Kleptocracy World Order
In this week’s Gaslit Nation, Sarah and Andrea express their ongoing frustration about last week’s deja news avalanche of stories about corruption that remains unpunished. As America, the land of collective amnesia, realizes yet again that Trump is a Russian asset following the confessions of Michael Cohen, Sarah and Andrea discuss what it means for brazen, blatant criminals to go caught but unpunished.
[Audio clip, The Joy Reid Show]:
Donald Trump: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today, and what he did was a incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer.
Joy Reid: Donald Trump shocked even his harshest critics with his submission to Vladimir Putin this week, likely including my next guest. Joining me now for our moment of Maxine, Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.
Maxine Waters: Welcome.
Joy Reid: So were you, I think much of the country was surprised to actually see Donald Trump in action with Vladimir Putin, and how submissive he was in public. What did you make of what happened in Helsinki?
Maxine Waters: Well, I’m not surprised at all. As a matter of fact, I have for months been trying to tell the American public and everybody else that this president is dangerous, that he’s in bed with Putin. Someone says that he wants to be like him—whatever. He will never, never condemn him because of the relationship that they have. This didn’t just start. This started a long time before he was ever elected. Don’t forget: this president cannot borrow money in the United States from any bank. This president is looking at Russia for his new money financial playground. He and all of his allies—that I have told you are the Kremlin Klan—have been involved with Russia. When you name them, and you think about them, why is it Manafort, Flynn, Wilbur Ross, Carter Page, Papadopoulos, all of his allies have connections with Russia, the Kremlin, and the oligarchs? This has been going on because this is their new money playground that they want to develop. And the centerpiece of this is lifting the sanctions. I wish people would focus on the sanctions. I think that’s the agreement that Putin had with this president in order to help him get elected. This president, I believe, has promised him that once he was elected he would get those sanctions lifted, and you’re gonna watch, he’s gonna continue to try. Because Putin is saying to him, “When is it gonna happen?” So he has a private meeting with him. We know what they talked about. I think I know what they talked about. They talked about lifting the sanctions. They talked about the upcoming elections. They talked about all of the things they could not talk about in an email or on the phone. He had to go meet with him in private, so he could talk about what he’s going to do to follow through what I believe is his commitment to get those sanctions lifted. Don’t forget: when Tillerson was there, Tillerson was there to get the sanctions lifted. He just couldn’t put up with this president. He found this president to be so outrageous that he ended up leaving, but he came to be a part of helping to get these sanctions lifted. It’s worth trillions of dollars. Everybody will make some money if he can get this done. Right now, Putin’s hands are tied. [End Audio Clip]
Hi! I’m Sarah Kendzior. I’m a journalist and scholar of authoritarian states and the author of the book The View from Flyover Country.
I’m Andrea Chalupa, a writer-filmmaker, and the screenwriter and producer of Agnieszka Holland’s journalistic thriller Gareth Jones.
Sarah Kenzior: And this is Gaslit Nation. We are a podcast that breaks down corruption in the Trump administration and the rise of global kleptocracy around the world, which obviously means we have a lot to talk about every week. It’s actually been two weeks for us, which is basically two centuries in Trump time. So, we’re gonna jump into it and begin with what is happening in Ukraine, and since Andrea is our Ukraine expert, I am going to ask you what you think of the military crisis going on right now.
Andrea Chalupa: Well, my goodness. I think our Thanksgiving was an intense one for anybody who thought they could get some rest over the holidays. That did not happen. I basically worked through Thanksgiving covering this for our podcast. We did an episode that did a bit of a lengthy coverage of this. So just to catch people up: Russia attacked and captured 24 Ukrainian sailors in international waters. That’s been confirmed by independent observers like Bellingcat. The Kremlin took the soldiers to Moscow, where they’re now in prison. That brings the total of Ukrainian political prisoners being held in Russia to nearly 100. And there were a couple instances of some of these captured soldiers being forced to read confessions, which of course violates the Geneva Convention. And what you’re seeing here is a serious escalation of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and there’s been some serious gaslighting around that of course, because many in the media are still determined to use Russian-backed separatists, invading East Ukraine for instance, when Russian-backed separatists are getting heavy military machinery and tanks and strategy from, it’s clearly of course from Russia, as many independent reports have verified in various ways.
And so what you’re seeing, why is this happening now? Well, for a number of reasons. For one thing, any time Ukraine asserts its independence from Russia, Putin makes sure to punish Ukraine, to destabilize it. So, a big, recent victory that Ukraine had for its independence was that it received recognition from Constantinople for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church breaking away from the Moscow Patriarchate. Which is a major, major geopolitical defeat for Moscow. The Orthodox Church for a very long time was always used as an instrument for Soviet Secret Police for furthering Moscow’s grip on satellite states, very much so in Ukraine. Ukrainians have a bad taste in their mouth for the Moscow Orthodox Church, and so getting this independence was a huge victory, overcoming not only the current political situation, but confronting and healing from many years of Soviet repression when the church was allowed to sort of operate, especially in later years, as just sort of this useful idiot figurehead for the Kremlin.
So. It’s no accident of course that Putin had to sort of punish Ukraine for its independence, just like it invaded Ukraine after the Euromaidan Uprising that overthrew Putin’s Yanukovych. We are also seeing in Russia Putin’s popularity numbers have been plummeting consistently for a very long time now. And that’s due to a number of factors, of course: corruption, kleptocracy taking its toll and victimizing the larger Russian population, they have a lot of their social safety nets being chipped away at by authorities now, and the people are finally pushing back, and so Putin needs a war to try to boost his popularity, just as he saw a surge in popularity after annexing Crimea.
So, that’s where we are now with the invasion being escalated, and meanwhile Putin seems to be enjoying himself, as he just did at the G-20 summit—
Sarah Kenzior: Mmhm.
Andrea Chalupa: —which was the big, infamous handshake with MBS, the Saudi Crown Prince who also likes to murder journalists, just like Putin has a track record of doing. So the eyes are on the Western world now to see if they’re going to help Ukraine, stand firmly beside Ukraine in this very dark turn the war has taken. It is a very scary time, because Putin promised to carve out a big chunk of Ukraine, what he called Novorossiya, New Russia, which was a big part of Ukraine taken under Catherine the Great, and he very much tries to fashion himself as a tsar of Russia, a great tsar of Russian, with, of course, Soviet repression tendencies. And so, is he going to go deeper? Is he going to grab more? It’s very scary, and one of the worst crimes right now is that he is blocking off this major sea route, which is the last thing Ukraine’s economy needs when it’s already suffering from economic loss from its land being seized, Crimea, major regions in East Ukraine, and its ongoing fight against corruption. So it’s a major economic genocide, if you will. Putin’s trying to debilitate Ukraine’s economy, and by cutting of the sea route, that would be a very effective way of doing that.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, well that’s all terrifying. That’s a lot to take in. I mean, there have been so many developments this week that felt like “de ja news.” You know, there were all these people freaking out that Trump was a Russian asset, which has been evident for many years, but we definitely do see a real escalation in Ukraine, and I thought it was also significant that it was happening before the G-20, along with the little bro pat on the back with Putin and MBS. Because, you know, as I said on previous episodes, I see that conflict as possibly indicative of a broader tradeoff. You know, we know that domestically Trump and the Republican Party were making tradeoffs with Russia in terms of what the policy was gonna be on Ukraine, and we also know that they look like they’re gunning for war in Iran, which you know, of course is going to involve Saudi Arabia, and involve Israel, and UAE and other gulf states in some sort of capacity.
