It should be absolutely clear to everyone now why President Donald Trump, to this day, refuses to show us his tax returns.
The USA Today is now confirming what people familiar with Donald Trump’s business history have been speculating for decades:
To expand his real estate developments over the years, Donald Trump, his company and partners repeatedly turned to wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics — several allegedly connected to organized crime, according to a review of court cases, government and legal documents and an interview with a former federal prosecutor.
Links connecting Trump and his associates to Russian billionaire oligarchs have been exposed almost weekly since the shock result of 2016 election. Many of those oligarchs are known members of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, and they’re suspected of a wide range of fraudulent and corrupt financial activities conducted on his behalf.
But this is the first credible news outlet to connect Trump to known members of the Russian Mafia. And that’s important, according to USA Today, because:
“Anybody who is an oligarch or is in any position of power in Russia got it because (President) Vladimir Putin or somebody in power saw some reason to give that person that job,” Hall said in an interview. “All the organized crime figures I’ve ever heard of (in Russia) all have deep connections and are tied in with people in government.”
One of Trump’s real estate deals – one USA Today alleges involved figures with ties to the Russian Mafia – was the Manhattan SoHo Project, where, “Trump received an 18% share of the profits in return for use of his name, according to a deposition Trump gave in 2007 for a defamation lawsuit he brought against an author.”
The developer of both the SoHo project and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was the Bayrock Group, a company founded by shady Kazakh billionaire Tevfik Arif and financed by other Russian billionaires with dubious business reputations.
Among his more notorious run-ins with the law, Arif was arrested along with 10 other people on charges of running a prostitution ring. He was accused of charging wealthy businessmen $10,000 a night to sleep with Russian and Ukrainian models aboard a famous Turkish luxury yacht.
The yacht was owned by Alexander Mashkevich, another Bayrock partner and player in the Trump SoHo Project development, who settled a $55 million money laundering case with the government of Belgium in 2011 without admitting any wrongdoing.
Mashkevich was not aboard the yacht when Turkish officials raided it, but Arif was, along with nine other men and ten women – eight Russians and two Ukrainians – two of whom were only 16 years of age. Arif was charged with running a prostitution ring, but was acquitted, largely because the women rescued in the raid would not talk.
Arif and Trump appeared together in 2007 at the launch for Trump Soho:
For people who have followed Donald Trump’s career, these close ties to dirty Russian figures and their even dirtier money will come as no surprise.
Allegations of fast and loose relationships with American organized crime have dogged Trump for decades. Politico did a story in May of last year highlighting his long history of shady relationships with mafia figures on property development projects in New York and Florida.
Viewed through this lens, the alleged relationships with the Russian mob substantiated in this lengthy and extensive exposé are all the more plausible.
The White House declined to comment on this story, referring reporters to the Trump Organization instead. Despite the paper and money trail outlined in USA Today’s report, a Trump Organization spokeswoman insisted that President’s namesake company, “…never entered into a single transaction with any of these individuals and the condominium units were all owned and sold by third parties — not Trump.”
The President could end all the speculation about his Russian ties if he just releases his tax returns. If Trump’s insistence that he has no connections Russia, and all of the reporting and allegations the FBI is investigating, is true, then his tax returns would go a long ways to vindicating him.
With no sign that he’ll cooperate, reports like this one will continue to chip away at Trump’s lies and expose the truth that even his most zealous followers must now know lies at the bottom of this sham of a presidency.
Peter Mellado is a writer, producer, and a branding and messaging specialist with over 15 years experience. He studied history at San Jose State University, and resides in Los Angeles.