For the better part of three years, a cabal of far-right bloggers and cosplay journalists have been trolling for “evidence” that prominent Democrats and Donald Trump critics have engaged in sex trafficking. This has manifested itself most infamously in two of the most infamous conspiracy theories floating around the tubes, “Pizzagate” and “The Storm.” But they may be missing a legitimate story about a prominent Republican with ties to this disgusting practice. It seems that the new American ambassador to Germany saw fit to defend a Moldovan oligarch with documented links to human trafficking.
Richard Grenfell took up his post as ambassador to Berlin on May 8, and immediately did something that no ambassador worth his salt would do–set bridges ablaze from the start. Within hours of taking office, he warned German companies that they should get out of Iran lest they get squeezed by American sanctions in the wake of Trump walking away from the Iran deal.
That drew a furious response from across the German and European political spectrum. According to former intelligence agent and current Observer national security columnist John Schindler, that sort of intemperate comment raises concerns that Grenell is unfit for diplomacy. As it turns out, this is in character for Grenell. As the spokesman for the American ambassador to the United Nations, Grenell was infamous for his hard-nosed dealings with the press.
Schindler suspects that may be why it took almost a year for the Senate to confirm Grenell. That would be very telling if true. Remember, the Senate is controlled by Republicans, and it is no longer possible to filibuster presidential nominees.
But Schindler did a deep dive into Grenell’s past, and discovered something that should have been of equal, if not greater, concern to the Senate. Specifically, Grenell’s ties to Vladimir Plahotniuc, the most powerful man in Moldova and a man described as “Moldova’s Donald Trump.” Schindler noticed Grenell penned four op-eds defending Plahotniuc against claims that he had overseen the theft of the equivalent of $1 billion from Moldova’s treasury and laundered it with Kremlin assistance.
In the op-eds, Grenell focused mainly on attacking the man who blew the whistle on Plahotniuc, former anti-corruption czar Mihail Gofman, as a Russian stooge out to undermine a man who is strongly pro-European. However, Gofman’s claims largely dovetailed with what Western intelligence agencies suspected all along–Plahotniuc has very close links to Russian mobsters.
Schindler did some more digging, and discovered that Plahotniuc is involved in activities that are far more egregious than plundering his own country. It turns out that in 2012, Interpol amassed considerable evidence that Plahotniuc is heavily involved in human trafficking–for all intents and purposes, the biggest “industry” in Moldova. He has never been indicted for it, but Schindler chalks that up to Moldova’s “famously corrupt judiciary.”
Schindler wondered why Grenell had such an interest in Moldovan affairs. He suspects he found it in the disclosure forms Grenell submitted before his nomination. He was required to disclose all payments greater than $5,000–and one such payment came from longtime Republican operative Art Finkelstein, whose firm did work in Moldova as late as 2014. Western intelligence found numerous links between Finkelstein and Plahotniuc. Unfortunately, Finkelstein died last summer, so he can’t explain what prompted this payment.
This prompted Schindler to wonder–loudly–why the Senate didn’t delve into this further. It’s hard not to agree. The American people have a right to know why someone on our payroll saw fit to defend one of the worst people in the world.
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