Friday, June 9, 2017

You Should Know What VEB Is

Here's a hint--this is how you follow the money in the Russiagate scandal:

During the hearing, Sen. Angus King asked a seemingly innocuous question: “What do you know about the Russian bank VEB?” 

Comey quickly answered, “Nothing that I can talk about in an open [unclassified] setting.”

But there is quite a bit known about the Russian state-owned development bank known as VEB, short for Vnesheconobank. The bank, headed by a former intelligence officer Sergei Gorkov, is so close to the Kremlin that the U.S. government sanctioned it after Russia took over Crimea in 2014.  (“This is not a bank,” one analyst told the New York Times. “We should rather treat this bank as a government agency.)

One of the executives still listed on its website, Evgeny Buryakov, is a convicted spy who recently completed his sentence in federal prison and was promptly kicked out of the country. Buryakov’s counterparts in Russia’s foreign intelligence service, or SVR, tried to recruit Carter Page before he became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. 

Most importantly, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and top aide, privately met with Gorkov after Trump’s election.

What exactly they discussed is a matter of dispute, but Comey hinted Thursday that whatever investigators uncovered about that conversation—and about the bank—would be extremely sensitive.

I would be very curious how many mentions there are of VEB by media companies in the weeks and months ahead. These are the things that get buried in a scandal because they don't involve naughty bits and sexy secrets. It's just a bank, right? Boring! 

The Russiagate scandal is not just about a president scared to death someone actually has a sex tape full of Russian pee hookers taking stage direction from a fat guy from Queens. Everyone should know what VEB really is--a state-run organ of the Russian government, and an entity used by Russia's government and the oligarchs under Vladimir Putin's control to spread money throughout the world. 

Except here, of course, because the bank is sanctioned by our government. That didn't stop Jared Kushner from trying to connect with the people who run this bank, nor did it stop him from trying to use communications equipment from the Russian Embassy to create a "back channel" to Russia.

This is not a dead end, nor is it something that should go unnoticed. This is the mechanism by which Russia undermines Western Democracy and covers its tracks. Money greases a lot of wheels, and the Trump organization has always been the rusty, busted bicycle running on rims, desperate to gather up a few marks so it can stay afloat.

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