Palmer Report is frequently asked what happened to the story we broke in April of 2017 about the Trump Taj Mahal having been busted for years of facilitating international money laundering, just before Donald Trump announced his campaign for president. That story has received far too little media attention, despite the fact that it’s resulted in a congressional inquiry, and it’s very likely a key component of Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation.
The story goes like this. In March of 2015, the FinCEN division of the U.S. Treasury Department posted a press release on its website announcing that it had hit the Trump Taj Mahal with a $10 million fine for the years-long pattern of international money laundering that had been taking place in the casino. No one noticed this press release at the time. No one reported on it. As far as the media and the public were concerned, it might as well not have happened. Three months later, Donald Trump announced that he was running for president, and still no one noticed this press release, or seemed to be aware of the bust. That was, of course, until we tripped over it.
Eleven months ago, a member of Palmer Report’s research team was searching various government websites for anything related to the Trump-Russia scandal when she came across the FinCEN press release about the Taj Mahal money laundering bust. At first we weren’t sure what to do with it. How was it possible that this had been in plain sight for two years and no one had ever noticed it or reported on it? And did it really relate to Donald Trump? By 2015, he no longer held any stake in the Taj Mahal. But the press release said that the money laundering went back several years, back to when Trump did own a significant stake in the Taj Mahal.
Palmer Report broke the story in April of 2017 (link). We were greeted with quite a bit of skepticism, even from the anti-Trump side. How could no one have noticed this until now? Why did the Treasury not make a big deal of this when Donald Trump entered the race for President three months later? Those were fair questions. But the press release was right there on the Treasury website, and there was no disputing the legitimacy of what we reported.
Best we can tell, virtually no one else reported on this story after we broke it. Why? You’d have to ask them. But we know our story didn’t go unnoticed, because four weeks later, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent an inquiry letter to FinCEN, asking for more information about the 2015 Taj Mahal money laundering bust. Based on the timeline, it’s fairly clear that the Senate learned about from our reporting. Credit goes to CNBC for at least writing a story confirming that the committee had sent the inquiry (link). But that’s where the reporting trail largely stopped. Perhaps the mainstream media distanced itself from this story because reporting on it would mean admitting that they missed the story entirely during the election, when it would have mattered to voters.
Eleven months later, there are still a number of unanswered questions. Why did the Treasury Department not speak more loudly about the fact that it had just busted a casino for money laundering that had been partly owned by a guy who was running for President of the United States? Why did major media outlets generally ignore this story, even after Palmer Report’s reporting on it led to congressional subpoenas? Most importantly, which foreign nations were laundering money through Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal casino, and how was that money connected to Trump’s foray into politics? If nothing else, we expect Robert Mueller will eventually provide the answer to that last question.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report