Trump Surrounds Himself With Convicted Felons And Fraudsters

Donald Trump once vowed to "drain the swamp" in Washington. Instead, he's filled it with alligators and surrounded himself with unsavory characters.
Photos: Screen grabs via Twitter.

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump vowed to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Instead, he’s filled it with alligators and surrounded himself with a host of unsavory characters.

We all know about ex-Team Trumpers Michael Flynn‘s and Paul Manafort‘s shady and possibly illegal Russian ties. Is there anyone in the Trump administration who doesn’t have ties to Russia?

Likewise, Donald Trump’s ties to the mob come as no surprise. We’ve been hearing about them for decades.

What’s striking is that Donald Trump still keeps people around him who are convicted criminals, frauds, and hucksters. And why not? After all, he himself remains an unconvicted criminal, fraud, and huckster.

Donald Trump’s rogues’ gallery: You are the company you keep.

1. Ari Rinkus: The newest addition to Donald Trump’s rogue’s gallery is married to Heather Rinkus, the guest reception manager at Mar-a-Lago. While she worked for non-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in various capacities before her current job, he’s got two felony convictions under his belt: The first was for running a car-theft ring and the second for an elaborate wire fraud Ponzi scheme.

Rinkus has also been seen around Palm Beach bragging about his proximity to the so-called “Winter White House,” and told similar tales to Buzz Feed. He later called them and begged them not to run the story, but that went over like a lead balloon.

In the photo below, Ari Rinkus is second from the left and his wife stands to the right of Donald Trump.

2. Joey “No Socks” Cinque. What did Donald Trump do on New Year’s Eve? CNN reports he rang in the New Year on state with his friends, including this known mafioso and one-time friend of the late mob boss John Gotti.

Cinque was convicted in 1989 of criminal possession of stolen art, a felony. He was sentenced to “conditional discharge” in 1990, according to records provided by a New York Supreme Court clerk. CNN was told the actual indictment was destroyed in a fire.

Cinque’s made several public appearances with the Trump family, but Trump’s team claims they’re just business associates.

Here’s a photo from Club Mar-a-Lago with Ivanka Trump and Joey Cinque.

3. Michael Cohen: This long-time lawyer for the Trump family is the one who delivered that shady “peace plan” for Russia and the Ukraine to then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The plan turned out to be drawn up by Andrii Artemenko, a pro-Russia separatist politician from the Ukraine and Felix Sater, who we’ll get to next.

He’s mainly served as a go-between for Trump’s various shady deals, but he’s also been a pugnacious spokesman who made waves for threatening reporters who asked about his ex-wife Ivanka’s rape allegations with bodily harm.

4. Felix Sater: The Russian-born Felix Sater helps Donald Trump scope out business deals in Russia. The Washington Post reports he’s a rather unsavory character. He has ties to the Russian mafia, did time in prison for stabbing a man in the face with a broken margarita glass, and now awaits sentencing for a $40 million stock fraud scheme linked to the mob. He also obtained financing for Trump’s real estate deals while at Bayrock, a company that’s been tied to an (alleged!) money laundering scheme.

Now Donald Trump claims he’s never met the guy.

5. Steve Bannon: Jared Kushner’s won their turf wars and Donald Trump recently removed him from the National Security Council. But make no mistake, Trump’s top strategist is still shambling around the White House waiting for his next chance.

But here’s the thing…If you thought Bannon looks like a homeless person during the campaign, that may be because he was. Or at least he had no fixed address. In fact, he’s under “an active criminal” investigation by the Miami-Dade County state attorney’s office for voter registration fraud.

Despite the GOP’s constant howling about “voter fraud” and the need for voter ID laws, Bannon registered to vote from a house in Florida that’s now vacant. He was paying the rent for his ex-wife, but she moved out and the house was scheduled for demolition so a new development could be built there.

5. Wilbur Ross: So far Donald Trump’s secretary of commerce has not been accused of wrongdoing. Nonetheless, it looks pretty bad, and who knows what the FBI, Senate, and House investigations of Trump’s Russian ties may turn up.

Wilbur Ross served as Vice Chair of the Bank of Cyprus from 2014 until earlier this year when he resigned to take his current job.

For starters, The Guardian reports he oversaw a deal in which the bank sold its Russia-based businesses to a Russian oligarch with ties to Vladimir Putin. Artem Avetisyan, the Russian banker in question, also had ties to Sberbank, which was under sanctions by the U.S. and the E.U.

Furthermore, in 2014 Ross joined with other investors to “inject €400m into the bank.” This timed out awkwardly with Deutsche Bank getting busted in a massive money laundering scheme involving Russian oligarchs and the transfer of billions of dollars into bank accounts in countries like Cyprus, Estonia, and Latvia.

6. Jared Kushner: Last but not least, Donald Trump’s very own son-in-law may find himself in hot water. On Thursday, Rep. Ted Lieu (R-Calif.) declared that Jared Kushner had better “lawyer up.”And when a member of the House Judiciary Committee says that, he’s not fooling around.

Lieu told MSNBC’s Joy Reid:

“Kushner committed a felony by not disclosing two meetings with high profile Russians during his security clearance hearings.”

CNN reports one of the meetings was in December with Sergey Gorkov, Chairman of a state-run Russian bank that is under U.S. sanctions. The other meeting was with Russia’s ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Furthermore, The New York Times reports another scandal is brewing. It turns out the Kushner family’s business has deep financial ties to Beny Steinmetz, an Israeli businessman who was arrested and detained in Israel and is also under investigation in four countries for bribery and money laundering.

The Kushners have scrubbed all references to the Steinmetz family’s businesses from their website…Yet they’ve still functioned as the Kushner family’s secret financier for over $188 million in various real estate deals.

Now, you might say, Jared Kushner and his family’s business weren’t involved in the money laundering. But the problem is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal for Americans to do business with individuals or companies abroad who do bribes, money laundering, or other corrupt practices.

Here’s Rachel Maddow’s report on this unfolding scandal.

Featured image: Composite with screen grabs via Twitter.

About Elisabeth Parker 193 Articles
Elisabeth Parker is a writer, editor mom, news and politics junkie, and recovering web designer. “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” -- Otto von Bismarck.

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