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Trump’s Law Firm and Russia

Trump RussiaIt has gotten to the point where it is incredibly hard to know when one is reading satire and one is reading fact.  So, when I saw a tweet last night that claimed Trump’s law firm won an award as “Russia Law Firm of the Year” I thought, surely that can’t be true.

And yet, it is.  From the firm’s (Morgan Lewis) own web site last year:  Chambers & Partners Names Morgan Lewis as Russia Law Firm of the Year:

Morgan Lewis’s Moscow office provides full-service business representation for clients, including advice on corporate and finance matters; mergers and acquisitions; transactional finance; litigation and international arbitration; energy and natural resources projects; real estate property transactions; labor and employment issues; immigration; and a wide range of regulatory matters. The Moscow team includes seasoned lawyers and specialists with experience throughout the region, including in Kazakhstan (working with Morgan Lewis colleagues in Almaty and Astana) and other countries of the former Soviet Union, including in the Central Asia and Caspian regions.

See ABC News:  Donald Trump’s tax law firm has ‘deep’ ties to Russia

This is the firm Trump relied on this week to claim that he had no significant ties to Russia (via the NYT): Trump Lawyers Say He Had No Russian Income or Debt, With Some Exceptions:

President Trump’s lawyers say his income tax returns do not show income from Russian sources or debt owed to Russians, with the exception of $95 million paid by a Russian billionaire for a Trump-owned estate in Florida and $12.2 million in payments in connection with holding the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.

The statements are contained in a letter from two lawyers, Sheri A. Dillon and William F. Nelson, to Mr. Trump, which the White House released Friday. The president cited the letter in an interview with Lester Holt of NBC News, amid a political firestorm over his firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, as proof that there were no hidden financial ties between Mr. Trump and Russia.

[…]

The lawyers noted that their statement covers only the period dating back a decade, after their firm, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, began representing Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization. It leaves other questions unanswered, including whether Mr. Trump or his firms received Russian income or loans from entities registered elsewhere or whether he derived income from Russian-linked partnerships that file their own returns.

Moreover:

“This is an artfully written letter, covering a limited time period,” said David Cay Johnston, an expert on taxes and a former New York Times reporter who has written extensively about Mr. Trump. “Much of what we need to know about Trump and Russian money — and that includes money from Kazakhstan, Turkey and other places where Russian oligarchs operate — involves transactions prior to 10 years ago.”

[…]

Some tax-law experts questioned key parts of the letter, including how the lawyers defined “Russian” sources and lenders. Major companies in Russia frequently use subsidiaries in other jurisdictions, like Cyprus, the Netherlands or the British Virgin Islands, to conduct overseas business. Moreover, it was unclear what the lawyers meant by asserting that the tax returns did not “reflect” any income from Russian sources.

The letter also restricts itself to income on Mr. Trump’s returns, with no exploration of underlying transactions of other entities that file their own returns, such as partnerships.

Now, I fully understand that the fact the firm in question has ties to Russia proves nothing, but it is incredible that everywhere we turn there are ties between Trump associates and Russia at the same tie Mr. Trump himself claims that there are no ties.

Speaking of those ties, I would recommend this editorial, which provides a good list:  The Trump-Russia Nexus.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Hal10000 says:

    Snopes was on this. It’s a big firm based in the US that does business in many countries. The award was from some industry mag. I’m not seeing that this means anything.

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  2. @Hal10000: I realize all of that that, but I don’t think it changes anything in the post above.

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  3. JohnMcC says:

    Well, all that sounds pretty awful. But at least we didn’t elect that candidate with all those emails and stuff. And if that’s what it takes to make America great again…..

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Gustopher says:

    There’s no way this is a coincidence, it’s just too perfect. Either Trump or someone near him chose this firm just to troll America — which is actually kind of awesome.

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  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Maybe we could have an election where we’re not left trying to decide which of the two candidates with long histories of shady ethics is the least shady. I know, crazy idea.

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  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Hal10000:
    One Russian connection is nothing. Two connections are a coincidence. Three is a troubling coincidence. Four is no longer a coincidence. Five stinks of conspiracy. Six is prima facie evidence of a conspiracy.

    This is number seven.

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  7. Mikey says:

    @Stormy Dragon: As if the answer to that isn’t obvious in about five seconds.

    And even if they were equally shady in their ethics, only one is an ignorant yet obscenely narcissistic racist xenophobic authoritarian without the slightest respect for the Constitution, or any real knowledge of the government it establishes.

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  8. @michael reynolds:

    This is number seven.

    At least.

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    But yet many thinking Republicans will take each instance individually, see if there is any way it can be interpret innocently, and insist we have to accept those fantasies as fact unless we have hard evidence. They will not even register the fact that Trump and the Republican leadership are doing everything they can to squash a meaningful investigation.

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  10. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “Maybe we could have an election where we’re not left trying to decide which of the two candidates with long histories of shady ethics is the least shady.”

    If you couldn’t tell which of these two candidates was the shadier, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Or to drive, for that matter.

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  11. Gustopher says:

    It has gotten to the point where it is incredibly hard to know when one is reading satire and one is reading fact.

    Everything with Trump and Russia been so ridiculous and over the top that it just doesn’t seem plausible. I know the most obvious explanation is that they are trying to cover things up and they’re really bad at it, but it really buggers belief that they are so brazenly and staggeringly incompetent. If this was a movie, I would have turned it off because it was too much of a charicature of stupidity and arrogance.

    I almost find it more plausible that this is some deliberate effort on Trump’s part to debase the Presidency and the United States. That, at least, would make sense.

    (Ok, I know, I looked it up, and the phrase is actually “beggars belief”, but “buggers belief” seems more correct in this instance anyway)

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  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    Trump is stupid. He has good, predatory instincts, but nothing beyond that. He’s stupid, and so stupid he doesn’t know how stupid he is. Even when he vaguely realizes he doesn’t know something he should know, he’s too lazy to educate himself.

    Trump’s gotten through life on a wave of bullshit. Because he spends his life around mediocrities and sycophants he is under the mistaken impression that he’s good at lying. But lying to some model or, say, Billy Bush, is easy. Those people want to believe you. Now Trump is lying to a much, much tougher crowd. The Washington Post is not some wanna-be trophy wife.

    Or, alternately, we may be seeing early signs of dementia.

    No matter how you slice it he is a borderline personality, inadequate, insecure, incapable of human empathy. Utterly unprepared for the presidency.

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  13. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I don’t know about the dementia. He’s always been like this, as far as I can tell. The pressure he’s under may exaggerate it.

    He literally has no idea of what a president is supposed to do, or of how to behave, and has no capacity to learn..

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  14. Ratufa says:

    And we can add this to the evidence for the “trolling”: theory:

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/14/528313080/north-korea-launches-missile-trump-speculates-on-russia-response

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    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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