Money Sings Like a Canary. Why Have We Stopped Listening?

"Follow the money" should (still) be the prime directive.

SOME TIME in the not-so-distant future—and perhaps as soon as this Friday, when the Supreme Court at its conference may decide the fate of the Mazars case—Donald Trump’s tax returns and underlying financial documents will be released to the proper authorities. We don’t know what specifically these documents will reveal, but the possibilities are endless: How much dirty Vor money was “pouring in” to his coffers? Is he in hock to mobbed-up Russian oligarchs and/or bonesaw-bearing Saudi royals? Was a massive loan forgiven in 2016 or 2017 that matches the commission of the sale of Rosneft? Does he actually own the organization that bears his name? Is he really a billionaire—or a bankrupt fraud, Mike Campbell with orange hair and bad taste? The Mazars documents will be everything that Al Capone’s vault wasn’t.

Money tells the story. It always does. So why does the media tune it out?

The ten-figure loan on 666 Fifth Avenue, the white elephant of a Manhattan building purchased by Jared Kushner’s family real estate concern, was magically refinanced just in the nick of time, and not long after Boy Plunder paid a call to his BFF, MbS, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Kushner has committed numerous crimes, to be sure, but his financial woes have been the subject of precious little investigation or reportage. In what reality is it legal for Kushner to exploit his role as de facto ambassador to the Kingdom to benefit his ailing family business? What did Mr. Ivanka have to do to secure that funding?

Devin Nunes is the father of three school-aged children and not particularly well off, at least compared to his well-heeled Congressional peers. His net worth, which doubled between 2014 and 2016, derives from investments in two wineries. The only thing liquid about those investments, seems to me, is the vino. Nunes has recently filed a series of frivolous lawsuits intended to scare off his detractors and intimidate would-be critics. It’s easy to make fun of him for suing a pretend cow, but the frivolity of a lawsuit doesn’t make it any less expensive—for either party. Who is underwriting the Ranking Member’s legal costs? Are those legal costs “in kind” donations?

The mercenary Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney and the shameless opportunist who trafficked 9/11 for his own gain, has spent the last three years shuffling back and forth from New York to various Iron Curtain capitals, actively treasoning on behalf of the money-launderer-in-chief. He claims he’s doing this for free, but Rudy is not exactly St. Francis of Assisi with the charity work—and neither is his vendor-stiffing client. Who’s ponying up the capital to fund all this mobstery sedition? Because there are two people I know for sure are not spending a fucking dime: Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump.

Brett Kavanaugh bought a house in Chevy Chase, an affluent suburb of Washington, for $1.2 million. The down payment alone was $245,000. According to financial disclosures he filed as a federal judge, the Kavanaughs did not have anything close to that much cash on hand when they purchased the property. Indeed, they should have had issues getting a mortgage for a house that cost $245,000. None of the answers Kavanaugh gave at his confirmation hearing explained this enormous discrepancy. How did they pay for that house? Who owns Kavanaugh?

Mitch McConnell was worth $5.3 million in 2006. Today he’s worth five times that. Some of this may come from the family fortune of his wife, Elaine Chao…but they’ve been married since 1993. It’s not unheard of for wealth to quintuple over a 12-year span…but McConnell is not exactly David Tepper. Is there something buried in those financials that might hint at the Majority Leader transforming the GOP from Party of Lincoln to Know Nothings 2.0?

The bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of Jeffrey Epstein have overshadowed even his disgusting sex crimes—and the sex crimes, involving as they do any number of prominent public figures, are as lurid as it gets. He lived in one of the most expensive residences in a city famous for expensive residences. He owned a spacious ranch in New Mexico, a tony flat in London, and an entire fucking island. He claimed to be a fund manager of some kind, a genius financier, but he spent most of his time grooming, exploiting, raping, or trafficking in underage girls. I understand the morbid curiosity about him; he’s like a real-life movie villain. But the real mystery of Jeffrey Epstein, and the key to solving the riddle, is: Where’d he get his money?

Kushner, Nunes, Giuliani, Kavanaugh, McConnell, Epstein: six prominent examples of the media following the money…but only to a certain point, when interest inexplicably waned. This doesn’t include Trump himself, whose financial shenanigans have been investigated extensively by both the New York Times and the Washington Post—although what lurks in the Mazars file boxes will likely make his Fred Trump tax fraud and bogus charitable giving seem quaint.

In his poem “Money,” Philip Larkin wrote that listening to “money singing” is like

looking down
From long french windows at a provincial town,   
The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.

But in that sad song, the truth resides. Unravel the finances, and all shall be revealed. We need to ignore the other noise and go where the music takes us.