If, as seems likely, Julia Ioffe is correct that Yury Chaika, the prosecutor-general of the Russian Federation, is the “Crown Prosecutor” referred to in Donald Trump Jr.’s email chain, everyone involved should be concerned about their physical safety.
According to Ioffe, Chaika should be considered the Russian equivalent of Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Attorney General. That might not seem so scary, but Russia’s government is so violent and so intertwined with organized crime, that crossing their Attorney General is a perilous decision.
This is important for understanding why Rob Goldstone is insisting without the remotest plausibility that he was referring in his email to Trump Jr. to Natalia Veselnitskaya when he said that “the Crown prosecutor of Russia met with … Aras [Agalarov] this morning and in their meeting offered to provide some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
Put simply, Mr. Goldstone doesn’t want to be killed and if he confirmed that he was referring to Mr. Chaika his death would be a distinct possibility.
Ioffe does an excellent job of explaining this. Chaika was apparently close to gangster Sergei Tsapok whose organization was responsible for the Kushchyovskaya Massacre in 2010. His two adult sons have amassed vast fortunes through outright thuggery including the murder of at least one victim who was strangled to death.
Here’s a bigger taste of what kind of individual Trump Jr. was getting in bed with when he said he’d “love” to collude with the Russian government.
Chaika was central to the fusing of Russian organized crime and the siloviki, which has resulted in a kind of nationalization of extortion, racketeering, and other targeted violence. A thorough profile in the independent Russian news site Meduza alleges that Chaika’s ties to organized crime in Russia go back decades to when he was a prosecutor in eastern Siberia in the early 1990s. It was the era of privatizing the Soviet economy, and it was often violent, especially in Siberia. While Chaika spoke often about fighting “bandits,” the ones who operated in the areas he was responsible for were often mysteriously escaping prosecution. At the end of the decade, he came under scrutiny himself for two things: In one case, he was under government investigation for accepting a gold Longine watch worth thousands of dollars as a bribe, and in the second, $1 million of the money he asked the government to allot to build a local law school disappeared. (When a local newspaper reported on the government’s investigation, according to Meduza, their offices were raided by the special police, who planted pornography on the editor in chief. Chaika has never denied the substance of the profile; after other newspapers reported on the story, the police backed off the local editor.
Ioffe describes the soloviki as “people allied with security services, literally the people who settle disputes through force—inside the Kremlin.”
The security services knew that the Agalarovs had made business arrangements with Donald Trump and his eldest son to launch the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013. They also knew that Trump and the senior Agalarov were in discussions to build towers in the Russian capital. It was natural that they would use them as a way to make contact.
Of course, once the Trump team accepted their help, they were subject to blackmail. It may be that blackmail wasn’t necessary since they were so eager to collude, but the prospect of disclosure has been looming over the Trumps since at least the time of this email exchange and subsequent meeting.
It should be obvious that it’s a bad idea to mess with people like Chaika. Anyone who can tie him into this conspiracy needs to watch their back.