Exclusive: With Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon out at the White House, a renewed focus on the Mercer family, who helped install Trump and its deep ties to Russia.
With reporting by Tracie McElroy
Donald J. Trump was still gushing about his capture of the Republican presidential nomination a month earlier when he met with uber political financier Rebekah Mercer at a swanky Hamptons house party on August 13th last year. For all the boasting, Trump and Mercer both knew his campaign for the White House was in deep trouble.
Weeks of sliding poll numbers had thrown the campaign into turmoil. Trump had reportedly erupted in private meetings, deriding his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as being “low energy” (a term he’d previously reserved for rivals like Jeb Bush). As Mercer and Trump engaged in political strategy in the Hamptons, Manafort’s campaign death was hanging in the air. The New York Times was about to publish a devastating story revealing Manafort had been paid $12.7 million from Vladimir Putin’s pro-Russian party in the Ukraine.
With the Manafort political writing on the wall, Rebekah Mercer recommended Stephen Bannon, a long-time confidante of Donald Trump. People who know Bekah caution not to confuse her congeniality for flexibility. “She’s very nice and very unassuming … but she’s also no bullshit. Her style is, ‘If you want my money, you have to do things the way I want,'” a source told The Hill.
By the following Wednesday, Manafort was out at the Trump campaign, and Stephen Bannon became its CEO. Kellyanne Conway was upped from campaign adviser to manager. Both have long histories connecting them to the Mercers. Rebekah and her father, Robert, funded Bannon’s anti-Clinton film “Clinton Cash”, and his alt-right Breitbart Media. “Rebekah Mercer has been known to indicate to people in the public policy world that she can influence Breitbart coverage where needed,” says The Hill.
With her appointments in place, Mercer money came flowing into the Trump campaign, with $17 million dollars going to the Super PAC “Make America #1”. By September, Bekah assumed control of the PAC. For all intents and purposes, the Mercers owned the campaign – financially and operationally. The same month, the Trump campaign paid the Mercer-backed Cambridge Analytica $5 million for its work targeting social news feeds through psychographics. Stephen Bannon is also an advisor to Cambridge Analytica and much of the content being pushed by it came from Breitbart. The super PAC paid Kellyanne Conway’s company $247,000 and Bannon’s production company $950,000 for their work on the campaign, which may be a felony violating election conflicts of interest rules.
Once Trump was elected, Bekah was named to the transition team and is believed to have influenced the appointments of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The Mercer fortune is closely tied to Russia and Deutsche Bank.
43-year-old Rebekah Mercer is the political operative of the family’s fortune, but her father is the source of the funds. She is his middle daughter, and ten years ago bought a bakery in Manhattan’s “Hell’s Kitchen” neighborhood with her sisters. He is a 70-year-old reclusive billionaire who owns the hedge funds Renaissance Technologies and Medallion Fund. Over the years, the father and daughter duo have become the largest political donors in Republican circles. It’s worth noting that Renaissance’s other partners are equally generous to Democratic circles.
Mercer’s funds have always had close connections to Russia – both in staffing and business. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of Russia’s top scientists fled the country to find cushy jobs in the U.S., and some of them landed at Mercer’s funds. In 2003, two of them, Pavel Volfbeyn and Alexander Belopolsky, departed the company. Insiders at the fund were caught by surprise when another Russian, Alexey Kononenko, was elevated over them. “People with knowledge of the firm say Kononenko’s promotion was a significant event in Renaissance’s history and that the Russian had actually executed a power play,” according to Bloomberg.
Very little is known about how Renaissance makes so much money, but it has a Midas touch like no other, making money in good times and bad. It operates quantum trading computers programmed by some of the world’s most brilliant scientists, many of whom are Russian. That means machines do all the trading based on algorithms, executing millions of trades in milliseconds. They can drive the stock market up and down with very little, if any, human interference. The machines place bets on whether prices will go up or down and make profit when their bets are right.
