04 November 2020

The New Yorker: “Donald Trump’s Worst Deal”

But the Mammadov family, in addition to its reputation for corruption, has a troubling connection that any proper risk assessment should have unearthed: for years, it has been financially entangled with an Iranian family tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the ideologically driven military force. In 2008, the year that the tower was announced, Ziya Mammadov, in his role as Transportation Minister, awarded a series of multimillion-dollar contracts to Azarpassillo, an Iranian construction company. Keyumars Darvishi, its chairman, fought in the Iran-Iraq War. After the war, he became the head of Raman, an Iranian construction firm that is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. The U.S. government has regularly accused the Guard of criminal activity, including drug trafficking, sponsoring terrorism abroad, and money laundering.

Alan Garten told me that the Trump Organization checks to see if potential Trump partners are on “watch lists and sanctions lists”, and that the company knew nothing of Ziya Mammadov’s relationship to the Darvishis until 2015, when it learned that “certain principals associated with the developer may have had some association with some problematic entities”. And yet, by that point, the U.S. Embassy cables had been online for four years. Garten insisted that the Trump Organization still has no idea if the association between the Mammadovs and the Darvishis is real, or if it’s simply an allegation “spread by the media”. I recently spoke with Allison Melia, who until 2015 was one of the C.I.A.’s lead analysts of Iran’s economy; she now works for the Crumpton Group, a strategic advisory firm whose services include conducting due diligence for companies. She told me that her team could have compiled a dossier on the Mammadovs and their connection to the Revolutionary Guard in “a couple of days”. She said that any reputable investigative firm conducting a risk assessment would have advised a U.S. company to avoid a deal with a family connected to the Revolutionary Guard.

Adam Davidson

Another older article, going back to the beginning of Donald Trump’s mandate as US President. It was mentioned together with the detailed profiles of Gen. Suleimani to draw attention to the potential connections between Trump – the businessman – and Iran, and how these financial deals could influence his decisions as President. To me, most of this reporting sounded circumstantial at best – after all, Trump does many of his shady deals in this gray area of plausible deniability.

If this investigation has any significance, it is rather another reflection of the insufficient accountability and enforcement in the American justice system. To put it more clearly, the rich and powerful can constantly get away with bending the legal system, either because people look away for fear of retribution or because they can use their wealth to stall and obstruct legal proceedings for years. Donald Trump, who has maneuvered himself into the most powerful public office in the country, has repeatedly done that, both before and after becoming President: from his dubious real estate transactions through Deutsche Bank, which may involve a US Supreme Court Justice, to the long delayed legal fight over his tax returns, to the failed Mueller investigation.

And Mueller? He was incapable of navigating the world remade by Trump. He conducted himself with scrupulous integrity and allowed his team to be intimidated by people who had no scruples at all. His deep aversion to publicity silenced him when the public badly needed clarity about the special counsel’s dense, ambiguous, at times unreadable report. His sense of fairness surrendered the facts of presidential criminality to an administration that was at war with facts. He trusted his friend Barr to play it straight, not realizing that Barr had gone crooked. He left the job of holding the president accountable to a Congress that had shown itself to be Trump’s willing accomplice. He wanted, above all, to warn the American people about foreign subversion of our democracy, while the greater subversion gathered force here at home.

In our interview, I asked Weissmann if Mueller had let the American people down. Absolutely, yep, Weissmann said, before quickly adding: I wouldn’t phrase it as just Mueller. I would say the office. There are a lot of things we did well, and a lot of things we could have done better, to be diplomatic about it.

George Packer

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