Law \ Legal

How Donald Trump Perfected the ‘Art of the Steal’


Donald Trump has spent a lifetime of deception conning other people including those who have worked for him or with him.

As a connoisseur of racketeering with numerous illicit schemes or rackets under his financial belt, Trump’s litanies of fraud and wrongdoing have crisscrossed the private and public spheres.

For example, traditional forms of money laundering have been ongoing for some three decades. They include some $100 million received from associates of Russian syndicated crime, whether in the forms of direct leasing or purchasing of Trump properties in the Borough of Manhattan, or indirectly from loans passed through Deutsche Bank to the Trump Organization amounting to $2 billion.

The fraudulent financial and political behavior once confined to Trump Tower and, more recently, carried out from the Oval Office, the Trump International Hotel DC, or Mar-a-Lago, simply represent the latest “art of the steal” or political entrepreneurship from Boss Trump.

When he was elected president in 2016 and became the Racketeer-in-Chief, the fraudulent behavior not only encompassed the fleecing of adversaries and consumers alike, but the range of victims or “marks,” expanded to include tens of millions of his political supporters.

With the power of the presidency, Trump ramped up his illegal and fraudulent schemes of white-collar, corporate and state crime. Whether we are talking about Trump and his associates’ looting monies from the coffers of the 2016 and 2020 political campaigns, or the allegations of fraud in connection with raising money for his “Save America” campaign to reverse the election results, this behavior is indicative of a business model that profits in one form or another from dirty or stolen money.

As the former president as well as a potential candidate for president in 2024, Trump has only ramped up his illegal and fraudulent schemes of white-collar, corporate, and state crime.

The Shell Game

What has always been the key to Trump’s modus operandi and to the illicit patterns of his criminal enterprise has been usage of shell companies.

For example, the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a research and government transparency group that tracks money in politics and its effects, revealed that layers of shell companies were used to pay for 2020 Trump campaign adds. During the summer of 2020, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Committee.

The CLC filings claim that the Trump reelection campaign and its joint fundraising committee had laundered nearly $170 million in spending through firms headed by Trump’s former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, and other firms created by Trump campaign lawyers.

All for the purpose of hiding millions of dollars provided to companies engaged in significant work for the campaign including “payments to Trump family members or associates.”

Similarly, according to CRP, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, spent more than $771 million through American Made Media Consultants, LLC, including more than $3.5 million in direct payments to people and firms involved in organizing and arranging for the Stop the Steal rally at the White House on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump’s criminal enterprise and its economic bottom lines were fraudulently enhanced by his losing the 2020 reelection, the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, and the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.

Overlapping Rackets

I am referring specifically to the overlapping political rackets designed as best as possible to circumscribe campaign finance laws, such as Trump’s Save America PAC and the fake elector scheme, a multimillion-dollar grift revolving around Trump’s Big Lies.

Increasingly, thanks to the House Select Committee hearings and the Mar-a-Lago Scandal, more and more people, including conservative legal pundits, believe that Trump will be prosecuted, “even if the case is a negotiated plea,” Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman wrote this week.

“To do otherwise,” he added, “would be the most dangerous thing of all.”

It’s hard to disagree with Waldman’s conclusion: Not to prosecute Trump for his lifetime of lawlessness before, during, and after the presidency would provide official validation to “the presumption that the law doesn’t apply to those with money and power.”


Gregg Barak

It would show, he said, that “the system can be bullied or bought; [that] consequences are for little people, and the likes of Donald Trump can do whatever they please.”

Gregg Barak, Ph.D., is an emeritus Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Eastern Michigan University, the co-founding editor of the Journal of White Collar and Corporate Crime, and the author of the recently published Criminology on Trump.

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