In 2000, Donald Trump was broke. His casino projects were bankrupt, his credit was shot, his business pretty much out of business. He could still pretend to be Donald Trump, big time real estate guy, but the truth was there was nothing left of him but a name.
And then, just like that, Trump was back in the game, selling New York real estate at ridiculous prices and planting his gold-plated letters wherever he went. Trump likes to pretend that this was the tale of a brilliant comeback and realizing the value of his own name. In truth his licensing deals never amounted to more than peanuts and his involvements outside real estate cost far more than they made. The influx of money came from a simple change in tactics—Trump made it clear that he was willing to look the other way when money came in from shady, overseas deals.
The laws regulating US real estate deals are scant, experts say. Provisions against terrorism financing in the Patriot Act, passed in the aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks, obliged mortgage lenders to conduct “know your customer” research. But money launderers pay in cash.
Laws passed after 2001 were intended to give federal regulators more insight into international money-laundering, but what they did was turn real estate into the go-to means of bringing in funds by the tens of millions with minimal scrutiny. Tack together an offshore LLC, attach it to a similar organization in the United States, and the result is a double-wall of anonymity between property purchased and the people pumping in the cash. All it takes is someone willing to deal.
A reminder: Donald Trump did not divest from his companies upon being elected, and continues to make cash profits from them even while acting as “president.” While some of the profits are known (like increased fees at his Palm Beach resort and meetups between conservative groups and members of his administration at his new D.C. hotel), the sources of other presidential profits are being carefully concealed.
BuzzFeed has gone through the records related to Trump’s continuing flow of undisclosed millions, and what they’ve found probably won’t surprise you at all.