FTX founder and suspected fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried considered the possibility of paying Donald Trump up to $5bn to stay out of the 2024 presidential race, a new book claims.
In an essay published in the Washington Post — developed from Michael Lewis’ new book Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon — Mr Lewis wrote that Mr Bankman-Fried “was exploring the legality of paying Donald Trump himself not to run for president”.
“His team had somehow created a back channel into the Trump operation and returned with the not terribly Earth-shattering news that Donald Trump might indeed have his price: $5 billion. Or so Sam was told by his team,” he wrote.
Mr Lewis expanded on this claim in an interview on 60 Minutes, saying Mr Bankman-Fried wondered “how much would it take” for the former president to seek re-election in 2024. “There was a number that was kicking around” at the time that Mr Lewis was talking to the FTX founder, he said - $5bn.
“Sam was not sure that number came directly from Trump,” Mr Lewis clarified. “The question Sam had was — not just ‘is $5bn enough to pay Trump not to run’ — but was it legal?”
He said these “conversations” were still ongoing when “FTX blew up”, but the transaction didn’t happen because “he didn’t have $5bn anymore”, Mr Lewis explained.
Mr Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial — in which he has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of fraud and conspiracy related to the collapse of FTX — was set to begin Monday, and is expected to last up to six weeks.
Federal prosecutors have charged the 31-year-old with stealing billions from the crypto exchange to pay debts for his hedge fund, buy lavish properties in the Bahamas, and donate millions to political campaigns.
Prosecutors said he illegally diverted millions of dollars from customer’s cryptocurrency accounts using his FTX exchange.
The jury selection will begin on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court. The FTX founder is currently in jail, as a federal judge revoked his bail in August over attempts to tamper with witnesses.