Trump, Inc.

By WNYC Studios

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Rebecca Y.
 Aug 5, 2018

A Podcast Republic user
 Jul 23, 2018

A Podcast Republic user
 Jul 12, 2018


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. © WNYC Studios

Episode Date
Two Convictions That Shook Trump-World
<p>In April, we published an <a href="">investigation into Michael Cohen’s past</a>. That episode traced how so many of Cohen’s associates over the years have been convicted of crimes, disbarred or faced other legal troubles.</p> <p>But — at the time of the episode — the president’s former lawyer had himself never been convicted, or even accused of a crime.</p> <p>Well, it’s time for an update.</p> <p>Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight felony counts, including tax fraud, lying to a bank and campaign finance violations. The same hour he was pleading guilty in a New York courthouse, a federal jury some 200 miles away found another former Trump aide guilty: Paul Manafort, the erstwhile campaign chairman. Also eight counts. Also bank and tax fraud. Though the jury couldn’t reach a final verdict on 10 other counts.</p> <p>Trump, Inc. podcast co-hosts Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz  sat down with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer for a live radio segment to break down the action. And we’re posting it here for you. Enjoy.    </p> <p>And keep an eye on your podcast feeds, because season two of Trump, Inc. is coming your way in September! <a href=";id=d943f3fd91" target="_blank">Sign up to the notified</a><strong>. </strong></p>
Aug 22, 2018
Manafort, Inc.
<p>Paul Manafort was Donald Trump’s campaign chairman for three critical months in 2016, leading up to the Republican Convention.</p> <p>But for a decade before that, he did political work in Ukraine, and it's the money Manafort made from that work that is now under the microscope in a Virginia courtroom. Manafort stands accused of tax fraud and bank fraud in the first case in the Mueller investigation to go to trial. Allegedly, Manafort set up secret offshore bank accounts, took in tens of millions of dollars, and avoided the Internal Revenue Service. And later, when the work in Ukraine dried up, and he was short of cash, Manafort allegedly lied to banks to get loans. </p> <p>Trump, Inc.'s Ilya Marritz and Andrea Bernstein dissect the trial's opening with Franklin Foer, a staff writer at <em>The Atlantic</em> who profiled Manafort in his article <em><a href="">The Plot Against America</a>. </em></p>
Aug 02, 2018
Government Employees Spend Your Money at Trump Hotels
<p>Shortly before President Trump took office, his lawyer promised Trump would forgo any profits his hotels made from foreign governments. There was no similar pledge for money earned from federal government employees, state officials, or anybody else who might be seeking to curry favor. And a lot of that money is coming from you, U.S. taxpayers.</p> <p>In this episode of Trump, Inc. we’re going deep on Trump’s hotel rooms and the people who are paying to stay in them. We will talk to three people tracking the flow of taxpayer money from government employees and elected officials to the Trump Organization, many through hotel stays, many booked by individual government workers.</p> <p>ProPublica has just released an <a href="">interactive detailing</a> at least $16.1 million spent at Trump Organization-managed and branded hotels, golf courses and restaurants from his campaign, Republican organizations, and government agencies since Trump announced his candidacy.</p> <p>The vast majority of the money — at least $13.5 million — was spent by Trump’s presidential campaign.</p> <p>We also found at least $400,000 has been spent by federal and state agencies — a figure that includes only a few agencies as many have resisted disclosing that information.</p> <p>Among the examples we know of: In March 2017, for example, the Secret Service paid $27,724.32 at the Trump golf course and resort in Doonbeg, Ireland. The stay was to “support E. Trump Visit.”</p> <p>The Trump Organization and the White House did not respond to our requests for comment.</p> <p><em>Reporting by Derek Kravitz and Derek Willis, ProPublica and Paul Cronan, Mark Schifferli and Charlie Smart, Fathom Information Design.</em></p> <p><em> </em></p>
Jun 28, 2018
What You Need to Know About Wilbur Ross’ Many Conflicts
<p>There’s a chance you missed it amid the <a href="">other news</a>, but <em>Forbes </em>had a <a href="">blockbuster story</a> about Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. It turns out, Ross <a href="">bet against the stock</a> of a company after journalists had contacted him with questions about his connections to the firm. Using inside information in stock trades is illegal.</p> <p>(Ross has <a href="">defended</a> the short sale, saying he was trying to comply with ethics laws and described the <a href="">criticism</a> as being based on “unfounded allegations.”)</p> <p>That’s only one of the revelations from <em>Forbes</em>’ story. Trump, Inc. spoke to reporter Dan Alexander about what else he found: for most of last year, Ross had ties to foreign businesses that included an auto parts firm owned jointly with a Chinese government-owned entity and a stake in a shipping company also owned in part by Russian oligarchs. <span> Ross transferred many of his assets to a family trust last fall.</span></p> <p><span>There is no evidence Ross made any policy decisions based on his financial interests. “But the problem is that you have to wonder,” said Alexander. “And usually we don't allow people to hold interests in which the public is left wondering.”  <br></span></p>
