Sam Bankman-Fried wanted to pay Donald Trump $5B to not run for president again: biographer

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Sam Bankman-Fried, the indicted founder of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, wanted to pay Donald Trump $5 billion in exchange for not running for president again, according to biographer Michael Lewis. It’s unclear if the 31-year-old crypto kingpin — a prolific donor to the Democratic Party before his company imploded last fall — ever actually offered up the bribe. Lewis said he also wasn’t sure if Bankman-Fried actually corresponded with Trump himself or his team. “The Big Short” author was among those who got to know Bankman-Fried before the FTX implosion while conducting research for his book on Bankman-Fried, “Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon” — which is set to be released on Tuesday. Lewis said during a “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday that the “number that was kicking around when I was talking to Sam about this was $5 billion,” adding, “Sam wasn’t sure that number came directly from Trump.” Likewise, it wasn’t immediately clear if whether 45th president was even willing to negotiate with Bankman-Fried, who is slated to go on trial Tuesday in Manhattan federal court on epic fraud charges. Reps for Trump couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Lewis said Bankman-Fried also mulled whether or not paying a politician to drop out of a race was legal. Lewis continued: “They were still having these conversations when FTX blew up,” though Bankman-Fried ultimately didn’t follow through with the 10-figure offer because federal prosecutors dropped a multi-count indictment on the fraudster one month after FTX collapsed in November 2022. In the end the bestselling author told “60 Minutes” interviewer Jon Wertheim that a transaction was never completed because “he [Bankman-Fried] didn’t have $5 billion anymore.” “That only shocks you if you don’t know Sam,” Lewis added. It wouldn’t have been the first time Bankman-Fried spent his money lavishly on political contributions, having allegedly made more than 300 illegal political donations in the name of FTX staffers, according to court documents. Before FTX’s demise, Bankman-Fried had the second-largest donor to Democratic candidates and causes ahead of the November 2022 midterm elections, trailing only billionaire George Soros. Prosecutors said he used $100 million in stolen FTX deposits to fund those donations, which he hoped would spur the passage of crypto-friendly legislation. Bankman-Fried’s illicit politically-driven handouts are among seven counts spanning wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering that the former FTX will face when his highly-anticipated trial begins on Tuesday. Just last week, the ex-billionaire lost his bid to be released from jail ahead of the trial, arguing that the conditions of his confinement at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center have made it impossible for him to adequately review prosecutors’ evidence against him. US District Judge Lewis Kaplan denied Bankman-Fried’s request, saying he was a flight risk. Prosecutor Danielle Kudla also argued that Bankman-Fried had “ample opportunity to prepare for trial” during the nearly eight months he was free on bail at his parents’ Palo Alto, Calif., home. Kaplan offered to consider a trial delay, which Bankman-Fried did not take him up on. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of fraud and conspiracy stemming from FTX’s collapse in November 2022. He faces a statutory maximum of 110 years in prison, though any sentence would be determined by Kaplan based on a range of factors and he would likely get far less. Prosecutors say Bankman-Fried stole billions of dollars in FTX customer deposits to plug losses at Alameda Research, a crypto-focused hedge fund he controlled. Bankman-Fried’s parents signed a $250 million bond agreeing to keep their son on house arrest at their California home while he awaited trial, but after Kaplan found out he likely tampered with witnesses at least twice — including by sharing former Alameda chief executive officer Caroline Ellison’s private writings with a New York Times reporter — he was jailed on Aug. 11.

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