Per the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network at the Department of the Treasury (think of them like the Navy Seals of spreadsheets) release on March 6, 2015:
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today imposed a $10 million civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort (Trump Taj Mahal), for willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). In addition to the civil money penalty, the casino is required to conduct periodic external audits to examine its anti-money laundering (AML) BSA compliance program and provide those audit reports to FinCEN and the casino’s Board of Directors.
Trump Taj Mahal, a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, admitted to several willful BSA violations, including violations of AML program requirements, reporting obligations, and recordkeeping requirements. Trump Taj Mahal has a long history of prior, repeated BSA violations cited by examiners dating back to 2003. Additionally, in 1998, FinCEN assessed a $477,700 civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal for currency transaction reporting violations.
“Trump Taj Mahal received many warnings about its deficiencies,” said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors. Far from meeting these expectations, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”
Trump Taj Mahal admitted that it failed to implement and maintain an effective AML program; failed to report suspicious transactions; failed to properly file required currency transaction reports; and failed to keep appropriate records as required by the BSA. Notably, Trump Taj Mahal had ample notice of these deficiencies as many of the violations from 2012 and 2010 were discovered in previous examinations.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has requested relevant documents from FinCEN. CNN reported yesterday that:
Federal investigators exploring whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian spies have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, according to people familiar with the investigation.
How was this fine not an issue during the campaign? Allegations of laundering money through casinos are nothing new, and it is a big problem as far as law enforcement is concerned. Trump’s penalty was the biggest ever doled out to a casino, until FinCEN fined Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino in the Northern Mariana Islands $75 million a few months later. They also fined Cantor Gaming $12 million in late 2016. Trump isn’t alone in the murky waters on this longstanding issue, which is what makes it even more egregious for the media to miss it.
A search of TV news archive for “Trump FinCEN” returns two videos—both from CSPAN in 2017 (a search of “Trump Financial Crimes Enforcement Network” returns several unrelated videos from 2017). Narrowing Google to search between the day this FinCEN release came out and election day returns a grand total of zero articles from really anyone on page one. The Hill and The Atlantic articles below are about separate FinCEN stories, and a link to a separate Trump article is what put his name on the page. The Facebook links go to some dude named The Conservative Minuteman.
Stretching the start date backwards to early February (when news of this first broke) returns three stories which provide the basic facts of the matter in the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and Fortune. So basically, news about some reality star broke in early 2015, a few outlets covered it, then when the reality star accepted the Republican nomination for president a year later, no one thought to bring it up again. The media spent infinitely more time propping up Donald Trump in 2016 than vetting him for president.
How did Hillary Clinton not attack Trump for this? Search through 80 speeches she made during the campaign (dating back to February 14, when only one GOP primary had taken place) and you’ll see that she never said the words “money launderer” or “money laundering” or any version of that phrase. Don’t tell me that she ran a great campaign, and Bernie and the Russians simply stole it from her. She owns missing this more than the media does since she’s supposed to attack her opponent with everything she has, and somehow she didn’t reach for the giant rock sitting in the Treasury Department right down the street from her former office.
A major business of the Republican nominee for President of the United States (who was running on his business record) “admitted to several willful Bank Secrecy Act violations, including violations of anti-money laundering program requirements, reporting obligations, and recordkeeping requirements,” had repeated violations in some areas going back as far as 1998, and paid one of the largest fines in FinCEN’s history. No questions? No stories? No? Nothing? What the hell???
It’s not like the mainstream media hasn’t reported on Trump’s shady business dealings before. My deep dive into his business ties to Russia is littered with hyperlinks to The New York Times, Financial Times, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, among others. Trump has been in bed with Kremlin flavored businessmen for quite some time now, as he “wrote” in Trump: Art of the Deal that in 1986, “One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin in partnership with the Soviet government.”
Thanks to the Yeltsin government’s failure to rebound from the fall of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent meddling of western financial interests, Russia’s major businesses were effectively sold off to the government just before Putin began his reign—and this, combined with Yeltsin’s mass privatization of state-owned assets (and Putin’s continuance of that policy), created a system that allows the Kremlin to funnel government, intelligence, business, and organized crime all through the same conduits if need be. If you’re doing business with major Russian firms, you’re also doing business with the Kremlin, who’s doing business with organized crime, etc…etc…etc…Russian nesting dolls are more than a metaphor.
If Trump was laundering money for the Kremlin in Trump Taj Mahal, then the dirt they have on him is the literal definition of kompromat, and it would go a long way towards concluding why he’s so eager to capitulate to Putin.
Three major stories accelerating this saga dropped yesterday, and the biggest shockwave was caused by the news of a grand jury empanelment. But the two others are quite significant, and almost certainly are related to the first; one being Mueller's aforementioned crossing of Trump's red line into investigating his businesses, and the other is yet another cameo by our favorite bumbling PhD, Carter Page.
Now that Robert Mueller has armed himself with a legal uberweapon to ascertain what is really going on, I believe more than ever in every word of what I wrote to close out my deep dive on Trump’s Russian connections:
The walls are closing in on the White House, as the drip drip drip of information leaking from the intelligence community continues this slow march towards the obvious conclusion: Donald Trump is beholden to Russian interests, and he willingly accepted their help in his campaign to become president of the United States. This is the most important story of our time, and the response to the remarkable efforts by the White House to stonewall the investigation will either prove America’s resilience or accelerate our descent into the dustbin of history’s great empires.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.