So, it’s very alarming to see the pace of things picking up at this time, both on a humanitarian level in terms of the suffering people are experiencing in Ukraine, but also in tandem in the Middle East, where you see this axis of autocrats making a lot of moves and –
Andrea Chalupa: And not being held accountable.
Sarah Kendzior: Oh, yeah!
Andrea Chalupa: I mean, if sanctions didn’t matter, if sanctions didn’t work, because there’ve been some really stupid so-called “thought pieces” around how it’s time to drop the sanctions against Russia, sanctions aren’t that effective. If that’s the case, then why did Putin go to all this trouble of taking this massive gamble where he could have faced further sanctions if Hillary Clinton had won the election? Why would he go to all this trouble to orchestrate this massive coalition of corruption to help elect Donald Trump president? The center of that of was assistance in exchange for getting sanctions dropped. We understood that from the very beginning, and he went to all that trouble because sanctions have been massively hurting Russia’s economy. And plus, it’s just a big, dark mark on his brand.
Sarah Kendzior: Mmhm.
Andrea Chalupa: And remember, the heart of any authoritarian regime is a dictator’s brand. They bribed their way into getting the World Cup, for instance, as Putin allegedly did. I think Sarah and I had a really weird feeling as we mentioned—why is everyone freaking out now, and high-fiving each other, and congratulating us on having been right all this time. We’ve been pointing this out about sanctions being the center of this from the start. If you look at the Audit the Vote movement that we launched back in November 2016, giving voice to the computer scientists that were behind the scenes begging one of the main candidates to step forward and call a vote audit in states that they felt the number begged for an examination of what happened happened in those elections in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, whether they could have been hacked. That was driven by computer scientists. We gave voice to them on social media because we wanted a second look at these elections as well, and we felt, given the vulnerability of our election systems, given the determination of Russia to hack our elections. So, when we called for Audit the Vote, you know what we said back in November 2016? We said, “The motive is sanctions are crippling Russia’s economy and Putin wants them dropped.”
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, I don’t understand why this was greeted as news, especially because this is literally something that was changed in the RNC platform by Manafort. It was something that, you know, Putin and Trump had discussed overtly. Like, it’s very weird. It makes me feel like I’m losing my mind whenever people have these moments, you know like they did last week, of being like, “Oh my God, he’s a Russian asset, and it’s actually about the economy,” and you know, blah blah blah. Especially after Helsinki, which was like yet another example of Trump prostrating himself to Putin. The fact that people keep kind of going on and on and it’s like, you know, experiencing this collective amnesia…I don’t know. I feel like it points to obvious weaknesses in our journalistic system, because this was low-hanging fruit. This story was not difficult to crack. You had Trump asking Russia to hack Hillary’s emails. You know, these very overt kind of productions that you could just dig a little bit deeper on, using, I don’t know, things like Wikipedia to discover Paul Manafort’s background. You know, so it’s a journalistic failure, but I think there’s also sort of a, you know like a mass failure of our psychology. People are not grasping the ramifications, so when they were exalting, like, “Oh my God, you know, you were right,” or you know both of us were right, and that’s so great, I mean my feeling was like, “No, it’s horrible.” Like it’s really horrible that we were right, because one: this is a terrible situation that’s putting many nations in harm, putting many people in harm. You know, it’s essentially organized crime masquerading as governments working together. And two: yeah, we were right, and yeah, it was super obvious, so why the hell didn’t anyone do anything about it?
You know, I know that’s like the broken record of our show, but like better a broken record than a broken country, and until those questions are answered, I’m not gonna stop complaining about them. So yeah, that’s my feeling.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t realize the Cohen revelation, this Trump Tower quid pro quo revelation was such a big deal until people were acting like a piñata had been busted open on Twitter and everyone was like coming after us and like trying to like place us in the air and throw us around, so to speak, and getting really excited and celebrating. I was like, “Wait, this has always been there.”
Sarah Kendzior: Yes! This isn’t really new. I mean, the plea is new, but not the situation. Not the involvement.
Andrea Chalupa: Right. The opening clip that we’re playing on the show to start this episode, that’s Maxine Waters breaking it all down on Joy Reid just this past July. I think, you know, when Sarah and I share the messages we receive over Twitter, where we retweet people that say, “Oh you guys knew all this. You were right all along,” it’s like, we’re not gloating. We’re never gloating, because this is a terrible situation for all of us to be in. It’s terrible for our democracy. It’s terrible for the entire planet. What we’re really doing is yes—Sarah and I were, very early on in the Russia-Trump story, we were punished by a media that thought we were crazy, and why we like to remind people of that is because our story is really one of institutional failure. The institutions that should have protected us simply did not, and that goes from James Comey, who took the head of the Russian mafia, for whatever reason, off the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list after, before him, Robert Mueller’s FBI director promised that Semion Mogilevich would stay on there until he was caught, and then Comey just took him off. And it was clear in 2016 that Manafort would have been under investigation because he was associated with Yanukovych, who had fled Ukraine with tens of billions of dollars stolen from Ukraine. And Ukrainian authorities asked the FBI to come in and investigate that. And who else are they going to be looking into? Obviously, Paul Manafort. That was all in the public domain. That was reported back in 2014, that the feds were looking into Yanukovych and how he absconded with all that stolen Ukrainian billions. And of course, Paul Manafort, and Trump, and Stone, and all those guys being friends—it was all in the public domain. The only thing Sarah and I did, the only this my sister Alexandra Chalupa did, which she was crucified for doing, and she’s still attacked—Wikileaks attacked her just yesterday—we just took what was in the public domain and just pointed it out. And people in the media wrote these stories again and again, saying the left has lost its mind, that they’re crazy. And yet, nobody is writing a story, an article, looking at why were people so slow to cover this. Why were they so reluctant to face the truth? And it’s because if Sarah and I were right, that means we were in a constitutional crisis. That means that people had to act and do something about it. That means our systems failed us, and no one wanted to confront that.
Sarah Kenzior: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. I mean I think you get different people for different reasons not wanting to admit the scope of this and the failure of this. I think there are some people that are compromised. I think there are some people that are not compromised in some sort of legal sense but are supportive of the Trump-Putin and other illegal arrangements, and then I think there are institutionalists who are humiliated that they did not see it in time or they did not act in time. And then of course there are the people with their treasure troves…
Andrea Chalupa: Their social climbing, their careerism, their conformity makes them all complicit.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, exactly. It makes them complicit. It makes them, I think, unable to see what’s right in front of them. I mean, that’s the thing that continues to blow my mind, is people act like this was this big, enigmatic secret, but the third debate was Hillary calling Trump a Putin puppet. Like, that should have maybe opened up some lines of discussion and research, and instead it was just, you know, “How dare you bring that up? That’s crazy, et cetera.” Ugh, God.
Andrea Chalupa: The thing is, it was too cool to hate Hillary in the media at the time.
Sarah Kenzior: Yeah, and if that is like the way that, you know, topics of national security are decided, like by coolness, or you know, whatever it is that they’re trying to pull off, we’re in a lot of trouble. It bothers me that it’s two years into this and it’s like we’re just in this Groundhog Day of espionage Hell, where we’re just having the same conversations over and over and people are realizing the horror of the problem and we’re bitching about the fact that nothing’s being done, and nothing was done earlier. And you know, here we are yet again. So, hi Gaslit Nation listeners, you’re not listening to a rerun, it just feels like one.
Andrea Chalupa: And I think the reason why people reacted so strongly with this big Cohen-Trump Tower bombshell is, you know, Mueller made a big appearance post-midterms. Like he was laying low, smartly laying low, which was something Comey should have done leading up to the 2016 election–
Sarah Kendzior: Mmmhmm...
