A response to the @susannecraig @russbuettner
@mmcintire and their new argument which they say might debunk my stories on Trump and money laundering.

It's in part 2:
nytimes.com/interactive/20…

A thread about why I am skeptical of their skepticism:

1/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire First off: they have, of course, done amazing work amassing these tax docs. As far as I can tell, they have done less work looking inside each deal. How could they examine hundreds of deal with the same level of scrutiny?

2/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire Also, so far, they have not looked at these records through the eyes of money laundering. Any prosecutor will tell you that tax manipulation and money laundering are close cousins.

Lastly, they take his tax filings as accurate reflections of his income and spending.

3/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire So, let's look at Scotland:

Solely looking at the public financials of these two deals, Aberdeen and Turnberry, many things are obvious:

- He is NOT spending as much money as he claims to be spending.
- He IS still spending absurd amounts of money on $-losing businesses.

4/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire - He is spending money in a way he never has before in his career. It is--he says--his own cash and he never funds 100% of a project. And it is done with remarkable patience and no obvious path to profit, fame, glory, etc.

- Did he save his massive Apprentice earnings, ...

6/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire Then invest much of it, plus additional assets into a series of businesses that did none of the things he looks for--no immediate glory, etc.

Maybe he did. that is a real possibility. He is stupid and impulsive and makes bad decisions.

7/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire But let's just say he did the thing he always does: he used other people's money, he hid its sources and he blew it on wasteful businesses.

What would those tax returns look like?

I think they would look pretty much like these.

8/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire But here's the real kicker--the thing that, I believe, argues in my favor over theirs?

The Scottish finances reveal not only overspending. They reveal a magic trick: money disappears. Money flows in and, poof, its gone.

9/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire Where is that money? It adds up to a lot.

It doesn't disappear entirely in a tax-friendly way. Because it disappears into false valuations of property that don't allow for tax loss claims. It's just poof. Gone.

10/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire We don't know how much, because of the way it's set up and the paucity of data. But we do know that a lot of money disappears.

Where is that money? Is it his? Is it someone else's? Why create this ornate structure--far more elaborate than needed for tax fraud?

11/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire The nature of financial investigation is that you get whatever datapoints you get and you have to tell a story.

With Trump, the story can always be: he's stupid and impulsive, not criminal. Or, he's stupid and impulsive and only a tax cheat.

12/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire That might be true.

But I have a hard time seeing that story in the data. I think the deal-level analysis shows that someone -- not Trump, himself -- went to enormous trouble to set up mechanisms for making money disappear in ways that don't seem tax-related.

Why?

13/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire I'll try to re-write this in a shorter, easier to digest form later today.

Key question--I'd love accountants and prosecutors to weigh in--what would a $-launderers tax returns look like? How would we know if those returns were laundering or just tax avoidance?

14/end

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More from @adamdavidson

22 Nov
The TV show Yellowstone is such a helpful guide to Trumpism.

It creates a world where heroes are gruff men who say and do bad things, but for the RIGHT reasons.

And they are constantly being hampered by idiot city folk who don't know how cruel and tough the world is.

1/
The villains are federal government officials who cynically use environmental laws to stifle the hard-working real men. And a scheming Lesbian journalist from Seattle.

2/
There is a lot of stuff about wolves to demonstrate that the Real Men of Yellowstone are part of nature--where you kill or get killed, claim territory for your family or perish.

3/
Read 5 tweets
18 Nov
@joshtpm @JamesSurowiecki @andergw @savagecolin @brianbeutler James, you are facing the same fundamental misunderstanding of the core Kompromat.

The Trump Org's growth has all been with politically-connected partners in highly corrupt nations.
Azerbaijan: Minister of Transport.
Turkey: close ally of Erdogan.
Indonesia: Hary Tanoe.

1/
@joshtpm @JamesSurowiecki @andergw @savagecolin @brianbeutler ... who is the leader of an ambitious, big spending political party.
- Etc.
Scotland is the one place with no obvious government connection, but I--and the Scottish govt--are quite suspicious about where the money came from.

2/
@joshtpm @JamesSurowiecki @andergw @savagecolin @brianbeutler In the cases I know best, especially Azerbaijan, Trump Org has acknowledged that they were working on a project that served the interests of the pro-iran/pro-Moscow wing of Azerbaijani oligarchy.

3/
Read 8 tweets
29 Sep
This is why I think Trump is doing more than tax avoidance.

This is from financials for the Aberdeen property. It's one page from one year, but tells a story repeated year after year.

I hope at least some stick with me (esp. @susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire )

1/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire The thing everyone reports is the losses--the shareholder (Trump) has lost more than £7M.

But the interesting stuff is the fixed asset value and the creditors--over one year.

Trump is all of them: he owns the asset, lends the money, owes the money, is owed the money.

2/
@susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire We see the same process year after year. He lends himself millions, the asset value is increased by that same number of millions.

This happens in many years when he does no work on the property--no investment, no building.

It happened through the 2008 crash.

3/
Read 17 tweets
28 Sep
Hey Dan,

I'm a fan, as you know!

But I'm skeptical that you are right about the wealth.

The deals I know best--especially the Sottish ones--are simply not worth the $70M plus you report.

They are illiquid--nobody would buy them.

They are unprofitable.

1/
He has been claiming a value that is impossible to justify by comps. Their actual realizable value is probably much less than he has put into them (if he is the one who put money into them).

2/
You might say: who cares about $70M or so when he has $2.5B.

But the Scottish and Irish properties are the only ones with publicly available audited financials. (They were weakly audited, tbf, but audited).

So, presumably, they are the closest to accurate.

3/
Read 6 tweets
28 Sep
Money laundering is simple and not, necessarily, a sophisticated crime.

It is, at base, story telling. Someone has a ton of dough they can't spend without raising questions. It's from drug money or corruption or whatever.

1/
Ozark and Breaking Bad explain all this well.

The person with the money arranges with someone to set up a sham business that can appear legitimate.

Typically, the business should be one that has imprecise value.

2/
Real estate, fine wine, art, etc, are great. You can justify whatever values you want.

New real estate development is especially good: tons of money flowing all over the world--for materials, designers, etc.

3/
Read 11 tweets
28 Sep
One theory on why the consulting frees are important:

- If Trump were buying golf courses for himself, hoping to generate revenue and build asset value, the last thing he'd want is to burden the project with unusually large fees for execs already on payroll who are heirs.

1/
- If, instead, Trump were buying properties for someone else, using his brand--such as it is--to mask the purchase, he'd need a way to charge a fee.

- He can't pay himself a fee for a property he owns. But he can, apparently, pay Ivanka wildly large fees.

2/
- In his more traditional Oligarch-facing work (Baku, Batumi, Panama, Vancouver, Toronto, Indonesia, etc), he was only a service provider, charging a fee.

- With the Scottish and Irish courses and Doral, he did something new. He [claimed to] spend his own money.

3/
Read 7 tweets

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