Donald Trump offered to sit out presidential election for $5bn, new book claims

Former US President and Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump
Mr Bankman-Fried was ‘exploring the legality’ of paying Mr Trump to ensure he didn’t stand in the 2020 election, according to a book on the crypto tycoon - ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump was prepared to quit the US presidential election race for $5bn, it has been claimed.

Representatives of the former president are said to have floated a figure of $5bn (£4.1bn) when they were approached by the accused cryptocurrency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried.

The FTX founder was “exploring the legality” of buying off Mr Trump to ensure he didn’t stand in the 2020 election, according to a new book.

The claim was made in an extract from Going Infinite by the author Michael Lewis, which chronicles the rise and fall Mr Bankman-Fried.

Mr Lewis, who also wrote The Big Short and Moneyball, spent more than two years speaking to 31-year-old Mr Bankman-Fried, who became a billionaire after founding crypto trading platform FTX.

“He explained to me, as the plane descended into Washington, he was exploring the legality of paying Donald Trump himself not to run for president,” the author wrote in an excerpt published by the Washington Post.

“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: $5bn. Or so Sam was told by his team.”

michael lewis
Michael Lewis spent more than two years speaking to 31-year-old Mr Bankman-Fried for his new book - David Levenson/Getty Images Europe

Mr Lewis also claimed Mr Bankman-Fried was planning to give between $15m and $30m to Republican Mitch McConnell, in the hope he would defeat the “Trumpier” candidates in the US Senate elections.

Mr Trump’s representatives could not be contacted for comment.

Other claims in the book include an allegation that Mr Bankman-Fried lost $300m on a single trade at Jane Street Capital after wrongly betting that Mr Trump’s 2016 election would crash the stock markets.

The excerpt was published ahead of the start of the former FTX chief executive’s criminal trial in New York on Monday where he is accused of fraud and conspiracy linked to the collapse of the business.

Once worth an estimated $26bn, Mr Bankman-Fried is accused of stealing billions of dollars in customer deposits and funnelling the money into risky bets at his personal crypto hedge fund, Alameda Research, and to spend on property and political donations.

Mr Bankman-Fried, known as SBF, was accused by US federal prosecutors of channelling millions to Democratic Party candidates and causes. Donations totalling more than $39m made him the party’s second-biggest individual donor in 2021-2022.

Sam Bankman-Fried
Mr Bankman-Fried is accused of stealing billions of dollars in FTX customer deposits - Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Revelations in the book shed fresh light on the internal culture at FTX, once one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges.

The business converted real-world currencies into digital tokens, enabling consumers to speculate on cryptocurrencies’ rapidly fluctuating values without the checks and balances of the real financial system.

Thieves and hackers allegedly stole “just a bit more than $1bn” from the company last year only for Mr Bankman-Fried to describe the perpetrators as “people playing the game”.

In a document he sent to ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison, titled “ARGUMENTS AGAINST” entering a relationship, the chief executive told her: “In a lot of ways I don’t really have a soul.”

As well as funnelling tens of millions of dollars to the Democrats Mr Bankman-Fried also allegedly spent $10m (£8.2m) in a failed bid to get a fellow believer in the “effective altruism” philosophy movement selected as a Democratic Congressional candidate.

Effective altruism advocates that high earners should give away their wealth to utilitarian causes that benefit humanity as a whole.

FTX’s November 2022 collapse left hundreds of thousands out of pocket, including around 80,000 Britons.

Mr Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty on all counts. He could not be contacted for comment on the book’s claims.

If convicted on all charges, the cryptocurrency founder faces a potential maximum sentence of 110 years in prison.

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