Andrea Chalupa: –we might have a very different world if Comey had done that. And so, Mueller came out with a vengeance following the midterms, and they did it heading into the G-20, when they knew that Putin and Trump were going to meet. They humiliated them and reminded the Kremlin’s asset—the president of the United States—that the adults still had power, that there will still adults in the room. And that our systems, to a certain extent, as strained as it is, that our system does still work. And they sent that same reminder going into Helsinki–
Sarah Kendzior: Mmmhmm...
Andrea Chalupa: –where Putin and Trump of course met and had that really surreal…uh…
Sarah Kenzior: Puppeteering session?
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, Trump just looked so submissive to Putin, and it just creeped everybody out. So, leading into that, again, you had massive indictments of several Russians, including the arrest of Maria Butina, who is in solitary confinement today, and she of course, as Rachel Maddow just pointed out, was, in 2015, essentially planted in an audience to be the very first to raise the question to Donald Trump: as President, would you drop the sanctions that are hurting not only Russia’s economy, but your economy as well?
Well, first of all on Maria Butina: when the sanctions were enacted against Russia, during those years, America’s economy happened to soar, it happened to take off, so today, guess how much one million rubles are worth?
That’s 15 thousand U.S. dollars.
Sarah Kenzior: Oh wow.
Andrea Chalupa: So, if you have a million rubles, that’s 15 grand. So, Maria Butina, sorry girlfriend, it’s your economy that’s getting crippled by those sanctions, because you have an imperialistic, mass-murdering dictator, and that’s the consequence of it, and that’s why sanctions work, and that’s why Putin’s so desperate to get rid of them.
All of this has been out in the open, and we have to keep calling people out who failed us. So, for instance, Cy Vance, Manhattan’s DA, he dropped a fraud case against Don, Jr. and Ivanka Trump when campaign money, campaign donations started flowing to him through the Trump family lawyer. If he had done his job and brought Ivanka Trump and Don, Jr. to justice for allegedly defrauding investors in Trump Soho, that could have ended Trump’s campaign right there. Instead, Ivanka became such a strong surrogate for her father that people actually believed her and fell for her speech where she sounded like a democrat at the Republican National Convention.
So a lot of the reason why Sarah and I get so frustrated, and we love reminding people, and we welcome when people say, “Hey, you guys are right,” or “I knew this was coming because I follow you,” is because we’re absolutely frustrated that it even got to this point, and so many lives have been destroyed by it being allowed for it to get to this point, and so many people just were not doing their jobs, and that’s what allowed it to get to this point. And we’re not confident that we’re still gonna get out of it; that’s also what underlines all of that as well.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. No, there’s this kind of worship of authority. I mean, you certainly saw it with Comey, and you see it somewhat with Mueller—well not somewhat, quite a bit. You know, where there’s this assumption that some kind of savior-hero figure is going to come and rescue us, which is observed for many reasons, because these are widespread systemic problems, this is an international crisis. But it’s also indicative of just this lazy thinking that people desire that, and that they’re not focusing on the failures of the past, because I think that that’s what terrifies people. You know the Vance case, and that all of this could have been stopped. You know, Michael Cohen’s previous indictments were for, you know, crimes related to his taxi medallion company, for fraud. You know, Manafort’s indictments were also very old in terms of the crimes that he committed, and so when you look at all that, you do wonder, like, “Alright, there’s this clear criminal network existing in New York and D.C., you know, linked to some of the most powerful people in the world. Why did they cut it off, you know, at the helm?” And a little later in this episode we’re gonna talk about Jeffery Epstein, and the Miami Herald piece, and that horrible case, which I do think is part of this broader thing.
But for a second, I just want to re-cap, you know, for our audience, because we there’s so many criminals that it’s super hard to keep track of exactly what they did and what their role has been in the Trump campaign or administration. So just to review Michael Cohen, what was new this week is that this was the first time he was charged by the Mueller probe rather than the court for the Southern district of New York, so that’s significant. But here are all – not even all – some of the highlights of the places where Michael Cohen’s pleas and indictments are going to affect people: he was the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2017 to 2018. So, the RNC is going to be implicated by that; how he got into that position is a question. He is a lifelong mobster. He is a childhood friend of Felix Sader. They’ve both been intimately linked with the Russian mafia, as have their families for a very long time, and you know, emails between the two of them were released, talking about how they’re gonna get their boy Donald Trump into the White House and get sanctions removed, so again, this was all out in the open. He was Trump’s personal lawyer and his lawyer for the Trump organization, which means he’s deeply enmeshed with the family and with the Trump business, which means he basically know everything. I think this is Donald Trump’s attempt to get Roy Cohn back life in his life. Michael Cohen is no Roy Cohn. That’s both a good thing for America, I guess, and a bad thing for Trump. He was also involved in the DNC hacking. He was involved with threatening journalists, threatening physical violence against journalists. He did that back in 2015; it was reported by the Daily Beast. People again kind of just shrugged and moved on as if this was a normal thing. And he’s caught up, of course, in the Stormy Daniels scandal. That was another instance of him trying to intimidate people into silence, and then ultimately raided by the FBI in April while his Russian good squad basically stood outside and smirked and observed.
This guy is like up in all this shit, and he’s going to implicate possibly, and certainly affect a lot of people in positions of power. So of all the things that have developed so far, I think more than Manafort, who very obviously was not going to cooperate—I don’t know why people thought he would—the Cohen ostensible cooperation with Mueller I think is really significant because of just the sheer breadth of people that it can potentially take down if that information is made accessible to the public, and if there are consequences for his actions, which, as we were just discussing, is not a guarantee.
Andrea Chalupa: I think what’s really funny about this story is the detail that is part of this Moscow-Trump Tower deal. They were going to give Putin a 50-million-dollar penthouse. [Sarah laughs] Now, Putin is arguably the richest man in the world. No one knows how wealthy he is because he’s so good at hiding his money and spreading it around, but people like Bill Browder, financial experts who are very close to the Russia watch, as I said, say he may well be the richest person on the planet. So, a 50-million-dollar penthouse is nothing to him.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah.
Andrea Chalupa: That’s just a token symbolic kissing the ring, which is what you have to do if you want to get something like that done in Moscow. I think it’s also important to point out that the Agalarovs, who Trump hung out with in Moscow in 2013 when he brought Miss Universe to Moscow, that was of course the same trip when Christopher Steele alleges that the Kremlin was able to collect juicy, disgusting sex kompromat on Donald Trump, which is very easy to do. The man is walking sex kompromat. So, the Agalarovs also set up the infamous June 2016 meeting inside Trump Tower with Manafort, Kushner, and Don, Jr., with representatives of the Kremlin including a lawyer who lobbies against sanctions and a former GRU officer. And we all know that as Malcolm Nance likes to always say, there are no former GRU officers. Putin is famous for pushing deals very far and being an aggressive negotiator, so he, even though he knew he had all of this on Trump from whatever kompromat, just this deal being in existence is a form of kompromat. But Putin needed to know for sure that they were going to be taken care of in return for helping elect Donald Trump. So that June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower is just—the big question is, what did Jared Kushner, Don, Jr., and Paul Manafort say to the Kremlin to reassure them to the point that weeks later they passed on those stolen DNC emails that Wikileaks then weaponized to really weaken Trump’s opponent, the democrats? So how well did Kushner reassure them? How well did Don, Jr. reassure them? What was promised in Trump Tower in June 2016? Because the Kremlin needed something in order to move forward.