Vladimir Putin and Russia’s energy sector is linked to Deutsche Bank.
Nine years ago, with Russia reeling from economic failure and rising foreign debt, Vladimir Putin authorized the State’s development bank, VEB, to start issuing bailouts to key Russian oligarchs, including Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Bank and Oleg Deripaska’s United Company RUSAL. The $50 billion dollars in loans came with strings. “The major question is the price [they] will have to pay for such generosity,” analyst Troika Dialog said. In Russia, that means one thing: loyalty to Vladimir Putin.
The Russian firms who received the bailouts from VEB became organs of the state, allowing the Kremlin to cut off energy supplies to countries it wanted to annex, like the Ukraine, or for other foreign misadventures. Alfa, you’ll recall, is deeply tied to the Trump-Russia scandal through a server in Trump Tower. VEB’s CEO had a secret meeting with Jared Kushner last December, and Oleg Deripaska, who is tied to organized crime in the US and Russia’s richest man, paid Paul Manafort 10 million dollars a year between 2006-2009 to support Vladimir Putin’s political interests in the Ukraine and the US.
The other main stakeholder in the bailout was Deutsche Bank. The Bank is deeply tied to Russia’s energy sector and is the also the prime broker for Mercer’s Renaissance Technologies. Mercer’s fund takes large bets on energy price and Deutsche facilitates them. “Energy is indeed the largest speculative market with billions made and lost daily”, says Bill Parish.”[Mercer’s] Renaissance simply speculates on stocks and commodities and does millions of transactions with Deutsche Bank each year.”
Facing financial ruin and $300 Million in debt, Donald Trump launched his Presidential campaign.
Donald Trump owes $300 million to Deutsche Bank with no obvious means to pay it off. As Trump was fast approaching bankruptcy, as was his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump decided to launch his White House bid as a way to rescue his fortune.
Deutsche Bank is by any standard a bad corporate entity. The bank was recently fined $10 billion for its role in a Russian money-laundering scheme. The bank was also heavily involved in financing the vastly over-budget 2014 Sochi Olympics (itself a Russian money laundering scheme). In 2014, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) launched a congressional investigation into Mercer and Deutsche Bank’s illegal tax evasion scheme.
Rebekah Mercer’s husband is directly linked to the Moscow Exchange, which rises and falls on world events.
Then there’s Rebekah Mercer’s husband, Sylvain Michel Mirochnikoff, who until recently shared an apartment with her in a Trump-branded building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. They are now getting divorced.
Mirochnikoff is a Morgan Stanley broker. In 2012, he joined the board of the International Security Exchange, which buys and sell stocks electronically. The following year the ISE partnered with the Moscow exchange to “share information”. If you’re in the business of placing bets on the futures of stocks (especially energy stocks), which Mercer’s Renaissance Technologies is, a family member with an inside track to Russia’s exchange could be very profitable. When Russia invaded Crimea in 2013, for example, the Moscow Exchange rallied. As Putin cut off gas supplies to the Ukraine from Russia’s state-run oil and energy companies, Mercer, Mirochnikoff and Oleg Deripaska were all making money off the crisis.
The same thing happened late last year. The Moscow Exchange rallied after Trump’s election in November and the sale of 19.5% of Russian oil giant Rosneft in December (see chart). As Trump’s presidency has faltered, so has the Moscow Exchange.
The Mercers have become accustomed to making money by making “knowledgeable” bets on the future of stock prices. Through Russia, Deutsche Bank and Mirochnikoff, they had an inside track on world events that would move the markets and could easily react to them, particularly in the energy sector. By funding and staffing the Trump campaign, and manipulating people’s fears through Cambridge Analytica and Breitbart, they were able to install a financially imperiled president who was not only beholden to their chief financial partner, Deutsche Bank, but could also imitate Vladimir Putin’s strategy of manipulating world events to turn a profit.
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