Billionaire Robert Smith befriended Trump inner circle after paying off Morehouse debts: report

Billionaire Robert Smith reportedly got closer to Ivanka Trump as the IRS closed in on him

Loading the player...

Billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith is known for his circle of powerful associates but he reportedly sought out the friendship of the Trumps after paying off the debts of the Morehouse College of 2019.

Smith, the richest Black man in the country who is worth an estimated $5.2 billion per Forbes, was heralded last year when he pledged to pay off the $34 million in loans for the graduating Morehouse class. The payments were made through the Morehouse College Student Success Program.

Robert Smith thegrio.com
(Photo: Morehouse College)

Read More: Did Robert F. Smith use Black America?

At that point, Smith had been under a four-year criminal tax investigation dating back to 2014, theGrio reported. Smith allegedly failed to pay taxes on about $200 million in assets that moved through offshore accounts tied to Robert Brockman, a Houston software businessman. Smith reportedly approached the agency for amnesty from prosecution under a program for Americans who did not report offshore assets but the request was declined.

Smith sought out to befriend those in the inner circle to President Donald Trump as the IRS honed in on him, the Daily Mail reported Thursday: daughter, Ivanka Trump, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who oversees the IRS, and CNN commentator Van Jones who is close to Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner.

Smith’s overtures materialized as he spoke with Mnuchin daily on coronavirus relief according to Mnuchin. The two previously knew each other as titans in the business specter.

“At one point, we were having daily conference calls with him and his team. They gave us feedback and we made changes,” Mnuchin told the Washington Post in June as part of a profile on the businessman.

“He made a real effort and didn’t have a particular agenda … He was legitimately interested in helping the program.”

Robert F Smith thegrio.com
Robert F. Smith (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights )

Read More: Billionaire Robert Smith reaches $140 million tax settlement with DOJ

In May, Smith appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press and deemed the “leadership in Washington, people like Ivanka Trump and Senator [sic] Mnuchin, who have been very engaged” with the Black community.

Smith’s probe by the FBI became public knowledge in August. However, that did not stop Ivanka from aligning herself with the tech giant. Just a month later, he joined Ivanka’s White House American Workforce Policy Advisory Board which is tasked with rejuvenating the job market.

“Robert has been a great champion for improving access to capital in distressed communities. Incredible supporter of the administration’s actions on HBCUs,” Ivanka said at the Sept. 23 event that Smith attended virtually.

“Robert your voice will be a great addition to the board going forward.”

Trump’s eldest daughter also sent out a series of tweets that praised Smith for being a “change maker” and that it was a “pleasure” working with him. She also retweeted the Post profile of him.

Sources told Bloomberg on Wednesday that Smith reached a $140 million settlement with the Department of Justice. Smith has been cooperating with the investigation and will admit failing to pay about $30 million in taxes, with penalties and interest accounting for the total payout.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!

Loading the player...

Share