Foreign Policy has a long investigative report on how Russian money saved Trump from financial ruin in the 90s. Much of that story has already been told, but there are a lot of new details. With multiple bankruptcies and failed ventures, Trump couldn’t get bank financing for new projects, so Russian money began pouring in to finance him.
As late as 2003, Trump was in such desperate financial trouble that at a meeting with his siblings following his father’s death he pressed them to hurriedly sell his father’s estate off, against the late Fred Trump’s wishes, the New York Times reported in an investigation of Trump family finances in October. And his businesses kept failing: In 2004, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts filed for bankruptcy with $1.8 billion dollars of debt.
But Trump eventually made a comeback, and according to several sources with knowledge of Trump’s business, foreign money played a large role in reviving his fortunes, in particular investment by wealthy people from Russia and the former Soviet republics. This conclusion is buttressed by a growing body of evidence amassed by news organizations, as well as what is reportedly being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Southern District of New York. It is a conclusion that even Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has appeared to confirm, saying in 2008—after the Trump Organization was prospering again—that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”Trump’s former longtime architect, Alan Lapidus, echoed this view in an interview with FP this month. Lapidus said that based on what he knew from the internal workings of the organization, in the aftermath of Trump’s earlier financial troubles “he could not get anybody in the United States to lend him anything. It was all coming out of Russia. His involvement with Russia was deeper than he’s acknowledged.”
And bear in mind that, for all practical purposes, there is no distinction between the Russian government, Russian oligarchs and the Russian mafia. They all work together, with the Russian government led by Putin operating as little more than an organized crime operation (much like Trump envisions for the United States). Because of that, Trump is obviously beholden to Putin and the lieutenants in his mob family, both because they helped him and because they can either blackmail him or kill him, as they’ve done to so many others.
This story runs much deeper than most people realize, I think. This goes way beyond just Putin helping Trump get elected in 2016. This is a relationship that has gone on for two decades and involves many quid pro quos and opportunities for blackmail, influence and corruption.