Sarah Kendzior: Right, and it obviously, as you were saying, is not just like the promise of a penthouse that’s like chump change to Putin, and I think - I saw some people interpreting it that way, that that was the bribe, and it’s ridiculous, like I think we know, obviously, at this point–
Andrea Chalupa: It’s symbolic; it’s a sign of respect.
Sarah Kendzior: It’s symbolic, yeah.
Andrea Chalupa: It’s like bringing a bottle of wine to your friend’s house for dinner, because like they’re cooking you dinner, that’s the equivalent in Putin’s world.
Sarah Kendzior: It’s like bringing a bottle of the Trump vodka. Which you know would like, not go over well. I keep envisioning the Kremlin laughing at this tacky, Trump-branded effort.
But you know, we know the imperialistic ambitions of the Kremlin are vast, we know that many oligarchs and members of the government are implicated in a lot of crime schemes and have been for a long time. You know, they wanted to be immune from prosecution. Trump has failed to deliver at least on that aspect, but yeah. There’s still a lot of details of that meeting that haven’t come out. That aspect of it is frightening. I think there’s a level of audacity here, you know, to have so many witnesses to that kind of meeting, for Don, Jr. to put the emails out on Twitter like he did in 2017 and confess to all of it. Like they are still behaving as if they’re going to face no ramifications from this probe. The only person who seems humbled by it at this point is Michael Cohen. You know, the other people who have even been sentenced have been extremely blasé or argumentative, people like Papadopoulos or Van der Zwaan, and of course, you know, Manafort. I mean, I can’t believe people thought he was going to just comply. He never was.
And that alarms me. I’m hoping that if we do see some sort of change this week, it’s recognition of consequences, that they may actually be brought. Because at this point I’m still wondering, you know, why the hell haven’t we– why aren’t these people in jail already? Why weren’t they years ago? I guess soon we’re gonna hear about Flynn and what’s in store for him. Everyone keeps saying it’s Roger Stone’s time, but then nothing happens. I’m very tired of all those posts.
This is like a cranky podcast, but honestly, Jesus Christ. It’s been like three years of knowing the most obvious shit. You don’t need to be like a super genius or super detective or super journalist, you just need to have like common sense and access to public domain materials, and this cadre of criminal morons will confess everything, and they’ll do it right to your face. They’ll ask for Hillary’s emails. They’ll say, “Hey, I committed obstruction of justice,” to Lester Holt, and then nothing happens. So it’s like, that’s the problem, you know? This is not a tough problem to solve, it’s a tough problem to punish, because they get off on being caught. They just don’t want to be punished for it. It’s annoying as fuck. Sorry. [laughs] I’m just so pissed.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, and they bribe. You know, Ivanka and Don, Jr. got out of that case in Manhattan.
Sarah Kendzior: Yes!
Andrea Chalupa: They essentially paid off Cy Vance, the Manhattan D.A. And so the Trumps go through life the same way Putin does, by bribing people. So, it’s late November, early December. We are at the five-year anniversary of the revolution in Ukraine. Viktor Yanukovych campaigned on promising Ukrainians, as he was probably coached to do my Manafort, he promised them during the election that he was going to sign the EU Association Agreement, bringing Ukraine closer to Europe. And instead, when he was about to sign it, and I had a friend, a Canadian friend, who flew to Kyiv just for the signing ceremony—that’s how big of a deal this was—it was like finally Ukraine is taking a step closer, even if it’s a symbolic step away from Russia’s orbit. So Ukrainians were ready for this moment, and at the very final hour, Yanukovych instead accepted a 15 billion dollar bailout from Putin, which is essentially a bribe, because you know that money was just gonna get pocketed, stolen by Yanukovych and his family. They absconded with an estimated like $30 to $60 billion that disappeared because of them. And from Ukrainian taxpayers.
Putin and the Trumps, they have made it this far by bribing and paying off people who can be bought.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, exactly. It’s Putin, it’s the Trumps, and it’s this nexus, very international nexus of criminals and go-betweens and spies and blackmailers and others that they’ve had doing their dirty work for a very long time. You know like I always trace this back to Roy Cohn, you know who was involved in so many of this country’s terrible crimes and atrocities, and you know, who served as a go-between in this fashion. You can amass quite a lot of power in that capacity, and so I guess this is the point in the show, I kind of dread talking about this, but it’s really important, where I want to talk about the new expose in the Miami Herald by Julie K. Brown about the pedophile and sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein, who is linked closely to Trump. He is linked to people that have been defending Trump, and that were working with Trump, especially Alan Dershowitz. And so, to review, first of all, go and read this article if you can. It’s not a new story, and this kind of reiterates what we’re saying that it’s very frustrating to have these old stories of terrible people who go unpunished come up again and again, but it does have new information, and especially new firsthand accounts from the victims of Jeffrey Epstein and his crew of pedophile sex traffickers. He is a billionaire who hung out with a lot of famous people, all of whom are implicated in this. Gawker a few years did an article about this, listing the contents of his black book. I suspect this is one of the reasons that Trump’s backers, especially Peter Thiel, went so hard against Gawker, to try to get that taken off, although you know the internet is forever. Among the people associated with Epstein are Alan Dershowitz, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Ehud Barak. And so, what he would do is lure underage girls to his mansion, molest them, rape them, and force these girls to service these guests who were brought in. And so this is not a theory. He was caught, and he was ostensibly punished for it, but Epstein ultimately did little jail time. He ended up serving a little over a year. It was not a real sentence where he went to prison, it was a real cushy kind of house arrest thing in which he did things like travel to the Virgin Islands. And this was because he was represented by Alan Dershowitz and after Alex Acosta, who is the prosecutor in Florida, helped Dershowitz, and helped the Epstein defense team cover this up, and then afterwards got the federal government to seal the court documents. And so, as the Miami Herald notes, Acosta is now rewarded by Trump. He’s the Secretary of Labor.
So why would they do this? Why would they go out of the way? Why would Trump feel compelled to reward him? Well, one of the cases that was listed in the Epstein trial was about Trump raping a 13-year-old girl allegedly provided by Epstein. When Epstein had to testify, when he was asked about Trump, and whether he was involved, he took the fifth. He didn’t want to talk about it. In November of 2016, the case came up again when Lisa Bloom, the lawyer, decided to represent the 13-year-old victim, who is now an adult—this happened back in the ‘90s—and who had said Trump had raped her. There’s other serious and disturbing claims in there about Trump making another young girl disappear. And she was going to have a press conference. I remember that day, of waiting for these revelations to finally get the kind of attention that they needed, and of course the victim was threatened, Lisa Bloom was threatened, and the entire press conference was dropped.
So again, you see these tactics that are used all over by this network. You know, the Kremlin uses them, the Roy Cohn goon squad and its successors use them, Trump uses them, and Dershowitz is also involved here. Dershowitz is somebody who not only was representing Epstein, but was accused of raping a girl himself, and that case was settled out of court. Dershowitz denies it, but I have questions. I also have questions about why this guy is still on CNN. Why is this guy being upheld as this sort of legal vanguard by so many people after this?
And so…yeah. I mean, I have more to say about this, as you know, but do you have any comments? Because this is like a really long depressing monologue.
