Trump did develop extensive connections with Russian gangsters and post-Soviet politicians and businessmen. But by that time, he was already firmly entrenched in a ruling class network of control that had more or less consolidated full dominance by the early 1990s. This network included American organized crime, the American intelligence community and its partners in the American private sector, and American allies such as Israel, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. As exemplified by Team B and Rupert Mudoch’s involvement in Iran-Contra propaganda, it was concerned with projecting its covert activities onto the USSR through the manufacturing of what would today be called “fake news” under false pretenses and dubious research methods.
Indeed, this American network was responsible for figures such as Roger Stone, who would become imperative to the Trump campaign, and for the “New Right” in general, whose rhetoric, moral philosophy, and obsession with “fighting communism” is indistinguishable from the “Alt-Right” that Trump supposedly “unleashed” and which was apparently invented by Putin. In this installment, I’d like to point out how not only Trump, but also several members of his administration emerged from this network.I will begin by analyzing two of the more notable members of his cabinet, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.
After serving in the Navy as an engineer and then a commander, Bannon attended Georgetown University in Washington DC to obtain a degree in National Security Studies. While at Georgetown, Bannon worked a sidegig at the Pentagon; “special assistant” to Reagan’s Chief of Naval Operations. Bannon’s boss at the Pentagon, Captain J. Arnold, stated that Bannon, “knew people in the Pentagon who knew the answers when I needed answers.” Why Bannon was working under someone who apparently was less connected than him at the Pentagon is unclear. Pat McKim, Bannon’s friend and Pentagon coworker, told Fox News that Bannon had a gift for judging people’s motives and thoughts. “He could see this guy is trying to become Chief of Naval Operations,” McKim said. “I was clueless, and Steve was like he’s lobbying to become CNO…He could sense what was going on behind the scenes.” McKim also claims that Bannon told him he wanted to one day be Secretary of Defense. Further information on Bannon’s activities in the Pentagon or Navy at this time remains withheld by the Navy, supposedly due to “undisclosed issues with the service’s personnel archives.”
After leaving the military, Bannon attended Harvard Business School and spent the rest of the 1980s working as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs, where he had his first experience working for a Saudi billionaire. As the linked article points out: “An examination of Bannon’s career as an investment banker found that the Bannon of the 1980s and 1990s lived what looks like an alternate reality from the fiery populist of today…” Further bolstering Bannon’s own “deep state” credentials are numerous collaborations with Andrew Badolato, a Florida career criminal with a foot in the drug trafficking world. More importantly, however, is Bannon’s business relationship with Brock Pierce.
Former child star Brock Pierce, “co-founded the eventually infamous Digital Entertainment Network,” which, in the mid- to late ‘90s, made him an associate of an alleged sex-abuse ring. After beating this charges under dubious circumstances, Pierced gave Bannon a position in his new company, Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE). In 2006, “Bannon’s former employer, Goldman Sachs, invested $60 million in the company, and Bannon took a seat on the company’s board.” When IGE was later sold and rebranded as Affinity Media, Bannon became its CEO and remained there until 2012. Meanwhile, Pierce was cultivating a relationship with Trump’s old friend Jeffrey Epstein, with Pierce attending a 2011 conference hosted by Jeffrey Epstein called “Mindshift.” Pierce continued to meet with Epstein on a regular basis after the event. Eventually Bannon moved on to the right wing “news” website Breitbart, which was first envisioned during a trip to Israel where the site’s founder and namesake Andrew Breitbart, met personally with Netanyahu.
Speaking of Netanyahu, Jared Kushner was born to a family whose ties to the Likud Party and Israel run so deep that when Netanyahu came to visit the Kushners in the 1990s, then-teenage Jared gave up his bedroom to the Prime Minister. Funnily enough, the Kushners weren, like Trump, were supporters of the Democratic Party at this time. Until 2005, when he was imprisoned for a blackmail scheme against his brother involving Israeli intelligence agents that is beyond the scope of this essay, Charles Kushner was “one of the top Democratic donors in the country.” In fact, Charles Kushener once paid Bill Clinton $125,000 for a speech and during the 2016 election, Charles lamented that “Hillary used to call.” Even after his imprisonment, Charles continued to donate directly to Israeli organizations and individuals building illegal settlements in Palestine’s West Bank via his Kushner Foundation. David Friedman, who served as Trump’s real-estate lawyer for 15 years and was President Trump’s senior advisor on Israel affairs, is president of American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva, the leading beneficiary of Charles Kushner’s Zionist philanthropy. On his way out of the oval office, Trump pardoned Charles. Furthermore, if one is looking for potential “foreign influence” over the Trump administration, one should look no further than the extensive connections between Jared Kushner and the Saudi Royals.
