Complicating President Trump’s constant denials of collusion with Russia during the 2016 election is the sheer amount of business that the Trump Organization has done with buyers from Russia and former Soviet republics.
According to a new report from the McClatchy DC Bureau, the Trump Organization:
“Buyers connected to Russia or former Soviet republics made 86 all-cash sales — totaling nearly $109 million — at 10 Trump-branded properties in South Florida and New York City, according to a new analysis shared with McClatchy. Many of them made purchases using shell companies designed to obscure their identities.”
The fact that these real estate transactions were made using only cash and funneled through obscuring shell companies raises red flags regarding the true origins of the money used to enrich the Trump Organization.
“The size and scope of these cash purchases are deeply troubling as they can often signal money laundering activity,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a former federal prosecutor. “There have long been credible allegations of money laundering by the Trump Organization which, if true, would pose a real threat to the United States in the event that Russia were able to leverage evidence of illicit financial transactions against the president.”
If Rep. Schiff’s suspicions are correct, the Kremlin wouldn’t need anything as crass as the infamous “pee tape” alleged to exist in the Steele dossier to blackmail the president into supporting their agenda, something to keep in mind as Trump pushes ahead with his plans for a summit with Russian President Putin.
Glenn Simpson, a co-founder of Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled the Steele dossier, told the House Intelligence Committee in November that his group uncovered:
“patterns of buying and selling that we thought were suggestive of money laundering” at Trump properties around the globe. “Generally speaking, the patterns of activity that we thought might be suggestive of money laundering were … fast-turnover deals, and deals where there seemed to have been efforts to disguise the identity of the buyer,” he said.
The analysis of the Trump Organization’s all-cash Russian sales was created by the progressive PAC American Bridge 21st Century, whose communications director, Harrell Kirstein, told McClatchy that their research raises as many questions as it answers.
“We’ve long suspected that Donald Trump’s businesses were a front for money laundering and our research suggests it could be true,” said Kirstein. “The millions of dollars in previously unreported, all-cash real estate deals we discovered raise troubling questions about who is funding his businesses, why, and what they’re getting in return.”
The McClatchy article goes into great detail about the identities of the buyers of the Trump properties who include a private banker, a Russian state-owned broadcasting executive, and the chairman of an oil transport company currently under U.S. sanctions. among others.
Presumably, much of the information that was discovered by American Bridge 21st Century is available to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election.
If, as Eric Trump was quoted as saying of the Trump Organization, “We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” let’s hope that Mueller is looking into the quid pro quo that may have taken place to obtain that funding and whether the president is consequently favoring the interests of the Kremlin over that of the U.S.
One look at his recent policy decisions regarding tariffs and our relationships with what were until recently our closest European allies makes that question more relevant than ever.
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