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He’s the President, yet we’re still trying to answer basic questions about how his business works: What deals are happening, who they’re happening with, and if the President and his family are keeping their promise to separate the Trump Organization from the Trump White House. “Trump, Inc.” is a joint reporting project from WNYC Studios and ProPublica that digs deep into these questions. We’ll be layout out what we know, what we don’t and how you can help us fill in the gaps.
WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts, including On the Media, Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Nancy and many others. ProPublica is a non-profit investigative newsroom.
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35 Episodes
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Trump Inauguration Chief Tom Barrack’s ‘Rules for Success’
Last year, our Trump, Inc. podcast with WNYC explored the mystery of how Donald Trump’s inaugural managed to raise and spend $107 million. A lot has happened since then. We now know the inaugural committee is the subject of a wide-ranging criminal investigation. And we at Trump, Inc. broke the news that some of the inaugural money went to Trump’s own business – and that Ivanka Trump played a role in the negotiations. That could violate tax law. (A spokesman for Ivanka said she simply wanted a “fair market rate.”) In our latest episode, we take a deep dive into the many roles of Tom Barrack: Trump’s old friend; wealthy investor with decades-long ties to the Middle East; and the man who chaired the now-under-investigation inaugural committee. Before the inauguration, Barrack described the role as “the worst job in the world.” So why’d he take it? One possible clue comes from an eight-page strategic plan dated one month after the inauguration on the letterhead of the company he founded. Another reason could be a plan he supported to export U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. Barrack has spent his career cultivating the powerful. He lives by twenty “Rules for Success,” including: “Punctuality is the courtesy of kings” and “The jungle is a safer place with professionals than a paved road with amateurs.” Barrack did not agree to an interview. His spokesman, and the inaugural committee, did not respond to our questions. A committee spokeswoman previously said its finances “were fully audited internally and independently and are fully accounted.”  WNYCElsewhere in the podcast, we report that the inaugural committee was so eager to book space at Trump’s hotel in Washington that it encouraged hotel management to cancel another event -- a prayer breakfast -- so space would be clear for the inaugural celebration, according to a lawsuit against the committee filed by the reverend who organized the breakfast. The hotel did briefly cancel the breakfast, invoking “force majeure,” or an act of god. In this case, they predicted civil unrest over the inauguration week. 
Trump’s Inauguration Paid Trump’s Company — With Ivanka in the Middle
When it came out this year that President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee raised and spent unprecedented amounts, people wondered where all that money went.It turns out one beneficiary was Trump himself.The inauguration paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals and event space at the company’s Washington hotel, according to interviews as well as internal emails and receipts reviewed by WNYC and ProPublica.During the planning, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and a senior executive with the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the price the hotel charged the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for venue rentals. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to “express my concern” that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.” If the Trump hotel charged more than the going rate for the venues, it could violate tax law. The inaugural committee’s payments to the Trump Organization and Ivanka Trump’s role have not been previously reported or disclosed in public filings.“The fact that the inaugural committee did business with the Trump Organization raises huge ethical questions about the potential for undue enrichment,” said Marcus Owens, the former head of the division of the Internal Revenue Service that oversees nonprofits.Inaugural workers had other misgivings. Rick Gates, then the deputy to the chairman of the inaugural, asked some vendors to take payments directly from donors, rather than through the committee, according to two people with direct knowledge. The vendors felt the request was unusual and concerning, according to these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they signed confidentiality agreements. It is not clear whether any vendors took him up on his request.The revelations about the inauguration’s finances show how Trump blurred the lines between his political and business lives, as the real estate mogul ascended to the presidency.On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors in New York have opened a criminal investigation into whether the inaugural committee misspent money and whether donors gave in return for political favors, citing people familiar with the matter. In addition, The New York Times reported that prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funnelled money to the inauguration.Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Ivanka Trump’s ethics lawyer, said: “When contacted by someone working on the inauguration, Ms. Trump passed the inquiry on to a hotel official and said only that any resulting discussions should be at a ‘fair market rate.’ Ms. Trump was not involved in any additional discussions.”Mirijanian did not provide evidence that Ivanka Trump sought a fair market rate.A spokeswoman for the inaugural committee said it “is not aware of any pending investigations and has not been contacted by any prosecutors. We simply have no evidence the investigation exists.” The White House and a lawyer for Gates did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for the Manhattan federal prosecutors’ office declined to comment. The Trump Organization did not comment.“That doesn't have anything to do with the president or the first lady," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Thursday night, when asked about the story in the Journal.President-elect Trump was repeatedly briefed on inaugural planning and specific events, according to one committee worker with direct knowledge. WNYC and ProPublica have seen presentations that were shown to the president-elect, complete with renderings and floor plans.Trump’s 2017 inauguration committee, which was chaired by his friend the businessman Tom Barrack, raised nearly $107 million from donors including the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and AT&T. The January 2017 festivities cost almost twice President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, previously the most expensive. The nonprofit that planned Trump’s inauguration booked many spaces in the Trump International Hotel, located in the Old Post Office building near the White House, including a ballroom, hotel rooms and work spaces, as well as paying for meals there, according to several people who worked on the inauguration.How the inaugural committee managed to spend all the money it raised remains a mystery, nearly two years after the event. While groups that support political candidates or issues must publicly detail their spending, an inaugural committee is required to list only its top five contractors. That leaves about $40 million unaccounted for.Greg Jenkins, who led George W. Bush’s second inauguration, was perplexed by the Trump team’s mammoth fundraising haul. “They had a third of the staff and a quarter of the events and they raise at least twice as much as we did,” Jenkins told WNYC and ProPublica this year. “So there’s the obvious question: Where did it go? I don’t know.” As planning for the inauguration was underway in December 2016, Ivanka Trump was still an executive vice president at the Trump Organization. But she was reportedly preparing to move to Washington and take on a greater public role. She now serves as an adviser to the president. Around the middle of the month, with Inauguration Day scarcely a month away, Ivanka Trump was asked to help resolve a dispute between inaugural planners and her family’s Washington hotel, according to emails. The problem: Organizers thought the hotel was charging too much money.Emails show that Ivanka Trump connected Gates with Mickael Damelincourt, managing director of the hotel. Damelincourt responded with a new rate of $175,000 per day for use of the Presidential Ballroom and meeting rooms, offering a $700,000 charge for four days of use.It is not clear what the earlier price was, but Damelincourt’s revised rate did not satisfy one of the lead organizers of the inauguration, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. In an email to Ivanka Trump and Gates, Wolkoff, who had previously managed the Metropolitan Museum’s annual gala and fashion shows at Lincoln Center, expressed discomfort with the price.“I wanted to follow up on our conversation and express my concern,” Wolkoff wrote in the December email. “These events are in PE’s [the president-elect’s] honor at his hotel and one of them is for family and close friends. Please take into consideration that when this is audited it will become public knowledge,” she wrote, noting that other locations would be provided to the inaugural committee for free. “I understand that compared to the original pricing this is great but we should look at the whole context,” Wolkoff wrote, suggesting a day rate of $85,000, less than half of the Trump hotel’s offer. A former Trump hotel staffer confirmed that the inaugural committee paid for inaugural week events at the hotel. It’s not clear what price the committee ultimately paid. Previous media coverage has focused on spending by outside groups at the Trump hotel but it was not known that the official inaugural committee itself spent significant sums there.Wolkoff also raised concerns about spending in a conversation with then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen, according to the story in the Journal. Federal prosecutors have a recording of that conversation, according to the Journal. The Times story suggests that conversation took place well after the inauguration.Wolkoff, who is a friend of first lady Melania Trump, did not respond to a request for comment. Wolkoff’s firm, WIS Media Partners, was the inauguration’s highest-paid contractor, according to the committee’s tax filing. Wolkoff was scrutinized in media accounts this year because the firm received nearly $26 million. Most of that of the money was passed on to subcontractors, according to a person familiar with the spending. It is possible that payments to the Trump hotel were included in that sum.If the Trump hotel charged the inaugural committee above-market rates, it could violate tax rules, according to Owens, the nonprofit tax expert who is now a partner at the law firm Loeb & Loeb.If a person with “substantial influence” over a nonprofit group charges the group above-market rates in a transaction with their outside business, the IRS can impose steep fines. In this case, Donald Trump could qualify as a person with such influence. Should the tax agency find that a violation occurred, the Trump Organization would have to refund any overcharge and the inaugural committee would be hit with a 25 percent tax on the money, Owens said. Owens added that IRS audits of nonprofits are increasingly rare. Since the inaugural committee was incorporated in Virginia, the state attorney general there could also have standing to investigate its operations.A spokeswoman for the inaugural committee said its finances “were fully audited internally and independently and are fully accounted. … These were funds raised from private individuals and were then spent in accordance with the law and the expectations of the donors.”The inaugural committee spent money at the Trump International in Washington in