Although President Donald Trump has been denying that he has business deals with Russia since the 2016 elections, a review from news agency Reuters has shown that at least 63 people who are Russian nationals or have addresses listed in Russia have purchased property in the south of Florida worth at least $98.4 million.
The purchases are distributed among seven luxury buildings carrying the Trump brand, as Reuters found out from reviewing corporate records, interviews and other public documents. Businessmen with political ties as well as other commercial moguls are among those who purchased the property.
Some buyers are of a more dubious reputation. One of them recently posted a picture along with the leader of a biker’s group that had received sanctions from the US because of its involvement in the Russian seizure of Crimea.
However, no illegal activity has been discovered on the part of President Trump and his company in charge of real estate. Additionally, the buyers of his south Florida property are neither advisers of nor people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Questions concerning the Russian buyers were answered by the chief legal officer of the Trump Administration, who downplayed the President’s connection with the Russian buyers. Alan Garten told Reuters, “I can say definitively that this is an overblown story that is media-created. I’ve been around this company and know the company’s dealings.”
There is a possibility that there may actually be more Russian buyers of Trump properties in Florida. Around one third of the total number of owners of the units in the President’s buildings are what is known as LLCs (limited liability companies), which allows the real owners of the units to remain unidentified, with their citizenships undetermined as well. Additionally, Russian-American property owners who do not carry Russian passports or have Russian addressed were also not counted in the Reuter’s review.
Florida has been the focus of the Reuters review for two reasons: One, it is easier to determine the ownership of properties in Florida than in other states, and two, because of the high concentration of residents born in Russia in certain parts of Florida.
It is uncertain how much the President earns from the buildings that carry his brand name worldwide. Among the seven luxury towers in southern Florida, six were the result of a 2001 contract between Mr. Trump and developers Michael and Gil Dezer. A licensing agreement allowed the Delzers to operate the properties, which carry the Trump brand. Gil Dezer told Reuters that the President received a commission from the $2 billion in sales, but, due to confidentiality, he did not disclose exactly how much the commission was.
According to Mr. Garten, the President usually receives a combination of percentages and flat fees, but exactly how much this is, he declined to say. Based on previous projects, experts have surmised that he may have received 1-4 percent in commissions from initial sales, which puts Mr. Trump’s income from the six properties at somewhere between $20 to $80 million, with no additional commissions coming from further sales.
However, the President still makes money off of one property in Sunny Isles, Florida, as indicated in the disclosure forms that the President submitted during the elections two years ago. These forms state that he received an amount between $100,000 and $1 million from Trump Marks Sunny Isles I LLC.
Two Democrats, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) have called for a higher degree of transparency concerning the President’s finances. Mr. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said, “While the President has denied having invested in Russia, he has said little or nothing about Russian investment in his businesses and properties in the United States or elsewhere. This should concern all Americans and is yet another reason why his refusal to release his tax returns should be met with considerable skepticism and concern.”
The Republican chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees have chosen not to comment on the matter.