Andrea Chalupa: I think this is another one of those “it’s so big it’s untouchable” stories, just like Trump and Russia colluded to steal the 2016 election. It’s just so massive and damning and condemns a lot of people who are complicit in the process, that people have a hard time believing it. And I just want to tell our audience: if you see anybody on television, or anybody in the New York Times—because they love to do this—interviewing Dershowitz and treating him like a normal source and not pushing him relentlessly on these pedophile charges, and being associated with pedophilia, and not making this the center of who Dershowitz is, and who he chooses to surround himself with, then that is a failure of journalism, and they are therefore complicit in this. And it’s just repeating the same lack of, I don’t know, professional ethics that got us to this point, where people are finally now catching up to Trump and Russia where they ignored it in 2016 and even debated it relentlessly, ambitiously, throughout the start of 2017. So please, if you see anybody interviewing Dershowitz and not making the abuse of children, the story of how Dershowitz was allegedly part of a ring of powerful white men who traumatized little girls for life by treating them as sex slaves, if that’s not the center of the discussion that that journalist is having with Dershowitz, please let us know. Please make that public. Please tag Gaslit Nation on Twitter. Because we need to identify who is committing journalistic malpractice.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, absolutely, and you may recall over the summer there was this succession of articles about how, you know, Alan Dershowitz was feeling sad at the Hamptons, and he didn’t get to go to as many parties as normal, and I mean it was just the most transparent whitewashing of this hideous man who is, you know, in addition to this, which is obviously, this is the worst thing he’s been accused of doing, but you know there are other connections at hand. He was Julian Assange’s lawyer. He’s also implicated in a corruption case involving the Kushner family. There are all sorts of relevant things to ask Alan Dershowitz about beyond his hurt feelings about being left out of some fancy parties. So yeah, people absolutely should—
Andrea Chalupa: Or where he thinks the Mueller probe is going. Why would you ask him that? Of course he wants to downplay everything.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, he’s gonna lie. They are all gonna lie. And I mean, what this is exposing, I mean the reason this case…it’s a weird case because everyone knew about it. There’s a book about it by James Patterson. It was covered by the press because these are court documents. This isn’t some sort of pizzagate scenario, although that is obviously projection. That is a way for people to think, “Oh that sounds like pizzagate; it must not be true.” This was real. This was all in court. This all happened in the public eye—not the actual rape acts, but the discussion of them, and the discussion of the trial was all out there. But people are terrified of talking about it because it exposes these higher rungs of society, and also some very brutal forces behind them.
And so I want to say one thing about Trump that has always horriffied me is that he’s not only friends with Jeffrey Epstein, you know, who he referred to as a great guy, who happens to like them young, you know, he likes young girls and Trump was cheering that on, Trump is friends with multiple pedophiles, most of whom were also engaged in sex trafficking and blackmail schemes where they would film powerful people raping and molesting these young girls. This includes Alan Dershowitz, Tevfik Arif, John Casablancas, you know who ran a modeling agency, George Nader, who was implicated in the Mueller probe, Roy Cohn, who is accused of using sexual blackmail with underage victims. Like, who the fuck is friends with five pedophiles? Or six, if you count Dershowitz. Like, ideally you don’t have any pedophile friends in your life. Like what kind of person are you that you’ve got six of them? You know, you, a person who has no friends, like Donald Trump is famously insular. He doesn’t have real relationships. His best friend was Roy Cohn. But he manages to rack up this level of engagement with known sex traffickers and pedophiles? Like that’s enormously disturbing, especially given his other comments about underage girls, whether about Ivanka or about Paris Hilton when she was 12 years old, and all the allegations, the many, many allegations of sexual assault that women have leveraged against him, and you know his confession to grabbing women by the pussy. I could go on and on.
How are people treating this man with any sort of respect and not making this a foremost concern? You know, it’s really frightening, and so one reason I think this is happening, that there’s this level of protection around him is because of the fame of the other implicated parties. When you go after Trump, you potentially expose all of them. And also, this interesting angle that the Miami Herald didn’t touch on as much, which is about Epstein’s mean associate who would go out and find these girls on the street and bring them in, whose name is—I’m probably not pronouncing this right, but Ghislaine Maxwell. She’s a woman who was the daughter of Robert Maxwell. Robert Maxwell died in 1991 under somewhat mysterious circumstances. He either fell off a yacht or was killed after spending a lifetime as a Mossad operative, and also as an extremely, extremely wealthy man working mostly in Great Britain as a publisher. And so, one of the victims that the Miami Herald interviewed, Virginia Roberts, claims that Ghislaine Maxwell and Epstein forced her to have sex with Dershowitz and with Prince Andrew, another implicated party, among others. That was the case that went to court. But, you know, I’m going down this road that no one seems to want to go down, but I don’t know how we don’t want to talk about it, this relationship between Robert Maxwell, the Mossad, and the Russian mafia is extremely disturbing. During Robert Maxwell’s lifetime in the U.K. publishing industry, he worked on the behalf of the Mossad. He allegedly censored pieces that were unflattering to Israel, like reports from whistleblowers that Israel had procured nuclear weapons, but one of the most disturbing things I read in a biography of Robert Maxwell is that he was a business partner of the head of the Russian mafia, Semion Mogilevich, who Andrea mentioned earlier in the show, and in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s before he died, helped him get an Israeli passport, which allowed him to travel freely and launder money around the world. You know, Mogilevich is the guy who’s, he’s very close to Putin. Many people think that he’s kind of pulling the strings there. He’s implicated with the Brooklyn, New York-based mafia, if you read the book Red Mafia.
So anyway, Maxwell is—
Andrea Chalupa: And Trump Tower in New York City was basically a dorm for the Russian mafia.
Sarah Kendzior: Yes! Yes, exactly. And so, you have the guy who made this possible, and he did that by getting him Israeli citizenship. And so, you know, that is disturbing to me, because there’s a pattern here of people from the former Soviet Union basically abusing the right of return privilege to operate as criminals under Israeli sanction, you know, with a passport or moving their money over there. Mogilevich did this decades ago. Roman Abramovich did this very recently for his own financial benefit. And then you have other, sort of familiar aspects from Netanyahu’s Israel. You have the relationship between Kushner and Netanyahu, both of whom are implicated in corruption schemes. The families go back decades. You know, Kushner’s father was a criminal. The Kushner family has a lot of questionable investments in the West Bank. You have, of course, Black Cube, and what they’ve been doing in terms of silencing sexual assault victims, and helping the Trump campaign, the fact that they’re doing both in tandem should not be ignored. Or their efforts to silence and intimidate people involved in Obama’s Iran policy, which they’re also doing.
And then you have, you know, people like Sheldon Adelson, who’s the biggest donor to the GOP, but is really a one-issue kind of guy, and his issue is Israel. And his main goal is expansion, and you know, basically brutality toward the Palestinians, and perhaps most disturbingly his desire to drop nukes on Iran, which he’s talked about many times.
This is a very frightening thing. I think that it’s clear that the Trump-Russia story is not just a Trump-Russia story. It’s a Trump-Russia-Israel-Saudi Arabia-Axis of Autocrats through the world, where you have the worst elements of every country brought in. And I think I need to emphasize here that the actions of Netanyahu or Black Cube or any other entity don’t speak for Israel. This is not some sort of sweeping critique, but it is disturbing that so many ties were forged in a very corrupt manner, and that these criminals, it may be less likely that they are punished because the U.S. does have this extremely close relationship with Israel. It has historically been our ally, very different than our historic relationship with Russia. And I think that big GOP donors who focus almost exclusively on Israel may make the GOP much more reluctant to pursue this international, organized criminal body.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, I mean Israel, like the U.S. right now is stuck under a corrupt government. They have Netanyahu, we have Trump. And I think this whole issue is very complicated for me. My sister’s closest friend growing up was an Israeli from Tel Aviv. And then her second childhood friend, a woman that she met actually in her first year of college, that also became a close family friend, is a Palestinian from Ramallah. So here this Palestinian from Ramallah and this Israeli from Tel Aviv, they became like sisters to me because they were my sister’s two closest friends in the world. We’ve seen this whole conflict through the eyes of them and their family, so it’s a very hard issue for me to talk about. So, I do want to underline the point that you made just now, which is this isn’t an issue of Israel itself. It’s the corruption right now that is plaguing its government, which the Israeli government itself is confronting – there was a recommendation by the Israeli – who was it? An indictment charge against Netanyahu.
