Just last month, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post shared receipts showing that the 2020 Trump campaign made payouts totaling $380,000 for a “donor retreat” held at the president’s Florida golf resort, Mar-a-Lago:
In just two days, @realdonaldtrump’s campaign pumped $380K into Trump’s private business, in 43 separate payments. Trump Org says this was for a weeklong “donor retreat,” held in early March at Mar-a-Lago.
Campaign donations turned into private revenue for POTUS pic.twitter.com/1kf39vAqkt
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) July 17, 2020
Be sure and note that those payments were broken down into individual amounts of $10,000 and less, which just so happens to be the reporting requirement for cash payments to a business that are required to be made to the FinCEN (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network). FinCEC tracks crimes such as money laundering and other illegal financial dealings.
So what exactly was going on with the payments? Well, according to Martin Shell, who worked for 30 years as an IRS tax crimes investigator, the payments would have immediately set off alarms when he was working for Internal Revenue. The payments, Shell explains in an article he wrote for The Daily Beast, look like money laundering:
“Is the $380,000 income? If so, what was delivered in exchange for it? Were these payments for past services rendered or for future expected returns? Who were the donors? Why didn’t the Trump Organization just report the entire $380,000 in total? Why break that down into separate transactions? Why was each payment identically described as ‘Facility Rental/ Catering Services’? Is something being disguised here?”
There’s lots of smoke, and that usually indicates there’s also a fire, Shell continues:
“There are criminal penalties for structuring, or breaking a bigger payment into small chunks to evade reporting requirements, including a statutory maximum prison sentence of up to five years and/or a monetary fine of up to $250,000. But that is just the Bank Secrecy Act(BSA) violation. If structured transactions are sourced from a Specified Unlawful Activity (that is, a bribe), then Money Laundering Statute T18-1956 can be tapped, which brings a 20-year statutory maximum prison sentence into play with substantially higher monetary fines.”
Whoa! That’s a serious accusation. How Shell explain what he’s alleging? Well, as he makes clear, the numbers don’t lie, and they show a clear and purposeful intent to try and hide the money trail from investigators by “structuring” them into smaller amounts so they don’t have to be reported to federal investigators. And Trump has a history of doing exactly that. Matter of fact, he even got caught doing it at one his casinos:
“FinCEN imposed a $10 million civil penalty against the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort on March 6, 2015, for willful and repeated violations of the BSA. The Taj has a history of prior, repeated BSA violations cited by examiners dating back to 2003. Additionally, in 1998, FinCEN assessed a $477,700 civil money penalty against the Taj for currency transaction reporting violations.”
All of this evidence, Shell concludes, leads him to believe the president and the Trump Organization are indeed laundering money, which is the sort of thing drug dealers and Russian oligarchs are known for engaging in:
“Something smells in Mar-a-Lago, and there certainly exists enough smoke here to justify a thorough search for the fire. Does the will exist at the Department of Treasury or the Department of Justice to follow the money, and the smoke, and perhaps finally put the fire out once and for all?”
If indeed it can be proven that Trump and his company have been laundering funds from the campaign to the Trump Organization, that alone could put Trump behind bars for a very long time. It could also lead to his company being seized and shuttered by the feds.
The next administration needs to take a close look at all this and charge anyone involved. Until then, Donald Trump will continue to act more like a mafioso than a head of state.