other ways as well. Many workers came from California and New York and stayed at the hotel, eating their meals there and holding meetings. Receipts reviewed by WNYC and ProPublica show they typically paid about $350 a night. According to an inaugural worker, 15 to 20 inaugural workers stayed at the hotel most nights for roughly a month in the run-up to the inauguration, at a total cost of what could be more than $200,000.The professional resumes of top Trump hotel staffers indicate they worked closely with the presidential inaugural committee. The hotel’s director of food and beverage says on his LinkedIn profile that he was “working with PIC [Presidential Inaugural Committee] during the 2017 Inauguration” and a “related series of very special events.”The day before Trump’s swearing in, the inaugural committee hosted a Leadership Luncheon in the hotel’s Presidential Ballroom, featuring his cabinet nominees and major donors. “This is a gorgeous room,” the president-elect told the crowd. “A total genius must have built this place.” And the night of the inauguration itself, Trump’s family and close allies such as Sean Hannity celebrated into the early morning at an exclusive after-party in the Trump hotel’s grand lobby. Thousands of red, white and blue balloons were released from the rafters. Some vendors for the inauguration became concerned when Gates, a top inaugural committee official, asked them to take payments outside of the normal committee invoicing process, according to two people with knowledge of what happened. He proposed that they be paid for their work directly from a would-be donor rather than by the committee. Gates told the vendors that the inaugural committee had received pledges of more money than was initially targeted, and, therefore, he wished to reduce the publicly reported sum raised.Gates did not respond to a request for comment. Last February, he pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of lying to the FBI and conspiracy, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry. Over the summer, Gates was cross examined about his work for the inauguration in the trial of his former boss, Paul Manafort. Gates conceded that he might have charged personal expenses to the committee. “It’s possible,” he said.In a separate episode this year, a U.S. lobbyist pleaded guilty to helping a Ukrainian businessman and member of Parliament buy tickets to the inauguration, in violation of rules barring the committee from taking foreign money. The inaugural committee was not accused of wrongdoing in that case.Alice Wilder provided additional research assistance for this story.Do you have information about Trump’s inaugural or the Trump Organization? Email Ilya at imarritz@wnyc.org or via Signal at 646-662-1249 and Justin at justin@ProPublica.org or via Signal at 774-826-6240.
Trump Jr. Invested in a Hydroponic Lettuce Company
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, took a stake last year in a startup whose co-chairman is a major Trump campaign fundraiser who has sought financial support from the federal government for his other business interests, according to records obtained by ProPublica.The fundraiser, Texas money manager Gentry Beach, and Trump Jr. attended college together, are godfather to one of each other’s sons and have collaborated on investments — and on the Trump presidential campaign. Since Trump’s election, Beach has attempted to obtain federal assistance for projects in Asia, the Caribbean and South America, and he has met or corresponded with top officials in the National Security Council, Interior Department and Overseas Private Investment Corporation.Beach and others at the startup, Eden Green Technology, have touted their connections to the first family to impress partners, suppliers and others, according to five current and former business associates. Richard Venn, an early backer of Eden Green, recalls the company’s founder mentioning “interest from the Trump family.” Another associate said Beach bragged about his ties to the Trumps in a business meeting.The investment is one of just a handful of known business ventures pursued by Trump Jr. since his father moved into the White House almost two years ago. In addition to being a top campaign surrogate and public booster, Trump Jr. serves as an executive vice president of his father’s company and one of just two trustees of the trust holding the president’s assets.Ethics experts have consistently criticized these arrangements, arguing that they invite those seeking to influence the government to do so by attempting to enrich the president or his family members with favorable business opportunities.Trump Jr. invested in the startup, a company that grows organic lettuce in a hydroponic greenhouse, last year, records show. Those records don’t state how much money — if any —  Trump paid for his 7,500 shares. But the shares would have been worth about $650,000 at the end of last year, based on a formula used by another shareholder in a recent court filing. Neither Trump Jr. nor the company have disclosed his investment publicly. Trump Jr. obtained the stake through a limited liability company called MSMDF Agriculture LLC, which was set up by a Trump Organization employee last fall.  The key ethical question, said Virginia Canter, chief ethics lawyer at the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is whether Beach’s involvement with Eden Green, and Trump Jr.’s investment in it, are based on the business merits — or on the possibility of cashing in on connections to power. “Why is Trump Jr. being given this opportunity?” she asked. “It definitely has the appearance of trying to gain access by any means to curry favor with the administration.”The willingness of Eden Green to invoke the Trump name in its business dealings raises further ethical concerns, experts said, particularly if potential customers understand that they are giving contracts to a startup whose success could enrich the president’s son.Neither Trump Jr. nor his spokesman responded to messages seeking comment on his relationship with Beach and investment in Eden Green. A White House spokeswoman didn’t respond to emailed questions. Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s top lawyer, said in a statement that Trump Jr.’s investment is a personal one. The entity through which it was made “is not owned or controlled by, or affiliated in any way with, The Trump Organization,” Garten said.  Last fall, Eden Green concluded a deal with Walmart. Today, the giant retailer sells the company’s lettuce, kale and other greens at about 100 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. (Eden Green’s sole facility is a 44,023-square-foot greenhouse outside Fort Worth, where it grows the greens in 18-foot vertical tubes.)Walmart interacts with government regulators on an array of matters -- everything from labor practices and land use to securities filings -- but there is no indication that Walmart is aware of Trump Jr.’s connection to Eden Green. (Separately, Walmart contributed $150,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee. Beach was a finance vice chair of that committee, but a Beach spokesman says he has never met with Walmart executives.)Molly Blakeman, a Walmart spokeswoman, declined to comment on Eden Green or its investors. “We don’t talk about our relationships with our suppliers,” said Blakeman, who added that Walmart has “supported inaugural activities” in the past.   Andrew Kolvet, a spokesman for Beach and the other Eden Green executives, said it’s “categorically false” that the Trump name was invoked by Eden Green officials. Kolvet cited a corporate policy that forbids discussing investors “with any current or potential client.” He also said Trump Jr. isn’t involved with company operations and bought into Eden Green during “U.S. friends and family fundraising efforts.”A recent lawsuit asserts that Eden Green is in financial trouble. In October, the company’s largest shareholder, an entity controlled by a wealthy oil and gas family from Midland, Texas, filed suit in state court in Dallas, alleging “gross project mismanagement.” The suit accused Beach and six executives, all of them board members, of paying themselves extravagant salaries (allegedly $250,000 to $300,000 per year) and putting the company “on the precipice of failure.” A financial consultant hired to examine the company’s books asserted that Eden Green executives spent more than $19.4 million in the first nine months of 2018 — a daunting sum for a company that reported having raised a total of $22 million as of June — while generating $9,000 in revenues.In late November, less than a month after the suit was filed, it was settled on confidential terms. Kolvet disputed the compensation figures asserted in the litigation, saying that the company’s pay is “in accordance with industry standards.” He maintained that Eden Green’s prospects are good. As with many startups, he said, “things don’t go in a straight line.” Kolvet asserted that the company has plenty of operating cash. Trump Jr., now 40, and Beach, now 43, met at the University of Pennsylvania two decades ago. Both are the sons of wealthy businessmen, one in real estate, one in oil and gas. Beach’s father has since been laid low: Last month he was sentenced to four months in federal detention, plus two years of supervised release, for bankruptcy fraud.Beach was a groomsman at Trump Jr.’s wedding (Trump Jr. and his wife recently separated). Beach and Trump Jr. like to hunt and once considered buying a hunting preserve in Mexico together. According to a 2010 deposition testimony by Trump Jr., they talked business during lunches at Rothmann’s steakhouse in New York.Both have struggled in business at times. In 2009, Trump Jr. and others (including one person who pleaded guilty to an unrelated criminal fraud charge in 2010) formed a company that would sell concrete panels for home constructions out of a warehouse in North Charleston, South Carolina. The business quickly became mired in lawsuits seeking payment for unpaid bills. Trump Jr. made the situation more precarious by personally guaranteeing a $3.7 million loan for the project. Days before the note was due, the Trump Organization purchased the debt, eventually taking over the warehouse and selling it all back to Trump Jr.’s original business partner, according to press accounts.For his part, Beach’s career path has also included some travails. He spent a year or so at Enron and then moved into finance. Beach worked for a hedge fund and remains locked in litigation with it more than a decade later. (He claims he wasn’t paid his full compensation; the fund claims he was “responsible for the destruction of millions of dollars of investor capital.”) Beach now runs a “family office focused on private equity investments” out of a Dallas office that Eden Green uses as its corporate address.Trump Jr. has at least twice before invested with Beach in deals that didn’t pan out. Trump Jr. put  $200,000 in a dry Texas oil well managed by Beach’s father, according to testimony by Trump Jr. He also lost an unknown sum in a failed African mining company affiliated with Beach’s uncle.But Trump Jr. stuck with his friend. The Associated Press reported this year that the two formed a company last October to pursue technology investments.Then there was Eden Green. By the time Trump invested last fall, the company had already run into problems. It first launched in 2013 in South Africa with an ambitious mission: to feed the world through a highly efficient indoor farming system deploying patented technology intended to yield 10 to 12 harvests a year, compared with two or three for conventional agriculture.There’s a market for vegetables grown in controlled greenhouse environments as big retailers increasingly push for cleaner, more reliable and locally grown alternatives. But the challenges are significant. Energy costs run high, and there are myriad difficulties associated with scaling up to an industrial-size system.   