Where Did The Money Come From?

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The Washington Post published a very important story over the weekend that poses a big question: where did the money come from?

It has long been assumed that Trump paid for his spending habits with loans from Deutsche Bank (because no American banks would do business with him) but an investigation by the Post found that Trump paid for numerous properties in cash including the most expensive one: his golf courses in the UK.

According to the Post, Trump didn't just make down-payments in cash; he paid in full.

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.” [...]

The cash purchases began with a $12.6 million estate in Scotland in 2006. In the next two years, he snapped up two homes in Beverly Hills. Then five golf clubs along the East Coast. And a winery in Virginia.

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.

This raises a lot a questions because I'm going to start with the first one that came to my mind.

Trump embarked on this spending spree following a series of bankruptcies (which is why American banks would no longer do business with him) so whether or not he may have hidden assets during multiple bankruptcy cases seems like an obvious question. Over $400 million in liquid cash is no small amount of money.

Eric Trump told the Washington Post that the money came from the Trump Organization's existing properties and their "incredible cash flow," but that strains credulity. I can't automatically accept the idea that Trump's failing properties somehow produced a disposable cash flow (after overhead costs) of more than $400 million that could be used to buy even more properties that don't even turn a profit.

The numbers don't add up.

In what I suspect is not a coincidence, the New York Times also published a story asking the same general questions about Michael Cohen's business.

In addition to his legal and taxi businesses, Mr. Cohen has had a seemingly charmed touch as a real estate investor. On one day in 2014, he sold four buildings in Manhattan for $32 million, entirely in cash. That was nearly three times what he paid for them no more than three years earlier.

“This is the type of person you’d see most bankers steer clear of,” said Ben Berzin, a retired executive vice president and senior credit officer at PNC Bank who clashed with Mr. Trump in the early 1990s over loans to the future president’s troubled Atlantic City casinos. The speed with which Mr. Cohen successfully flipped real estate stands out, Mr. Berzin said. “You have to ask what’s going on.”

We can't say Trump and Cohen are neck-deep in money laundering schemes, but it sure looks like it.

My gut says special prosecutor Robert Mueller and the district attorney's office in Manhattan already know the answer to at least some of these big questions.

  • muselet

    Charlie Pierce quotes the Washington Post‘s account of a British developer named Neil Hobday. Hobday worked with Donald Trump and claims Trump paid cash for property in Aberdeen because of a personal, “mystical” connection to Scotland (Trump’s mother was born in Scotland) rather than for sound business reasons. Pierce comments:

    That’s one explanation. It’s a dumb one, but it’s an explanation. There are several others, most of them coming from Eric Trump, and none of them make sense, either. But there is an explanation that can cover all the questions arising from this mysterious mid-career course correction in how the president* did business. Perhaps someone–or several someones–needed to wash some money. A possible reason that Mueller’s people are looking into this kind of maneuvering is that they suspect the Trump Organization was laundering money for the kind of people who need their money laundered. A possible reason for the president*’s having gone bouncing off the wall recently concerning the Mueller probe is that the president* thinks Mueller’s after that, too.

    Pierce finishes with a flourish:

    It was always going to be the money. That’s the only thing that’s ever mattered to the man.

    Sounds right to me.


  • It’s not just a matter of how much cash he had on hand, it’s also a deviation from his pattern of investing in the past. Before he always was almost religious about investing other people’s money to the tune of about 85% someone else’s money and only 15% his own. But then all of a sudden in 2006, I think, he started paying cash for these properties. So somehow someway he had a huge influx of cash. It is very suspicious.

  • Ceoltoir

    Two words, Russian Mafia.

  • Ellen Kuhlmann

    Read something in the New Yorker recently about Trump’s finances, seems all roads may lead to Russia. Everyone is wondering what Putin has on Trump, my guess is that it has everything to do with the Trump Org finances. Just this weekend he again congratulated Putin.

  • simpfan

    Where did the money come from?

    The answer starts with “money” and ends with “laundering”.

    • Username1016

      I think it starts with “Ru” and ends with “ssia”.