A while ago, some asshole with a blog noted:
That’s why I think Trump doesn’t want to release his taxes–people would realize he’s nothing more than a bagman and a cover for some really reprehensible people. He ‘makes’ a lot of his money–and at a critical juncture in the late 1990s, maybe most of it–as a cover and/or pass through for shady or even illicit profits.
The irony is that, had Trump lost, nobody would care about any of this. This is what scares the hell out of him: he has to realize this will be bad–and this is one situation he can’t talk or bribe his way out of either. He has to know that much of the money came from really shady, if not illegal, sources. Furthermore, this is a blow to his ego: people bought his properties to launder money, not because he’s a genius builder.
However, I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations…
Sure, many people have a vague sense of Trump’s shadiness, but once the full details are better known and digested, a fundamentally different narrative about Trump will become commonplace. Remember: we knew a lot about problems in Iraq in May, 2003. Americans saw TV footage of looting and heard reports of U.S. forces struggling to gain control of the entire country. We had plenty of reporting, throughout 2007, about various minor financial problems. Somehow, though, these specific details failed to impress upon most Americans the over-all picture. It took a long time for the nation to accept that these were not minor aberrations but, rather, signs of fundamental crisis. Sadly, things had to get much worse before Americans came to see that our occupation of Iraq was disastrous and, a few years later, that our financial system was in tatters.
The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.
Cohen, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka monetized their willingness to sign contracts with people rejected by all sensible partners. Even in this, the Trump Organization left money on the table, taking a million dollars here, five million there, even though the service they provided—giving branding legitimacy to blatantly sketchy projects—was worth far more. It was not a company that built value over decades, accumulating assets and leveraging wealth. It burned through whatever good will and brand value it established as quickly as possible, then moved on to the next scheme.
While I think he’s right about what will happen to Trump’s reputation, I’m not convinced this will play out as the “end stage of the Trump presidency.” There’s a good chance it will play out like Iran-Contra, with dueling ‘realities’, and very few consequences for the perpetrators of this massive fraud (obviously, I hope I’m wrong). During Iran-Contra, we didn’t have Fox News or conservative talk radio to provide a massive propaganda effort either.
Still, at least, many will begin to realize he’s a fraud and a bagman.