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.
@joshtpm@JamesSurowiecki@andergw@savagecolin@brianbeutler ... who is the leader of an ambitious, big spending political party.
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.
A thread about why I am skeptical of their skepticism:
@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?
@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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- He blew through other people’s money. His dad’s. Then Mark Burnett’s. Plus loans.
- he starts blowing through the most money in 2011, when the known sources disappear.
- He had a new source of funds.
- This new source had more money and seems to have put fewer restrictions on his spending.
- Only question for us as a nation: what is that new source of money?
- As I’ve written obsessively, 2011 is when he gets into business with the Mammadovs.
- Soon after, he’s in business with the Agalarovs, flirting with Georgians and Kazakhs with ties to Putin.
- All of these groups are—between 2011 and 2016—known to be laundering money through golf courses.
There has been a lot of criticism of NPR this week.
One interesting thing I've noted: when working inside of NPR, it is impossible to truly take in the criticism. It just doesn't happen.
But most who leave get it fully and all of a sudden. It's like the Matrix.
Within NPR, many people recognize the core problems--bothsidism, cowardice masking as principle, being dull, little original enterprise reporting, conservative (small c) bureaucratic decision-making--but few, if any, can really see the full picture until they leave.
And then they see it all at once.
It is a deep cultural problem at NPR. There are massive defenses against criticism, especially an internally-focused discussion that equates what is good for NPR stations as what is good for journalism and the country.
He doesn't know the core financials of Trump Org. He was always hated and mocked by the people with real power--esp. Weisselberg but also Jason Greenblatt, George Sorial, Matt Calamari (all of whom should be more famous than they are).
It's a deal rife with screaming warning signs of possible money laundering and bank fraud.
Cohen truly knew nothing. He was the thuggish relationship guy, not the money guy.
In his book, he seems to grasping for some kind of insight into Trump's core business, but he clearly doesn't get it. Because:
- He's not smart.
- He's not on the inside.
- He's not trusted or liked.
- He's stupid.
So, I don't see a coherent view in your writing or in the Harper's letter or any of the other anti-"cancel" stuff. I don't know what each thing is worried about or what it wants to be different or what evidence it has.
The things I'd want to see:
- A clear definition of a possible phenomenon. What it is and what it isn't.
- Some theory about how you would test the existence of that phenomenon.
- Some evidence that supports that theory.
Steven Pinker (inadvertently) reveals the emptiness of anti-cancel culture here:
He is so self-congratulatory about how he is a man of the enlightenment, using empirical data and argument to find truth.
Then makes up nonsense whole cloth.
It is a perfect distillation of the core anti-"cancel" talking points:
1. Huge claims about the cancelers and how they represent a massive new shift in thinking. With no evidence, no data, no nothing.
2. Amazing self-congratulation about how the anti-Canceler believes in evidence, argument, openness. Always done while simultaneously making up evidence-free claims and showing zero curiosity about the critiques they are dismissing as part of cancel culture.
It takes work and some research skill, but things you will find:
- Trump Intl Golf shows the finances for Aberden.
- Then compare the New Aberdeen Menie folder for planning docs around that site--you see that Trump is claiming far more expense than he could possibly spend.
- The Turnberry docs are more messy, because of multiple owners.
- Clear takeaways:
- Elaborate scheme to make money disappear.
- The golf resorts make zero sense as a business for anybody but especially for Trump--they require enormous upfront capital expense and a lot of patience.
- So what is the real goal here? Why all this work?