Sarah Kendzior: And his wife.
Andrea Chalupa: And his wife, for corruption charges. So, I think that there’s a lot that we in the U.S. can learn from the Israeli opposition and how they’re organizing, and how they’re confronting their own deep crisis of corruption.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah absolutely, and this goes for every country that we study. You know, when you have an international network of corrupt kleptocrats, you have people who are suffering under their rule together. You know, it’s up to us as citizens and as journalists to expose this, and so there’s no sort of like…you know, every country has a representative or a person that is leading them that is not representative, necessarily, of the body of citizens that they’re supposed to be protecting, that they’re supposed to be serving. And I think, certainly, Netanyahu’s an example of that. Obviously, Trump and Putin are examples of that as well. And so, I think the best thing to do in these sorts of cases is to not condemn a whole country or generalize about a whole country but realize that we’re all struggling with this massive problem of corruption and crime at the highest levels of government, and for all of our sakes, you know, for the sake of our world, we need to fight it. We can’t kind of separate and isolate ourselves. In previous episodes we’ve talked about this in terms of climate change and in terms of a global strategy towards that. This is a time where nations need to work together, they need to be transparent. They need to be thinking about the public good, and that’s really not happening with any of the countries that Trump prefers to partner with. And of course, he makes enemies out of those who are seeking to pursue actions that benefit the public good. And so yeah, I’m happy that you clarified that, and you know, hopeful that people understand the broader point, because we can’t ignore the issue.
Andrea Chalupa: No, of course. And I want to say, what no one seems to be talking about, especially heading towards the 2020 election, where we need to have a robust primary, and we need to select the strongest candidate possible, who’s going to inspire everyone to come out to the polls. What no one’s talking about is—other than Gaslit Nation, and I’m not really seeing it much elsewhere, is the Trump-Russia crisis is begging for a foreign policy from the left. It’s not enough to be anti-war. Yes, we’re all anti-war, but the reality is is that you have this, as we’ve pointed out again and again on the show, it’s the kleptocracy, stupid. It’s the corruption. It’s what Mueller warned us about in his 2011 speech. It’s the iron triangles. It’s the new face of the mafia, which is fancy accounting firms and fancy banks, like Deutsche Bank, which is one of very few Western banks that actually lended to Trump, and now it’s part of his ongoing money laundering investigation. The left, as part of its primary heading into the 2020 presidential election where we absolutely have to get rid of Trump, we have to vote him out and keep the House and take the Senate, the left has to use the primary to have a very soul-searching conversation on what our foreign policy is, and that has to be strengthening civic society leaders, investigative journalists who are risking their lives, their families’ lives, in countries like Ukraine and Russia, across Africa and Asia and all over the world, because they are on the frontlines in their countries of the same fight that we’re waging here at home, and it’s them. They’re gonna educate us on the next generation of Paul Manafort, who started collecting blood money from abroad and then coming to the U.S. to influence our elections, to further their despot clients’ interests.
So, for instance, it was Ukrainian investigative journalists in August 2016 who took down Paul Manafort, finally forced him to resign or be kicked off the Trump campaign because of that infamous Black Leger story. That did not come from New York Times journalists. Yes, they wrote it and published it in the New York Times, but the whistle on that was blown by Serhiy Leshchenko, a renowned investigative journalist in Kyiv whose mentor was beheaded by a former Ukrainian president and who had lost friends in the work that he’s done over the years in fighting corruption in his own country. He was an expert on Manafort, and guys like Manafort, and the composite character of Manafort, and he was able to warn us. So, it’s to America’s own benefit that we strengthen these anti-corruption programs all over the world. And what I’ve seen a lot on the left is that they fall for the Kremlin talking points that get spread through outlets like RT, where the left starts to repeat the Kremlin talking points, that the funding by investigative journalists like Serhiy Leshchenko, you know he’s been part of the newspaper profit in Ukraine, and he associates with a circle of civic leaders and investigative journalists that benefit from grants from the West, from the EU. And those guys couldn’t do what they’re doing if it weren’t for our donations, our investment into a strong civic society. They need our support, but unfortunately, I’ve heard this before from many people on the left, saying, “Oh, the money we give those people, that’s a form of U.S. election meddling.”
Yeah, guess what? Guess where you’re getting that from? You’re getting that from the Kremlin. They kick out NGOs. They kick out George Soros from Russia, because Putin doesn’t want a strong generation of activists funded to take him on, to expose his corruption. So, I think the left has to really confront itself and say, “We have to be strong. When we draw red lines, we have to enforce them, unlike what Obama did.” We cannot negotiate with terrorists. We have to employ a banks-not-tanks strategy where we are swift with sanctions and we ratchet it up, because the sanctions do work. The sanctions do contain them. Again, at the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Putin promised Russians Novorossiya. He was gonna slice off a big chunk of Ukraine. The sanctions slowed him down, and now that Trump has been refusing to sign sanctions against Russia, Putin has been emboldened, and he’s now cutting off a major trade route to cripple Ukraine’s economy. So, sanctions do work. We have to be swift and direct in our actions, and we cannot be scared and timid or worry about labels of war mongering just by standing up for ourselves and our allies.
The left absolutely has to dissect this whole Russia crisis, and search its soul, and produce a very strong foreign policy to protect us now in the world, because this kleptocracy has been emboldened under Trump and this imperialistic resurgence of Putin.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, I agree, and it’s been frustrating to see the resistance toward just recognizing that, you know, Russia is not the Soviet Union. It’s not communist. It’s not any of these romanticized visions that some on the left have come up for it. It’s a hyper-capitalist dictatorship, and it shares many of the worst attributes of the United States. You know, if you dislike oligarchy in the U.S., you should really dislike it worldwide, and it’s been frustrating to see that lack of consistency which of course shows up in all the whataboutism arguments. Because, you know, what is wrong there is wrong here, and also, they are working directly together and it’s really not that complicated, and it shouldn’t be so hard to condemn. And I hope that whatever foreign policy is developed, and I agree that this is something we need a serious debate about, I think that certain assumptions need to be thrown out. Because we have a very transformed global dynamic. You know, we have rising autocracy. We have very much weakened western institutions that traditionally held that back. I think—
Andrea Chalupa: We have a broken Western Alliance.
Sarah Kenzior: Yeah! And we need moral consistency. You know, we need to look at States that are practicing brutality, even if they’ve traditionally allied with us, and kind of question like what are the limits of this relationship. And you know, at the least, how can we discourage this kind of action, or sanction people across the board? I mean, I do think sanctioning people, and going after the money, going after this consolidation of wealth—
Andrea Chalupa: Exposing the corruption.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah.
Andrea Chalupa: I mean, they should have done that under Obama.
Sarah Kendzior: Yes!
