With President Barack Obama publicly acknowledging in his last news conference of the year that Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee to impact the election, and evidence from the CIA backing him up, the question on everyone’s mind (aside from whether the hacking caused Hillary Clinton to lose) is the extent of Donald Trump’s ties with the Kremlin. Exactly how deep do those ties go? Sure, Trump incited Russia to hack Clinton’s emails on television and sure, he’s talked about having a man crush on Vladimir Putin. He was even named an honorary Cossack in Russia’s military. But are those substantial enough to mean anything—especially when espionage is on the table? Let’s examine the evidence, which amount to some disconcerting and suspiciously creepy connections between Trump and Putin.


REX TILLERSON
The Exxon Mobil CEO has been handling his biz in many countries, including Russia, where he was given a friendship medal for drilling massive amounts of oil. Putin personally attended the signing of a deal in which Tillerson invested billions of dollars in the Russian oil company Rosneft, which is largely owned by the Russian government.

Tillerson is set to retire next year but will remain tied to $218 million worth of shares in Exxon. Recently Obama punched the Exxon-Russia deal in the face with sanctions, which has halted its growth, but the future Secretary of State has the power to undo all of that. If sanctions are lifted, this investement will be the biggest deal in history at $500 billion dollars. Yes, that’s with a big fat B, worth more than Queen Bey. The deal is so big in fact that Putin would be guaranteed authoritarian power for…well, ever. To put it into context, the potential Time Warner-ATT merger is worth a measly $45 billion.

Can Tillerson separate his personal advancements, and those of Russia, from domestic interests? Trump’s favorite non-war hero John McCain doesn’t think so, and told CBS News that Tillerson’s relationships would color his approach to the Russian threat. Marc Rubio was much more vocal and wasn’t shy to tweet about it either.

On the other hand, having a relationship can prove diplomatic, which is why PEOTUS picked this guy. After all, Obama did make peace with frenemies Cuba and Iran during his terms. Kellyanne Conway told Good Morning America, “It’s not like he’s pounding down vodka with Vladimir Putin at the local bar, but he’s dealt with him in a business context.” That’s what she said. But, ahem, excuse me, while I go buy some Exxon stocks.

On another note, there is concern from environmental groups that Exxon has been deceiving the public about global warming for decades. I guess Trump was wrong about the Chinese inventing it.


TEAM TRUMP MAKES RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN
There have been as many ties between Russia and Trump’s teams, both transition and campaign, and those ties are as outrageous as Trump’s tweets. No joke. First there’s Sergei A. Ryabkov, who told Interfax News Agency that there had been many contacts with campaign aides during the election and that officials in the Russian Foreign Ministry knew members of Trump’s team personally.

There’s also the fact that Lt. Gen Michael Flynn, an adviser to Trump, sat cozily next to Putin during a dinner in Moscow while attending a gala for a Russian TV network. Flynn also questions whether the 2013 sarin gas attacks in Syria were done by Bashar al-Assad (aka Putin’s BFF), even though NATO, the Obama Administration and many other governments have pointed the finger directly at al-Assad.

Finally, Paul Manafort, a former campaign chairman to Trump, happens to be an ex-consultant to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Yes, the same Ukraine whose Crimea has been occupied by Putin’s forces, caused U.S. Sanctions and intensified U.S.-Russia relations. Trump has since said he would “look into” lifting those sanctions. And Manafort has received a total of $12.7 million dollars (illegally) from Russian oligarchs.


WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, FOLLOW THE MONEY
Trump has refused to release his tax statements, and many believe it’s because of a dirty little secret (that is not so secret). After filing multiple bankruptcies, U.S. banks flat out refused to lend him any more money. So he went to bed with Bayrock, a Russian financier founded by Tevfik Arif.

Bayrock bankrolled properties slapped with the Trump name in Florida, Phoenix, New York City, as well as global projects. Trump Soho, financed by Bayrock, faced a lawsuit that stated the core of the company was in money laundering and tax evasion. Mo money, mo problems.

According to a Times report, that was just the beginning of the Russian love affair. Soon, Trump began talks with Sapir Organization, whose founder hailed from former Soviet republic of Georgia, and FL Company, an Icelandic firm favored by Putin. Then he partnered with Talon, a Canadian-Russian enterprise. Trump was going bonkers with Russian moolah and building an empire.

Russians weren’t just financing his properties—they were also staying at them. Donald Trump Jr., even said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Will the real Trump Shady please stand up? Who still doubts that Trump and Putin are frenemies? I’m pretty sure there was a fist bump between them in some basement somewhere after the election was over. After all, Russia did cheer wildly for Trump. Our PEOTUS may not have a business inside of Russia, but his connections to the Kremlin are more than coincidental.


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