From New York to Florida, Panama to Azerbaijan, we found that Trump projects have relied heavily on foreign cash — including from wealthy individuals from Russia and elsewhere with questionable, and even criminal, backgrounds. We saw money traveling through offshore shell companies, entities often used to obscure ownership. Many news organizations have since dug deeply into the Trump Organization’s projects and come away with similar findings.
Mr. Trump’s company routinely teamed up with individuals whose backgrounds should have raised red flags.
Consider the Bayrock Group, a developer that once had lavish offices in Trump Tower. The firm worked with Mr. Trump in the mid-2000s to build the Trump SoHo in Lower Manhattan, among other troubled projects. One of its principals was a Russian émigré, Felix Sater, linked to organized crime who served time for felony assault and who later pleaded guilty to racketeering involving a $40 million stock fraud scheme.
Belgian authorities accused a Kazakh financier recruited by Bayrock of carrying out a $55 million money-laundering scheme (that case was settled without an admission of guilt). Civil suits filed in Los Angeles and New York allege that a former mayor of the largest city in Kazakhstan and several of his family members laundered millions in stolen public funds, investing some of it in real estate, including units in Trump SoHo. (The family has denied wrongdoing and says it is the victim of political persecution.)
In 2006, the sale of condos in the first international hotel venture under the Trump brand, the former Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama, fell, in large part, to a Brazilian named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira. He worked with a Colombian who was later convicted of money laundering. Mr. Nogueira told NBC News last year that he sold about half of his Trump condos to Russians, including some connected to the Russian mafia, and that some of his clients had “questionable backgrounds.”
Three years later, as Reuters has reported, Panamanian authorities arrested Mr. Nogueira on charges of fraud and forgery unrelated to the Trump project. After getting out on bail, he fled to Brazil, where he faces a separate money-laundering investigation. In 2014, he fled Brazil, too.
The Trumps typically claim to be passive partners in projects like Trump Ocean Club and that they had minimal dealings with the likes of Mr. Nogueira. (The chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, Alan Garten, has said that no one in the Trump family remembers meeting or speaking to Mr. Nogueira. But there are photos of Mr. Trump and his daughter Ivanka with Mr. Nogueira.) Yet Mr. Trump’s limited public disclosures reveal his company has earned millions from licensing fees, a percentage of property sales and management fees in foreign projects. And the Trump family was sometimes personally involved in everything from a project’s design to its décor.
That appears to have been the case with the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, a high-end residence and hotel that has yet to open. In 2012, the Trumps signed a licensing agreement with the local developer, Anar Mammadov — the son of the country’s billionaire transportation minister, Ziya Mammadov, who an American diplomat once described in cables published by WikiLeaks as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.”
The Trump Organization has said that it conducted an extensive due-diligence review of Anar Mammadov and that questions about the source of his wealth surfaced after they signed the deal. Presumably, Mr. Mueller will want to see evidence of that.
In Vancouver, the Trump Organization partnered with the son of Tony Tiah Thee Kian, a Malaysian oligarch who was convicted of providing a false report to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange. That project, which was guided by Ivanka Trump and is one of the few Trump-branded properties to open since Mr. Trump took office, is now the subject of an F.B.I. counterintelligence inquiry, according to CNN. Mr. Garten, the Trump chief legal officer, told CNN: “The company’s role was and is limited to licensing its brand and managing the hotel. Accordingly, the company would have had no involvement in the financing of the project or the sale of units.”
It remains unclear whether Mr. Mueller will investigate these deals, or already is. But a comprehensive investigation could raise questions about the Trump Organization’s compliance with anti-money-laundering laws and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which — according to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice — makes it a crime for a United States company to act with willful blindness toward the corrupt activities of a foreign business partner.
The former Donald Trump insider Steve Bannon has hinted darkly about the Trump family’s exposure to money laundering. And Mr. Mueller has already secured the indictment of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, on charges of money laundering related to his work in Ukraine. Federal prosecutors are reported to be looking into Jared Kushner’s family firm over its use of a federal program that offered wealthy Chinese investors visas in return for investments. Kushner Companies has denied any wrongdoing.
The Trump family’s business entanglements are of more than historical significance. Americans need to be sure that major foreign policy decisions are made in the national interest — not because of foreign ties forged by the president’s business ventures.
One scandal that’s generated headlines is a secretive trip Pruitt took to Morocco that cost taxpayers $40,000, which included the tab for two nights in high-end hotels in Paris. What’s gotten less attention is that Pruitt spent part of this trip working to set up export deals for U.S. gas companies — activities that are not at all part of his job as our nation’s top environment protector.
“The actual corruption going on here is even worse than the appearance of corruption,” said Basav Sen, Climate Justice project director at the Institute for Policy Studies. “If Pruitt goes down, it will probably be for his lesser crimes, but at least his ouster would set an example for others.”
|Scott Pruitt’s plan would double allowable auto emissions by 2025
Living on Earth | Adam WernickEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced that the agency will start the process of scrapping Obama-era auto emissions standards negotiated with the automakers, a move that, if completed, would double allowable vehicle pollution in 2025, compared to existing rules.A number of state attorneys general and at least 50 mayors have criticized Administrator Pruitt’s plan or threatened legal action. Among those most concerned are Californians, as Pruitt also wants to rescind a federal waiver that allows the Golden State to impose tougher vehicle pollution standards than the federal government.Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign and a vocal opponent of weakening the vehicle rules, says the fuel economy and emission standards that President Donald Trump wants to roll back are “the biggest single step any nation has ever taken to cut global warming pollution and save oil.”
|‘A factory of bad ideas’: How Scott Pruitt undermined his mission at EPA Washington Post | Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, and Josh Dawsey|
|The April 9 gathering in the Oval Office was supposed to be about ethanol policy. But the meeting had barely gotten underway when President Trump turned his attention to Scott Pruitt’s “rough week.”
The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency had suffered a barrage of negative headlines about his spending on first-class travel, his large security detail and steep raises for two favored aides, as well as his leasing of a Capitol Hill condo from a Washington lobbyist for $50 a night.
As Pruitt, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and White House counsel Donald McGahn listened, Trump mused about the size of the raises and whether the lease was indeed market rate, according to two senior administration officials familiar with the discussion. Then he switched to a happier subject, noting that Pruitt had shed “a lot of bureaucrats” from the agency.