There’s also the appointment of George Bush Sr.’s Attorney General, William Barr, to his cabinet. As mentioned in the previous installment of this series, Barr played a major role in killing the investigation into the Inslaw Affair and participated in other aspects of the Iran-Contra coverup. Funnily enough, Barr was aided in these endeavors by none other than Robert Mueller, now seen as a crusader for truth by Russiagate-believers in both parties after being appointed to lead the spectial investigation into “Russian interference” for the Department of Justice in 2017. In 1991, however, deputy attorney general Barr formed a task force on BCCI headed by Mueller, then-assistant attorney general, which was heavily criticized for convoluting and “bungling” its investigation into BCCI.
As Johnathan Beaty and SC Gwyne reported at the time: “Several federal attorneys and agents contend that they have been told by Justice Department officials that BCCI is a ‘political’ case and that prosecutorial and investigative decisions must be made in Washington…Others complain that applications to subpoena witnesses, suspects and records have backed up in Washington. Reporters on the BCCI story find as they interview former officers of the bank who possess critical knowledge that these people have never been contacted by law-enforcement officials.” Mueller, who was appointed by George W. Bush to head the FBI just one week before 9/11, was similarly criticized for “bungling” the Bureau’s response to numerous red flags in the run up to the attacks and downplaying the Saudi connection. This history simply disappeared for the mainstream media when Mueller was tasked with “getting Trump.” Even Muller’s ultimate failure to deliver a smoking gun connecting Trump to Russia was quickly forgotten.
Then there’s Michael Flynn, who became national security advisor for the Trump campaign and briefly served in that capacity in the administration. Despite resigning as National Security Advisor as part of the Russiagate hysteria, Flynn remained one of the most loyal spokesmen for the Trump administration, and ultimately helped shape the pro-Trump cult QAnon. While liberals clutched their pearls over Flynn’s “Russian connections”, he is very much a product of the same “establishment” national security apparatus that these liberals love to defend.
Consider Flynn’s relationship to James Woolsey, who worked as director of the CIA from 1993-1995 after years of filling various bureaucratic positions in both Democratic and Republican administrations. Upon leaving government for the private sector, Woolsey became a massively influential figure in the world of foreign policy think tanks. He was a member of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and later joined the Rumsfeld Commission, a congressional committee led by Bush Jr.’s Secretary of State which greatly exaggerated the threat of a nuclear ballistic missile strike within the United States in the 21st Century from either China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Woolsey proceeded to join the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a neocon think tank formed shortly after 9/11.
FDD was partially funded by MegaGroup members Charles and Edgar Bronfman, along with Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus, who would go on to become a top donor to the Trump campaign. The FDD also received funding from Sheldon Adelson, another crucial Trump donor. Woolsey was well qualified for this tank tank. Within hours of the September 11 attacks, he appeared on television insisting they were connected to Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. He also used the post-9/11 media environment to repeat already debunked claims that Iraq was connected to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings. Woolsey went on to join the 2004 reboot of the Committee on the Present Danger, the original neocon think tank.
Woolsey also sits on the board of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an extension of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Furthermore, in spite of Dick Cheney’s performative disdain for Trump, he and Woolsey are both on the “Strategic Advisory Board” for Genie Energy, a company headed by former Israeli minister of infrastructure Effie Eitam, who once called for an ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel’s occupied territories and for Palestinian citizens of Israel to be “removed from the political system.” Joining him and Woolsey are Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild. Genie was awarded a license by the Obama administration to drill for oil in Syria’s Golan Heights in March 2013, six months before a chemical weapons attack in Syria was unfairly blamed on the country’s president, Basher Al-Assad. The charges were used as a pretext for a campaign of airstrikes against the Syrian government and CIA support for Al-Qaeda in Syria, now known as ISIS.