Jun 22, 2018
Trump, Inc, Live: From ‘The Art of the Deal’ to the Dossier
<p>A few days ago, we held a <a href="">live taping</a> of the <em>Trump, Inc</em>. podcast at The Greene Space in New York City. <a href="">Tony Schwartz</a>, the co-author with Donald Trump of <a href=""><em>The Art of The Deal</em></a><em>,</em> talked with Ilya Marritz from WNYC and Jesse Eisinger from ProPublica about what Schwartz does and does not recognize in President Trump now.</p> <p><span>Then, ProPublica’s Eric Umansky and WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein spoke with <a href="">Mark Schoofs</a>, the Investigations Editor at Buzzfeed. Schoofs explained why he was the first journalist to post the Russian “dossier,” and what we’ve learned since.</span></p> <p>There was also a <em>Trump, Inc.</em> trivia contest. How do you think you’d do? Here two examples. For the answers, listen to the podcast!</p> <p><span><span><span> </span></span></span></p> <p>1) The Trump Organization has partnered with developers M3M for projects in India. What does M3M stand for?     </p> <p>a) Magnificence in the Trinity Of Men, Materials &amp; Money</p> <p>b) Money, Money, Money</p> <p>c) My Three Mates Make Money</p> <p>d) Mumbai Manufacturing and Materials</p> <p> </p> <p>2) The largest contractor for the Trump inauguration was connected to the First Family how?</p> <p>a) Eric Trump’s former wedding planner</p> <p>b) Melania Trump’s friend</p> <p>c) Donald Trump’s former caddy</p> <p>d) Ivanka Trump’s former public relations advisor</p>
May 18, 2018
The "King of Debt"? He Pays Cash.
<p>Last week, the <em>Washington Post</em> had an intriguing story: In the nine years before now-President Donald Trump announced his candidacy, his company <a href="">paid $400 million in cash</a> to buy a number of properties.</p> <p>Real estate companies doing deals usually borrow money for the same reason that many homeowners take out mortgages: Leveraging your money—especially when the cost of borrowing is low, as it has been for a decade—makes your money go farther.</p> <p>The fact that Trump, the self-styled “king of debt," didn’t do that in these deals has raised a number questions, including how the Trump Organization had so much cash, and why it would use it to purchase properties in all cash.</p> <p>Eric Trump told the <em>Washington Post</em> that the money came from profits that his father put back in the business. “He had incredible cash flow and built incredible wealth,” the younger Trump said. “We invested in ourselves.”</p> <p>In this Trump Inc. podcast extra, we speak to the <em>New Yorker’s</em> Adam Davidson and the <em>Washington Post’s</em> David Fahrenthold, who wrote last week’s story with Jonathan O'Connell and Jack Gillum. Davidson and Fahrenthold talk about trying to make the numbers and the explanations add up. (Spoiler: They can’t.)</p> <p>“There's this fundamental question we have,” says Davidson. “Where did the money come from and why was it spent the way it was spent? There’s some piece of information that we are missing because none of the explanations make sense.”</p>
May 11, 2018
The Hidden Hand of a Casino Company In Trump’s Contact with Vietnam
<p>On Dec. 14, 2016, one month after his election, President-elect Donald Trump had a call with the prime minister of Vietnam. At a time when foreign governments were scrambling to contact Trump, the conversation was a victory for the Vietnamese. State television <a href="">broadcast footage</a> of the call, with the prime minister surrounded by other smiling officials.</p> <p>But inside the State Department, officials were puzzled and concerned. Historically, post-election calls to heads of state are carefully choreographed affairs. Careful deliberation goes into who the president-elect speaks to first and career diplomats deliver background briefings on issues to be raised and avoided.</p> <p>The Trump transition operation ignored those conventions. The contact with Vietnam was not set up by the State Department. Instead, Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, helped arrange the call.</p> <p>Kasowitz had another client with a keen interest in Vietnam: Philip Falcone, an American investor with a major casino outside Ho Chi Minh City. After the Trump call, Kasowitz traveled to Vietnam with Falcone. They met with government officials as part of an effort to persuade Vietnam to lift a ban on gambling for its citizens. Such a shift would deliver vastly more gamblers to Falcone’s casino.</p> <p>“Phil asked if Marc could arrange a phone call between the president and prime minister of Vietnam,” said a person familiar with the call. “Marc did that.”</p> <p>In an interview, Falcone denied he requested the call. He added there was nothing improper about arranging such a call. “It’s just lending a hand when people ask you,” he said. A spokesman for Kasowitz acknowledged the lawyer provided a “telephone contact” to the Vietnamese government to call Trump.