President Donald Trump has never been forthcoming when it’s come to his finances. Following the recent revelation of $380,000 that the Trump campaign had paid to Trump’s own business in 43 separate payments, former federal tax crimes investigator Martin Sheil shared in a piece published in the Daily Beast that the situation suggested possibilities like money laundering. After all, the 43 separate payments were broken up to be just under the threshold beyond which businesses are required to report transactions to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Even if there’s no intention to hide something like money laundering, businesses can still be held liable for intentionally evading reporting requirements through methods like structuring, which means breaking large payments down into smaller components.
In just two days, @realdonaldtrump’s campaign pumped $380K into Trump’s private business, in 43 separate payments. Trump Org says this was for a weeklong “donor retreat,” held in early March at Mar-a-Lago.
Campaign donations turned into private revenue for POTUS pic.twitter.com/1kf39vAqkt
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) July 17, 2020
The Trump Organization has previously faced problems on this front — the difference is that it wasn’t campaign money that was under consideration. In March 2015 — not that long ago at all! — the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort was hit with a $10 million fine for “willful and repeated violations” of the legislation demanding the reporting of relevant transactions.
"tHe pReSiDeNt DoEsN't eVeN tAkE a SaLaRy!" https://t.co/VlZh86izFo
— BrooklynDad_Defiant Rep John Lewis! (@mmpadellan) July 17, 2020
Now, in the latest situation in which the $380,000 was broken down into 43 separate payments, Sheil said:
‘The Trump Organization’s record of the payment raises many questions I’m familiar with from my 30-year career as an investigator at the IRS. “Is the $380,000 income? If so, what was delivered in exchange for it? Were these payments for past services rendered or for future expected returns? Who were the donors? Why didn’t the Trump Organization just report the entire $380,000 in total? Why break that down into separate transactions? Why was each payment identically described as ‘Facility Rental/ Catering Services’? Is something being disguised here?’
The disguising could be a part of a money laundering scheme, Sheil said. The Trump Organization has staggeringly claimed that the payments were broken down because Mar-A-Lago supposedly can not process credit card payments of more than $10,000. It’s 2020, and the business owner is the president of the United States — do they seriously expect observers to take that excuse at face value? Perhaps if the president was more forthcoming about his financial issues, then it would be easier to take him seriously.
‘There are criminal penalties for structuring, or breaking a bigger payment into small chunks to evade reporting requirements, including a statutory maximum prison sentence of up to five years and/or a monetary fine of up to $250,000… Something smells in Mar-a-Lago, and there certainly exists enough smoke here to justify a thorough search for the fire.’
Investigators could actually take up the topic. Prosecutors in Manhattan and members of Congress have been trying to compel the release of Trump’s financial records. A court case surrounding the Manhattan investigation has been going well — although they referred the case for further proceedings, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently that Trump did not have absolute immunity from the subpoena for his financial records just because he’s the president. Trump has repeatedly sought to use his job as some kind of shield to avoid accountability for his actions, but in the Manhattan-tied Supreme Court case, even his own two nominees voted against him.