As with many characters in this story, Woolsey also has deep family connections to the American bourgeoisie, in his case reaching all the way back to the colonial days. Through his ancestor, the New England settler Thomas Cornell, Woolsey is related to William Ellery (one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence), Jimmy Carter, John Kerry, Richard Nixon, and Bill Gates, among others. Thomas Cornell was also a direct ancestor to Ezra Cornell, the founder of Western Union and a co-founder of Cornell University. Thus, any “populist” institution which is not only desirous of Woolsey as a contributor but actually capable of acquiring him may in fact be just as “elitist” as the rest of “the establishment.” And wouldn’t you know it: six days after Trump’s 2016 election victory, Flynn personally offered Woolsey his old job as CIA director back!
According to Woolsey, he turned down the job “partially because I didn’t want to work for him, partially because I didn’t think the structure was set up right.” However, Woolsey didn’t mind working for the Flynn Intel Group during the bizarre and convoluted saga of Fetullah Gulen. That saga is too much to get into in detail here, but it involves two Turkish businessmen hiring the Flynn Intel Group to track down, “discredit” and possibly deport Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen, a critic of Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, who would grow quite close to the Trump White House. Indeed, while Woolsey tried hard to distance himself from this drama, he was the one who pitched a $10 million contract to the two businessmen. In spite of this and other connections between the Trump administration and the Erdogan administration, what could be called “Turkeygate” seems to have completely vanished from the public consciousness while Russiagate is taken for granted as true.
Around this time, Flynn was also preoccupied with Palantir, the surveillance software company started by Peter Thiel with Stephen Cohen and Alan Karp in 2003. Flynn “helped advance Palantir’s cause in Washington” while head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and “since leaving government, has been a behind-the-scenes advocate for the tech company.” Thiel’s initial idea for Palantir emerged when he allowed the FBI to use a similar technology that had been developed by the security team at PayPal. The FBI liked this software so much, Thiel gave them their own office at PayPal HQ in 2000.
When looking for investors for Palantir, Thiel grabbed the attention of George Tenet, the 2nd longest serving Director of Central Intelligence (the first is Allen Dulles). Convicted Iran-Contra criminal John Poindexter was also brought on board, hearing about the opportunity from Richard Perle, “an old friend from their days serving together in the Reagan administration” and a member of the Project for a New American Century: “Poindexter was precisely the person Peter Thiel and Alex Karp…wanted to meet. Their new company was similar in ambition to what Poindexter had tried to create at the Pentagon, and they wanted to pick the brain of the man now widely viewed as the godfather of modern surveillance.” After Tenet helped broker a deal between Palantir and the CIA’s venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, he and Poindexter were joined in supporting Thiel’s company by Bush Jr. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former Iraq War manager and CIA director David Petraues.
Thiel, who is usually depicted even in critical media as an “outsider” himself, became increasingly interested in politics after developing this relationship with the most stereotypical examples of “establishment” neoconservatives and military-industrial bureaucrats. He would develop one of the first major SuperPACs for Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign but, as Max Chafkin writes in his book about Thiel, the tech billionaire, “didn’t really care about helping Ron Paul get the Republican nomination. He’d found a relatively inexpensive way to try to siphon off Paul’s movement, with the ultimate goal of incorporating it into his own.” As Thiel himself said at the time, “The campaign really is for 2016. I think we’re just trying to build a libertarian base for the next cycle…” We can see that, yet again, it is not Russia that is building the momentum and opening the space for Trump, but the very “establishment” figures who would accuse Trump of being “Putin’s puppet.” Indeed, in February 2017, at the height of the Trumpmania which he’d directly contributed to, Thiel attended a conference including supposed neocon enemies of Trump and agreed with their foreign policy to a T. Bill Kristol, who was seated next to Thiel, looked quite pleased.
Furthemore, Trump himself, as we’ve demonstrated, was completely plugged into the “establishment” and was not an outsider threatening it in any sense. At the beginning of this series, I mentioned Bill Clinton’s phone call to Trump just before the 2016 race suggesting Trump take a more aggressive role in the GOP. In the next installment, I will fully contextualize the farcical narrative of Russiagate by delving deeper into the Clinton-Trump relationship, the relationship of both to Jeffrey Epstein, and the relationship of the Clinton Foundation with Russia.