</p> <p>Kasowitz has represented Trump for over 15 years, including in the Trump University fraud case, against allegations of sexual harassment, and, most recently, in the Russia investigation.</p> <p>Falcone, who was barred from the securities industry several years ago after <a href="">admitting</a> to wrongdoing in managing his hedge fund, has been trying for several years to salvage his several hundred-million-dollar-bet on Vietnam’s gaming industry. So far, that investment has not paid off, in large measure because of the rules limiting casinos to foreign bettors.</p> <p>It’s not clear whether Trump mentioned the casino on his December 2016 call with the prime minister or in any other communications with the Vietnamese. A White House spokeswoman referred all questions to Kasowitz. The Vietnamese embassy in the U.S. didn’t respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>U.S. embassy officials in Vietnam heard about the call in advance from Falcone’s casino company, not the Trump transition. And they never received information from the Trump transition about what was said on the call; their only understanding of what was discussed came from Vietnamese officials, according to a person with knowledge of the episode.</p> <p>“You want the State Department to set up calls and take notes,” said Susan Rice, a senior adviser on Barack Obama’s transition in 2008-09 who went on to become National Security Advisor. “You want contacts made in a fashion that can be accountable to the president-elect. You want background briefings for the president-elect.”</p> <p>In November 2008, the Obama transition <a href="">explicitly warned</a> high-profile campaign supporters not to “under any circumstances” speak to “any foreign officials, or embassies on behalf of the transition or President-elect Obama. </p> <p>The Vietnam call was just one instance of how the Trump administration has blurred the lines between private business interests and those of the country. Trump, who did not divest from his own real estate empire, has declared America “open for business.” Many have tried to take him up on the promise. Business people, lobbyists, friends, and foreign dignitaries have all vied for access to Trump since his election, believing it can mean lucrative contracts, eased regulations, or otherwise convey to potential partners a proximity to power and influence.</p> <p>Falcone, who didn’t donate to Trump’s campaign, told ProPublica his casino hasn’t gained anything from the phone call. “Literally nothing has changed since the new administration.”</p> <p>***</p> <p>Falcone’s business interest in Vietnam goes back a decade. His Harbinger Capital fund has poured money -- <a href="">Bloomberg put it</a> at more than $450 million -- into a casino-resort called <a href="">The Grand Ho Tram Strip</a>. Located on a remote coastline 75 miles outside Ho Chi Minh City, the complex includes a gleaming Vegas-style tower, a golf course designed by the legendary Greg Norman, and a casino with 90 tables and a private area for high rollers dubbed the <a href="">Pearl Room</a>.</p> <p>But the illegality of gambling for Vietnamese citizens has posed a nearly insurmountable obstacle. On a recent visit, the sprawling casino was almost entirely empty. Staff outnumbered customers. One industry observer quipped, “You could drive a truck through the casino and not hit anyone.”</p> <p>To save the project, Falcone has spent years lobbying the Vietnamese government to allow its citizens to gamble in his casino.</p> <p>The casino has proved not to be the comeback vehicle Falcone might have hoped for. A Harvard hockey player turned high-flying hedge fund manager who made it onto Forbes’ billionaire list and amassed a large <a href="">stake</a> in the New York Times Company, Falcone’s fortunes turned in the years after the financial crisis. In a 2013 settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he was barred from the securities industry for five years and <a href="">admitted</a> to taking an improper loan of over $100 million from his fund. Falcone lost his place on the <a href="">Forbes’ list</a>.</p> <p>Two months before the 2016 election, Falcone’s team made a play to add political heft to the Ho Tram project, <a href="">appointing</a> a pair of new board members to the casino company: Tony Podesta, the veteran lobbyist and brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager; and Loretta Pickus, former vice president of legal affairs at Trump Entertainment Resorts, Donald Trump’s now-defunct casino company.</p> <p>A week after Trump won the election, the casino company sent out a <a href="">new press release</a> touting Pickus’ appointment. It mentioned her onetime role representing Ivanka Trump and made a thinly veiled reference to Ho Tram’s efforts to get its local gambling license in Vietnam.</p> <p>“With Ms. Pickus having substantial experience with Trump properties, she hopes The Grand Ho Tram can continue to serve as a champion of U.S.