Imagine you had a lot of money—say billions of dollars of dirty money stolen from businesses, banks or taxpayers. Money that is totally illegal to move around internationally, but is TOO MUCH MONEY to ignore. How do you clean that money up?
Enter Donald Trump.
Trump had two plans that he repeated over the years to steal money from people. The first one went like this: Trump would say, people love my brand and trust my name, so much so that they are willing to put up big money for one of my projects because they “trust” that they will get their money back or get the product they are putting the money up for—say a condo or luxury apartment in a high-rise building.
Trump would put his name all over the marketing materials, put a picture of himself with his daughter on the cover of a fancy binder used to sell the product, maybe even put his name on the top of a high-rise building. People would put up big deposits or otherwise invest money. But oops!! the deal would fall through–and never because it was Trump’s fault of course, and those deposits–sometimes millions of dollars worth, would disappear. Never into Donald’s pocket though, of course.
If you want an example of this, see Trump’s Baja California condo scam.
But that’s small potatoes. The big money for Trump–the billions–came from helping people with lots of dirty money take that money, like money stolen from Russian oil companies or Georgian banks, and make it “clean.” In exchange for a fee, of course.
Here’s how it worked: the people with the dirty money would come in, “invest it” in a project that of course had Trump’s name all of over it, so it could be trusted as totally legitimate. The money, however, would all get funneled through the project and back into the scammer’s own pockets as “profits” from the construction. Trump, meanwhile, would get a 12% cut just for letting them use his name and his reputation as a way to sell it. In exchange, Trump would never ask a question about where that money came from.
The project would then fail, either before it got started or after it was built. But by that time it wouldn’t matter, because all of the real money would have been “cleaned” through the project and Trump would have been paid. In fact, that would be the real point, to clean the money, not to build an actual successful project.
This type of repeated business of failure wasn’t just “bad luck” or “bad business.” The failure was intended all along because nobody investigates failure. And Trump’s construction projects and construction licensing deals repeatedly failed. But of course, Trump still made money off the deals. They didn’t fail because they sucked (perhaps some did), they instead purposely and intentionally failed because people never look closely into a failed project. That makes a failed project a perfect cover for laundering money, committing fraud, making “dirty” money into “clean” money, or using the project as a fake failure to shield illegal acts. Nobody would bother to look at a failed business.
So now let’s say you are a foreign government and you are looking for dirt on Trump either because he’s running for president or just because you always keep track of the big shots who do business in and around your country. Trump would have qualified as far back as the 1980s.
And let’s say now that you discovered a deal (or several) where someone was taking money stolen from a bank or secretly taking money from a bank they work for as an executive and investing it in their own personal side business in order to put the money in their own pocket. And let’s say you figured out that person wanted in on the Trump money laundering train in order to “clean” the “dirty” money.
And now you, as the foreign government, discover and get all the evidence to prove the following: A man came up with a big fancy building in a former soviet country like Georgia, even though nobody in Georgia wanted to buy units in a big fancy building. But who cares, the point was to use the project as a shell to cover up the “cleaning” of “dirty” money. The guy brought in Trump to slap his name on it, and take 12% of the money. Meanwhile, with Trump’s protection making it look like “legitimate business” the guy ran the rest of the money through the project to make the “dirty money” into “clean” money.
The deal, however, fell through after Trump got elected and then had to pull out of the deal because the spotlight was too bright. But in the years before that, while the deal was moving forward, all of the documentation on the deal got into the hands of the foreign government, who went over all of it and figured out the entire scam and how Trump would directly profit from it and participated in financial crimes.
Now say that foreign government was actually the Russian government.
If you are the Russian government, you use that information to put pressure on Trump to do the things you want him to do. Imagine you have information on multiple projects that were only shell projects with Trump’s name on them with the only purpose of “cleaning” money that is “dirty.” It not only would make Trump look bad, but it would be clear undisputed evidence of financial crimes by Trump that could send him to jail.
If that sounds too crazy of a story, it’s not. It’s a true story.
And this is where the Mueller investigation is going—into all of the shady deals Trump did, all of the dirty money Trump made clean, all of the fraud Trump covered up or participated in. You might ask yourself, what does that have to do with Trump being president?
It has to do with the fact that the information can be used against him. Either to make him do stuff or pressure him not to do stuff…. “If you do X, we’ll release documents showing how you committed fraud and will go to jail.”
Russia knows about a lot of Trump’s illegal scams and has all the evidence to bury Trump. And Russia is using that evidence to try to force Trump to do things that help Russia. Why turn someone in when you can blackmail them instead and get even better things from it?
This would not only be grounds for locking Trump up, it would be grounds for impeachment–a president doing something for a foreign government that is extorting him and paying him at the same time wouldn’t make it.
It’s all about the money.