A deep dive by the Washington Post into Trump’s still-murky finances reveals a curious picture—a very curious picture.
In the nine years before he ran for president, Donald Trump’s company spent more than $400 million in cash on new properties — including 14 transactions paid for in full, without borrowing from banks — during a buying binge that defied real estate industry practices and Trump’s own history as the self-described “King of Debt.”
This is, as the Post reporters attempt to explain, not normal. It’s not normal in the real estate world, it’s not normal for deals of the size that Trump does, and it was not how Trump operated in any other decade of his life. But the man has been spending money like water, and it’s … conspicuous.
The biggest cash binge came last, in the year before Trump announced his run for president. In 2014, he paid a combined $79.7 million for large golf courses in Scotland and Ireland. Since then, those clubs have lost money while Trump renovated them, requiring him to pump in $164 million in cash to keep them running.
Part of the reason for this is likely that U.S. banks began to shun Trump after a string of bankruptcies and other financial woes; aside from Deutsche Bank, few banks in the world have wanted to work with him. (He may also have burned through all his old real estate relationships to the point where scrounging new partners was similarly difficult, though that seems less likely.)
But then there is the elephant in the room: an international real estate deals financed entirely in cash is a hallmark of money laundering. And it is not just a hallmark of money laundering, it is a hallmark of money laundering by Russian oligarchs and crime figures seeking to avoid U.S. and international sanctions—of the sort that have already ensnared others in Trump’s orbit.
While the Post is careful to make no conclusions whatsoever about Trump’s sudden spending spree, especially that one, investigators continue to turn up suspicious transactions between Trump and Russian nationals, and even Trump’s closest advisers seem certain that Mueller is already examining Trump’s entire team for evidence of money laundering.
“You realize where this is going,” [Steve] Bannon reportedly told Wolff. “This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to f—ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner. … It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner s—-.”
Evidence that Trump’s spending spree is in fact financed by Russian transactions is not hard to come by. Eric Trump famously asserted it himself.
[Eric] 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.’ Now that was three years ago, so it was pretty interesting.”
So where does it leave us? For the moment, it’s just another tidbit of knowledge about Trump’s business empire. But it gives a big hint as to just what the Mueller investigation might be probing in their efforts to determine what role the Russian government had inside the Trump campaign team and business empire. And none of it looks good for Trump.