For all the longstanding focus on the “bipolar world” post 1945 and the “global arms race” that captured global headlines until about 1990, the way how Russia managed to wreak havoc in the U.S. political system came out of nowhere. It is suddenly all over the headlines, almost like during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Few people had ever thought it possible that Russia would “play” the United States by interfering clandestinely in its electoral processes.
And yet, here we are. Russia, a shadow of its former globe-spanning superpower status, may no longer threaten the American-led world order. (Under Donald Trump, the United States is undermining that order all by itself).
Instead of saber-rattling with real nukes, Russia is now nuking U.S. politics with the dominant new-era weaponry, cyber warfare.
Just follow the money
But even that threat is apparently becoming a sideshow. As foreshadowed by Deep Throat in the Watergate movie “All the President’s Men,” the real catch for Donald Trump seems to be the age-old advice, “Follow the money.”
And that’s where Germany may be entering the equation. And not just because, with Washington unwilling and, frankly, unable to remain the leader of the free world, this role has devolved to Berlin.
Germany pops out everywhere in the Russia scandal. Deutsche Bank is under renewed scrutiny because it lent money to many protagonists in the Russian collusion saga.
A German bank
Germany’s most important financial institution is even labeled the “house bank” for the Trump clan. For years, Deutsche Bank has been the only major financial institution that still lent Donald Trump money for his real estate dealings.
The bank also apparently bailed out Jared Kushner in October 2016, possibly because his company may have overextended itself in New York real estate by paying too much for the ominously named 666 Fifth Avenue office tower.
But Deutsche’s role in New York real estate is deeper. It has been, allegedly, a major player in siphoning petrodollars out of Russia, which went on during the era of record-high oil prices.
Quite a bit of that money found its way into New York apartment buildings, where Russian oligarchs bought apartments for tens of millions of dollars. A stretch in mid-town, along 57th Street, which is lined with hugely expensive residential skyscrapers, has been dubbed Billionaires’ Row. It should more appropriately be called the called Money Launderers’ Canyon.
Miami has equally prospered. Sure, there is plenty of Latin American money of dubious provenance, but the city is also crawling with Russian government officials, Putin’s propagandists, oligarchs and their families. Quite a few of the dollars they spend in the city’s expensive boutiques have come through Deutsche as well.
German-origin U.S. Presidents
And then there are the protagonists in the Russia scandal. It has been a rarely remarked upon fact that Trump is one of only three American presidents with clearly traceable German ancestry. (This is remarkable in itself, as Germans make up the largest ethnic group among American whites, at 45.5 million).
The two German-American U.S. Presidents that preceded Trump are Dwight D. Eisenhower (the 34th U.S. President), descended from Hans Nikolaus Eisenhauer of Karlsbrunn, and Herbert Hoover, the 31st U.S. President. The latter descended from a Huber who was German-Swiss and someone else who was just German.
Trump’s grandfather and grandmother immigrated in 1885 and 1902 respectively, from Kallstadt in the Kingdom of Bavaria (in its then-western territory, which is now in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate).
The real German pincer
If Trump ends up being the first U.S. President to be removed from office for pre-election collusion with a hostile foreign power, he will be taken down by yet another American of German ancestry, Robert S. Mueller III.
Mueller is the Department of Justice’s special prosecutor for the investigation of “any links and/or coordination between Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
Robert Mueller’s great-great grandfather August C. E. Müller immigrated to the United States in 1855 from Pomerania, Germany.
Mueller previously prosecuted Manuel Noriega, the perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing and the Gambino crime family, prior to running the FBI from September 2001 to September 2013 and re-orienting it toward counterterrorism. He is no lightweight and is unlikely to give up easily.
The pathway to how a German-origin special prosecutor using information extracted from a German bank may bring about the removal of a German-origin President of the United States from office.