Andrea Chalupa: They should have released far more details about the inner circle of Putin and their corruption.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. It’s very frustrating, because of course it feeds directly into our system. It’s going right into all of these campaigns, so it’s a problem that really can’t be solved unless it’s addressed, but addressing it of course exposes a lot of implicated players, whether they were implicated knowingly or not, it still speaks to enormous flaws in the system, and people need to have courage about this. You know, they need to have guts, they need to be straightforward, because I don’t think voters are going to put up with this anymore. You know, I think, again, we may be early in our sense of frustration that our own institutions in the U.S. have failed us in this way, but I think that as more and more is exposed through the Mueller probe and through the House investigation now that the Democrats are taking it over, people are really going to have questions about how this went on in some cases for decades with this white collar crime, to put it mildly, completely unpunished. And then therefore enabled these individuals to take over our political system as well and then chip away at what rights and representation we do have. I think that frustration, once people understand the depth of this, and aren’t thinking of it as a wild conspiracy theory or sort of trying to underplay it, once there’s this kind of period of mourning that we went through, then there’s just extreme anger and a demand for answers. And I hope people remember, you know, our representatives are public servants. They’re not heroes. They’re not your boss. You are the boss of them. And so you need to hold them accountable, and that’s their job. And I think as we enter primary season, which of course begins the day after any election, apparently, those are questions that we should be keeping in mind.
And on that note, I guess we should move on to…do you want to talk about Bush? George H.W.?
Andrea Chalupa: Before we move to Bush, Sr., I want to give some more of the Trump children their due. To your point about the human trafficking—one piece of that story that lends some credibility to those allegations is the fact that Ivanka Trump, who, she’s young, she has her whole life ahead of her. She’s young and rich and incredibly influential. She was at G-20 playing President. She was just there to sort of collect her resumé bullet points, of “Yeah, so I attended the G-20 and represented America there.” Ivanka Trump is gunning for the number one spot, of coming back to the White House as a candidate, as an elected President, and that whole thing with Jared winning the highest honor in Mexico, that was probably something that was engineered behind the scenes, or if not, that was an expression of Mexico’s relief of not having to deal with Trump during what would have been a very tense NAFTA renegotiation, so that’s probably why Jared got that award from Mexico. And that’s just a PR coup for Jared and Ivanka, who are deeply complicit in all of this. And so when Ivanka came out with an op-ed that the Washington Post let her publish, the same Washington Post that lost one of its writers, murdered by Jared’s friend, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. So, they had an op-ed where Ivanka Trump wrote that the Trump Administration is taking bold action to combat the evil of human trafficking.
Sarah Kendzior: Mmhm. Yeah, and this is, you know, another example–
Andrea Chalupa: Her father hangs out with pedophiles, including one that ran a human trafficking ring.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, and her father signed her up for John Casablancas’ modeling agency, which is a sex trafficking group. And again, this is not a theory of mine. This was hashed out in court, and he was punished. Which is a very questionable thing to do, I mean that goes down a road that I’m not really willing to go down, but it’s disturbing. And yeah, you definitely see this proactive approach that the Trump administration has taken to the Epstein case, which comes out in a number of ways. Like first, they threaten people. They threaten them with violence. They threaten them with financial ruin, like with Gawker. They put out these bizarre conspiracy theories like pizzagate or, you known, if you look at the Qanon hashtag, or Q Anon, which I unfortunately do, just to sort of stay on top of their propaganda tactics, you’ll see a lot of talk about a plague of sex trafficking, which is, honestly the fact that it exists, that’s a well-founded claim. For example, this case. And it’s been a strange feeling to sort of watch people who I, you know, I certainly think of as conspiracy theorists and unreliable, like, you know, Cernovich, for example, talking about how Epstein needs to be punished. Like this may well be the only thing that people in America agree on, and that’s because it’s an extremely upsetting and horrific issue. And then you see this other more typical kind of propaganda, which is Ivanka writing about it in the Washington Post, and you know, yeah, it is horrifying that they would enable her to do that after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which the Trump family is perfectly fine with, which Jared Kushner is good friends with—and yes, who likely ordered the killing.
And so you see them attacking it from all angles, and really trying to tamp it down, and that’s very frightening. Because, you know, we need justice in this case. And we need to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, and that people engaging in this kind of activity now will be pursued, and you know, indicted. And that people won’t feel like they’re free to do these horrible things in the future. Because as we’ve seen, if there’s one lesson from the Trump Administration, it’s that when there’s no consequences, these people, these criminals, will only become emboldened. And their acts will get worse and worse and worse. And when this lingers for decades, you end up with a vast, intertwined, international system that is extremely hard to untangle. And if people had been quicker in the ‘90s, and if they had actually punished Jeffrey Epstein, for example, instead of giving him a little cushy slap on the wrist and sealing all the documents, again, maybe we wouldn’t be in this position. Because real people are hurt here. This isn’t about like getting vengeance on the Trumps. This is about making sure people are safe, making sure children are safe. And you know, that should be something that should not be a complicated demand, you know, something that we all as human beings can agree on as a worthy goal. And I hate that maybe that’s where the unity of our country needs to start, at such a point of tragedy, but maybe that’s the way it’s gonna go. I don’t know. We’ll find out December 4th, I think. This case is going to be reexamined, so maybe by the time you hear this podcast something will have developed.
Andrea Chalupa: So these accused pedophiles like to stick together. Putin was accused of being a pedophile by Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered in London by a radioactive substance, which a British inquiry found was probably approved by Putin. And so one of his, one of the big cases that he was really pushing was that Putin was a pedophile. So look that up. Read some of his claims there, and that includes– there was some video, weird video where Putin was working a crowd, and there’s a little boy standing there, and he just knelt down and lifted his shirt and gave a big kiss on the boy’s belly. So yeah, when you’re the richest man in the world, you can get away with a lot and survive a lot. So really the war we’re up against is income inequality, and the abuses of it. And it’s time. It’s time for us now to confront this and have the really tough conversations around it. And pedophilia, for instance, isn’t about sex. The whole basis of it is power, and that’s what these people have been abusing so long is their power, and these systems, the people that are supposed to protect us, have let them get away with it. So that’s why Sarah and I were not rejoicing along with everyone when Mueller reemerged as Deep State Batman and threw down some big bombshells for us. Because we’ve just been disgusted, really, by the failure of the institutions that were built to protect us. And we expect more of that to come unless we as the voters, we as the public, the organizing public, do something to clean up our systems, and to finally tackle income inequality once and for all in all its many forms, whether it’s here or abroad, like Ukraine and Russia. We have to empower people fighting corruption and really putting a light on these things.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah.
Andrea Chalupa: Before we go, could we give Eric Trump a special cameo appearance? Because I feel like he’s been overlooked in all of this. You guys all know Mensa child Eric Trump. He worked with Michael Cohen to keep Stormy Daniels quiet. So, he’s all embedded with Uncle Michael Cohen. So, what’s really fun is a Vanity Fair piece from last year where the golf writer James Dodson reported that back in 2014 he told WBUR in an interview that back in 2014, he was playing golf with Eric Trump on a Trump golf course, and it was a brand new one. And he was wondering like, “Where do you guys get money a recession, a deep recession, to build a golf course?” And Eric Trump just kind of shrugged and said, “Oh, we have access to 100 million dollars.” Well, who the hell is giving the Trump family 100 million dollars, especially given all of Trump’s infamous bankruptcies. And so Dodson pushes on, and says, “Really? Okay,” and so Eric Trump goes on to explain, and I’ll read from the Vanity Fair piece, quoting Dodson:
“So when I got in the cart with Eric, Dodson says, as we were setting off, I said, “Eric, who’s funding? Because I know no banks after the Great Recession have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s been dead in the water for the past four or five years, and this is what he said. He said, ‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” I said, “Really?” And he said, “Oh yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf. And they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.”
Oh, Eric Trump.
Sarah Kenzior: Yeah.
