Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

FOLLOW THE MONEY

The media continues to follow Robert Mueller’s investigation into the relationship between Donald Trump and Russia. A fuss was made this past week about Trump knowing that his national security advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn, lied not only to Vice President Mike Pence but also to an FBI agent before Trump fired him. Don’t get excited. This represents some of the what of the matter. But it’s just part of the story.

The investigation will bear fruit only when we understand why Trump turned his back on, and even condemned, the United States’ top security agencies for reporting that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. Why he admires Putin and his governing style yet has chided leaders of allied governments. Why he fired FBI head James Comey. And why, early this week, he trashed the FBI.

We know Trump believes good relations with Russia can be to our advantage. But that’s like advocating mom and apple pie. It’s always preferable to establish good relations with all nations— even those with whom we have conflicts, such as Iran and North Korea. But Trump has never assumed the role of statesman and geopolitical thinker. He has never written or delivered cogent speeches or position papers detailing the ways American-Russian engagement can make the world safer and freer.

So back to the key question: Why all the contacts between Trump’s people and Russia? Why did members of the Trump team mention the easing of sanctions imposed by Barack Obama before the inauguration? Why the guilty pleas from Trump team members, which may cripple or end the careers of those who entered them? And why the constant discovery of more questionable contacts between the Trump campaign and transition teams, and Russia?

Follow the money!

On Tuesday, Thompson Reuters reported Mueller subpoenaed global banking giant Deutsche Bank for information regarding Trump and his family’s accounts and transactions. Might this relate to past New York Times and Vanity Fair articles on Russians laundering money through Trump condominium projects in New York and Florida? Will it reveal other Trump-Russian financial arrangements? Whatever, this form of inquiry represents the search for key answers.

It’s also critical to know why Trump refused to release his tax returns as all other candidates have over the last forty years. Look for Mueller’s team to review Trump’s tax returns soon—if they’re not doing so now. Their examination will go way past the tasks performed by the IRS. A tax expert told me that the IRS doesn’t look for illegal activities when individuals or entities state appropriate revenues, claim reasonable deductions and pay appropriate taxes. Additionally, sources of revenue and recipients of expenses don’t draw attention. It’s all about the numbers.

Mueller’s forensic accountants and investigators will dig deep. They’ll search for sources of revenue and recipients of financial obligations not listed on Trump’s returns. They’ll seek to uncover layers of shell companies to find the real people and organizations behind Trump’s business dealings.

When Mueller and his staff reach conclusions, they’ll know if Trump sought to enable Russians to profit from equity positions in some of his projects and to collect on large debts he owes Russian banks, oligarchs and mobsters. The truth is out there. To find it, Mueller will follow the money.

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MARATHON IN 9.58

How fast do news stories change? Last night, I had a draft of this post ready to go. It included comments about the Boston Marathon bombings. This morning, I had to start over.

I had written: “You can imagine a number of likely suspects, foreign and domestic, in general terms, but the investigation demands time to examine all the details. While CNN and other TV networks sprint towards breaking news, the FBI and other involved agencies must run a marathon of their own.”

Well, the FBI seems to have run a marathon in 9.58 seconds—the world record for 100 meters set by Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in 2009. They found and identified the remains of the bombs. They identified suspects from security videos then came up with faces and finally, names. As you doubtless know, The two suspects—brothers and ethnic Chechens—are believed to have held up a 7-Eleven store in Cambridge, murdered a school policeman at MIT and hijacked a Mercedes.

The elder, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was shot by police in Watertown and died at Beth Israel Hospital. Law enforcement personnel are looking for the younger, Dzhokhar Tarnaev, 19, who survived the shootout. He may be captured or killed by the time you read this.

Yet the marathon metaphor remains apt. If law enforcement authorities will have one run sprint, they’ll have to run another to answer important questions. Why did the brothers engage in this act of terrorism? Should anyone have picked up signals? Did they act alone? And can we expect copycat attempts from sick individuals seeking public exposure through such acts?

Okay, the Feds run a second sprint. But then the finish line moves again. How do we tighten security to make terrorist activities harder to plot and carry out? Do cities widen the use of video cameras? Do we form a National Video Association, inspired by the National Rifle Association, to encourage citizens to video every aspect of their lives should something go wrong?

Still, the tape keeps moving no matter how fast we run. Technology gives incredible power to police and security agencies. It enabled the FBI to make connections at seeming light speed. As KCBS Radio’s political analyst Marc Sandalow mentioned this morning, does this make us feel comfortable—or threatened? Where is the balance point between security and privacy? Does one exist at all?

Finally, how do we create a world in which we prevent the causes of terrorism? How do we reconcile Western ideas of peace and freedom with countless nations and peoples who don’t share our worldview and engage in violence that kills more people daily than died in Boston?

I conclude that life is one sprint after another—a marathon. The Talmud instructs that we must try to improve the world even if we can’t achieve that goal. Events of this week remind us that the finish line is a long way off. Yet decency demands that we put one foot in front of the other, mile after mile after mile.

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Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at davidperlstein.com. SAN CAFÉ is available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.