Friday, June 29, 2018

If Only My Gramps Had Stayed In Russia, Maybe I'd Own My Own Jet Now Too!


Mafiya by Chip Proser

Before I retired a few years ago, I was president of one of the divisions of TimeWarner, Reprise Records, a label started by Frank Sinatra as a refuge for artists, like himself, who didn't want to be pushed around by suits or by a producer. By the time I took it over, Sinatra had sold the company to Warner Bros. but I tried to run the company the way he intended it to be run. I took that seriously. Our artists did too. The roster included artists like Green Day, Neil Young, Morrissey, Joni Mitchell, Depeche Mode, Lou Reed, Rickie Lee Jones, Fleetwood Mac, Chaka Khan, the Barenaked Ladies, the Replacements (and a hundred others)-- and none of these people fool around when it comes to artistic freedom.

After I retired the place started falling apart... actually, the whole music business was falling apart. For real. I was hired for a one-off job by Deutsche Bank. They wanted me to put my imprimatur on a bond offering they were doing for the company, basically so they could make a plausible claim to due diligence. They paid me an enormous sum of money to rubber stamp the bond offering. But I recognized it was a fraud almost immediately, a ponzi scheme. I was horrified, refused to give it a thumbs up and they told me to take my money and STFU.

Not long after, Time Warner sold the Warner Music Group to a Russian gangster, Len Blavatnik. He seemed to want the company, not because he was a fan of Ministry or Prince or even Cher or Madonna. Nope, as far as I could tell, Sir Leonid, wanted the storied record giant as a money-laundering operation for dirty Russian money.

He's also contributed many millions of dollars to the Republican Party, Republican candidates and, of course Señor Trumpanzee. Like many Putin cronies, he cut the Trumpanzee inauguration a cool million dollar check, money that has never been accounted for but is widely assumed to have gone right into fat-ass' pockets. Sir Leonid, by the way, is the richest man in Britain and Forbes ranks ranks him the 16th richest in the world. Still, laundering the billions and billions Putin stole from Russia-- now we're talking about the actual richest man of earth-- takes a lot of laundering. Trump's idol.

Yesterday Matthew Mosk and John Santucci broke a scoop for ABC News: Special counsel eyeing Russians granted unusual access to Trump inauguration parties. Hello, Sir Leonid! "Several billionaires," they wrote, "with deep ties to Russia attended exclusive, invitation-only receptions during Donald Trump’s inauguration festivities, guest lists obtained by ABC News show." Who remembers when it was a big deal just to be a plain old millionaire? That's how old I am.
These powerful businessmen, who amassed their fortunes following the collapse of the Soviet Union -- including one who has since been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department -- were ushered into events typically reserved for top donors and close political allies and were given unprecedented access to Trump’s inner circle.

Their presence has attracted the interest of federal investigators probing Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Matthew Olsen, a former senior national security official who now serves as an ABC News consultant, said their presence at inaugural events is “very concerning.”

“This reflects a Russian strategy of gaining access to our political leaders at a time when they are just forming a government,” Olsen said. “They don’t need to be spies in the James Bond sense. They are powerful people with significant wealth who are in a position to exert influence on U.S. policy makers. And they’re in a position to report back to Russian intelligence services on what they’re able to learn.”

The presence of people with Kremlin ties in Washington for Trump’s inaugural celebration was first reported by the Washington Post. But the guest lists obtained by ABC News offer a new glimpse at the level of access granted to several well-connected oligarchs.

Several donated enough to the Presidential Inaugural Committee to qualify for tickets to a “Candlelight Dinner” in Washington’s Union Station on the eve of the inauguration, a perk for $1 million contributors, the list of attendees show. Guests were treated to a preview performance by singer Jackie Evancho, a one-time runner-up on "America's Got Talent," who would go on to sing at the inauguration the following day.

A handful celebrated Trump’s surprise victory at the black-tie “Chairman’s Global Dinner,” an exclusive 500-guest affair held the same night in the Greek-columned Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium whose attendees included close Trump friends, high-ranking campaign aides, and an array of foreign ambassadors and dignitaries. The inaugural committee treated them to a dinner of butter-poached lobster, coffee-crusted beef tenderloin and chocolate raspberry dome. For entertainment, casino mogul and Trump pal Steve Wynn flew in Las Vegas show girls to perform a Broadway-style rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
Kerchhhhhing! Another few cents into Sir Leonid's account.
According to a source with knowledge of the congressional investigations, at least one oligarch was ushered into Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol for the traditional Inaugural Day luncheon, hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies-- an event typically out of reach to donors and even most rank-and-file members of Congress.

“It’s incredibly unusual,” said Stephen Kerrigan, who planned the 2009 and 2013 Obama inaugural festivities and said every guest was scrutinized for foreign ties. “Particularly if they were going to be within arm’s reach of the President, they went through an intensive vetting process.”

Names on the guest lists of the Candlelight Dinner included Victor Vekselberg, the billionaire head of the global conglomerate Renova Group, who was later sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury “for operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy,” and his American cousin Andrew Intrater. Late last year, Vekselberg was stopped at a New York airport by federal agents working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and questioned, according to the New York Times. The Times also reported that Intrater was separately interviewed by the special counsel.

Vekselberg and Intrater were seated at the dinner next to Michael Cohen and his family, according to a source familiar with the arrangements. Intrater’s firm, Columbus Nova, later signed Cohen to a $1 million consulting contract. Emails to Renova Group went unanswered. A spokesperson for Intrater declined to comment when reached by ABC News.

Investigators for both the Mueller team and the congressional probes have also expressed interest in several of the other Russian guests who had no obvious place in Trump’s diplomatic orbit, three sources told ABC News.

Some had given money to past Republican candidates, including Leonard Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire philanthropist who holds American and British citizenship. He appeared on guest lists for both the Candlelight Dinner and the Chairman’s events. His global company, Access Industries, which holds a majority stake in Amedia, Russia’s largest producer of television series, gave $1 million to the inaugural fund.

A spokeswoman at Access Industries directed questions from ABC News to a company official who was not immediately available for comment.

...A Soviet-born billionaire Alexander Mashkevitch, who built a metals and mining empire in Kazakhstan, appears on the guest list for the Candlelight Dinner. Flight records show his private jet flew into Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, 2017 and out two days later. European media reports indicate he settled money laundering charges with Belgian authorities in 2011 with no finding of wrongdoing by him. He has held an ownership stake in Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, one of the world’s largest mining and metals concerns, based in London.

...The Trump inauguration brought in more than $107 million, double the amount of President Obama, to finance a week of festivities that was filled with far fewer events than past inaugurations-- only three Presidential balls. In May, ABC News reported that the Special Counsel had questioned several witnesses about millions of dollars in donations from donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Is there one billionaire in Russia who's not an arch criminal? You're kidding, right? Their parents were happy with a bowl of shchi and a sip of sbiten. And now they all have their own planes and access to Trumpanzee. How did that happen? So many lucky people!

Trickery, deceit, law-breaking by Chip Proser

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At 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My understanding is that it was Frank's longtime lawyer, Mickey Rudin, who put together Reprise so Frank could make some money.

At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure a democrap congress will get to the bottom of this... NOT!!!

Someone will drop $100 mil into some superpac... and they'll avert their gaze... if their gaze was ever going to fall on it... Which it wasn't.

Yes... the democraps are going to fix everything. NOT!!!


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