Ring of Fire’s Sam Seder is joined by Heather ‘Digby’ Parton to talk about the FBI investigation into the collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government in the Presidential election and how Trump’s past casino dealings may be a glimpse into possible links of money laundering.
Transcript of the above video:
Digby: So, Heather, this week you had a piece on Salon, as opposed to your blog Hullaballoo, which is a daily read for me, as you know. You had a piece on Salon about Donald Trump’s casino empire and the potential and possible links to money laundering.
You write that “Past financial crimes may be the President’s biggest problem.” Frankly, for me, I don’t know about some of his associates. I think it’s quite possible there’s some ongoing and who knows what their relationships with the Russian government is. But, a couple of things that always resonate for me is when Paul Manafort said, ‘I never knowingly dealt with any Russian agents or whatnot.’ Donald Trump, one of his closest associates, in fact was a named and titled advisor, special advisor to him for about three or four years. Was a guy named Felix Sater, who is a known Russian Mafia figure. He has also been known to have been an informant and asset for the FBI. We have even … We have the FBI on record and the former Attorney General under Obama on record as saying, ‘This guy has been a valuable asset.’
I suspect that the Venn diagram between Russian … I guess spying assets and Russian Mafia is pretty big. The overlap there is, I would imagine, is pretty big. I’ve always been convinced that to the extent that there’s any relationships there, Donald Trump is just assuming these guys are all just Russian Mafia guys. And it turns out they also … They work on 1099s and they work for a lot of different people. But tell us about your story here.
Heather: Well, I think what made me think of it was it said in one of the Washington Post articles from last week, it was revealed that the FBI investigation is not just into Russian collusion … Collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government in the Presidential campaign. But there was just one throw away line, ‘It is also into financial crimes involving Russia.’ I went, oh.
I don’t know when Trump was informed of this. I assume that somewhere along the line he knew … was informed that financial crimes were part of the mandate for this Russian investigation, and specifically under Robert Muller. But it does sort of indicate why he might have been so panicked in my view about this investigation in ways that make a little bit more sense to me than the idea that he’s Putin’s puppet or is being blackmailed.
Heather: I’m not saying that’s impossible. Anything is possible with this guy. There’s plenty of reason to think that there was all kinds of shenanigans going on there. But when you look at what really motivates Donald Trump and what really seems to have him mostly protective and concerned about, it’s his business, right? He’s been completely un-transparent, refused to divest. No tax returns, all the way along the line, absolutely adamant that he was not going to reveal any of that.
Well, when you look at these financial … When you realize that the FBI now has a mandate to look at the financial crimes and that the Senate Intelligence Committee requested documents from what’s called the FinCEN which is part of the treasury department, it’s an investigative unit that tracks financial transactions. It turns out that Trump, going all the way back to the 1990s has been tracked by the US Government. The Trump organization has been fined numerous times, 106 times in the first year and a half of the Trump Taj Mahal, for money laundering. Money laundering.
And, during this period, Trump, half the people at the Trump Taj Mahal who were money laundering, were Russian mobsters. I mean this is all on records. It’s been out there. Various news organizations have started to dig into this. As recently as 2009, the Trump Taj Mahal was fined for infractions to do with money laundering. This was during the period it was in bankruptcy.
The Trump Taj Mahal, I don’t think people realize, just closed in October of 2016. It shut it’s doors. Now, Trump has not been involved in any direct level for sometime. But he was involved in the 2000s. He was doing all kinds of refinancing and in very kind of shady ways. He has been involved in the two main areas of money laundering that are used by criminals, Russians and others. Real estate, and casinos, these are the two places where these people park their money because it’s less … it’s harder to trace.
In any case, I think this is really an important story. Clearly, the Senate Intelligence Committee thinks so. Clearly the FBI thinks so. I suspect that this is where Donald Trump is feeling this kind of sense of overwhelming panic welling up in him because this is where he’s truly vulnerable. I don’t know where that leaves us in terms of his Presidency and how that plays into it. But one can assume that if special prosecutor thought that a land deal that lost $20,000 to a President was worthy of eight years of harassment, that this is the sort of thing that would keep Donald Trump up at night. It’s pretty clear that he’s vulnerable.
Digby: Yeah. And it’s interesting because Robert Muller does not have the authority that Ken Starr has. Does not have the … He’s been granted it, but he’s had to be granted it for specific things. Whereas Ken Starr because of … had a statutory authority to do anything, essentially. Investigate anything. That’s how you go from the White Water land deal and move ahead 40 years in time or 30 years in time to get the president impeached because he fibbed or lied in a deposition about just how intimate he was sexually with somebody he was having an affair with. That’s how you get that far.
Theoretically, Muller could get to that point, too. It’s just that at one point somebody could stop him in a way that Ken Starr could not be stopped. But it’s gonna be interesting because I also think … Look, Jared Kushner, some of the people that apparently he has met with were Russian banks that were supposedly embargoed.
There’s certainly something going on here. You’re right about the money laundering with real estate. It’s obvious how that happens in the context of casinos. But, New York City now, you see a lot of different people coming in with 20, 30 million dollars in cash. Maybe they overpay for an apartment. That’s called the service charge essentially. Then all of a sudden, they turn around and sell it a couple of years later. Maybe they make some of their money back, too. But they’ve got now clean money. So, definitely, I think we’re gonna see some of that in the future.
But let’s take a break and since we’re talking about Trump and talking about money, let’s talk about the Trump budget which was released this week. And also we should just touch on the … we saw the CBO score, didn’t work out so well for the repeal and replace of Obama Care. But, let’s talk about that budget because this is really what people consider to be an expression of the values of the entity that puts out the budget. And certainly it sounds like Trump. We gotta take a quick break. Be right back with Digby, Ring of Fire Radio.