That’s what happened in Eden Green’s first iteration, according to a half dozen early backers and associates. The produce may have been sustainable — but the business model wasn’t. The CEO of its European unit wrote in an October 2017 email obtained by ProPublica that the company had “been bleeding money and resources for almost 2 years now.” In the fall of 2017, Eden Green’s founders cemented a deal to hand over majority control to a group of U.S. investors led by Beach, current and former business associates said.This was the company Trump Jr. bought into. He used an innocuous-sounding limited liability company, called MSMDF Agriculture LLC, to make the investment. ProPublica discovered MSMDF after the Trump Organization listed it in New York City filings among dozens of other entities it controlled. (Because the Trump Organization has contracts with the city to run the Wollman skating rink in Central Park and a golf course in the Bronx, the city requires the company to file disclosures.) The Trump Organization told ProPublica that MSMDF is not in fact owned by the Trump Organization but was included in the disclosure form because it’s controlled by Trump Jr., who was described in the form as MSMDF’s president, secretary and treasurer.MSMDF was formed by a Trump Organization employee in September 2017 in Delaware, according to incorporation papers. Eden Green Holdings UK, Ltd., an affiliate of the Texas-based company, then listed MSMDF among its roughly two dozen shareholders in a 2018 report filed with British regulators.The Trump Jr-Beach connection has been most visible in the political arena. Last year, for example, Trump Jr. publicly thanked Beach and their mutual friend Tommy Hicks Jr., another wealthy investor from Dallas, for their fundraising during the 2016 campaign. “We couldn’t have done it without you guys,” Trump Jr. said of his buddies to a crowd of Republican donors in March 2017. “It was just absolutely incredible.”In the foreword to a recent book, Trump Jr. reiterated the message, writing that a “rag tag army” — Trump Jr., Beach, Hicks and Charlie Kirk, the firebrand chief of the pro-Trump organization, Turning Point USA  — barnstormed the country in 2016, raising “over 150 million dollars in ninety days.”Since Trump’s election, Beach has met with top administration figures on multiple occasions. For example, according to the AP, he lobbied National Security Council officials to relax sanctions against Venezuela to create opportunities for U.S. companies. He attended a private lunch with Republican donors and Interior secretary Ryan Zinke.Beach has denied leveraging his ties to the first family. Last month, Beach told a TV interviewer in Croatia, where he said he was exploring a “truly spectacular” $100 million real estate development, “I don’t need anything from the government, thankfully, except normal police protection in my hometown.”But newly obtained emails show that Beach wanted government backing for his private business interests at the same time he was running Eden Green. In October 2017, Beach pitched Ray Washburne, who heads the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a government agency that offers loans and guarantees to American companies looking to expand into emerging markets, according to emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. (Before joining OPIC, Washburne was a Dallas investor and a top fundraiser for Trump. He and Beach move in the same circles and have friends in common.)“The Dominican Republic could really use some US investment and support,” Beach wrote in one email to Washburne, describing his various projects there, which included “a power plant upgrade to an existing tin mine” as well as liquid natural gas infrastructure. He invited OPIC officials to travel with him to the Dominican Republic “If permitted, we would be happy to handle all transportation from DC to DR and back,” he wrote in a follow-up note. (Such a trip never occurred, according to an OPIC spokesperson.)  A month later, the emails show, Beach also lobbied on another project, arranging a call with his business partner and one of Washburne’s top deputies regarding an “India Oppty,” which appeared to involve an energy fund. Separately, Beach also introduced Washburne to the head of oil giant Exxon Mobil’s Africa operations, with whom Beach said he had gone shooting at Blenheim Palace in England, where the Churchill family resided for three centuries. And Beach connected another Washburne aide with a South African mining executive who Beach described as “one of my partners.”OPIC spokeswoman Amanda Burke said Beach has not submitted any formal applications for agency funding. “OPIC routinely meets with a variety of businesses and stakeholders,” she said, adding that formal applications trigger background and credit checks and “go through several levels of agency vetting and approval.”Asked whether having a Trump connection would disqualify a person from receiving OPIC support, Burke emailed that “in general, an individual’s personal or legal business interests would not disqualify them from applying. However, certain relationships may cause board members or other decision makers of OPIC to be conflicted out of the decision-making process on potential projects.”
The Emolument Suit Against Trump That Is Moving Ahead
There’s lots of talk about congressional investigations of the Trump administration that may be coming. Meanwhile, there is already a push to pull back the veil on the president’s conflicts. And it’s making progress.This month, a federal judge ruled that Maryland and Washington, D.C., can move ahead with a lawsuit claiming the president has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which bars presidents from accepting payments from foreign and state governments without congressional approval. That means the president may soon have to turn over all sorts of documents related to his businesses.  We spoke about the case with one of the lawyers behind it, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine.Racine explains that the Emoluments Clause is the “country's first anticorruption law.” The framers created it to “ensure that a president the United States as well as other federal officers would be loyal to the interest of the United States, not to their purses or to their pocketbooks.”  The Department of Justice has fought the case, disputing that the president is violating the Emoluments Clause. “This case, which should have been dismissed, presents important questions that warrant immediate appellate review,” a department spokesman said after the judge’s order.Racine also talked with us about what exact documents they’re hoping to get, and the time a Republican Congress investigated whether another president was receiving emoluments. (He wasn’t.) 
So What Trump Investigations Could Be Coming?
For two years, journalists have operated in an environment where Congress has declined to inquire into key issues surrounding President Trump’s family business: Is he profiting from his presidency? Are his friends, family, and appointees? Is Trump violating the Constitution when members of foreign governments make payments to his company by staying at his properties?  Now, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives after this week’s midterm elections, that will change. Already, several high-ranking members are vowing to look into aspects of the relationship between Trump’s business and his administration.Among them:• Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), currently the ranking member of Ways and Means Committee, says he’ll request Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department.• Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee,  says in a statement he’ll “shine a light on...President Trump’s decisions to act in his own financial self-interest rather than the best interests of the American people.”• Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), current ranking member of the Judiciary Committee is vowing to investigate policies “that enable pervasive corruption to influence decision-making at the highest levels of government.”• Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee says in a statement  the committee will look at “areas inquiry the majority ignored or prevented us from investigating.” Democratic committee staff issued a report last spring detailing some of those areas. Among them: the Trump Organization’s business practices.What will this all mean? What do we hope to learn? And how might this change our understanding of the presidency and his business?  WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein convened an all-star panel to discuss it all: Adam Davidson of the The New Yorker, McClatchy’s White House Correspondent Anita Kumar, The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, and Eric Umansky of ProPublica.They also helped us to create a must-read list of stories, articles, documents and court filings that take on new interest after the midterms for anyone following the administration.From Adam: The House Intelligence Committee’s Minority Views report, which lays out how a Democrat-led committee might continue to investigate possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, and the deposition of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg in State of New York v. The Donald J. Trump Foundation.From Andrea: U.S. District Judge’s Peter J. Messitte’s Nov. 2, 2018, Memorandum Opinion in The District of Columbia and the State of Maryland v. Donald J. Trump, otherwise known as the “emoluments lawsuit.”  From Anita: Sarah Chayes’ amicus brief in CREW v. Donald J. Trump.From David: Trump’s 2007 deposition in the case Donald J. Trump v. Timothy O’Brien.From Eric: Axios’ story about a GOP spreadsheet of expected Democratic-led investigations. It’s a long list that spans everything from well-known issues like Trump’s tax returns to things many of us have long forgotten, such as whether classified information has been inappropriately shared at Mar-a-Lago.
Rudy, Inc.
Rudy Giuliani has had many identities in his time on the public stage. A crusading federal prosecutor who struck terror in mobsters and Wall Street titans alike. A sometimes cantankerous New York City mayor who became a national hero for his stirring leadership after the 9/11 attacks. And, currently, President Donald Trump’s unpaid attorney in the Russia collusion investigation being led by Robert Mueller. In this week’s episode of Trump, Inc., we’re digging into a part of Giuliani's work that has occurred largely outside of the spotlight: He has often traveled to Russia or other former Soviet states as guests of powerful players there. And since Trump was elected, he appears to have stepped up the frequency of those trips.Just last week, for example, Giuliani appeared in the former Soviet republic of Armenia, which has close trade ties with Russia. He was invited, according to local press accounts, by Ara Abramyan, an Armenian businessman who lives in Russia. Abramyan once helped reconstruct the Kremlin and also received a medal for “merit to the fatherland” from President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Giuliani said he was in Armenia as a private citizen, but on a local TV news show, Abramyan implied that he expected Giuliani to carry a message for him to Trump. (The conversation was in Armenian, so it’s not clear whether Giuliani understood what Abramyan was saying.)While in Armenia, Giuliani also attended a technology conference (one of his businesses advises on cybersecurity). The conference program listed him as appearing on a panel that also included a Russian currently on the U.S. sanctions list imposed after Russia's invasion of Crimea.There are many things we don't know about Giuliani's trips. We don't know whether he's being paid, and if so by whom. Giuliani declined to answer our questions.One thing we do know is that a company called TriGlobal Strategic Ventures claims credit for organizing the trips. Abramyan is on TriGlobal’s board, as is a former Russian government minister. TriGlobal and Abramyan also did not respond to our questions.Giuliani's work abroad does not appear to break any laws or rules. But it also appears to be unprecedented. Said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney and a law professor at the University of Michigan: “I don't recall seeing anything like this before.”

