Another Trump criminal investigation?: The Guardian reported this week on the existence of yet another Trump-related criminal investigation, this time involving the former president’s media company and $8 million from an entity with Russian ties.
What Did Donald Trump Do Now?
Former President Donald Trump is currently facing at least four separate criminal investigations, all of which have reached the grand jury stage. One of which — the Manhattan District Attorney’s probe — reportedly will lead to imminent charges.
Now, there’s word that federal prosecutors in New York began looking last year into a separate probe, involving Trump Social, the former president’s social media company.
The Guardian reported that the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, late last year, began looking into whether the company behind Truth Social “violated money laundering statutes in connection with the acceptance of $8m with suspected Russian ties.”
At issue are two loans, totaling $8 million, that Trump Media received in late 2022 through the Caribbean.
The money, per The Guardian, came from “two obscure entities that both appear to be controlled in part by the relation of an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.”
The story added that chief financial officer Phillip Juhan “weighed returning the money” last year.
And the story does add that Trump “did not seem to be particularly interested in managing the day-to-day running of Trump Media,” meaning he may not have been aware of the exact nature of the financial machinations.
This particular aspect of the investigation had not been previously reported, although the SPAC deal behind Truth Social has been probed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it was reported last year that SDNY was looking into Trump Media more broadly. Trump Media and Digital World (DWAC) had been scheduled to merge, but that deal has been delayed, and may now be delayed further by the expanded probe.
The Guardian added that even if the SDNY investigation doesn’t lead to criminal charges, “the optics of borrowing money from potentially unsavory sources through opaque conduits could cloud Trump’s image as he seeks to recapture the White House in 2024.”
The money aspect of the investigation centers on some attempts by Truth Social to obtain financing while waiting for the merger to close. In SPAC mergers, the company receives access to cash when the merger is completed.
The company received $2 million from Paxum Bank and another $6 million from ES Family Trust. The two entities are related to one another, while a part-owner of Paxum Bank, Anton Postolnikov, appears to be “a relation” to Aleksandr Smirnov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In addition, per The Guardian, “Paxum Bank has a history of providing banking services for the pornography and sex worker industries, which makes it higher risk of engaging in money laundering and other illicit financing.”
Former executive Will Wilkerson, who came forward last year as a Trump Media whistleblower, is known to have given a lot of information to prosecutors and the Washington Post; he was fired shortly after the Post story appeared last year. As of last October, Wilkerson was cooperating with investigations by both SEC and “federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York.”
According to the original complaint, Wilkerson is claiming “1) illicit activity in connection with the attempted mergers with BENE and DWAC from 2021 to the present; 2) non-privileged corporate conversations and communications concerning these attempted mergers; 3) extensive internal and external corporate and individual conduct which violated federal securities laws; and 4) other conduct which may violate federal criminal laws. He is the original source of extensive records that his counsel intends to provide in this initial production and future planned supplemental productions.”
It’s not clear, from the reporting, what the status is of the investigation currently.
Trump does not appear to have addressed the Guardian report directly, although he did claim on Truth Social Thursday that “THE FAKE INVESTIGATIONS BY RADICAL LEFT DEMOCRAT PROSECUTORS ARE NOTHING OTHER THAN ELECTION INTERFERENCE INTO THE POLITICS OF A FAILING NATION. MAGA!!!”
Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.