Newly leaked financial documents reveal two new, previously-undisclosed ties between the Trump administration and Russia, implicating Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Jared Kushner. Betraying secrets of politicians worldwide, the 13 million leaked "Paradise Papers" connect the two Trump associates with offshore financial accounts.
Trump's empty and as of yet unfulfilled promise to "drain the swamp" reaches new levels of hypocrisy, as the documents show that many wealthy individuals brought into Trump's administration have gone to great lengths to store their money in offshore accounts. Though legal, these accounts are free from taxation, and thus exist at the expense of the American people. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and top White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, are both implicated in the leaked documents.
After joining the Trump administration, the New York Times reports Ross maintained offshore investments in a shipping firm with close connections to a wealthy Russian subject to U.S. sanctions, and to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law. The firm, Navigator Holdings, has a close business relationship with a Russian energy company called Sibur, which is partly owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s friend Gennady Timchenko and Putin’s son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov.
The leaked documents show Ross concealed his connections with the Russian energy company, which he did not disclose during his Capitol Hill. A spokesman for Ross made it a point to say the secretary never met with the Russians.
In a statement on Sunday, Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut characterized Ross' involvement with Navigator Holdings as a “Russian nesting doll, with blatant conflicts of interest carefully hidden within seemingly innocuous companies.”
“In concealing his interest in these shipping companies—and his ongoing financial relationship with Russian oligarchs—Secretary Ross misled me, the Senate Commerce Committee, and the American people,” said Senator Blumenthal in his statement, who has called for an investigation into the secretary and his financial dealings with Russia. On Sunday, the senator posted on Twitter:
"Why do so many Trump associates have such trouble disclosing relationships with Russia? In concealing an ongoing financial relationship w/ Russian oligarchs, Sec. Ross misled me, Senate Commerce Committee & the American people. Inexcusable and intolerable.
"Americans are owed answers on this Cabinet's troubling failure to disclose links to Russian interests. With Wilbur Ross revelations, question must be asked - whose interests come first in this Administration? Only after a thorough investigation can Americans be sure Secretary Ross really has their best interests at heart."
This is not the first time Ross has been linked to Russian financial interests. Previously in 2014, he invested millions of dollars into the Bank of Cyrus, an institution known as a haven for Russian money laundering.
To read about Kushner's newly-revealed Russian ties, please continue to page 2...
Also implicated by the Paradis Papers is White House adviser Jared Kushner. The Guardian reports that Russia funded Facebook and Twitter investments through an associate of Kushner, Yuri Milner, who holds a financial stake in a start-up company co-owned by Kushner. Milner invested $850,000 in the real-estate tech company Cadre, which Kushner co-founded in 2014. Kushner hid this company in his initial financial disclosure when he began working for the government.
Though not previously known to be tied to the Kremlin in Russia, the Paradise Papers suggest Milner might be connected after all: Russian-backed energy company Gazprom financed a share of Facebook worth up to $1 billion, a Kremlin-owned bank invested $191 million into a Milner firm, and some of that money was then in turn invested into Twitter.
Kushner said back in July that he told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a private, closed-door meeting that he never “relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and top economic adviser Gary Cohn are also mentioned in the Paradise Papers.
Time will tell if Mueller will use these documents to further his investigation into Russia's involvement in the American government and last year's presidential election. Last Monday, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his aide Rick Gates were the first to be indicted by Mueller in his growing investigation.
The Paradise Papers mostly originate from one Bermuda-based law firm called Appleby, which set up offshore financial accounts for its clients so they could avoid paying taxes. The documents were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the same publication that obtained the “Panama Papers.”