As investigations into the 2016 election continue by both the FBI and Congressional committees, the allegation that Donald Trump and members of his inner circle may have colluded with Russian agents to tilt the outcome in Trump’s favor draw the most headlines. But it’s the money trail which may well lead to the downfall of Trump and others in the administration.
Senate investigators have now asked for assistance from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a database of financial transactions that may indicate money laundering done both by Trump and various business entities he owns around the world.
Follow the Money
Notre Dame Law School Professor Jimmy Gurulé recently told NPR:
“It goes to the old adage of ‘follow the money.’ If there was collusion between the Russians and members of the Trump campaign, was it for free, or was there some exchange of moneys or payments from foreign governments?”
Or to put it another way: Has Donald Trump ever done anything without expecting to get paid for it? He has ripped off numerous contractors, formed a shady university which ripped off thousands of students, and allowed his name to be used on buildings and products around the globe. Are we to believe Trump would have assisted the Russians simply so he could win the election and not gotten paid for it?
Let’s not forget the way Trump has made the vast majority of his money: Real estate and gaming. Both of those, NPR noted, “have been notorious venues for money laundering.”
Professor Gurulé served as Under Secretary for Enforcement at the Treasury Department, and he knows a few things about money laundering, commenting:
“If I was involved with some criminal wrongdoing related to this investigation, this would make me very nervous.”
Out, Damned Money! Out, I Say!
Mark Hays, who heads the anti-money-laundering campaign at the nonprofit Global Witness, explained how money is washed in real estate ventures like the ones Trump is known for:
“These make for attractive landing pads, if, say, you’re a suspicious person wanted for criminal activity in your home country and you actually need a place to cool your jets. You make the purchase real estate person says, ‘Who owns this company?’ It’s so-and-so LLC. ‘Well, who owns that?’ That’s not on the record. No one knows that.”
In 2004, Donald Trump bought Maison de L’Amitie, a massive beachfront estate in Palm Beach, Florida, at auction. The 81,738 square foot mansion sits on 6.2 acres — with 475 feet of sandy beach facing the Atlantic Ocean. Trump paid $41 million for the enormous structure.
Then, in 2008, Trump sold the mansion to County Road Property LLC. But the person behind that LLC was none other than Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, an oligarch who has extensive ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rybolovlev paid Trump $95 million for Maison de L’Amitie. He has never lived in the enormous house. Was this money laundering?
The FBI Connection
Last week during a Senate hearing, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe:
“We hear stories about Deutsche Bank, Bank of Cyprus, shell companies, Moldova, the British Virgin Islands. I’d like to get your sense, because I am over my time, Director McCabe, what should we be most concerned about with respect to illicit Russian money and its potential to be laundered on its way to the United States?”
McCabe told Senator Wyden he couldn’t discuss such matters in a public forum, but assured him the FBI was indeed looking at the money trail which could lead back to Russia and implicate Trump.
Remember, Al Capone wasn’t taken down for bootlegging, murder, or being a nasty thug. He finally went to prison for federal income tax evasion. Because the feds followed the money. Same thing in Watergate. And same thing today with Trump.
The money trail is what gives Trump nightmares. It’s likely to be the thing that winds up destroying him.
Featured Image Via YouTube