Editorial: Trump’s distractions, Browder’s testimony and Putin’s kleptocracy

If you missed the Senate testimony by financier Bill Browder on July 27 about how Russian operatives use American “enablers to achieve major foreign policy goals without disclosing those interests,” you’re not alone.
On July 26, the date Browder was originally scheduled to testify, Trump seemingly blurted out of nowhere on Twitter that transgender people would not be able to serve “in any capacity” in the military. That caused the expected outcry, the press jumped all over the story, and Browder’s testimony was postponed to the next day when ex-White House Communications Director Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci grabbed headlines with a expletive-ridden interview with the New Yorker, again burying all other news for the next 24-hour cycle.
Browder’s testimony, it turns out, was worthy of front-page headlines as well as the lead story on every broadcast channel. Instead, Trump’s distractions worked and the story largely slipped past most readers’ attention. But print lasts, and as his testimony was part of the Senate record, it’s there for everyone to read. It’s a fascinating look into Putin’s Russia and the kleptocracy that nation has become, all told in the first-person and worthy of a best-selling crime-thriller.
Importantly, Browder’s testimony also explains why Putin is so intent on meddling in U.S. affairs. Turns out, back in 2012, Congress passed the Magnitsky Act and President Obama signed it into law, targeting Russian human rights abusers by barring them from America and freezing their financial assets. The act gets its name from Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer employed by Browder and his company and who, Browder testified, was murdered by Putin’s forces. Browder, an English resident, was a successful businessman operating in Russia and, at one time, was on friendly terms with Putin. That all changed when he and Magnitsky uncovered evidence of a $230 million corruption scandal. The two turned the evidence over to Russian authorities, expecting the “good guys” to step forward and put the “bad guys” in jail, but Putin, allegedly, was a beneficiary and the tables were turned on Magnitsky and Browder.
Browder escaped; Magnitsky didn’t, but not before hours, weeks and months of investigation exposed how Putin, now one of the richest men in the world, gained such wealth by appropriating funds from the Russian government and demanding paybacks from Russia’s oligarchs. In recent years, Russia has tried several times to weaken the Magnitsky Act, or kill it all-together, because it threatens Putin’s hold over the oligarchs and his personal money that might be held in deposits overseas.
That President Trump could be caught up in the midst of Putin’s lawlessness is of no surprise, and Browder’s testimony lends even greater credence to that probability.
All of which cycles back to this: Does Trump really care if transgender people serve in the military? Hardly. Does he care whether the Mooch caused a scene with such unseemly profanity about others on his team? What do you think?
But does he care whether Browder’s story made front-page news? Apparently so. If you missed it, it’s not too late to gain Browder’s insight. We link to the Atlantic, July 25 issue, where they reprint Browder’s testimony. Check it out at http://tinyurl.com/yagtadwh.
Angelo Lynn

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