Rudy, Inc.

2018-10-3100:36:5412

Trump and Taxes: The Art of the Dodge
From the moment during the presidential campaign that Donald Trump broke decades of precedent and declined to release his personal tax returns, the issue of Trump and the taxes he has paid (or not paid) has been the subject of widespread fascination, scrutiny and not a little controversy. That scrutiny ratcheted up significantly in recent weeks with two substantial media investigations of the tax-paying practices of Trump’s family and those of Trump in-law and White House official Jared Kushner.This week’s episode of Trump, Inc. brings clarity to a complex subject. It identifies three patterns in the president’s approach to taxes. First, it describes a history of ignoring norms (which, for presidential candidates, include releasing tax returns). Second, it delves into a recent New York Times investigation — which concluded that the president’s family committed “outright fraud” — to show a history of breaking tax rules. Finally, it examines Trump’s ability to change tax rules to benefit himself and his wealthy peers.The episode includes an interview with The New York Times’ Susanne Craig, the co-author of the expose that reported that Fred Trump passed $413 million in today’s dollars to his son Donald, who describes how she reported her article and the mysteries she and her colleagues unraveled. It also examines a second New York Times article that explored how Kushner exploited a seemingly prosaic tax technique — depreciation — to wipe out his taxable income. (Representatives of the Trumps and Kushners have denied any tax improprieties.) Finally, the episode looks at many of the ways in which Trump’s signature tax cut will redound to the benefit of the real estate industry.The bigger picture? As tax expert Jenny Johnson Ware puts it in the podcast, for taxpayers who want to be aggressive, “It’s a great time.” Correction:  This story originally misattributed and misquoted a statement. Jenny Johnson Ware did not say, “It’s a good time to be wealthy in the United States if you are aggressive about your tax money.” ProPublica's Jesse Eisinger asked, “Is it a good time to be wealthy in the United States if you are aggressive about your tax planning?” Ware responded that for taxpayers who want to be aggressive, “It’s a great time.”
Pump and Trump
(With Andrea Bernstein and Meg Cramer, WNYC, and Peter Elkind, ProPublica)Since Donald Trump’s fortunes came surging back with the success of “The Apprentice” 14 years ago, his deals have often been scrutinized for the large number of his partners who have ventured to the very edges of the law, and sometimes beyond. Those associates have included accused money launderers, alleged funders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and a felon who slashed someone in the face with a broken margarita glass.Trump and his company have typically countered by saying they were merely licensing his name on these real estate projects in exchange for a fee. They weren’t the developers or in any way responsible.But an eight-month investigation by ProPublica and WNYC reveals that the post-millennium Trump business model is different from what has been previously reported. The Trumps were typically way more than mere licensors or bystanders in their often-troubled deals. They were deeply involved in these projects. They helped mislead investors and buyers — and they profited handsomely from it. Patterns of deceptive practices occurred in a dozen deals across the globe, as the business expanded into international projects, and the Trumps often participated. One common pattern, visible in more than half of those transactions, was a tendency to misstate key sales numbers.In interviews and press conferences, Ivanka Trump gave false sales figures for projects in Mexico’s Baja California ; Panama City, Panama ; Toronto  and New York’s SoHo neighborhood . These statements weren’t just the legendary Trump hype; they misled potential buyers about the viability of the developments.Another pattern: Donald Trump repeatedly misled buyers about the amount (or existence) of his ownership in projects in Tampa, Florida; Panama; Baja and elsewhere. For a tower planned in Tampa, for example, Trump told a local paper in 2005 that his ownership would be less than 50 percent: “But it’s a substantial stake. I recently said I’d like to increase my stake but when they’re selling that well they don’t let you do that.” In reality, Trump had no ownership stake in the project.The Trumps often made money even when projects failed. And when they tanked, the Trumps simply ignored their prior claims of close involvement, denied any responsibility and walked away.(Projects Where A Trump Family Member Overstated Numbers and Projects Where the Trumps Suggested They Were Developers, Partners or Equity Owners - They Weren't)The cycle is exemplified in Panama City, where the Trumps were involved in a project to build a massive tower and complex known as the Trump Ocean Club . The project’s unfortunate turns included bankruptcy, then, years later, the forcible ejection of the Trump Organization from managing the hotel.There, as elsewhere, the Trump Organization disclaimed responsibility. It emphasized that it had merely licensed the Trump name to developers who handled everything from construction to marketing. “The Trump Organization was not the owner, developer or seller of the Trump Ocean Club Panama project,” it said in a statement last year. “Because of its limited role, the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units.”That was false. For starters, Trump arranged financing — his promised commission: $2.2 million or more — by bringing in investment bank Bear Stearns , which issued the bonds that paid for the Panama project’s construction.Trump touted himself as a “partner” of the developer. His daughter Ivanka  briefly boasted that she had personally sold 40 units. (A broker on the project said he couldn’t remember her selling even one.) Meanwhile, Ivanka told a journalist at the time that “over 90 percent” of the Panama units had sold — and at prices five times as high as comparable buildings. Both statements were untrue.Not only were the Panama sales figures inflated, but many “purchases” turned out to be an illusion. That was no coincidence. The building’s financing depended on obtaining advance commitments from buyers, often before concrete had started pouring. But in between the sale of the bonds in 2007 and 2013, the year the building went bankrupt, buyers of 458 units in the 1,000-unit building abandoned their purchase contracts. Those buyers forfeited more than $50 million in deposits, and they never took possession of finished units. Given that the “buyers” were often shadowy shell companies or other paper entities, it was nearly impossible to discern who the actual purchasers were, let alone why they backed out.Trump licensed his name for an initial fee of $1 million. But that was just the beginning of the revenue streams, a lengthy and varied assortment that granted him a piece of everything from sales of apartment units to a cut of minibar sales, and was notable for the myriad ways in which both success and failure triggered payments to him.Consider the final accounting: In the wake of the project’s bankruptcy, a 50 percent default rate and his company’s expulsion from managing the hotel, Donald Trump walked away with between $30 million and $55 million.The Trump Organization did not respond to a long list of questions about its transactions. The White House didn’t have a comment.Trump’s licensing strategy originated with his early-2000s comeback, as “The Apprentice” propelled him to international TV stardom and restored luster to a reputation tarnished by multiple bankruptcies. As Trump put it in one promotional video  during that period, “When the first season of ‘The Apprentice’ finally finished shooting, I was able to get back to my core business, real estate, and I’ve made some really incredible deals.” That strategy is still playing out today. The Trump Organization, which pledged not to launch new projects during the Trump presidency, is aggressively pursuing existing ones, including in the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and India.Some long-assumed beliefs about Trump are being re-investigated, with surprising results. This month, The New York Times published a 13,000-word examination of how Donald’s father, the late Fred Trump, and his estate, funneled millions of dollars to his children, in possible violation of tax rules and criminal laws. With copious documentation showing that Fred directed $413 million in today’s dollars to Donald — not the single loan for $1 million, with interest, that Donald has always claimed — it exploded Trump’s long-propagated claim that he is a self-made man.This article examines another Trump claim: that his post-millennium comeback and global expansion rested on the brilliant purity of a licensing strategy that paid him millions simply for the use of his name. That, it turns out, is no truer than the notion that Donald Trump is self-made.“Development Wasn’t Our Big Forte”A Lebanese importer-exporter with expertise in the apparel industry seemed an unlikely choice as a partner for one of Donald Trump’s first international forays. Yet that’s precisely who Trump would team with to embark on a wildly ambitious construction project in a distant Central American location.Roger Khafif  divided his time between Panama, where he had become a citizen, and South Florida. He was a slick dresser who made big promises and exuded an intensity that could be viewed either as determination or stubbornness, according to people who did business with him. He had worked in the Panama Canal free-trade zone as an importer-exporter of clothing and had recently begun dabbling in real estate, documents show, via ownership interests in two Panamanian beach resorts. “Development wasn’t our big forte,” Khafif acknowledged in an interview with ProPublica.If Khafif seemed an implausible partner, Panama seemed an odd location for a project that would become a template of sorts for Trump’s international licensing deals. The country was better known as a cog in the Latin American drug trade than as a tourist destination. It was a place to turn illegal profits into useable cash. Money laundering helped fuel the proliferation of high-rises that gave Panama City its sleek, ultramodern skyline .The deal came together fast, according to Khafif. To get to Trump, he said, an associate put him in touch with a business partner of Marvin Traub, the Trump friend and former Bloomingdale’s CEO who had also brokered Trump Vodka. Traub’s consultancy got Khafif on Trump’s schedule. (Traub’s firm later sought almost $1.3 million for matchmaking, court documents show.)“We had a quick meeting,” Khafif recalled of his first encounter with Trump in New York in 2005. “Then I left. I went down to Miami, got a call the next day from Donald Trump saying they were interested in the project.” Khafif was so surprised he didn’t at first believe he was talking to Trump.Trump signed on to Khafif’s plan and decided to bestow the leading role in the project, at least as far as the Trump Organization went, on his daughter Ivanka, Khafif told Reuters. Just entering her mid-20s, she was leading a major deal for the first time. Ivanka traveled to Panama shortly after, and the agreement coalesced quickly.Khafif’s dream was audacious and grandiose. The planned complex, Ivanka claimed in a promotional video, would amass the largest square footage of any construction in all of the Americas. Fully Trumpian in its luxury and excess, the plan would call for a 69-story sail-shaped building with 1,000 condos and hotel-condo units, offices, a casino, spa, private beach, pool deck and yacht club. (When viewed from Panama Bay, the resulting edifice would look less like a sail and more like a giant lemon wedge perched on a square base.)One Monday in April 2006 in the marble atrium at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Khafif stood in a well-cut dark suit and pale pink tie  beside Trump, Ivanka and Donald Jr. to announce plans for the Trump Ocean Club’s birth. “I really think the time for Panama has come,” Trump proclaimed.Trump left multiple observers with the impression that he had an equity stake in the deal. “He said the Trump   does have a financial interest in the project but he would not disclose the amount,” reported a newsletter circulated to clients and associates, alerting them to news and investment opportunities, by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which would later become publicly known for sheltering wealth in offshore accounts.Marketing materials for the Panama project also implied that Trump was functioning as a developer. “I am honored to develop this extraordinary high rise with my partner Roger Khafif of the K Group,” Trump was quoted as saying in one promotional statement. Buyers believed the Trumps and their company were functioning as the project’s developers, in