Where Did the King of Debt Get All His Cash?

During both his business career and the campaign, Donald Trump described himself as the “king of debt.” He often bragged about his ability to borrow money to finance his empire, saying that he loved debt. That is why this information uncovered by the Washington Post raises so many red flags:

In the nine years before he ran for president, Donald Trump’s company spent more than $400 million in cash on new properties — including 14 transactions paid for in full, without borrowing from banks — during a buying binge that defied real estate industry practices and Trump’s own history as the self-described “King of Debt.”

According to the Post, the switch from debt to cash started in 2006 and skyrocketed in 2012 and 2014.

The cash purchases began with a $12.6 million estate in Scotland in 2006. In the next two years, he snapped up two homes in Beverly Hills. Then five golf clubs along the East Coast. And a winery in Virginia.

The biggest cash binge came last, in the year before Trump announced his run for president. In 2014, he paid a combined $79.7 million for large golf courses in Scotland and Ireland. Since then, those clubs have lost money while Trump renovated them, requiring him to pump in $164 million in cash to keep them running.

Eric Trump, who was contacted for this story, simply said that his father had “incredible cash flow” and didn’t need to borrow for every transaction. But that’s not what he told James Dodson back in 2014.

“I knew Trump was very interested in golf,” Dodson says. “I knew he was buying up golf courses. His M.O. was to find a financially distressed property, buy it, keep it in bankruptcy, do a half-a-million-dollar renovation, fire the entire staff and hire a third back.”…

“Trump was strutting up and down, talking to his new members about how they were part of the greatest club in North Carolina,” Dodson says. “And when I first met him, I asked him how he was — you know, this is the journalist in me — I said, ‘What are you using to pay for these courses?’ And he just sort of tossed off that he had access to $100 million.”

$100 million.

“So when I got in the cart with Eric,” Dodson says, “as we were setting off, I said, ‘Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks — because of the recession, the Great Recession — have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.’ And this is what he said. He said, ‘Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.

Six years prior to that, his brother Don Jr. said basically the same thing

At a New York real-estate conference in September 2008, Trump Jr. was frank about the tide of Russian money supporting the family business.

“In terms of high-end product influx into the U.S., Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. . . . We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” said the young Trump, according to a Sept. 15, 2008, article about the conference. He said he had made a half-dozen trips to Russia during the previous 18 months.

Two other timing issues are worth noting. Michael Cohen began working for the Trump Organization in 2007, bringing with him a whole host of ties to Russia and Ukraine. In addition to that, the Steele dossier states that, by 2016, Putin had been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years.”

At this point we can only speculate about how all of that ties together. But both the Mueller team and the federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are amassing evidence that will tell us whether Vladimir Putin funneled millions of dollars into the Trump Organization as a way to recruit our current president as basically a Russian asset.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.