Breaking new expose reveals Trump’s real estate group did business with an Iranian bank later linked to terrorism.
Donald Trump’s real estate organization rented New York office space from 1998 to 2003 to an Iranian bank that has been linked to terrorist groups and Iran’s nuclear program, according to an explosive story published Monday morning by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and The Center for Public Integrity, non-profit, non-partisan news organizations based in Washington, D.C.
ICIJ reports that: “Trump inherited Bank Melli, one of Iran’s largest state-controlled banks, as a tenant when he purchased the General Motors Building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, according to public records reviewed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Center for Public Integrity. The Trump Organization kept the bank on as a tenant for four more years after the U.S. Treasury Department designated Bank Melli in 1999 as being controlled by the Iranian government.”
“U.S. officials later alleged that Bank Melli had been used to obtain sensitive materials for Iran’s nuclear program. U.S. authorities also alleged that the bank had been used between 2002 and 2006 to funnel money to a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that has sponsored terrorist attacks — a period that overlapped with the time the bank rented office space from Trump,” the ICIJ report continued.
The ICIJ report goes on to note that his real estate group’s “dealings with the Iranian bank shed more light on Trump’s wide-ranging business interests, which sometimes stand at odds with his blunt declarations on the campaign trail.”
For instance, Trump has repeatedly blasted Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for not taking a harder stance against Iran, who he has denounced as a “big enemy.” He has also alleged that donations to the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments serves as evidence of corruption, yet – as the ICIJ reports points out, Trump’s “five-year stint as Bank Melli’s landlord provides an example of the Trump Organization itself doing business with a government hostile to the United States.”
The ICIJ report continued:
“It’s a pretty hypocritical position to take,” said Richard Nephew, who served from 2013 to 2015 as principal deputy coordinator of sanctions policy at the U.S. State Department and spent nearly a decade working on Iran sanctions in the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “It suggests that his principles are pretty flexible when it comes to him getting paid.”
Trump and his real estate organization should have known better than to do business with Bank Melli, whose “office in the GM Building was listed by the Treasury Department among financial institutions “owned or controlled” by the Iranian government and subject to U.S. economic sanctions, according to the Code of Federal Regulations from the years 1999 through 2003.”
“It is not clear if Trump knew personally that Bank Melli was renting an office from his company, but he was the Trump Organization’s chairman and president, and has described himself as a hands-on manager who pays attention to details, the ICIJ report explains, adding: “Nephew, who worked on sanctions and nuclear nonproliferation issues for the U.S. government from 2003 to 2015, said there was less awareness in the 1990s about Iran’s nuclear program and the role of banks in financing terrorism. But he said that accepting payments from Bank Melli should have raised a red flag, even in 1998.”
“Should someone in America have known better than to do business with Iran? Yeah,” Nephew said.
George Ross, the longtime executive vice-president of the Trump Organization, said he was not aware that Bank Melli had been a Trump tenant.
“We had any number of tenants in the GM Building,” Ross said in a brief telephone interview. “They might have been in there, but I have no knowledge of them.”
Emanuele Ottolenghi, an expert on Iran at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said that it was “remarkable” that the Trump Organization had kept Bank Melli as a tenant for four years after the Treasury Department had listed the bank as an Iran-controlled entity.
“I just don’t think that a company of that size and means should be able to hide behind a ‘we didn’t know’ kind of argument,” Ottolenghi said.
The timing for the information could not come at a worse time for the Trump campaign which just last week experienced what NBC News describes as “the worst week in presidential campaign history.”