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Russian Collusion: Kushner-Associated Corp Linked to Oil Giant Gazprom in Gaining Monetary Leverage Over Facebook and Twitter

Evidence of harmful collusion and conflict of interest damaging to the United States related to the Trump Campaign and its associates has now grown beyond the scope of any of our deepest fears.

Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort has been charged with conspiracy against the U.S. His top aid Gates faces similar criminal charges. Trump Adviser George Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to the FBI for lying about his contacts with Russia. Carter Page’s 243 page House Intelligence Committee testimony and related documents show more links and apparent coordination between Trump campaign people and top officials in the Russian government in the U.S. 2016 election.

With more indictments likely on the way from Mueller there can be little doubt that the present scandal surrounding Trump and Russia is unprecedented in U.S. history. That evidence of the Russia-related influence over Trump campaign members is deep, pervasive, and on numerous occasions rises to the level, not just of alleged and proven criminality, but of firm allegations of some of the worst, most disloyal, crimes a U.S. citizen can commit during peacetime.

We often describe such crimes and allegations as ‘white collar.’ The comparison is unfortunate, because the term white is often associated with purity. There is, however, nothing pure about such acts as they tend to produce more collateral damage on a systemic level than even the worst ‘normal’ crimes.

Facebook, Twitter, and Kushner Targeted by Investments From Russian Oil Giant

And it is here that we come, at last, to new allegations based on a German news dump known as the Paradise Papers. The dump, which includes a mass of documents describing the shady dealings involved in the world’s off-shore tax havens, has created a media firestorm. It has also revealed yet more ties between top Trump campaign and administration officials and Russia. Ties related to increasing evidence of Trump-Russia linked attempts to influence U.S. media, corporations and their holders during the period leading up to and including the 2016 election.

Money from Russian state subsidized oil and gas giant Gazprom and Investment Bank VTB funneled through Yuri Milner controlled companies DST USA II and DST Investments 3 to ultimately form investments in Facebook, Twitter. Milner also used personal money to invest in a real estate company co-owned by Jared Kushner called Cadre. According to a recent report in The Guardian, Milner, used these Russia-backed investment vehicles to then purchase 78 million shares of Facebook in 2011, to invest 191 million dollars in Twitter during the same year. He also spent 850,000 dollars for a stake in Kushner-backed Cadre just prior to the election in 2015.

Who is Yuri Milner? According to The Guardian:

Milner once advised the Russian government on technology through a presidential commission chaired by Dmitry Medvedev, the former president and current prime minister. Now based in California’s Silicon Valley, Milner has invested $7bn in more than 30 online companies including Airbnb, Spotify and the Chinese retailers Alibaba and JD.com (emphasis added).

Motives for Meddling

These investments by both Russia and Milner are material to present Trump-Russia collusion and Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 election in a number of ways.

First, the social media investments in Twitter and Facebook amounted to a roughly 10 percent stake in these giants. Though not controlling stakes, such a high level of investment typically buys a considerable amount of influence through financial leverage. In addition, it is well established at this time that Russian agents produced numerous bot accounts and ads through these media giants during election time. With at least 126 million people being reached by Russian based misinformation from Facebook alone.

From Fortune on October 31:

Representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google are set to face hostile questions from Congress about how Russia used their platforms to influence U.S. politics. The problem of unfriendly foreign powers spreading propaganda is not new. It has happened for centuries.

What is new, however, is the reach of the Internet and modern social networks and the speed with which they can launch and propagate misinformation campaigns. This duo has made it easy to spread misinformation and target specific communities with detail that was previously unimaginable.

Tech companies have denied this is happening while happily raking in huge profits from the misuse of their platforms. Only in the past week did Twitter agree to ban ads from state-sponsored Russian news sites, years after government intelligence agencies and media critics called into question whether those sites were publishing outright lies.

Second, due to U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia’s oil and gas companies following the Ukraine invasion, and due to U.S. campaign finance laws, it would be illegal for Russia’s companies to invest in U.S. firms as part of an attempt to influence the U.S. election. Many have said that the Russian campaign against the U.S. 2016 elections rises to the level of an act of war.

Third, Russia’s investment in Cadre through Milner looks a lot like just one more part of a much larger apparent effort by Russia to gain influence over the Trump Campaign. The investment in Cadre was, thus, substantial enough to put Milner on Kushner’s radar. Furthermore, it is notable that Kushner, at first, failed to disclose his investment interest in Cadre to the U.S. government when initially signing on with the Trump Administration in January of 2017.

Milner denies any political rationale for his investments. However, his role in moving Russia-based funds into Facebook, Twitter, and Cadre has been made clear in the recent Paradise Papers dump.

Russia itself had considerable motive to support and influence the Trump Campaign. Manafort’s pro-Russian lobbying efforts ultimately failed and U.S. sanctions following the Ukraine invasion put a major damper on Russian oil and gas production expansion efforts. Exxon, whose former CEO is now Trump’s Secretary of State, was barred from cooperating with Russian oil companies in the Arctic (please also see Exxon fined for violating Russian sanctions). And related efforts by the Obama Administration to enhance responses to climate change called into question the need for new Russian oil and gas in the first place. Hillary Clinton’s moves to support Obama’s climate change policies and to further solidify American policy resolve against Russian aggression adds further economic and political motivation for Russian meddling in support of Trump.

So the massive investments by Milner and Gazprom-linked firms in both social media and in Kushner-backed Cadre should be viewed in this larger energy, climate, and geopolitical policy context.

(UPDATED)

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