Russian oligarchs may have directly funded Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign

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During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly insisted that he would not be in the pocket of special interests—because he was too rich. 

Trump: I’m self-funding my own campaign. It’s my money.

Trump repeatedly claimed during the campaign that he would spend $100 million of “his own money” to get elected. In the end, Fortune reports that Trump’s final output actually rang up at $66 million—a small fraction of the overall $398 million officially spent by his campaign and not a patch on the estimated $5 billion in free media Trump received. Also, while that $66 million was going out, Trump actually got $11 million back in the form of money that was paid into his hotels, buildings, and other facilities. So Trump’s real spending was barely more than half of what he originally claimed.

Even that number may be a huge exaggeration. Not only did Trump carry much of his campaign funds as a loan from himself right through the end of that campaign, Trump may not have spent his own money at all.

It was already clear that huge amounts of the money that didn’t come from Trump came in from rather … mysterious sources. For example, the number one outside source of Trump funding was the National Rifle Association. But, as reported by Vanity Fair, the $30 million that flowed from the NRA to Trump coincided with a sudden, one year only, $30 million increase in NRA funds. It seems entirely possible that all of that increase came from Russian funds shoveled through a “charity”—a scheme under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

But it’s not just the non-Trump funds that may have come express from Moscow. Previous reports from Buzzfeed had indicated that federal investigators were looking into a series of “suspicious money transfers” that happened shortly after the infamous Trump Tower meeting between the senior members of Trump’s campaign team and Russian operatives. Those moves included more than $19.5 million shipped into the US by Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, who is both a top adviser to Vladimir Putin and Trump’s friend (and host during Trump’s 2013 lost weekend in Moscow).

Political Wire is now reporting that Agalarov formed a new LLC inside the US a month before the Trump Tower meeting. Funds appear to have been laundered through that LLC to … that part isn’t clear. But if Agalarov’s funds were going to Trump, then Donald Trump may have not just had Russian “outside” money. Even the funds that he supposedly paid himself, may not have been his.

When Aras Agalarov employee Rob Goldstone contacted Donald Trump Jr., to set up the Trump Tower meeting, he told Trump’s son that the meeting was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.” Goldstone didn’t say that this was the start of that effort. Trump Jr. expressed no surprise on being told that this was just “part of” that effort.

In advance of that meeting, Agalarov set up an LLC. In the two weeks after the meeting, he filled it with more than $19.5 million. Another $1.2 million was wired in by the Agaralov’s shortly after the election. At least some of that money was directed to yet another shadow company officially owned by Irakly Kaveladze, who served as the Aragalov’s representative at the Trump Tower meeting.

Agaralov’s accountants have waved off the transfers as just “transactions either between one of Mr. Agalarov’s accounts and another of Mr. Agalarov’s accounts or one of Mr. Agalarov’s accounts and an account in the name of one of his employees.” Except that they’ve also provided no reason why Agalarov would be moving $20 million around among his accounts, or setting up a new LLC during Trump’s campaign. Several LLCs set up by the same accountant who set up the LLC for Agalarov have already been implicated in a money-laundering scheme.

The Guardian reports that the newly discovered LLC was actually set up specifically “to receive the $19.5 million money” but that the money ended up in Agalarov’s personal account at a New York bank. As to where that money went, Agalarov’s accountants claim it was used to buy an apartment in Florida. But … there’s a little issue of timing.

Property records from Miami-Dade county state that Agalarov bought an apartment there in April 2016, before the company was created and the money was transferred.

And an issue with price, as the Florida condo also appears to be have been just half of what Agalarov wired to his account after the Trump Tower meeting.

There is, however, another number that’s interesting. According to the FEC, Donald Trump loaned his campaign $47 million. Not contributed. Loaned. That money could have come from one of the over 500 LLCs that make up the Trump Organization. It may have also come from money deposited into one of those LLCs through a source. Like a Russian oligarch.

One thing is clear, Trump’s loans got paid off very quickly. As Vox reported, Trump’s inaugural committee raised $106.7 million, over twice the record set by Barack Obama. But Trump spent very little of that money, holding just a handful of events.

And as ABC reported, much of that money came from some very specific donations.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has questioned several witnesses about millions of dollars in donations to President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee last year, including questions about donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, sources with direct knowledge told ABC News.

  1. Which would have been very handy when it was time to pay back those loans that Donald Trump supposedly made to his campaign.
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David Bishop
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David Bishop

Lock him up!