I have been dismissive of the notion that Putin has blackmail material on Trump and that’s why he does the things he does. My reasoning has been that so much negative has already come out, what could he possibly have that would do any real damage to Trump? Even if it’s the infamous, speculated “pee pee tape,” does anyone think that would actually matter? He isn’t going to be impeached over that and he knows it. But his behavior has now become so bizarre, so slavish toward Putin, that I’m beginning to doubt that.
And if it’s true, it has to be something huge, something that scares the hell out of a guy who thinks he’s pretty much invincible. So what could it be? The only plausible explanation to me is that it’s all financial. We already have some evidence that Russian oligarchs used real estate transactions to launder money by buying up Trump properties (condos and a mansion or two), holding them for a short period of time and selling them for a huge profit. And this started happening at a time when Trump was having a very difficult time getting financing from Western banks because he had gone bankrupt several times and left the bondholders and lenders holding a bag full of useless debt that would never be repaid.
We also have statements from those around Trump, including both of his sons:
In 2008, Donald Jr. told investors in Moscow that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” while Eric reportedly told a golf reporter in 2014 that the Trump Organization was able to expand during the financial crisis because “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”
All of this is speculation at this point, but it’s speculation based on the evidence we have. Robert Mueller undoubtedly has far more evidence, of course, and I suspect the indictments are going to start coming soon, between now and the midterm election in November.