partnership with Khafif, according to a lawsuit later filed by dozens of buyers.But Trump did not have a penny of equity in the development, according to records of the bond sale and bankruptcy. Nor was he the actual developer, as the Trump Organization’s own statement confirmed.In Panama and elsewhere, Trump’s projects depended on outsiders’ willingness to invest. Trump claimed at the time that banks were “fighting to put up money” for the building. But there’s no evidence that was the case. His five casino and hotel bankruptcies meant financial institutions tended to shy away, and Khafif’s lack of building experience made him a risky financing prospect. (Khafif ultimately brought on the principals of a Colombian construction and design firm to deliver the necessary know-how.)Still, Trump had a card to play without which the tower would likely never have been built: his two-decade relationship with Bear Stearns. The investment bank agreed to underwrite a $220 million bond issue. Bear Stearns and Trump had worked together on a variety of endeavors. For example, two years earlier he and a Bear Stearns executive, Trump’s investment banking adviser, had launched Trump University , a non-accredited business education program that purported to teach his real estate strategies. (It later collapsed among accusations of fraud. Trump paid $25 million to settle a suit but denied wrongdoing.) And as far back as 1988, Trump paid a $750,000 civil judgment to the U.S. Department of Justice for having Bear Stearns make purchases of casino stocks in the bank’s name rather than in his. (Trump was looking to buy casinos at the time, and the Justice Department asserted that the concealed purchases violated antitrust laws.)As the bond underwriter in the Panama project, Bear Stearns played a dual role: It raised money for construction and also vouched for the soundness of the bonds it would sell. The bank was supposed to be checking that information disclosed to investors was accurate and provided a complete picture of the investment’s strengths and weaknesses.In reality, however, “the bank had significant lapses in exercising due diligence over their bond offerings” during that period, according to Gary Aguirre, an attorney and former SEC senior counsel who advocated for more accountability of Bear Stearns and other Wall Street banks involved in the financial crisis and said he researched Bear Stearns as part of that process. The bank, including a member of its Latin America group (which was involved in the Panama deal), faced multiple investigations by regulators into whether its employees in Miami and New York had improperly valued financial instruments, though they did not lead to charges, SEC records and media reports show.The bond sale barely squeaked through in November 2007. Tremors of what would become a global financial earthquake were already destabilizing markets. At the last minute, Bear Stearns postponed the offering only to reverse course a few days later. “I remember walking up Fifth Avenue and I put my arm around Roger [Khafif],” said Jack Studnicky, a lead real estate agent for the project, “and I said, ‘You are the luckiest SOB I ever met.’” This project, branded with the name of a longtime Bear Stearns client, was the only bond issue among eight at Bear Stearns at that moment that moved forward.Many investors turned up their noses at the bonds, even though Bear Stearns representatives had traveled to New York City, Miami and London to talk up the deal. Part of what drove some blue-chip corporate investors away was obvious: The bonds for the Panama project were rated “speculative” — “junk” in Wall Street parlance — reflecting what rating agencies viewed as an elevated chance of default. More risk-tolerant, and more anonymous, hedge funds and money managers proliferated among the bond buyers, making up 80 percent of initial investors.Within months of the offering, it became clear that the Trump Ocean Club would outlive its financial backer. Bear Stearns crumpled suddenly in March 2008 as creditors pounced on the heavily indebted institution. Less than six months after it delivered the money to construct the tower, Bear Stearns disappeared into the belly of J.P. Morgan.“We Needed Those Extra Sales”Trump’s connections landed financing for the Panama project, but they could take the deal only so far. The $220 million in bond proceeds wouldn’t have started flowing if Khafif’s team hadn’t satisfied a key prerequisite: Racking up “presales,” the term for purchase contracts signed while the building was under construction (and in many cases, before construction had even begun).Buyers promised to make a down payment of 30 percent, spread over four installments, and to eventually pay in full. These binding pledges served as collateral for the bond, a crucial source of value that bondholders could seize if the developers failed to pay back what they owed.Khafif and a cadre of brokers set out to move units, with what appeared to be dramatic success at first. The year Trump joined the project, 2006, the developers reported signing a whopping 585 presales contracts with prospective buyers (nearly 60 percent of the units in the building). The Moody’s credit-rating service cited the project’s rapid sales as a “positive credit characteristic.”But the project scrambled to nail enough contracts to fulfill the bank’s requirements, according to Studnicky, who worked for the project’s master brokers, International Sales Group (ISG). Over a meal in a Spanish restaurant in New York City, Khafif told Studnicky he needed “another 100 sales to make it valid” — scribbling numbers on the paper tablecloth, according to Studnicky. “It wasn’t fully collateralized, and we needed those extra sales,” he said.ISG leaned on its agents. “We knew there was a presale requirement in order to trigger the bond issue,” said Jeff Barton, another broker who worked at ISG at the time. “So there was definitely pressure.”In dealing with potential buyers, the ISG brokers communicated urgency of a much different sort: They acted as if the building were running out of units. The prices were in constant flux, keeping potential buyers off-balance. “You could never really get a straight answer in terms of what was actually available, what had actually sold and what the real price was,” said Kent Davis, who began looking to sell Ocean Club inventory soon after opening his own real estate company in Panama City in 2007. (One buyer echoed Davis’ comments. “When I invested it was ‘Oh wow, it’s almost sold out!’” said Al Monstavicius, a retired doctor who bought into the Panama tower. “I was told the units were selling real well. Well, they weren’t selling real well.”) ISG did not return messages seeking comment. Davis said he sold a few units, splitting the commission with ISG. “I think some of their projections were exaggerated. I think the way they described how the project would ultimately be built did not come to fruition,” he said. “I think they were overpromising and, to be honest, at times I was complacent.”Just as Trump took millions upfront, financial incentives in the project were stacked to reward brokers for quick presales — rather than slow and steady contracts perhaps more likely to close once construction finished.Commissions were front-loaded to an unusual degree, Davis said. Agents making the earliest sales would receive 90 percent of their expected commissions by the time construction started, according to Barton. Only the final 10 percent was held back until closing, when the buyer had paid in full and the unit was ready to be occupied. (Davis said that brokers typically get commissions in increments in line with the percentage their clients have put in.)Even as brokers were taking cash out quickly, buyers were given time to put their money in. They anted up just 10 percent upon signing a purchase contract, according to the bond prospectus. They paid the remaining 20 percent in increments over the year after that.Khafif complained of soaring construction costs and raised prices even as brokers hustled for contracts, Studnicky said. “I kept saying I understand the problem, but if you keep pushing the prices up, people are never going to be able to close on these things,” he said.The higher prices climbed, the more the Trumps stood to pocket. Their licensing agreement gave them a base fee of 4 percent of gross sales when units closed. (This was on top of the $1 million Trump was given in advance for the use of his name.) They also received an “incentive fee”: the higher the price rose above benchmarks, the greater a proportion the Trumps earned, records show. A hotel-condominium unit that sold for $385,000, for example, would produce a payment of $20,650 — just over 5 percent — to Trump’s company.That was just the beginning. Along with the cut of sales, Trump’s 2006 licensing agreement provided the family other cash streams from the Panama project. The Trumps could take a 20 percent commission on construction costs if money was saved through Trump dealmaking, for instance. Once the hotel opened , they would pocket 17.5 percent of what hotel guests paid for their rooms, including what they spent on minibar items, internet service and even bathrobes; 4 percent for parking unit sales; and 12 percent of commercial space rentals. The Trump Organization would also receive 4 percent of the hotel’s gross revenue for managing it, plus an incentive fee equal to a fifth of the hotel’s net operating income.If everything went smoothly, according to the bond prospectus, Trump’s take would be $74 million by 2010. That sum was equivalent to about a third of the entire financing for the project.Of course, things would go less than perfectly. But Trump was protected if that happened, too. His contract created a safety net for him if prices rose so high that buyers failed to close. One provision required that two years after the first closing, developers would pay the Trumps fees for unsold units — basing the amount on the average sales prices of the units that had closed. In theory, avoiding such payments provided an incentive to sell more units; in reality, it meant that Trump would get paid whether or not units actually sold.The contract required that monthly sales and marketing reports be provided to the Trumps. It was a stipulation the Trump Organization appeared to value: In an email related to another project, Trump’s son Eric chastised business partners in the Dominican Republic  for delays in making such reports. “I am getting weekly emails from my team who requests this info on all projects for basic monitoring purposes,” Eric wrote.His sister, meanwhile, asserted her engagement with the company’s endeavors. “I’m involved in every aspect of our new construction projects,” Ivanka said in a 2008 interview. “[A] lot of what I do is get involved in the acquisition process, from sourcing the potential opportunities and then the initial due-diligence process, but then, of course, I follow the deals through to predevelopment planning, design, interior design, architectural design, sales and marketing, and, ultimately, through operations.”