Follow the (Russian) money into the Trump business empire

Nancy Le Turneau at the Political Animal blog ties together several threads to new reporting over the weekend about Donald Trump’s son Eric Trump. Did Vladimir Putin Buy Himself a U.S. President?

During the 2016 presidential election, we often heard that Donald Trump filed for bankruptcy several times. As the Washington Post reported, he did so a total of six times.

Trump’s Taj Mahal opened in April 1990 in Atlantic City, but six months later, “defaulted on interest payments to bondholders as his finances went into a tailspin,” The Washington Post’s Robert O’Harrow found. In July 1991, Trump’s Taj Mahal filed for bankruptcy. He could not keep up with debts on two other Atlantic City casinos, and those two properties declared bankruptcy in 1992. A fourth property, the Plaza Hotel in New York, declared bankruptcy in 1992 after amassing debt.

PolitiFact uncovered two more bankruptcies filed after 1992, totaling six. Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts filed for bankruptcy again in 2004, after accruing about $1.8 billion in debt. Trump Entertainment Resorts also declared bankruptcy in 2009, after being hit hard during the 2008 recession.

Following that string of bankruptcies in the 1990’s, U.S. banks pretty much blackballed the Trump organization, but he rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia. That is pretty much what Donald Trump, Jr. affirmed in 2008.

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Golf-writer James Dodson recently told a similar story that he heard from son Eric Trump in 2014. He was invited to play a round of golf with father and son.

“Trump was strutting up and down, talking to his new members about how they were part of the greatest club in North Carolina,” Dodson says. “And when I first met him, I asked him how he was — you know, this is the journalist in me — I said, ‘What are you using to pay for these courses?’ And he just sort of tossed off that he had access to $100 million.”

$100 million.

“So when I got in the cart with Eric,” Dodson says, “as we were setting off, I said, ‘Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks — because of the recession, the Great Recession — have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.’ And this is what he said. He said, ‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.‘ I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.’

Add that to the fact that from 2015 to 2016 Trump’s debt almost doubled, to an estimated $630 million from $350 million and you have to begin to wonder whether or not Vladimir Putin (via his band of loyal oligarchs) actually bought a U.S. President.

And remember, the U.S. imposes sanctions on Russia and a number of individual Russian oligarchs. Dealing in Russian oligarch money may have violated U.S. sanctions on Russia (maybe this is why Gen. Michael Flynn wanted to lift Russian sanctions).

Some Democratic state senators in New York are trying an end run to get Donald Trump’s taxes into the public view by introducing legislation that would reveal his state tax returns for the last five years. TRUMP Act would put Trump’s New York tax returns online:

The legislation — dubbed the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act (or TRUMP Act) — would require the state to post online the state tax returns of anyone elected to federal or state office in a statewide election, including the president and vice president.

Trump is a resident of New York, and bill sponsor Brad Hoylman hopes the legislation will give the public a glimpse at Trump’s taxes.

“The tax experts I’ve spoken to think we’ll get a good snapshot of what’s on his federal form,” he said. In fact, the Trump tax return that the New York Times reported on before the election was the top pages of his New York state form.

Hoylman argues it’s important for Trump’s taxes to become public as Congress debates tax reform legislation that could benefit high-income individuals, including the president.

Trump has refused to release his tax returns while in office, breaking with a 40-year tradition. He has claimed that ongoing IRS audits prevent him from doing so, even though such audits wouldn’t restrict anyone from publishing their returns. And Trump is mandated to be audited during the rest of his time in office.

Democrats and a small handful of Republicans, citing Trump’s ongoing business interests, have pushed him to release his returns or to pressure Congressional leaders to exercise their authority to obtain them legally.

A separate bill introduced by Hoylman would require anyone appearing on a statewide ballot in New York to release his or her federal tax returns, but that wouldn’t force Trump to release anything until 2020, if he runs for a second term.

Hoylman said he got the idea for the TRUMP Act from a Washington Post op-ed column written by University of Chicago Law Professor Daniel Hemel.

“Trump would almost certainly bring a constitutional challenge to any law requiring him to disclose his [federal] tax returns as a condition for ballot access, and it is far from clear that these laws would hold up in court,” Hemel wrote. “But publishing Trump’s state tax returns is a much more viable option — and would make his returns available to the public now, rather than three years from now.”

Republicans control the New York Senate because some Democrats have joined with Republicans to form a majority. But Hoylman said he’s confident that his bill still has a good chance at being passed into law.

“The Republican control of the senate is nominal,” he said. “I wouldn’t rule out this happening by any means. Public support is widespread.”

Of course, any of the congressional committees investigating the Trump-Putin campaign coordination could subpoena Trump’s tax records, both personal and his multitude of corporate entities and shell corporations for tax purposes, as well as his financial,  investment and banking records, but Tea-Publicans are more interested in a cover-up than they are in discovering that Trump is in hock up to his eyeballs to Russian oligarchs who are friends of Putin.

Nah, that doesn’t compromise national security at all in Tea-Publican land. That’s just bidness.

3 Responses to Follow the (Russian) money into the Trump business empire

  1. thanks for history lesson for the umpteenth time.except nothing on trump breaking any law with russia as usual. in fact when clapper brennan and even yates were asked if they had any thing on trump colluding with putin to fix the 2016 election all three said they had nothing. can and now other news organizations say fbi sources no evidence to trump committing any crimes with russia on 2016 election. clapper and yates admitted surveillance in 2016 but refused to say if it was trump. yeah it wasn’t obama ordering wire tapping of trump so it doesn’t count.SSDD!

  2. “Of course, any of the congressional committees investigating the Trump-Putin campaign coordination could subpoena Trump’s tax records…”

    Which is more incentive to flip the House and Senate next year. That is if the DCCC, DSCC, and DNC don’t blow it as for the past few cycles they’ve been in the habit of doing. And if Congress is flipped there’s always the possibility Speaker Pelosi would take the subpoenas off the table as she did with impeachment in 2007.

    Still, forcing Trump to release his returns could send his administration crashing down. And ultimately his little Pense too!

    • Pence, not Pense. The perils of proofreading before posting with the same diligence with which the Trump administration vetted Flynn. Oh, the shame of it all!