Trump’s Law Firm and Russia
Everywhere one turns, it seems, there's Russia.
It 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.
“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.