“Our biggest problem is not having enough inventory”Construction on the Trump Ocean Club had begun in May 2007, with customer deposits, investor money and a bridge loan tiding the developers over until the sale of bonds in November 2007. To hear the Trumps tell it, the project was a raging and immediate success, even in the face of a historic global financial and real estate crisis that erupted in 2008 and continued into 2009 and beyond.At times, the hyperbole crossed over into misrepresentation. In a November 2008 interview, Ivanka Trump bragged that she had “sold 40 units in Panama last month.” She added that “it’s a 1,000-unit building, we’ve sold over 90 percent of it.” The units, she said, had been going at a “500 percent premium to anything the luxury market has ever experienced prior to our entry.”All of that was exaggerated or outright false. When pressed by her interviewer about what she meant by “I sold 40 units,” Ivanka backed off, saying, “We did, our project,” a transcript of the interview shows. Studnicky, who was deeply involved with Ocean Club sales at the time and generally praised the Trumps, said Ivanka didn’t sell any units that he knew of.Three months after Ivanka’s comments were published, Moody’s reported that 79 percent of the building’s units were under purchase contracts. The Trump name did carry a premium, according to data filed with Panamanian securities officials. But even at its high point, it amounted to about 130 percent of what similar luxury properties fetched, not the 500 percent Ivanka claimed.Meanwhile, the Trumps used some of their glamour to encourage sales. Donald Trump himself hosted a gala for the Panama project at Mar-a-Lago where celebrity Regis Philbin dropped in.But difficulties were mounting and cash was tight. By 2009, some buyers were offered hefty discounts if they agreed to pay the full purchase price up front. (Monstavicius says he accepted such an offer, shaving $100,000 off his nearly half-million-dollar penthouse suite.)Ratings for the Ocean Club’s bonds were lowered in February 2009, but you wouldn’t have known that by listening to the Trumps. A few weeks after the downgrade, Ivanka gushed about Panama in an interview with a publication called the Latin Business Chronicle. “Given the global downturn, the fact that sales remain so robust is a testament to the product, the brand and Panama,” she said. “Our biggest problem is not having enough inventory. We only have a small percent of the building left.”The following year brought more trouble. There was another bond downgrade. One of the services that reduced its rating, Fitch, expressed concerns about the market and buyers’ “willingness and ability to close on units upon delivery.”The developers faced a $27 million construction shortfall and delays by subcontractors performing services such as millwork. Khafif and his team trimmed back some of their plans, which only irked buyers who had already committed their money. For example, buyers said square footage for some units was reduced. The location for a planned beach club was moved to a more distant spot with less cachet. And plans to have Trump manage the casino were abandoned.The issuing of the bonds hadn’t relieved pressure on the Ocean Club to move units. The developers needed to keep sales commitments and cash high or they risked defaulting on the bonds. By 2010, 25 contracts appeared in jeopardy as buyers missed payments toward their deposits.Facing pressure from multiple sides, the developers sought bondholders’ permission to make key changes to their agreement. They proposed relaxing the requirements for collateral and reducing the amount of cash they had to keep in a deposit account. In a company statement quoted in the press at the time, Newland International Properties (the entity formed by Khafif and the outside developers he partnered with) was blunt about its need: “The company believes that the proposed amendments are necessary to allow the company to continue construction.”“Nobody Ever Asked Where These Sales Were Coming From”From the beginning, the plan at the Trump Ocean Club was to draw a luxury-seeking international clientele with disposable income. With some 1,000 units to sell, brokers tapped networks of upper-crust buyers across the globe. In doing so, they netted purchasers with problematic pasts, including some with ties to organized crime and money laundering operations.ISG representatives and independent brokers fanned out to Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Dubai, China and South Africa, as well as other Latin American countries. As of mid-2007, roughly 60 percent of buyers came from outside the United States, bond documents show. (Much has been made of Trump’s buyers of Russian nationality or extraction, but the Panama sales were not tracked by nationality. Still, some were found in Moscow and, Khafif said, in Trump developments in  ) Several aspects of the Panama sales raised red flags, according to experts. For example, some buyers bought blocks of units. Purchases were typically made anonymously through shell corporations registered in Panama. That allowed some buyers to change the ownership of the unit in secret, simply by changing the ownership of the company. They often used so-called bearer shares, allowing a stake in a company to be transferred simply by passing a piece of paper.“Nobody ever asked where these sales were coming from, where the money was coming from,” said Studnicky, adding that this wasn’t unusual for such a building at the time.The purchase of multiple units and the use of bearer shares or shell companies are not illegal in themselves. But they can be hallmarks of money laundering, according to experts. “We have no idea of the people behind those companies,” said Eryn Schornick, a policy adviser for Global Witness, an international anti-corruption organization. The Panama deal, she said, bore signs of “classic money laundering.”Meanwhile, multiple buyers claimed they were promised quick profits through flips arranged by the developers, promises they say were not fulfilled. Some of those allegations began emerging in litigation even before the Trump Ocean Club opened.In late 2010, a group of buyers accused Trump, the Trump Organization, Khafif and Newland, Khafif’s development operation, of misleading them, according to a previously unreported lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Florida. There were 37 plaintiffs, led by an independent broker, Greg Landau. The group — including South Florida residents, a family in Brooklyn, a Massachusetts psychiatrist, a New York fashion mogul and several Russians — had bought 42 Ocean Club condominiums between 2006 and 2009.The group alleged that Khafif had offered them a sweet enticement: If they put 30 percent down, either the developer or the Trump Organization would finance the rest. Khafif, plaintiffs claimed, said Newland or the Trump Organization would manage the investment — finding new buyers so they could flip it for a big profit before construction was finished and they had to close on the property.The deal soured after some of the Ocean Club plans were trimmed (including, as noted, reducing the size of units). Buyers discovered there was no developer financing, and no buyers lined up to flip to. They went to court.Trump had “stood by silently as Khafif made the misrepresentations” in a meeting at Mar-a-Lago in 2007 aimed at attracting investors and encouraging current investors to increase their deposits, the lawsuit claimed. It also cited the marketing materials in which Trump called Khafif his “partner.” “The Trump Organization knew these representations were being made by Khafif to Landau and of the fact that Landau was expected to repeat them to other potential investors,” it alleged. “Defendants Khafif, Donald Trump, and the Trump Organization were culpable participants in the fraudulent scheme.”In an interview with ProPublica, one of those buyers described what he had expected to happen. “There was an agreement that when the hotel is built, when the building is ready, we’ll sell our apartments, our shares, and quit the project,” said Victor Masaltsev, an internet entrepreneur who lives in Moscow and invested in the Ocean Club through a Panamanian shell company that became a plaintiff in the Landau suit against Trump. Masaltsev said he was invited to visit Mar-a-Lago for an event with Trump celebrating the project, but he couldn’t make the trip.“I’ve been doing business for a long time and, you know, there’s never a 100 percent guarantee,” he said through a translator. “But I was expecting to make no less than 50 percent profit on my money.” Instead, he said, he lost his deposit.In their legal papers, the Trump Organization and Newland asserted that the complaint was “completely devoid of facts sufficient to show that Donald Trump and The Trump Organization were conducting the affairs of a ‘fraudulent scheme.’”Khafif called the lawsuit a case of “buyers’ remorse, of course.” There were “a million” such lawsuits when the financial crisis came, he added. “They tried to invent anything in order to get their money back. It wasn’t our fault.”A U.S. judge ordered the case be moved to Panamanian courts, but the parties reached a confidential settlement before that happened. Other plaintiffs, reached by ProPublica, have a surprising take on the dispute today. Three of them echoed Khafif and said the project was simply a bad investment. “It’s nothing to do with Trump,” said David Feldman, speaking outside his Brooklyn duplex. He said he did not receive any money in the settlement and added that he thought Trump was hurt by the deal, too, before declining to talk further. Landau did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Roderick Coleman, the attorney named on the lawsuit pleadings.Landau’s group wasn’t the only one to claim it was sold on an unfulfilled promise of easy flipping. One buyer from Dubai made similar claims, according to emails in the Panama Papers, a collection of documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. “The concept was pay the deposit and they would get it resold before completion,” a representative for the buyer wrote to a lawyer in Panama. “[T]he apartment was going to be resold for them by the agents that came from Panama to Dubai for Marketing the project.” Khafif called it another case of buyer’s remorse.“Our project was the cleanest one of them all”Unfulfilled promises weren’t the only questionable behavior alleged at the Trump Ocean Club. For example, one high-selling broker, Alexandre Ventura Nogueira , was linked to money laundering by Global Witness and a joint Reuters-NBC investigation. Nogueira confirmed in that article that some of his partners and investors on the Trump Panama project had connections to the Russian mafia. (He asserted that he had discovered those connections only after the fact.) Among the buyers Nogueira landed was a Colombian businessman who was subsequently convicted in the United States of conspiring to launder drug money.Khafif told ProPublica that he hired Nogueira because he was one of the highest-profile brokers in Panama City at the time. “That guy was very famous,” Khafif said. “We ended up suing him because he swindled the clients.” Nogueira, who was also accused of selling the same units to more than one buyer at the same time, fled Panama and described himself in the Reuters article as a “fugitive.” (He denied in that story, but could not be reached for comment for this article.)The Trump Organization denied the family knew Nogueira. But photos were published of Ivanka and her father smiling with an arm around Nogueira at events at Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago.Project developers also seem to have made dubious presales themselves — and profitable ones at that — according to emails between bondholders and Newland obtained by ProPublica.Newland shareholders purchased some of the building’s units at below-market prices with down payments of just 5 percent. “I have never seen 8-10 percent of a 996 unit project reserved by the developers at prices as much as 70 percent less than list price (with just a 5% deposit),” asserted one email from Gary Lundgren, who now owns a sizable part of the building, to others in the project. The purchases were “not disclosed in the Bear Stearns’s bond offering circular, not disclosed in the quarterly financial disclosure, not disclosed in the annual audited financial statements,” he complained.Newland acquired some of the units by taking over ones that were in danger of default, Lundgren stated in the email, with the developers kicking in the 5 percent needed for the units to continue being counted as collateral under the bond terms. The developers resold some of the properties at higher prices, Lundgren’s email asserted, and they pocketed the difference. These resales effectively cut out bondholders from their share of the proceeds. His emails to Newland did not mention the Trumps. (In 2016, Lundgren was barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority from acting as a broker after he failed to respond to an information request. His filings asserted that the complaint against him, filed by someone who was not his customer, was without merit, and that Panamanian law prevented him from disclosing the records.)The insider purchases potentially violated the terms of the project’s financing. The bond prospectus required down payments of at least 30 percent, which would “protect the economics of our project.” Since sweetheart deals generated less cash — which meant less collateral for the bonds — a provision of the bond agreement restricted sales made to affiliates of the developers. And if buyers stopped making payments, they were supposed to go through a default process rather than have Newland take over their purchase.“The developers made bad judgment calls, and they justified it by their support for the project,” said Alfredo “Dino” de Angelis, of Gapstone, which advised Newland in the bankruptcy. Ultimately, he said, the developers added money to stabilize the project, enough to equal or exceed what they appear to have made by re-selling units.Khafif said that bondholders looked into the questions and “found everything was 100 percent by the book.” He said developers didn’t need to buy units and followed the rules in the bond indenture. Khafif insisted that he conducted business the right way. “Our project was the cleanest one of them all,” he said. “We had to watch out for Trump, we had to watch out for bondholders. We had to work within the indenture, or else we’d be screwed.”