|2007: MILLIAN (LEFT) WITH TRUMP AT A MIAMI RACETRACK|
Sergei Millian has learned the hard way that if you get too close to Donald Trump -- or in his case even claim that you are close -- you can get burned. Or worse.
Millian is a not atypical expat from the former Soviet Union who came to the U.S. because of the opportunities it offered but kept in close touch with friends and family in the Old Country. But he took that a big step further by trying to cash in -- literally and figuratively -- by claiming he was a friend of Trump as well as boasting about his associations with some of the key figures in what has become known as the Russia scandal. A question must also be asked:
Beyond Millian's boasts, was he a recruiter, perhaps even an unwitting one, for Russians looking for people who might be used as so-called "entry points" to infiltrate and influence the Trump campaign?
Today Millian is said to be in hiding, possibly in the Atlanta area, while his father claims that his son has asked for but been refused U.S. government protection.
It was only a few months ago that Millian asserted that he had inside knowledge of collusion between Trump's campaign and players in the wildly successful Vladimir Putin-directed plot to sabotage Hillary Clinton and hand the 2016 election to a billionaire reality television star who enthusiastically embraced the autocratic Russian leader.
Millian fears for his life for good reason. One of the associates to whom he boasted was assassinated, almost certainly because he had blabbed to a former British spy about what Millian had told him.
The 38-year-old naturalized American citizen is a native of Belarus, a grindingly poor one political party republic that was a founding member of the former Soviet Union and is the last dictatorship in Europe under the thumb of strongman Alexander Lukashensko, a longtime Putin ally. Born Siarhei Kukuts, Millian is said to have changed his name to something that he thought sounded less provincial. He is a local hero in the village of Sharkaŭshchyna, where a framed photo of him hangs in a place of honor at School Number One.
Millian trained as a lawyer and military interpreter before moving to the U.S. in 2001.
He has lived in Atlanta, which has a large Russian population, and in Astoria, Queens in New York, dabbled in real estate and established a series of enterprises that have survived on shoestring budgets, including an entity called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce in the USA and a translation service that for a time had a contract with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. More recently, he is said to have been working on developing business ties with Beijing through an organization called the World Chinese Merchants Union Association.
Millian has said he first met Trump in Moscow in 2007 at a "Millionaire's Fair" where the future president was promoting Trump Vodka, then again when Trump invited him to a Miami racetrack, and finally in New York.
"He introduced me to his right-hand man—Michael Cohen," Millian said in an interview with RIA Novosti, a Russian media outlet. "Cohen is Trump’s main lawyer, all contracts go through him. Subsequently, a contract was signed with me to promote one of their real estate projects in Russia. . . . You can say I was their exclusive broker."
|2016: OLEG DERIPASKA (LEFT) AND MILLIAN IN ST. PETERSBURG|
Millian is well connected, at least to a point.
He knows George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who repeatedly tried to interest Trump in meeting with Russian officials, including Putin, and likely was viewed by Moscow as an "entry point" into the campaign. And he knew Oleg Erovinkin, a former Russian intelligence chief and liaison between Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and Putin.
He has traveled to Russia fairly frequently and was a periodic interview subject in Russian-language media where he is considered an expert on U.S.-Russia relations.
Among his most recent trips was one last summer where he was seen consorting with Russian officials and businessmen, including aluminum oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a Putin pal who has become ensnared in the Russia scandal because of his business dealings with Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign manager who is a leading focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Millian may also be shrewd, but his proclivity for schmoozing and need to feel self important has finally gotten him in a lot of trouble. It also may be the reason Erovinkin is dead.
Enter former MI6 spy turned investigator Christopher Steele, who in his by now famous dossier on Putin's sock puppetry of Trump, wrote that the Russians have been "cultivating, supporting and assisting" Trump for years and have personal and financial kompromat (compromising information) on him that could be used for blackmail.
In a memo, Steele calls one of his informants "Source D."
Steele identified Source D as "a close associate of TRUMP who had organized his recent trips to Moscow. . . . " Source D, Steele wrote, asserted that there was a "well developed conspiracy of cooperation between [Trump] and Russian leadership" managed for the future president by Manafort.
He wrote that Source D also spoke of a salacious incident that has overshadowed more portentious aspects of the dossier -- the "golden showers" episode.
According to this allegation, in 2013 Trump rented the "presidential suite" at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Moscow because Barack and Michele Obama has stayed in that room, hired prostitutes to "defile" the bed in which they slept by urinating on each other, and the Kremlin has videotaped evidence of the encounter. This among all of the dossier's allegations (which Steele wrote was corroborated by his Source F, a Ritz Carlton employee) especially infuriated Trump, who pushed back by claiming he is a germophobe.
Source D is Millian.
Steele, who wrote that Source D's assertions had been corroborated by Russian government and intelligence sources, wrote the memo on June 20, 2016 based on reports from his sources on the ground in Russia. This is two days after Millian had attended the government-sponsored St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in that northern Russia city.
Millian is now in hiding because he is alleged to have told an associate believed to be Erovinkin what he knew and Erovinkin may have passed that information on to Steele, whose dossier is considered to be so credible that it underpinned the early phase of the Justice Department investigation into the Trump campaign's collusion with Russians led by FBI Director James Comey before he was fired by Trump, which in turn led to Mueller's appointment.
Erovikin was found dead in the back seat of his black Lexus off of Red Square in Moscow last December 26. Authorities claimed that he died of a heart attack, which is the default cause in many of the 10 or so suspicious deaths linked to the scandal.
|2017: MILLIAN HAMS IT UP BEFORE TRUMP'S INAUGURATION|
Millian has now walked back from his previous boasts about his Trump and Russian connections in the face of what he called "false statements" and "the fake news hatchet job operatives' attack [on me] employed by our political enemies," in an exchange of emails with me over the weekend.
He now portrays himself as an innocent bystander caught up in an international drama, and began his walk back in an appearance on Russian television in late January in which he denied knowing any information that would be damaging to Trump.
"I want to say that I don't have any compromising information, neither in Russia nor in the United States, nor could I have," he pleaded in Russian. "Without a doubt it is a blatant lie and an effort of some people -- it's definitely a group of people -- to portray our president in a bad light using my name.
Millian also has removed any mention of his Trump contacts in an online biography and on the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce website, where he had boasted of formal agreements with the Trump Organization. And last week he threatened to sue the editor-in-chief of a current affairs website for libel if he did remove a paragraph from a post I wrote on Manafort's growing legal woes in which I noted that Steele had written in his dossier that Source D had cited Manafort as the go-between for Trump and Russian leadership.
"I have never said that I worked personally for Mr. Trump," Millian told Mother Jones magazine. "I said I was a broker for one of his many real estate projects. I have never represented Mr. Trump personally and I am not working with Mr. Trump."
Millian asserts that all of the Russia scandal dirt attributed to him is false, as is the scandal itself. He says he admires Trump and complained in a recent tweet that Trump has fulfilled all of his campaign promises but that has not been noted by the mainstream media.
"The media must stop radicalizing terrorists with their hysterical anti-Trump fake news," he said in another tweet, using buzz words such as terrorists, hysterical and fake news in dutifully echoing the White House and alt-right line about the Russia scandal.
Millian says that it has only been in the last eight months that negative information began to appear about him, and only then because he said that he "personally supported Mr. Trump in his desire to be the president."
"Thank God we are alive and healthy -- and we can tell the truth," he recently told a British newspaper. "And the truth is that sadly there is some group of persons who are interested in the impeachment of our president, for whom millions voted."
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal.