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On January 24, 2020, the Foreign Agents Registration Act unit of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice received from Christopher M. Kise, now the lawyer representing Donald John Trump in his defense in relation to the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s holding documents stamped as Top Secret/Secure Compartmented Information (TS/SCI), FARA registration #6787. In the form, Kise had listed as his principle Reinaldo Munoz Pedroza, the Attorney General of Venezuela appointed by the dictator Nicolas Maduro. At that time, Pedrozo had been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for undermining democracy in Venezuela and related election interference.

News of Kise’s registration as a foreign agent broke two days ago, and as interesting as that may be, the development of public and official interest in both the Conflict of Interest implied and the breathtaking scope of potential national security compromises–all those boxes of TS/SCI data!–appears slow. However, this by Ben Meiselas showed up on YouTube this morning:

Posted by MeidasTouch to YouTube, September 19, 2022.

For Trump’s base, the idea of achieving patriotic honor in association with his support appears belied and eroded by not only the former president’s authoritarian, belligerent, and obstreperous character but his connections–and one step removed is not far enough–to the tools, literally, so it would seem in the case of Mr. Kise, of at least one dictatorship. While it would seem fair for President (for Life) Maduro to have representation in the United States, the same would seem more than heinous for Trump to share with him the same lawyer.

Should the Kise-Trump story take down almost-candidate-(again) Trump, it would make a nice bookend for Trump’s first big yellow caution flag: Paul Manafort.

To make sense of the president’s pardon of Paul Manafort, it helps to understand the man Trump selected to run his 2016 campaign. On one hand, it seems inconceivable that an American presidential candidate would choose as his campaign manager someone whose last job was political strategist to a dictator in Ukraine who had recently been overthrown in a popular revolution. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense. Paul Manafort made a fortune helping tyrants and would-be tyrants appear legitimate. He was the ultimate symbol of the corruption of democratic political systems. His evolution from establishment wonderkid to handmaiden to dictators is a story of how corruption perverts democracies.

Hoffman, David. “Paul Manafort: Handmaiden to dictators.” The Hill, December 24, 2020.

With his latest hire in lawyers, Trump has only confirmed what all Americans, much including his base, must now see, i.e., the darkest of fallen real princes by contemporary business and class standards, a man who cannot keep himself separate from America’s enemies, Russian criminals, and assorted (other) dictators.

Note: since publishing this post, Trump has been reported as removing Christopher M. Kise from the leading role in Trump’s defense before related Federal investigation:

Kise is expected to remain on Trump’s legal team but is not leading the work related to the federal government’s investigation into how the former President handled 11,000 documents seized from his Florida home in August following a lengthy effort by the government to retrieve them. The reason for the shift in Kise’s role remains unclear and he may instead focus his efforts on the other investigations Trump is facing, which range from his business practices to the January 6 insurrection.

Collins, Kaitlan. “Newest addition to Trump’s legal team sidelined in Mar-a-Lago search case.” CNN Politics, September 27, 2022.

Addendum, February 17, 2023

Feb 16 (Reuters) – A lawyer for former President Donald Trump retained an attorney to represent himself as prosecutors step up their inquiry into the handling of sensitive documents at Trump’s Florida residence, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

Evan Corcoran, who has represented Trump in interactions with the government over presidential records taken to his Mar-a-Lago resort, has turned to Michael Levy, a prominent white-collar lawyer in Washington, according to people familiar with the matter.

Goudsward, Andrew. “Exclusive: Trump lawyer hires own attorney in classified documents probe.” Reuters, February 16, 2023.

Related Online

Cohen, Marshall, Oliver Carcy, and Zachary Cohen. “How Team Trump used Fox News as a laundromat for unverified Russian information about top Democrats.” CNN Politics, October 12, 2020.

Davis, Wynne. “TS/SCI: What an abbreviation reveals about the files seized from Mar-a-Lago.” NPR, August 16, 2022.

Gans, Jared. “Save America PAC advances $3M to Trump lawyer to cover legal fees.” The Hill, September 16, 2022.

Goudsward, Andrew. “Exclusive: Trump lawyer hires own attorney in classified documents probe.” Reuters, February 16, 2023.

Hoffman, David. “Paul Manafort: Handmaiden to dictators.” The Hill, December 24, 2020.

Myers, Steven Lee and Andrew E. Kramer. “How Paul Manafort Wielded Power in Ukraine Before Advising Donald Trump.” The New York Times, July 31, 2016.

Nicol, Ryan. “Attorney Christ Kise to help Nicolas Maduro administration fight U.S. sanctions.” Florida Politics, January 28, 2020.

Oppenheim, James S. “Trump’s America in Retrospect: Russian Real Estate Entanglements.” BackChannels, October 9, 2021.

Smith, David. “‘The perfect target’: Russia cultivated Trump as asset for 40 years – ex-KGB spy.” The Guardian, January 29, 2021.

Unger, Craig. “Trump’s businesses are full of dirty Russian money. The scandal is that it’s legal.” The Washington Post, March 29, 2019.

Unger, Craig. “Trump’s Russian Laundromat”. The New Republic. July 13, 2017.

U.S. Department of the Treasury. “Treasury Sanctions Maduro Regime Officials for Undermining Democratic Order in Venezuela.” September 4, 2020.

Wikipedia. “Reinaldo Munoz Pedroza”.