The Trump Presidency: Oligarchs, Billionaires, Corporations, and Porn Stars

(Cheriss May/Sipa USA via AP Images)

Donald Trump on April 3, 2018, at the White House

If you think the point of the Trump presidency is hatred of women and people who are not white, I couldn’t blame you. The evidence appears to be ample. Just this week we heard Attorney General Jeff Sessions promise to take away the children of refugees fleeing violence in Central America who cross into the United States to seek asylum. Put mothers in detention and take away their babies. Hard to find a case more demonstrative of performative hatred.

But the hate is not the point of this presidency. It’s a tool for protecting the massive looting of the public commons currently under way, and most importantly, the shady network of Russian oligarchs, U.S. billionaires, Kremlin cronies, hapless lawyers, and privately held corporations that brought Donald J. Trump to power. The U.S. billionaires and privately held corporations are in it for the looting. Some publicly traded Fortune 500 companies are along for the ride. The Kremlin and its oligarchs are in it for the chaos Trump has wreaked upon Russia’s geopolitical foe, the United States of America.

And the Republican Congress not only knows on which side its bread is buttered; its members know who’s doing the buttering. That would be the U.S. billionaires and privately-held corporations invested in Trump’s Plunder Project™.

On April 27, the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee released a report that basically said, yeah, the Trump campaign had contacts with some Russians. So what? No evidence of collusion. And, by the way, the FBI sucks for having collected potential evidence of a possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and agents of a foreign government.

But despite the best efforts of the House Intelligence Committee, led by its sycophantic chairman, Devin Nunes, each day brings new revelations that suggest conspiratorial relationships between Russian oligarchs and the president’s closest associates. And you don’t get to be an oligarch in Russia without the approval of the Kremlin’s top dog, the authoritarian Vladimir Putin.

Just yesterday, we learned that attorney Michael Cohen, known as Trump’s fixer, was more than a conduit for payoffs to potentially troubling women. In exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement, adult-film auteur Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a tryst with Trump in 2006, received $130,000 from Essential Consultants, the limited liability company set up by Cohen as a vehicle for funneling hush money. The deal with Daniels took place just days before the 2016 presidential election.

But Essential Consultants wasn’t just in the business of paying off adult-film stars and Playboy “Playmates”; it was taking in handsome sums of money from interests wishing to influence the Trump administration, such as $500,000 from an American company linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Other contributors to Cohen’s fortunes include AT&T, which was seeking approval for a merger with Time-Warner, and the drug company Novartis.

The New York Times reviewed financial records that jibe with revelations of Essential Consultants’ business dealings by Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, who is seeking release from that non-disclosure agreement she signed. “Other transactions described in the financial records include hundreds of thousands of dollars Mr. Cohen received from Fortune 500 companies with business before the Trump administration,” wrote Times reporters Mike McIntire, Ben Protess, and Jim Rutenberg.

All of a sudden, the nonsensical, contradictory ramblings of Rudolph Giuliani, the latest addition to the ever-shifting cast of characters on the Trump legal team, kind of make sense. Giuliani’s been out on the talk-show circuit, throwing shiny objects and kicking up media interest in the apparent craziness of what passes for a legal strategy in Trumpland, while Cohen’s secret business was about to be busted in the media.

That same day, Trump made the base-pleasing, world-threatening move of abandoning the international agreement with Iran that has forestalled its acquisition of a nuclear weapon. That may have been a Russia-pleasing move as well, since it places a Russian ally in a victim posture that can be exploited by the Kremlin.

And Sessions did his hate-dance against the terrified brown people on the border, another base-pleasing move.

When the history of this era, perhaps to be known as the End of the American Illusion, is written, a great political analyst may finally be recognized, though she is often described as a comedian. Her name is Michelle Wolf.

In her much-maligned but insightful speech at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, Wolf opined: “Trump is so broke he had to borrow money from the Russians, and now he’s compromised and susceptible to blackmail, and possibly responsible for the collapse of the republic.”

If Wolf got anything wrong, it may be her use of the word “borrow.” Trump borrows nothing; he takes.

On the other hand, if the republic manages to be saved, we may have a porn star to thank for it.

Meanwhile, the world will become a more dangerous place as more revelations about the corruption that defines Trump and his associates come forth. America will be an even more dangerous place for black people, brown people, Muslims, Jews, and women of all colors and beliefs.

We’re close to reaching a tipping point. Either we continue to accept this authoritarian rule in the service of plunder, or we reject it. Mere resistance may not be enough.

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