In a strong sign that the Murdoch media complex (News Corp) is cutting Donald Trump adrift, Wall Street Journal investigative reporters Shane Harris and Carol Lee have released a series of reports indicating that the Treasury Department’s FinCEN division is gathering and reviewing data relating to Trump’s international business dealings and forwarding them to Senate Intelligence Committee investigators.
FinCEN is the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network within the Treasury Department. A particular specialty of that office is investigation and enforcement against money-laundering.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Trump’s financial records are being forwarded to Senate staffers conducting the probe of collusion between Trump, his associates, his campaign and Russian state officials and related entities.
One individual from FinCEN who spoke with the WSJ reporters told them, regarding the financial documents, that, “without them, the committee wouldn’t be able to reach a conclusion on whether there was collusion between Trump associates and Russia during last year’s campaign”.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, which seems to be the more aggressive of the two Congressional committees examining this matter, is intent on putting together a roadmap of Trump’s business transactions and dealings – particularly, says committee member Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), regarding shell companies, property transfers and money-laundering that have direct relevance to the investigation.
All of this underlines the dynamic nature of the controversy involving President Trump’s actions since taking office in January, up to and including his firing last week of FBI Director James B. Comey, Jr., who reports have indicated, was receiving daily briefings on the FBI’s investigation of what has been dubbed #Russiagate.
For its part, the White House issued a statement that some see as ‘whistling past the graveyard’:
“We are confident that when these inquiries are complete, there will be no evidence to support any collusion between the campaign and Russia.”
In their interview with a former senior U.S. official, Harris and Lee were told that the FBI and FinCEN’s investigations center on the question of whether individuals or entities connected with the Russian government had financial dealings connected with Trump properties or business ventures as well as state banks that were furnishing Trump with loans.
A Reuters review published in March found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in Southern Florida, according to public documents, interviews and corporate records.
The Senate’s investigation now goes beyond the mere question of Russian state involvement in actions intended to disrupt the presidential election and into the possibility that Russia may have been funneling money into the Trump campaign.
One aspect of the investigation that remains to be addressed is access to Donald Trump’s tax records. Trump has indicated that he intends to break his campaign promise to release them, telling news journal the Economist in a recent interview, “at some point I’ll release them. Maybe I’ll release them after I’m finished because I’m very proud of them actually. I did a good job.”
The tax returns, at least according to a statement from Trump’s lawyers, do not indicate anything significant in terms of investments or business dealings in Russia. However, Steve Rosenthal, tax lawyer and Senior Fellow at the Tax Policy Center in Washington, told the WSJ that, “A Russian would not lend directly to Trump or his businesses. A Russian would, for example, fund a Cyprus corporation, which would lend to Trump or his businesses, possibly through other intermediary entities.”
The tax return likely would at least provide leads for Senate investigators, FinCEN and the FBI to dig into and connect some dots in their inquiries.
The Wall Street Journal discloses that Donald Trump has a history of being a subject of FinCENS’ scrutiny and enforcement actions, outlining that:
In 2015, FinCEN imposed a $10 million civil penalty against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort for “willful and repeated violations” of anti-money laundering requirements, according to an official statement at the time. The agency cited a prior history of violations dating back to 2003. In 1998, FinCEN assessed a nearly $500,000 penalty against Trump Taj Mahal for currently transaction reporting violations. Mr. Trump hadn’t owned or been involved with running the company since 2009.
WSJ also learned that FinCEN is examining “businesses owned by or associated with” Trump’s family members. One such example would be Jared Kushner, who was until he came aboard as a White House policy adviser, the CEO of Kushner Companies, Inc.