According to President Donald Trump’s tax records, which have been reviewed by The New York Times, the eventual president “engineered a sudden financial windfall” of “more than $21 million in what experts describe as highly unusual one-off payments from the Las Vegas hotel he owns with his friend the casino mogul Phil Ruffin” back in 2016. These sudden payments to Trump — at least some of which may have been legally dubious — may have been the source of $10 million that Trump suddenly came up with in late October of that year and donated to his presidential campaign.
According to the Times, most of the Trump-directed payments in question from Trump and Ruffin’s joint hotel venture went to a firm called Trump Las Vegas Sales and Marketing, which “had little previous income, no clear business purpose and no employees.” This lack of just about any appreciable business structure suggests that the stated explanation for the payments — the Trump-Ruffin venture wrote the money off as a business expense — may have been a fiction. If the money was specifically meant to help Trump financially fuel his presidential campaign, then these details could constitute another campaign finance scandal involving the president. Even claiming a tax deduction for the payments to Trump without actual work underlying the transactions could be illegal, no matter any campaign connection.
In response to the revelations from the Times, White House spokesman Judd Deere said that Trump “was longtime partners with Phil Ruffin and earned whatever payments he received.” Did he though? Before the mysterious payments from the Trump-Ruffin venture to the then-struggling presidential candidate, Trump had been on what seems like a desperate rush for money. In the first few months of 2016 alone, he sold a whopping $38.6 million worth of stock, and by the end of the year, he had sold almost $30 million more.
The more than $21 million included a $13,756,623 payment that went out to that mysterious Trump firm called Trump Las Vegas Sales and Marketing. Also in the mix was $2,685,000 that was split between the two firms that hold Trump’s share of the hotel. That money was subsequently paid out directly to Trump. Meanwhile, the over $21 million also includes a $4.8 million “development fee” that seems to have been paid out to a Trump firm called Trump Las Vegas Development.
Interestingly enough, Ruffin seems to have a Trumpian penchant for lying. In 2015, Ruffin claimed that Trump “gave $20 million to the St. Jude children’s home.” No evidence has ever emerged that this donation was ever actually made. Ultimately, Ruffin has been associated with Trump for awhile. Ruffin even flew the eventual president to Moscow when he hosted his “Miss Universe” pageant in the city. In a letter signed by Trump from the immediate aftermath of the event, Trump said that it was “great… making the rounds of the city in the hopes of the purchase or development of a project” with Ruffin. Infamously, the Trump Organization has pursued business opportunities in Russia in fits and starts over the years.
Trump’s tax returns are among the targets of an ongoing investigation led by Manhattan-area District Attorney Cy Vance, who has subpoenaed the documents.