Sit down for this, because it is going to be truly shocking news: Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump’s pick to head the commerce department has ties to Russia. I know. Crazy, right?
Ross, a wealthy business turnaround artist, has not responded to a Feb. 16 letter from six Democratic senators asking him to explain his relationship with several Russian oligarchs who hold stakes in the once-troubled foreign bank.
Ross’s involvement with the Cyprus bank adds to a list of Russia connections that have dogged Trump’s tenure in the White House. Investigations are underway by the FBI, the intelligence community and Congress into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s plot to influence the U.S. election. The president has dismissed those suggestions as a “ruse.”
The report went on to say:
“Cyprus banks have a long and painful history of laundering dirty money from Russians involved with corruption and criminality,” said Elise Bean, a former Senate investigator who specialized in combating money laundering and tax evasion. “Buying a Cyprus bank necessarily raises red flags about suspect deposits, high-risk clients and hidden activities.”
The Russian business and government elite have often sought financial security in the Mediterranean island’s banking system. Oligarch Dmitry Ryvoloviev took a nearly 10 percent stake in Bank of Cyprus in 2010. Two years earlier, amid the U.S. financial crisis when real-estate prices were softening, Ryvoloviev purchased Donald Trump’s Palm Beach mansion for $95 million. The transaction generated questions because of its inflated market price, about $60 million more than Trump had paid for the Florida property four years earlier.
When Europe’s debt crisis spread and affected Cyprus in 2012 and 2013, that nation’s second biggest bank, Laiki Bank, was closed. The government imposed losses on uninsured deposits, many belonging to Russians.
Despite these questionable ties to Russia, Ross still received bipartisan support in his confirmation hearing. Fifteen Senate Democrats and one independent senator voted to advance Ross’s nomination before the President’s Day recess, according to a Roll Call.
So now we’re at the point where we’re just going to ignore all these guys’ ties to Russia? Even independents and democrats are letting it slide? How have we gone so far off the rails so quickly.