Donald Trump, Russian Prostitutes and Compromising Positions: Why None of It Matters
A Very Sheltered Spy
So ... you're telling me that a spy who has been, you know ... spying for decades was "sobered" by what he saw in Moscow.
So ... more than the atrocities committed by the Russians in Grozny, more than the atrocities committed by the Soviets in Afghanistan, more than the atrocities committed by Chechen terrorists all over Western Russia, more than the pile of crap - aka "Life After the USSR" - that most Russians had to endure after the fall of the Soviet Union ... it was those things that Trump did in the privacy of his hotel room that bothered him the very, very most?
And ... I had a good chuckle at this ... that the former KGB set it up? And didn't think to use, say, a throwaway kid from a Russian orphanage for the takedown? This is a country where the SWAT team gleefully kills hostages to take down terrorists ... and a urine fetish was the best their brightest manipulators could come up with?
This statement alone makes me cry a hearty B.S. on the whole thing. Forgetting that spies do - or cause - some terrible, awful things on behalf of their governments (sometimes for no good reason), you want me to believe that ... that thing was so terrible that we should impeach Trump right now.
Uh ... How Do You Think Women Paid The Bills?
To be clear: Prostitution is a terrible way to earn a living. It's dangerous and victimizes most of the women forced into it. And make no mistake: Most women do not do it by choice. But, you know, they like eating and having a roof over their head and other dumb junk like that.
I grew up in Denver. Prostitutes were a common fixture on East Colfax Avenue; Colfax is not only the longest commercial street in the US, but also one of the seediest. These were the kind of street walkers they highlight in TV crime dramas: Scantily clad, roughed up, drugged out women walking, walking, walking all day to make a few bucks for drugs.
And then, there are Russian whores. I already felt like a big ol' lump of grossness when I went over there the first time in the early 1990s. Grunge was in, and I had this kind of "romantic grunge" thing going on. And I remember, before I left, my Russian professor telling me to dress conservatively, and how mad I was when I got over there and every hot, young, scantily clad thang in Moscow somehow managed to look amazing, despite the painful absence of decent clothes.
Russian women are beautiful and scary smart. Unfortunately, they were also desperately poor, through no fault of their own. When the Soviet Union fell, a lot of people lost their income; they still had jobs, but their currency had collapsed. Rubles weren't worth the paper they were printed on; kopecks were only good for triggering the mechanism in the old-time telephones.
Starvation is a powerful motivator; many women, seeing the influx of western men, decided to either snag sugar daddies or turn to prostitution, to feed themselves and their families. It sounds unbelievable that a doctor, engineer, teacher or other professional woman would turn to prostitution to make ends meet, but that is exactly what many Russian women did in the 1990s.
And I only have experience with Moscow and St. Petersburg. The women in the provinces fared much worse.
And Then There Was That One Time ...
... when I went to a party and every woman there was a prostitute.
I worked at an American law firm, LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. The expat community in Moscow was huge - about 40,000 people when I left in 1999 - but cliquish. One of my friends from the office, a young and promising attorney, invited my boyfriend and I to go to a party with him and his girlfriend. The 20-something investment banker and his roommates rented a penthouse apartment in an amazing riverfront building across the street from the Kremlin. I really liked the guy, but he was having trouble breaking into the Russian community.
The evening started out a little weird; pudgy 30-something men standing awkwardly in the huge living room, not talking to each other or making eye contact. Natasha and I seemed to be the only women there. We decided to get a drink so we went into the kitchen and ... all the women were crammed in there, sitting silently with bored looks on their heavily made-up faces. As my friend and I cautiously poured our drinks, the woman across from us started asking me questions, like whether I was an American.
I was used to people asking where I was from; I knew I didn't look Russian. But then she started asking me why I had to do "this kind of thing" and other equally odd questions. It felt like I wasn't a part of the conversation, because she clearly thought I was ... something. And then, I understood.
