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The views expressed by columnists are their own and not the view of The Courier.

President Donald Trump can spot a hoax, like when he recently denounced “allegations” Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to influence the midterm elections.

“In Helsinki, I had a great meeting with Putin,” Trump said. “We discussed everything. ... We got along really well. By the way, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Now we’re being hindered by the Russian hoax — it’s a hoax, OK?”

A “hoax” concocted by the nefarious Deep State — the Trump-appointed national security team: FBI Director Christopher Wray; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen; National Security Adviser John Bolton and Paul Nakasone, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command.

The claim was bogus, Trump said, because Russia was “very unhappy” he was elected.

In Helsinki, Putin didn’t agree. When asked, “Did you want President Trump to win the election, and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?” He responded, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.”

The second question wasn’t answered. Indeed, improving U.S.-Russia relations is good business for Trump and Putin, just not the rest of the world.

The New York Times reported the Trump Organization had $3.4 billion in debt in 1990 with Trump liable for $800 million. His failures then and since included the Trump Shuttle, Trump casinos, Trump Mortgage, Trump magazine, Trump Steaks, Trump board game, (travel site) and Trump Vodka.

But the Russians were coming, the Russians were coming!

Bloomberg News reported after Trump World Tower broke ground in 1998, “A third of units sold on floors 76 through 83 by 2004 involved people or limited liability companies connected to Russia and neighboring states.”

Reuters reported, “At least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida.” In 2008, Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev bought Trump’s Palm Beach mansion for $53 million more than Trump paid four years earlier.

In September 2016, Sergei Millian, head of a U.S.-Russian business group who claimed to have helped market Trump U.S. condos in Russia and neighboring states, told ABC News, “The level of business amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars — what he received as a result of interaction with Russian businessmen.” But the sanctions after Russia forcibly annexed Crimea in 2014 were bad business for Putin and Trump. For Russian real estate investors, it “basically cut off their oxygen,” New York City broker Victoria Shtainer told ABC News. Their investments in New York City and Miami properties plummeted.

Candidate Trump broached a sanctions rollback, saying, “We’ll be looking at that.”

When New York bankers were loath to loan Trump money, he had Germany’s Deutsche Bank, with its ties to Russian oligarchs. In 2017, it paid $630 million in penalties for a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme.

So, if Trump wrongheadedly believes Putin over his intelligence chiefs, it’s because the Russians invested wisely in him.

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Saul Shapiro is the retired editor of The Courier, living in Cedar Falls.


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