Not to repeat myself, but everything about this administration*—how it got to where it is, and how it's operating now that it's there—is an open sewer. This, now, from Bloomberg via Vanity Fair:
Bloomberg reported Wednesday on a conversation Trump had in the latter half of 2017 with then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in which Trump reportedly asked Tillerson to help him persuade the Justice Department to drop its criminal case against Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader—and client of Rudy Giuliani. Tillerson refused the request and immediately recounted it outside to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly, “emphasizing that the request would be illegal.”
First of all, any scandal involving an "Iranian-Turkish gold trader" is so Le Carré as to compel attention. You can smell patchouli and rich tobacco, taste strong coffee, and hear the low hum of ceiling fans behind everything in the story. Second, did these people put a help-wanted ad in International Grifters Monthly?
But Trump's involvement with Zarrab's case specifically also raises new questions. Zarrab was arrested in 2016 on a family trip to Walt Disney World for evading U.S. sanctions against Iran, with former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara writing that Zarrab had “facilitated millions of dollars-worth of transactions on behalf of Iran . . . through a global network of companies located in Turkey and the United Arab Emirrates.” Beyond that, Zarrab also had ties to the Turkish government, and, Bharara noted, was “engaged in a massive bribery scheme . . . paying cabinet-level [Turkish] governmental officials and high-level bank officers tens of millions of Euro and U.S. dollars” to facilitate his transactions. Zarrab's case was a priority for Erdogan, who, while not directly implicated in the sanctions evasion, was tangentially linked to the corruption.
The Turkish president lobbied Obama administration officials, including President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, for the trader's release, and the New York Times noted in 2017 that his officials mounted a campaign casting the case as “a conspiracy against Turkey” when it eventually went to trial. While the efforts to secure Zarrab's release were ultimately unsuccessful, Zarrab ended up taking a plea deal in November 2017—and was speculated to be cooperating with Robert Mueller's team in their investigation of Michael Flynn and his relationship with Erdogan.
When people talk about how the House is narrowly focused on something called the Ukraine scandal, they're being coy. This thing leads everywhere. It's the lid that used to be on the open sewer that's been pried loose at last.
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