Donald Trump's business partners have included Russian oligarchs and convicted mobsters, which could make the president guilty of criminal racketeering charges.
That's one of the eyebrow-raising takeaways from a 45-minute Dutch documentary that aired last week, titled The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump, Part 1: The Russians. The first installment of the investigative reporting series, produced by Zembla, does what no American TV network has yet dared to do—take a deep look at the organized crime links and corrupt international business strategies used by Trump and his partners in his properties.
It starts with Trump's luxury tower in the lower Manhattan neighborhood of Soho, where his partner in building that highrise was Bayrock LLC, whose primary investor was a Russian mining oligarch and another major investor was a convicted Russian mobster named Felix Sater.
"Why did 60 Minutes pass on the Bayrock story in 2016? Why did ABC News' Brian Ross pass on the Trump Soho [Tower] story in 2015? Why has no major network done any kind of documentary on what the Dutch just did?" asks James Henry, a corporate lawyer-turned-financial investigative reporter who writes for DCReport.org. Henry is one of several investigative reporters whose work on Trump's shady business empire is profiled in the film.
The documentary shows how Trump not only helped hide the identity of his mobster business partner, prompting an ongoing lawsuit accusing Trump of criminal racketeering, but also how Trump used that internal company crisis to demand more money. It goes on to show how Russian oligarchs saw Trump's properties as a way to get their money out of Russia, and describes the international financial networks that are akin to a pyramid scheme for money laundering. It also notes how the law firm of Trump's political adviser, former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani, helped set up a money-laundering account in the Netherlands used by Bayrock.
The exposed financial trail raises questions about whether Trump fired FBI director James Comey because the FBI investigation of his campaign's collusion with Russia was encroaching into Trump's world of dark money and dubious business partners.
"Although still in its early days, Donald Trump’s presidency is coming under fire. The Russians are alleged to be in possession of sensitive information about Trump. And that exposes Trump to blackmail. Fake news, tweets Trump: 'I have nothing to do with Russia—no deals, no loans, no nothing!' Trump swears he has no ties with the Russians. But is that actually the case?" the filmmakers describe the first installment of the series.
They go on to show that while Trump denies his ties with Russia, many Russians have deep financial ties to him.
"For months, the FBI has been investigating Russian interference in the American presidential elections," the fimmakers continue. "Zembla is investigating another explosive dossier concerning Trump’s involvement with the Russians: Trump’s business and personal ties to oligarchs from the former Soviet Union. Powerful billionaires suspected of money laundering and fraud, and of having contacts in Moscow and with the mafia. What do these relationships say about Trump and why does he deny them? How compromising are these dubious business relationships for the 45th president of the United States? And are there connections with the Netherlands? Zembla meets with one of Trump’s controversial cronies and speaks with a former CIA agent, fraud investigators, attorneys, and an American senator, among others."
The documentary's YouTube description barely does justice to the film's investigative reporting. While American journalists are following Trump's tweets and tantrums, they followed the money into a world where the lines between outright profiteering and organized crime are blurred. What they found on a fact-based money trail reveals much about who the real Trump is and how he operates.