“Replete with misrepresentations”Ivanka Trump ’s exaggerations about the Ocean Club reflected a tactic she and her father employed repeatedly in other cases, ProPublica and WNYC found. Their statements, typically made in the midst of sales drives, tended to overstate the number of units under contract or the Trump Organization’s equity stake in projects scattered around the globe.The Trumps’ propensity to overstate sales led them, as ProPublica, WNYC and the New Yorker reported last year, to be investigated on potential felony fraud charges in one case. Ivanka had announced in June 2008 that 60 percent of the units at the SoHo  tower had been bought when in fact 15 percent had, according to an affidavit filed by a Trump partner. The Manhattan district attorney’s office considered charging the Trumps but backed off after a visit from a donor — Trump’s attorney Marc Kasowitz . (The DA, Cyrus Vance , denied he was influenced by the donation but later changed his policy and now refuses donations from lawyers with cases before him.)Similar deceptions occurred elsewhere. In a marketing video for a project in Baja, Mexico, Ivanka referred to Trump International Hotel in Toronto as one of several “sold out” properties. The Toronto tower never did sell out. It was still three-quarters empty late last year, a few months after Trump’s name was removed from the building.Trump himself also made misrepresentations. In 2006, he said the Trump Organization would be a significant equity investor in the $200 million Baja project and repeatedly portrayed himself as the project’s developer. Yet in 2008, the company admitted it was neither a developer nor an investor.In Tampa, as noted, Trump told the press he had a significant ownership stake  when he had none. Moreover, his licensing agreement contained a confidentiality provision barring “under any circumstances” that anyone reveal the agreement existed, and hence that Trump was only licensing his name. The deal never got financing and ultimately fell apart.Panama also wasn’t the only project where questions emerged about insider deals. In Tampa, Donald Trump Jr. and three executives associated with the Trump Organization arranged to buy a unit under unusually attractive terms, according to emails between the executives and the developer. As early sales on the project surged, the Trump group — which formed a company called Busy Boys Investments to handle the purchase — bargained both for a discount price and a smaller deposit than other buyers paid.“Can you confirm the deal?” asked Russell Flicker, a former Trump Organization executive vice president, in a late-2004 email to one of the Tampa developers. “(We had discussed 5% down payment, discounted price and flip rights prior to closing — are all of these on the table?) You’re the man.” The developer replied, “The deal is as you state!”The Trump group also discussed backdating documents to reduce their tax liability, according to the emails. They excitedly anticipated a quick flip that would yield a $200,000 profit — $50,000 apiece, a handsome return on the $8,604 deposit each paid. (The emails were revealed in a court case filed by unhappy buyers; their suit ultimately settled, with the buyers receiving limited refunds of their deposits.) In January 2005, Flicker forwarded an email conveying the prospect of such a windfall to his partners in the side deal: Donald Jr. and Trump Organization executive vice presidents Bernie Diamond and Jason Greenblatt, with the message: “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”In a July 2005 email, Diamond, an attorney, explained to the others that the developer told him he would prepare a unit purchase contract “for Busy Boys to sign dated in 2004,” as well as an assignment of their contract to the proposed buyer, also “dated one year earlier.” Diamond noted, “This is good, as it will give us the best shot at capital gains treatment.” (The Tampa tower was never constructed, so the Busy Boys entity did not ultimately cash in. On behalf of Greenblatt, who is now a special representative for international negotiations in the Trump administration, a White House official said “Mr. Greenblatt complied with all applicable laws in connection with condominium purchase agreements.”)In Baja, Ivanka tried to leverage her own unit purchase to pull in other buyers. “I personally am very excited about it, I actually chose to purchase a unit in the first tower,” she said in a promotional video as she flashed a smile. She did not mention that the deposit she paid was less than half of the 30 percent other investors put in for their units, according to Univision. Univision also reported that the developers overstated the percentage of units sold and had assigned 34 units to their own executives and other related parties.Written materials became a matter of contention, as well; multiple buyers contended they were misleading. Trump had some say over such materials: Projects including Baja, Tampa, the Dominican Republic, Israel and Panama all required developers and other partners to obtain prior approval from Trump’s company before posting press releases. In some cases, the company had veto power over promotional materials in general, as well. There were other deceptions. In marketing materials featuring a grinning image of the New York developer, potential buyers in a Trump-branded project in Toronto were shown investment projections that proved wildly optimistic, according to interviews and records from the extensive litigation that ensued. A Canadian appeals court, ruling after the Toronto deal went sour, unanimously found that estimates of profitability provided to purchasers “bore no relation to financial reality.” The panel quoted a trial judge’s findings that the projections were “deceptive” and “replete with misrepresentations of commission, of omission, and of half-truth.” (The case is still pending.)In Chicago , Trump promised discounts — some with down payments of as little as 5 percent — to friends and colleagues, only to rescind those arrangements when sales in the building picked up. Trump justified the broken promises, saying “we’re entitled” to the higher prices.Buyers who sued Trump have had mixed success. Most suits settled before trial, but Trump prevailed in cases in Las Vegas and Florida in which buyers accused his company of deception.The “Stormy Jack Daniels”The Trump Ocean Club in Panama was officially inaugurated on July 6, 2011. It was nearly a year behind schedule after cost overruns and construction delays. The Trumps had been more visible again during the final stages. Ivanka picked out design finishes, including helping deck out the “sky lobby” on the 15th floor with wood paneling, pillars and marble that echoed the ground floor entrance hall. The lobby’s “tropical color palette” was “reminiscent of indigenous flowers,” Ivanka said in one promotional video.July falls during Panama’s rainy season and a downpour swamped the city’s already-overwhelmed infrastructure on the day of the opening, turning the cramped roads near the tower into waterways. Trump had angered many Panamanians by declaring that the U.S. had “stupidly” turned over the Panama Canal “in exchange for nothing.” But the country’s then-president, Ricardo Martinelli , turned up for the ceremony nonetheless. He joined Trump, his two adult sons, Khafif, and other dignitaries to cut a ribbon  to mark the opening. Ivanka, days away from giving birth to her first child, did not attend. (In June 2018, Martinelli was extradited on corruption charges, unrelated to the Trump project, from the U.S., where he had fled in search of sanctuary. He has denied wrongdoing.)Trump was upbeat. “I think this hotel is truly magnificent,” he said, according to press reports. “You look at Panama’s skyline and you see how this one truly stands out.”The time had come for the hundreds of sales contracts that brokers had amassed over the previous five years — eventually covering about 85 percent of the building — to convert to actual sales. In the months that followed, however, it became increasingly clear that buyers were walking away in droves.Ultimately, only about half the sales contracts closed, leaving the building largely empty and developers struggling to make bond-related payments. One-bedroom units that once sold for $350,000 could be scooped up for $180,000. In November 2011, developers defaulted on a critical bond payment.The volume of people who abandoned their deposits far exceeded the ratings agencies’ worst-case predictions. Those predictions rested on the forbidding combination of tight post-crisis financing standards and the high prices that many buyers had agreed to pay. That strongly suggests that many of the remaining people who paid deposits and then vanished may not have intended to do anything more than put down enough cash to trigger the $220 million bond issuance.Newland declared bankruptcy in April 2013 in federal court in New York City, where it kept much of its cash. The Trumps agreed to reduce their fees, making concessions that bankruptcy records said would amount to $20 million over a period of years.Even after those concessions, Khafif’s company continued to run in the red in 2014 and 2015, with net losses nearing $28 million in 2014 alone, financial reports show. It missed another payment in 2015.So Trump didn’t make the $74 million he had hoped for. He appears to have walked away with between $30 million and $55 million, based on fragmentary information in his government disclosure forms, financial statements filed in Panama and estimates by observers.Khafif seems philosophical about it. At 63, he’s semiretired and travels to the U.S. and Europe often. These days, he said, his main business is laundering linens. The company, Perfect Cleaners, which Khafif called the largest industrial laundry plant in Central America, has served the Trump Ocean Club. (He did not respond to a question about his own financial outcome on the Trump project.)Khafif said his relationship with the family remains good. “I was in New York a couple months ago. I went to visit Eric Trump,” he said. “We’re fine.” The Ocean Club proved a disappointment in many respects, he said, “but life goes on. … It’s the best building in town.”As much as $120 million of the original bond was never paid back, according to one investor. Asked about that, Khafif pointed out that many investors sold their bonds — albeit at a discount — after receiving interest payments for years, allowing some to recoup much of their investment at a time when lots of people were hemorrhaging money. “It depends on how you look at it,” Khafif said. “You’re grateful at getting your money back, or you’re greedy and you want to make money when everybody lost their shirt.”Ocean Club buyers filed a host of lawsuits in Panama, complaining of the delays and changes in the building plans. The beach club was never built. A non-Trump company took over the casino. Some rooms were smaller than planned.By 2015, a new revolt was brewing, this time by Ocean Club unit owners fed up with the way the Trumps were managing the property — or more particularly, with how they were spending the building association’s money. Led by Lundgren, the owners alleged that Trump employees overspent budgets, taking excessive bonuses for themselves, and mishandled building finances, leading them to propose a steep increase in fees to owners. Trump responded by suing the condo owners, demanding up to $75 million for wrongful termination. (The litigation was settled  confidentially in 2016.)In 2017, Ithaca Capital Partners, led by Orestes Fintiklis, bought 202 of the hotel’s 369 hotel-condo units. In October of last year, his group sought to remove the Trump Organization as hotel managers — alleging in a legal action that it had mismanaged the hotel, leading to drastic drop-offs in occupancy and profits. The Trump Organization countersued, accusing Fintiklis of a “fraudulent scheme” that breached its 20-year management contract.The dispute reached a head early this year, when Fintiklis’ representatives, with a court order behind them, sought to take physical control of the building. Trump Organization employees and a group of security personnel tried to block the effort, leading to confrontations and shoving matches.Fintiklis’ group ultimately gained entry but discovered walls had been hastily erected in inconvenient places — in the middle of a hallway, in front of an elevator bank — to impede access to the building’s inner offices. Reports circulated of Trump employees shredding documents.In March of this year, the Trumps suffered the ignominy of seeing their name crowbarred off the stone wall in front of the tower . It was rebranded the Bahia Grand Panama. In late spring, the hotel, once touted as boasting stratospheric levels of luxury, was quiet, with rooms renting for the decidedly terrestrial rate of $169 a night. At the hotel bar, you could order drinks with a sardonic twist that reflected Fintiklis’ sense of humor, including the “Fire and Fury” and the “Stormy Jack Daniels.”In June, Fintiklis announced the hotel would have a new manager. “We are thrilled that our hotel will operate as a JW Marriott ,” he said in a statement, “and we believe this partnership, together with a talented team and spectacular hotel amenities, will be a success.”###Additional reporting by Micah Hauser, Ian MacDougall, Gabriel Sandoval, Katherine Sullivan and Madeleine Varner.

