Donald Trump abandoned his exploration of a presidential run against President Barack Obama in 2011 to avoid exposing some of the shady business dealings that have dogged him now that he’s in the White House.
Six years ago, Trump was the host of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” and a Tea Party favorite for promoting conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace, and he entertained a challenge to the Democratic president’s re-election.
But, according to a Daily Beast report from that time, Trump aborted that nascent campaign after a series of damaging news reports revealed his business ties to unsavory characters like Felix Sater — which now threaten to derail the Trump presidency.
“Trump quit at least in part because he finally realized what a harsh light this ego explosion was shining on every corner of his business empire, potentially exposing not only him and his many partners, but also his children Donald Jr. and Ivanka to intense scrutiny,” wrote Wayne Barrett, who has extensively covered Trump for decades. “An ongoing media investigation of Trump’s financial deals — beset by charges of fraudulent misrepresentation — would also have made it harder for NBC to continue touting him as a model American businessman.”
Barrett, who died from pneumonia one day before Trump’s inauguration, spent years investigating Trump’s ties to organized crime and other questionable associates who have resurfaced during the Russia investigation.
In particular, Barrett focused on the now-dormant Bayrock Group development firm operated out of Trump Tower by Sater — a mob informant and felon who has boasted of his ties to the Kremlin and Russian intelligence.
News reports about Sater and Bayrock that kept Trump out of the 2012 race previewed some of the bombshell reporting from this year that revealed the president’s ties to Russian money laundering, which has now fallen under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump has warned Mueller and his team not to investigate his family’s business dealings before the 2016 campaign, saying that would overstep his authority.
“I think that’s a violation,” Trump said last month. “Look, this is about Russia.”
But reporters were onto the Trump’s questionable dealings six years ago, and that helped keep the reality TV star from challenging Obama.
Barrett details at length the Trump family’s ties to Tevfik Arif, a Kazakhstanian mogul charged but later acquitted in Turkey on human trafficking charges, and two convicted cocaine traffickers, Engin Yesil and Raoul Goldberg.
“These kinds of associations once caused Trump worry about retaining his gaming licenses,” wrote Barrett in 2011. “Perhaps he finally realized that in a presidential campaign, which requires filing detailed financial disclosures, the vetting of all sorts would be much tougher. Then a gang of questionable associations like this would’ve converted a candidacy into a scandal, damaging his star status, business prospects, and even his family.”
Trump somehow dodged those questions during the campaign by failing to release his tax returns and other financial disclosure documents — but those long-unanswered questions are now threatening to destroy his presidency and threaten his family with legal jeopardy.