May 25, 2022

The chilling truth about the Russian oligarch in Trump-Cohen pay-to-play scandal just got revealed

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In his rush to monetize his relationship with president Donald Trump after his 2017 inauguration, Michael Cohen either ignored or didn’t bother to research the background at least one of his new clients, Russian oligarch and Putin pal Viktor Vekselberg, who is alleged to have paid Trump’s personal lawyer at least $500,000 for services  still being examined by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and other investigators. 

If Cohen bothered to do a Google search, he would have found a 2014 article written by a Boston FBI agent warning that Vekselberg and a foundation he had created in the U.S. were actually a front for the Russian government intelligence services which were intent on pirating critical, classified, cutting-edge research and technology from American businesses and the U.S. government.

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“When the FBI observed a new pattern of Russian government-funded businesses increasing their footprint in Boston and Silicon Valley by seeking joint ventures with U.S. companies and academic institutions, its analysts and agents reviewed the pattern to discern the factors and motivations behind their sudden emergence,” wrote FBI Special Agent Lucia M. Ziobro in a warning published in the Boston Business Journal in April 2014. 

.”It was determined that the partnerships were primarily promoted by the Skolkovo Foundation, founded by (then) Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in 2010,” continued Zibro.

Medvedev is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who served as president for one term because Putin was prohibited from running again at that time by term limits. Putin served as his Prime Minister and then returned to being president at the first opportunity to run again.

“The Foundation may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research, development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial applications.”

While Medvedev founded The Skolkovo Foundation at a time President Obama was trying to “reset” the U.S. relationship with Russia, it’s president and guiding force was Vekselberg, who had become one of Russia’s richest men after the Soviet Union was privatized and he acquired extensive oil and gas interests.

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Medvedev and Vekselberg were at the time creating a version of Silicon Valley in just outside of Moscow known as “innovation city” as a place to incubate, develop and put to use the newest technologies, “including biotechnology, nanotechnology, new materials and sophisticated micro-electronics.” according to a report by NPR.

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In autumn 2013, the Foundation signed a contract with Ojsc Kamaz, a Russian defense contractor that supplies the Russian military with armed and armored vehicles, and was at the time preparing to deliver 100 all-terrain transport vehicles for use by Russian strategic missile troops.

Under the agreement, Kamaz established a center in Russia’s “innovation city” where it would use technology from the U.S. gathered by the Foundation from U.S. partners to make better military equipment for the Russian armed forces. 

The U.S. honeymoon with the new Democratic Russia came crashing to a sudden end in the spring of 2014 when the Russians invaded, seized and annexed Crimea.

That was when Ziobro wrote her warning article as part of an FBI effort to put U.S. industry on alert about this dire threat.

“The foundation may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research, development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial applications,” wrote Ziobro, adding: “This analysis is supported by reports coming out of Russia itself.”

That’s not all that was coming out of Russia.

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The Foundation also had a history of corruption in its homeland that meant any American company doing business with The Skolkovo Foundation would be in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“In November 2013, the Russian Federation’s Accounts Chamber fined over 200 managers and senior employees at the Skolkovo Foundation after an investigation of the Foundation’s use of government funds,” wrote Ziobro.

“The fines followed criminal charges against the Foundation’s executives for the misuse and embezzlement of $1.5 million through various schemes,” added Ziobro.

Ironically, the FBI’s then-new effort to provide American business with intelligence on the sneak attack by Russians seeking to steal technology and other cutting-edge methodology was spearheaded by the agency’s director at the time, James Comey. 

“Since 9/11,” wrote Ziobro, “the FBI advocates intelligence-led policing which aims to detect and deter crimes before they are committed by anticipating crime trends through sound analysis.”

Of course, Comey was eventually fired by the president based on Trumped up charges that were designed to cover up efforts to pervert the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion by Trump and his campaign,

Now we also know that Trump’s lawyer was apparently selling information about the president and possibly access to Trump to Vekselberg and others.

Whether the dealings with Vekselberg were part of the on-going collusion with Russia will be up to Mueller to investigate, but the fact Cohn took him on as a client shows his poor judgment and considering the FBI warning, blatant disregard for the law. 

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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