love It” meeting, which was arranged under the guise of an information dump as part of the Russian government’s effort to assist Candidate Trump’s presidential campaign. It’s ugly.

The cast of characters:

  • Don Trump, Jr : Young Don
  • Aras Agalarov : Of the “Crocus Group”; also called the “Donald Trump of Russia”
  • Emin Agalarov : Russian pop star, son of Aras
  • Rob Goldstone : UK publicist, Emin’s agent
  • Rinat Akhmetshin : Russian email hacker

Timeline of events:

2012 – Russia: Aras, the Donald Trump of Russia, completes the “Far Eastern Federal University” for Vladimir Putin on “Russia Island”. Not long after, Aras receives the “Order of Honor” from Putin.

2013 – Russia: Donald Trump brings the Miss Universe contest to Russia with the help of Aras and Emin. Aras pays “…$20 million to bring the pageant to his family’s Moscow concert pavilion, Crocus City Hall.”

2013 – USA: Donald Trump, Emin Agalarov and Rob Goldstone are caught on camera in Vegas.

June 2016 – USA: Rob Goldstone sets up a meeting with Young Don under the guise of passing along “dirt” on Clinton as part of the Russian government’s effort to assist Candidate Trump’s presidential campaign.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Some background on Rob Goldstone via a NYT op-ed this weekend. Key quote:

“This career path happens to be ideal training in what Russian intelligence agencies call “kompromat,” because smear campaigns based on opposition research are a core business strategy of Britain’s popular press.”

The more interesting background, however, is of Rinat Akhmetshin, who was revealed to be part of the meeting July 14. The money passage:

“But Mr. Akhmetshin, a gregarious, fast-talking man with a sharp sense of humor, was a skilled practitioner in the muscular Russian version of what in American politics is known as opposition research. From his base in Washington, Mr. Akhmetshin has been hired by an ever-changing roster of clients, often Russians, to burnish their image and blacken those of their rivals. Some clients were close to the Kremlin. Others were its bitter foes.

“Mr. Akhmetshin often warned his friends and contacts: “Nothing is secure.” It was a conviction that emerged from the chaotic and often violent corporate battles that convulsed Russia in the 1990s, when “chyorny P.R.” or “black public relations” based on stolen or fabricated documents became a powerful weapon for businessmen seeking to damage their rivals without resorting to physical threats, another frequently used tool.

“The practice was rooted in the Soviet techniques of “kompromat,” the collection of compromising information by the K.G.B. against foes of the Communist Party, but reached its full flowering after the 1991 collapse of Communism and the privatization of the dark arts formerly dominated by the K.G.B.

“Instead of simply examining old media reports, court records and other public documents to try to dig up dirt or embarrassing gossip, Russian-style “chyorny P.R.” has often focused on pilfering private information through hacking and physical intrusion into offices and filing cabinets.

“In his own investigations over the years, Mr. Akhmetshin has acquired a reputation for obtaining email records, information from spyware and other data that appeared to be drawn from Russian hackers.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The Wall Street Journal was spot on this morning (paraphrasing): Get it all out now, once and for all, or you’re dead.

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