She took my drink from me and told me to pay attention to my date; she clearly didn't think he was my boyfriend. She told me she was concerned he would find someone else and then I wouldn't get paid.
Yeah, she thought I was a prostitute.
And then, clarity. I realized that every other woman at that party, besides me and Natasha, was a prostitute. Every woman there had been hired to be there.
I didn't have the heart to tell her I wasn't a pro. We ended up chatting and dancing and drinking all evening, and she explained that working in her legitimate profession didn't pay the bills, especially since she had to support her daughter and her mother ... and how she didn't make a lot of money from prostitution, but parties like this were always fun.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, the A Team arrived around midnight. The young prostitutes with the great bodies and great hair and great clothes, and the first wave was forgotten in the kitchen while the chubby, annoying, bald American losers watched the hot girls grind in the hallway.
Oh Yeah, And That Time Behind McDonald's ...
The promising attorney I mentioned above? He was lucky enough to have an apartment in the Pushkin Square McDonald's building. The first McDonald's building, by the way. Most older Russian buildings have a courtyard on one side, and this one was no different. The entrance to the building was around back, in the courtyard. A lot of rich expatriates lived there, because renting out their recently-privatized apartments was a great source of income for Russians; much better than government employment, to be sure.
One night, after dark, my friends and I went to visit him and stumbled upon quite a surprise in the courtyard. Twenty or so prostitutes, lined up in a row, standing on a retaining wall, the bright headlights of a Mercedes illuminating them for a customer.
And do you think they panicked when we came in the courtyard? Don't make me laugh.
They asked the guys in our group if they were interested in the merchandise. It made us all uncomfortable; all of them were really young, and clearly from the provinces. Having come to Moscow to fulfill their dreams, they ended up stuck in a dingy courtyard, hoping some American businessman would choose them over the other beautiful provincial girls.
And call the police? We knew from the shiny new Mercedes that these pimps were up to date on their hush money.
He Knew They Would Be Listening
When you're in Russia, you know you can't say anything to anybody. Ever.
I mean, when you're a student and you clearly aren't on the spy track, you can talk with your friends without worrying that your MGU dorm room is bugged. But even a low-level businessman needs to worry that their phone and/or apartment is bugged. They might even have a shadow.
That is expatriate life in Moscow. I dated a lieutenant in the Russian National Honor Guard. Totally illegal, by the way. But it was already the mid-90s and he wasn't privy to any sensitive information, and neither was I, so no one ever bothered us. He beat the crap out of me, and often, but you can read about that here.
But I am 100% sure our phone was bugged.
There was a lot of stuff he told me not to do, and I knew from other people that he wasn't just being paranoid; the Soviets really watched people that closely. The first was: Never discuss anything important on the phone. Again: They really are listening. The second: Never talk about important things in public ... for example, on the metro or even in parks. The third: When discussing important things at home, turn on the radio, and cover your mouth while you whisper. But remember it's better to just write it down and then flush the paper down the toilet.
I had a teacher that went to Moscow in the 1970s; she said there were "rocks" in the parks that recorded people's conversations. Yes, they really did that.
I also worked for a guy who had repeatedly been accused of spying by the Russian government and the Russian press; his wife helped build the American embassy in Moscow that the Americans could never use ... because they bugged it too much.
So ... and I really have to laugh at this ... so, the idea that Donald Trump was in a Moscow hotel room doing some questionable thing with ... some questionable people and he didn't have the slightest inkling he was being watched and/or recorded?
He's been going over there since the 1980s but he doesn't know even the basics of dealing with Soviet/Russian surveillance? He wanted to build hotels in the Soviet Union in 1987, but didn't think anyone would spy on him?
There is the constant assumption for any seasoned traveller to Russia that you are being watched. Even when you think maybe for a second you aren't being watched, you take a deep breath and realize that someone as high-profile, rich and powerful as Donald Trump has been for the last ... oh, 40+ years or so ... that person is most definitely being watched. And they would be 100% aware of it.