Federal prosecutors are taking a close look at two payments totaling $8 million made to Trump Media, owner of Donald Trump's Truth Social platform, sources tell the Guardian. The insiders say prosecutors who were already looking at the company ahead of a planned merger with "blank check" firm Digital World Acquisition Corporation are looking at loans wired to Trump Media by entities with links to a Vladimir Putin ally. The investigation has delayed the planned merger, which now has a September deadline, Forbes reports. The merger would give Trump Media a financial lifeline of more than $1 billion in funding.
Will Wilkerson—described by the Guardian as Trump Media's "since-ousted co-founder turned whistleblower"—says the loans, $2 million in December 2021 and $6 million two months later, helped keep the company afloat, but their obscure origin caused so much concern that Trump Media considered returning them. He says Patrick Orlando, DWAC’s chief executive, arranged the loans but declined to provide information on the source of the money. According to documents seen by the Guardian, the loans came from two apparently linked entities, ES Family Trust and Paxum Bank. The latter entity is believed to be linked to Putin ally Aleksandr Smirnov. It also has a history of providing services for sex workers, which has attracted greater scrutiny from officials investigating possible money laundering.
Even if no Trump Media execs end up hit with charges, the "optics of borrowing money from potentially unsavory sources through opaque conduits could cloud Trump’s image as he seeks to recapture the White House in 2024," the Guardian notes. Bloomberg reports that as it waits for SEC approval of the merger, Trump Media has laid off around half a dozen execs, including its chief technology officer. (Read more Donald Trump stories.)