Donald Trump knows absolutely everybody but can’t remember their names or faces, especially when they’re in trouble, and even more so when their mother tongue is Russian. Last month Congress began its inquiry into whether or not the president committed an impeachable offense (or offenses) by withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine until Kyiv agreed to dig up dirt on his likely rival for the White House in next year’s election. Since then, America has grown acquainted with enough characters from the post-Soviet mob milieu to fill the Star Wars cantina.
Some are newcomers to Trumpland, thanks to the tireless efforts of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, whose legal reputation has swung pendulously from that of latter-day Eliot Ness to bug-eyed conspiracy theorist more at home with low-rent Ukrainian Capones. But many of these scrofulous figures are familiar from their prior appearances in the two-year-long Mueller investigation. Russian oligarchs, bankers and two-bit grifters featured more often in that doorstop report than suspected or probable spies. That was surely no accident.
Since the late 1970s, when Donald J. Trump, the scion of a racist slumlord from Queens, washed ashore on the island of Manhattan desperate to put his name on everything and dip it all in gold, The Donald has surrounded himself with a certain track-suited species of clientele from Brighton Beach.