Andrea Chalupa: So, Eric Trump responded on Twitter that this story is completely fabricated and blah, blah, blah. And so Vanity Fair goes on to write, “If what Dodson says is true, it’ll be the first time the Trumps have been connected to Russian money, and a number of reports have indicated that the Trump Organization received substantial financing from Russia when the business was struggling in the mid-1990s, and again during the Great Recession. Since major U.S. banks have refused to loan money to him, most recently Reuter’s reported that a group of 63 Russian billionaires invested nearly 100 million in several Trump properties in Florida. Donald Trump, Jr. himself famously said in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Donald Trump has maintained that neither he nor his businesses have any ties to Russia whatsoever.”
Now, do you know how hard it would be, Sarah, for you and I to go into a bank and get a loan for like 100,000 dollars, half a million? Like, they would never loan us the money once they saw how much we make in our Patreon.
Sarah Kendzior: We’re not a super genius like Eric Trump.
Andrea Chalupa: No, we’re not. So, if you think about how difficult it is, you know, in your life to get a loan from a bank, well if you want the easy money, you’ve got to be a corrupt real estate family that uses your properties as money laundering machines, and Russia will lend whatever money they want to you, because they share your values. It’s just birds of a feather flocking together, and the money has always been the center of it. So if you want to get ahead of the headlines, always ask yourself who financially would profit from this? We were called, I was called crazy for saying that Rex Tillerson had something to do with Russiagate. Why would I make such a speculation? Well, think about how much money Exxon stood to benefit from the Russian sanctions being dropped. They could finally drill together with the Russians in the Arctic, not even to mention that Tillerson had a medal of friendship from Putin himself, awarded in 2013. So, it didn’t take a genius to see that there was a financial motive there. And Tillerson being chosen, the former head of Exxon being chosen of Secretary of State, that’s exceptional. That’s simply not normal.
I was on the phone with one major GOP operative, who said to me, “Tillerson is just a bridge too far.” He was aghast.
And then along comes Christopher Steele, who does his own research and sees that yeah, Putin had some oversight over who Trump’s Secretary of State pick would be, and he helped kill Romney coming in as Secretary of State. And Tillerson, who’s much more Kremlin-friendly, comes in and takes the helm. And was one of the most destructive secretaries of states we’ve ever had. And he pulled us out of Africa with a lot of these great programs we had across Africa with bringing civic leaders to the front lines, and guess what? Putin’s Kremlin is just filling in that vacuum in Africa now and they’re spreading their influence all across the continent as we pulled out under Tillerson.
So yes, there is a new world order showing up, that we’re all witnessing right now. It’s very dangerous. It’s the kleptocrats at the helm, as we saw the celebration of MBS and Putin with that now infamous handshake. That sums it up, where we are right now.
Sarah Kendzior: Yep, I agree with that. The only thing I have to add is my ever-present reminder that Dana Rohrabacher was the runner up for Secretary of State. When that name was floated, I think that was it for me. I was like, “So, they really are gonna go for this. They’re just gonna put this all out in the open. And then Tillerson, of course, with this order of friendship medal, was another obvious candidate. You know, we repeat a lot of this information, but it’s because it hasn’t been acted upon. And because lies in the opposite direction are repeated by the Trump Administration and the journalists that are backing them.
And so, you know, everything Andrea said is correct. It is as vast and as horrifying as we’ve portrayed it, but the only way to combat it is to document it relentlessly, support those fighting it, and fight it ourselves in whatever way we can.
So yeah, another depressing episode of Gaslit Nation.
Andrea Chalupa: Well everyone, I think everyone was excited about the big Mueller comeback, because they got a gasp, a little bit of fresh air of normalcy, and what that feels like. And a sense of our checks and balances working. But again, it’s gonna be an uphill battle because we’re up against some very powerful and deeply pocketed forces.
So we’re gonna end that with a tribute to former President George Bush, Sr. who passed away, and a lot of the condolences on the news networks have really felt like more like a funeral for the Republican Party. It was a lot of discussion of when the Republican Party used to have decency, and treat journalists with respect, treat famous comedians with respect, and it was just a weird time travel back to a more normal-feeling time. And that’s really what I feel people were mourning with the passing of him.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, and I have to say, though, a lot of this was nostalgia through rose-colored glasses, as always happens when somebody of note dies, because there were serious crises in that administration and corruption in it, but of course, you know, everyone now looks wonderful compared to Trump, even George W. Bush looks better.
But yeah, I don’t know, for another time. I have questions about some of the George H. W. Bush’s people did, more during the Reagan era, that are connected to the present.
Andrea Chalupa: Absolutely.
Sarah Kendzior: But certainly he was the best Republican president of my lifetime, but the other ones were Reagan, W., and Trump, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Andrea Chalupa: There we go. That’s a good way to honor this. So, I want to also point out that George Bush, Sr. was famous among Ukrainians and supporters of Ukraine for his Chicken Kyiv speech, as the conservative New York Times columnist William Sapphire called it. Now what is the Chicken Kyiv speech?
So in August 1991, after spending some time with Gorbachev in Russia, Bush went to Kyiv and addressed its Parliament, Ukraine’s parliament, and said, you know, “You have to have and upcoming referendum for independence. If you were to vote for Ukraine’s independence, that would be suicidal,” and he really painted those in Ukraine, who wanted their independence, as violent nationalists. And it was just such a tone-deaf speech, especially given everything Ukraine had suffered under Soviet occupation. Even as recent as the Chernobyl explosion, which happened only a few years prior, Chernobyl was and remains a painful reminder to Ukrainians of being a colony abused by the Kremlin. When that nuclear disaster happened, the Kremlin kept it quiet. Even from those directly around the disaster zone it was covered up. It was a big secret affair for a very long time, which of course increased the number of victims and the scope of the tragedy.
So Chernobyl was a major rallying point that really pushed the independence movement inside Ukraine – enough was enough already after decades of Soviet oppression, leading Ukrainian resistance figures being arrested and killed, not to mention Stalin deliberately mass-murdering several millions of Ukrainians in a genocide famine that Kremlin propaganda then covered up from the world for generations, and continues to try to muddle the truth about even today.
And so, Bush coming in and giving this speech that went against the longing for freedom and independence that was so prevalent in Ukraine at this time, it’s considered today to be one of the worst speeches ever given by a U.S. president. He was just blasted from the left and the right. And guess who wrote that speech? Condoleezza Rice. You may remember her from endorsing Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, and Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. Yes, she gave Bush, Sr. a mark on his legacy with the infamous Chicken Kyiv speech.
Sarah Kendzior: Wow.
Andrea Chalupa: And luckily Ukrainians did not listen to him, and months later they voted for their independence.
Sarah Kendzior. See, this is what I mean. I feel like sometimes it’s like it’s all the same group, and history is just vomiting back at us. Vomiting like George H.W. Bush did on the Japanese prime minister. [laughs]
Anyway, I think that wraps up the show.
Andrea Chalupa: I’m gonna have some broccoli tonight in his honor.
Sarah Kendzior: Exactly.
Andrea Chalupa: Gaslit Nation, the show that never forgets.
Andrea Chalupa: Gaslit Nation is produced by Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa. If you like what we do, leave us a review on iTunes. It helps us reach more listeners. And check out our Patreon; it keeps us going.
Sarah Kendzior: Our editors our Karlyn Daigle and Nicholas Torres. This episode was edited by Karlyn Daigle.
Andrea Chalupa: Original music on Gaslit Nation produced by David Whitehead, Margaret Disenburg, Nick Farr, Damien Arriaga and Karlyn Dagle.
Sarah Kendzior: Our logo design was donated to us by Hamish Smith of the New York-based firm Order. Thank you so much, Hamish.
Anread Chalupa: Gaslit Nation would like to thank our supporters at the producer level on Patreon: [names] Thank you all so much. We could not make this show without you.