The Innocent Explanation, Part #1
by Josh Marshall // TPM
The simplest explanation isn't necessarily the right one. But in the spirit of Occam's Razor, we should prefer it because it usually will be. To state the key point for clarity and emphasis, it is not the simplest explanation. It it is the simplest explanation which accounts for all the known facts. That distinction makes all the difference in the world.
With this prologue and with the above in mind, here is what I would call the innocent explanation of the Trump/Russia story. I don't think it is necessarily the true story. Or, to put it more precisely, I don't think it is necessarily the whole story. But I think it accounts for most of the what we know so far.
1. In the late 90s and early aughts, Donald Trump ran out of lenders. A string of bankruptcies on top of numerous ventures where he walked away unscathed and lenders lost their shirts convinced every major US bank to stop lending to him. The only exception is DeutscheBank, which of course is not a US bank. This put Trump's whole family business under great strain. In response he increasingly took capital from abroad, especially from Russia and other post-Soviet successor states. Whether this was the influence of lawyer Michael Cohen or his almost decade long business partnership with Felix Sater and his coterie doesn't really matter for present purposes. It did happen. None of this is speculation. All of this happened. What we don't know is quite the degree of his dependence on money from the former Soviet Union, both for investment capital and for the purchase the numerous apartment units which make up his ubiquitous high-rises. None of this is illegal or wrong. Foreign capital is pervasive in the New York City area real estate market.
2. Trump gets into this world. He associates with these people. He starts thinking like they do. Perhaps along the way, people in this murky Russian world where oligarchs and mafiosos and legitimate businesspeople are hard to differentiate and perhaps not really different at all, find out about his dirty laundry. Nothing extravagant like sex tapes. Just the more garden variety stuff business associates find out about each other from long association. We know Trump is highly secretive. His myriad partners and investors likely know a lot of those secrets. Consider the example of Felix Sater I wrote about today: there are probably a lot of secrets.
3: One thing I think we've learned about Trump over the last almost two years is that what's helpful to Trump is good. People who are helpful to Trump are also good. In fact, they're the best people. Things that aren't helpful to Trump are bad. Things that threaten Trump are especially bad. Trump is highly malleable in his thinking and he doesn't do detail. From watching him casually for decades and intensively for almost two years, it seems clear to me that, in his mind, what Donald Trump thinks is right. Not just right but the rightest. We probably all think this about our deeply ingrained beliefs. It's almost a tautology. But for Trump I don't think it matters whether it's deeply ingrained or just something that seemed convenient to say for some situational purpose or provided some momentary advantage the day before. The key point is that it's not that Donald Trump thinks the right things. Whatever he thinks or says is by definition right. What's good for Donald Trump is not just right but obviously right. And vice versa.