Washington, D.C. — Donald Trump’s business practices could have provided the Kremlin and those working on its behalf with both the leverage and the means necessary to penetrate his 2016 presidential campaign, says a recently released CAP report. Given the Kremlin’s preference—determined by the U.S. intelligence community—for Trump in the 2016 election, the report analyzes how his long-standing business ties with a bevy of figures from Russia and the former Soviet Union could have been easily exploited in the context of the campaign and beyond.
The report examines three main threads:
- An oligarchy co-opted to be an extension of the Kremlin, in Russia and abroad
- A convergence of crises that sprung mutual benefits for Trump and Russia’s moneyed elite
- Patterns in Trump’s business operations that lay bare mechanisms for potential compromise
It finds that there were multiple points of contact between Trump and Kremlin-linked figures, creating plenty of opportunities to gain “kompromat”—or leverage—to be used to advance Russian’s foreign policy goals. It also identifies patterns of Trump’s business conduct that reveal a possible mechanism for punishment along with the opportunity for reward that may still exist today.
The report also analyzes how a foreign power can exploit systemic vulnerabilities—such as gaps in money laundering regulations, lack of corporate transparency, and insufficient anti-corruption measures to undermine democracies and influence elections anywhere, including in the United States. The study identifies certain domestic regulatory gaps—particularly related to corporate transparency, campaign finance disclosure, and money laundering interdiction—that pose a threat not only to the U.S. elections, but to national security as well. Vulnerabilities that allow for widespread money laundering in the U.S. create financial pathways for a foreign actor to penetrate and undermine a local system from within, including by covertly funding political campaigns or grassroots movements.
“By recognizing the role that illicit and furtive money plays in the undermining of democratic institutions, the United States should treat money laundering, conflicts of interest, and bribery as the foreign policy threats that they are,” said Diana Pilipenko, CAP’s associate director for anti-corruption and illicit finance and author of the report. “Elected officials ought to be held to a higher standard of transparency to avoid conflicts of interest that could put our national security at risk.”
Read the report: “Cracking the Shell,” by Diana Pilipenko.
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