Pump and Trump

2018-10-1700:37:029

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Comments (109)

Luke Strain

This channel is trash.. pulling at straws and where the respect for office of the presidency??

Dec 16th
Reply

Scott McWilliams

I appreciate your passion for finding the wrong doing of the current president. where was this podcast or info on the last president. government is corrupt on both sides.

Dec 9th
Reply

Nonya Bizness

Scott McWilliams by your logic, if i rob wf bank, an institution has recent, documented corruption, no harm no foul, right?

Dec 25th
Reply

Gee Whiz

Scott McWilliams Ah yes, there's that "both sides" tactic again—a favorite of the BLOTUS. Let's remember that only ONE SIDE murdered an American in Charlottesville on 12 August 2017. A list of Obama corruption would be LAUGHABLE when put beside a list of Trump corruption; keep in mind that Mr Trump has been associating with Russian oligarchs and other shadowy thugs for DECADES; apparently this is only a secret to Trump supporters.

Dec 14th
Reply

Rich Berry

great work everyone! so enlightening. so depressing.

Sep 27th
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Minnich

For a year now, the news is dominated by what the president is doing, is tweeting, is saying. When will the media and capitol hill refocus on the important issues plaguing our country, and have since long before Trump? Quit giving a bully what he wants. He craves national attention. Stop giving it to him. He thrives on it. I agree that he is not fit to lead. I also believe that he will shoot himself in the foot. He will bring himself down. So, let's focus on the real issues. Let's hope, the country, being we the people, might have a real voice in Congress and not the voices of special interests. Our two party system is a failure to the general public. The working class has no real representation. Reality has won me over. Trump is an awful leader, and should not be allowed to continue, but we have so many other issues to fix. One man is keeping us from progress because HE controls the media coverage.

Aug 13th
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Michelle T Usher

I don't understand how come it is so hard to get government records? aside from them not sending them. you can still research agency spending per the USASPENDING.GOV WEBSITE. THEY HAVE CENSORED THE TRUMP FAMILY EXPENDITURES. BUT HE HAS LOTS OF CONTRACTS PAYMENTS FOR RENTALS, THRU Homeland Security. I mean the fact us tax dollars were used to bribe Guatamala to also move their embassy. BL HARBERT LLC HAS RECIEVED HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS TO BUILD guatamala embassy in US. THEIR LEADER IS A DEVOUT EVANGELICAL.

Aug 6th
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BnB 44901

where have you gone?! been waiting super patiently!

Aug 1st
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Michael Haworth

Found out something extremely disturbing on Sunday. it appears that lobbyists for the baby formula industries have been funneling money to the Trump organization. This weekend a mandate went out from Trump that organizatios that deal with women and baby's both here and overseas are instructed to stop advising new mother's on the benefits of breast milk and instead telling them to start formula immediately after birth. I am a nurse and am appalled at this Revelation. Breast milk is absolutely essential to the health of a newborn. In the mother's breast milk is a substance called colostrum which hold all if the mother's natural antibodies the baby needs to develop a strong immune response. To advise new mother's to ignore this is not only immoral but devious and extremely unhealthy. To accept money to make baby's sickly is evil simply evil. No moral being on this earth would do this.

Jul 9th
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Marcee Beth

Michael Haworth , I was reading a few articles on that as well. Years ago, new Moms were offered a "free diaper bag" with a can of formula, coupons, advertisements, etc.. Breastfeeding wasn't encouraged or discouraged from my view as a patient. Jump 17 years, no diaper bags and nursing was encouraged. I saw this as a HUGE win even though I wouldn't be able to because I was taking a calcium channel blocker and had to restart topiramate ASAP for migraine prophylaxis. I worked in OB/GYN for 12 years. I miss it at times, other times, I'm glad I stepped away and have worked some great specialties, a bit of primary care and now in a 24/7 high acuity urgent care.

Jul 12th
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Jack White

this podcast is a joke and you are a joke! lol keep suckin. trump2020!

Jun 22nd
Reply

Gee Whiz

Jack White thanks, Jack. we were curious re: what a high school dropout would think, and now we know.

Dec 14th
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Loyal R

What you gonna do when President Donald J. Trump is awarded the Noble Prize? Take heart...there are psychotropic drugs that can help you overcome, or at least lessen your delusions.

May 14th
Reply

Z

Loyal R What’s the Noble prize? Do you get that for being a whiny overgrown child who can’t even run an inherited business without relying on money laundering schemes to stay afloat?

Jul 22nd
Reply

Pieter Moreels

Loyal R hahahahahaha best joke ever!! 😂😂

Jul 16th
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Loyal R

Trump 4 more! Don't like it? Move to the shit hole country of California...or stay in NYC so you can pay your respects everyday at Trump Tower before returning to your $2,300 a month broom closet rat infested apartment.

May 14th
Reply

Matt Baller

Loyal R u ok hun? x

Nov 29th
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Ryan O

this is to the producers, examine the land records and deeds filed and the LLCs involved with in Albemarle County, Virginia. This is when he purchased Trump wineries. I grew up right next to this Winery and I'm also a real estate paralegal so I can tell you anything and everything you want to know and I'm telling you now nothing involving this sale is on the up-and-up or is it clear cut like all other large over 5 million dollar sales in this area

May 11th
Reply

Victoria Green

excellent reporting! keep up the good work

May 7th
Reply

shon driggers

Drain The Swamp!!!

Apr 23rd
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Michael Haworth

Check to see if trump or anyone close to him has set up a qualified intermediary! Its a way real restate companies can hide money not pay taxes on it and use it secretly. There is zero federal regulations on this type of company. I am positive he has set one up to launder money. Michael Haworth hawortha22@gmail.com

Apr 22nd
Reply

Cullen Logan

Dave Minnich Unfortunately our constitution precludes private citizens from suing a sitting president. So long as he is president only impeachment can touch him. Fortunately the same constitution prevents pardoning of anyone that has been impeached. I cling to faith in our 3 branched checks and balances for now. I just don't know if impeachment would give us any relief. I have very little faith in our VP, and his inability to separate his personal church from the politics of state.

Aug 17th
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Dave Minnich

Michael Haworth Now, this is a constructive point. We need constructive discussion. Acts such as cheating people should be viewed as theft. It doesn't matter how rich one is, what position one holds, wrong is wrong. Those who commit crimes deserve to be held to the same standard of punishment, regardless of wealth or class or any other box humans wish to place one another in to.

Apr 24th
Reply

Telle0

Good quality , I love these truth-seeking investigative journalism podcasts. Trump sycophants may want to plug their ears.

Apr 20th
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Rick Arden

FOUR MORE YEARS!

Apr 11th
Reply

John Wiley

I'm really enjoying this podcast. I hope you dig up enough dirt on him.

Apr 1st
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Dave Minnich

I won't pretend that Donald Trump is a positive role model, or a nice guy, but he is the President and as such deserves an amount of respect. Podcasts like this one only further the divisions in our country. Unsubscribing.

Mar 29th
Reply

Minnich

Phil France Phil, the comment you are responding to was made when I was still on the fence about how people approach politics. If you read through the thread, you will conclude that I have been won over by the conversation induced by this podcast. The problem is, I've concluded that our government is broken and corrupt. Therefore, I believe all politicians to have their own interest at heart rather than that of the people.

Jan 6th
Reply

Phil France

Dave Minnich , dissenting voices are incredibly important. Especially when the people in power seem to be abusing that power. We need more investigative journalists tackling powerful figures, not fewer.

Jan 6th
Reply

Bill Holliday, CFP

this is really importanto work you're doing- keep it up

Mar 28th
Reply

Z

Minnich There is a core to this sentiment that I like- that we are responsible for change. I believe the only justice you can count on is that which you make with your own hands and do my part to keep people in my community fed. Where I differ is that I see investigation into the government and its elected officials as something commendable- people living out that value in their work, sometimes at personal risk, and always slogging through deep layers of deception and concealment to find what the powerful don’t want seen. I also believe those in positions of power are driven by inherently callous and self-advancing motivations that are usually incompatible with the good of common people. If these things can be considered true, then this is public service, even if it never results in impeachment or revolution or whatever change one desires. People deserve to be informed of corrupt motivations

Jul 22nd
Reply

Minnich

Bill Holliday, CFP I respectfully disagree sir. Looking for reasons to further the disdain for the democratically elected president is not constructive and further distract from pursuing solutions to REAL problems in our country. In 3 years, vote again. Maybe your chosen candidate will be sucessful. Until then, we should all stop focusing on who's president, and actually committing ourselves to a chosen problem. E.G. Homeless vets, mental health, sensible gun legislation, gunger, poverty. The government works for us. WE are responsible for change.

May 16th
Reply

Jillian Vesterfelt

is your advertiser purposely about men's hair loss because of trumps unfortunate hairdo?

Mar 14th
Reply

Cullen Logan

Jillian Vesterfelt Hairdo‽ I think you were looking for hairdon't. Common mistake, in your defense.

Aug 17th
Reply

Marcee Beth

Jillian Vesterfelt I HOPE SO 👴

Jul 12th
Reply
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