The New York Times on Friday revealed that President Donald Trump in 2016 executed a highly unusual maneuver to free up millions in cash that tax experts say could have been illegal.
In examining the president's tax returns, the Times uncovered a $21 million windfall that the president received in 2016 from a Las Vegas hotel that he co-owns with casino mogul Phil Ruffin.
"The bulk of the money went through a company called Trump Las Vegas Sales and Marketing that had little previous income, no clear business purpose and no employees," the Times writes. "The Trump-Ruffin joint venture wrote it all off as a business expense."
This transaction, which tax experts told the Times was "highly unusual," came just as Trump injected $10 million of his own money into his presidential campaign.
While the Times was unable to establish definitively that the cash was used to fund the president's campaign, it did find that "the cash flowed, in a chain of transactions, to several Trump-controlled companies and then directly to Mr. Trump himself."
If Trump did use this money for his campaign, that could be a potentially illegal campaign contribution that siphoned off cash from one of the president's businesses before being fraudulently written off as a business expense.
“Why all of a sudden does this company have more than $20 million in fees that haven’t been there before?” Daniel Shaviro, a professor of taxation at the New York University School of Law, asked the Times when shown documentation of the transaction. “And all of this money is going to a man who just happens to be running for president and might not have a lot of cash on hand?”
White House spokesman Judd Deere lashed out at the Times for its reporting and called it "yet another politically motivated hit piece inaccurately smearing a standard business deal."