-Vietnam ties for the incoming Trump Administration,” the release said, calling her appointment “an excellent opportunity to share best practices from the United States as Vietnam considers opportunities to reform the regulatory regime for its hospitality and gaming sector.”</p> <p>One of Pickus’ duties at Trump’s company was overseeing anti-money laundering enforcement. The Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City <a href="">repeatedly ran afoul</a> of anti-money laundering laws, and paid multiple fines for its lack of proper oversight. Pickus told ProPublica she has a decades long relationship with Trump but hasn’t had contact with him or the administration since his election. She also defended the Trump casino anti-money laundering programs as “sophisticated” and appropriate.</p> <p>After Trump’s surprise election victory, Kasowitz’s longtime client was suddenly president-elect. A spokesman for the lawyer acknowledged Kasowitz’s role in setting up the December call between Trump and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. “At the request of the office of the Vietnamese Ambassador to the U.S., Mr. Kasowitz provided a telephone contact that the Vietnamese could use to try to arrange a congratulatory call to President-elect Trump,” the spokesman said.</p> <p>(This wasn’t the only unusual Trump call during the chaotic transition. Controversy erupted when it emerged that former Senator Bob Dole, working as a lobbyist for Taiwan, played a role <a href="">arranging</a> a precedent-breaking call between Trump and Taiwan’s president.)</p> <p>Just a few weeks after the phone call between Trump and Phuc, Falcone traveled to Hanoi to meet the Vietnamese prime minister and press him on the casino project. State media <a href="">reported</a> that Falcone “asked the Vietnamese government to continue creating favorable conditions for U.S. companies, including Harbinger, to do long-term and stable business in Vietnam.”</p> <p>Falcone has retained an array of lobbyists, consultants, and media advisers to persuade the Vietnamese government to change its rules on gambling. The effort included getting Falcone on the cover of <a href="">Vietnamese Esquire</a>, arranging regular meetings between Falcone and top Vietnamese officials, and seeking assistance from the U.S. embassy.</p> <p>It’s not clear when Kasowitz first got involved in the Ho Tram project. His law firm has represented Falcone and his associated businesses going back to at least 2013. David Friedman, who was a name partner at Kasowitz’s firm until Trump named him U.S. ambassador to Israel, also <a href="">represented</a> Falcone’s fund.</p> <p>In 2017, Kasowitz traveled to Vietnam with Falcone. But Kasowitz went “not as my attorney, just kind of getting to know the landscape, understanding what was happening over there,” Falcone told ProPublica. Falcone said Kasowitz attended some meetings with Falcone and Vietnamese officials. A Kasowitz spokesman said Kasowitz went to Vietnam “to advise Mr. Falcone on legal issues” and declined to comment further.</p> <p>Also on that trip was Jerry Abbruzzese, a Falcone consultant who has a history of working the levers of government for business interests. He is best known for being the main witness in the corruption trials of the former New York State Senate leader, Joe Bruno. The case <a href="">centered</a> on Bruno receiving a large consulting contract and payment for a racehorse from Abbruzzese, whose companies had business before the state. Bruno was ultimately <a href="">acquitted</a>. Abbruzzese was not charged in the case. He declined to comment on his role in Ho Tram. </p> <p>Two Washington-based firms stocked with former diplomats from both Democratic and Republican administrations, <a href="">BowerGroupAsia</a> and <a href="">The Asia Group</a>, have worked on Falcone’s casino project. According to Falcone, Asia Group asked him for a connection with Kasowitz because of the attorney’s close ties with the Trump administration. A spokesman for Asia Group said: “The Asia Group does not comment on business confidential information, including the names of our clients and contract terms.”</p> <p>Asia Group worked with Falcone to host a <a href="">conference</a> of investors in New York for Prime Minister Phuc’s visit to the U.S. last May. Luminaries including Ret. General <a href="">David Petraeus</a>, now with the firm KKR, attended.</p> <p>The next day, Phuc traveled to Washington for his first in-person meeting with President Trump at the White House. The two leaders discussed trade and North Korea. As Trump and Phuc left a large meeting in the Cabinet Room, Marc Kasowitz was there, apparently waiting, according to a person familiar with the visit. Kasowitz greeted Trump and shook hands with Phuc.</p> <p>The White House and the Vietnamese embassy declined to comment on Trump’s meeting with Phuc. There’s no evidence Trump raised Ho Tram.</p> <p>Kasowitz’s spokesman denied he was waiting to greet the prime minister: “Mr. Kasowitz was in the White House on other business on May 31, 2017. He had no idea the Prime Minister of Vietnam was there that day, he was not waiting outside a meeting room for the Prime Minister, it was a total coincidence that he ran into the Prime Minister with the President and he had no substantive conversation with the Prime Minister.”</p> <p>The spokesman added, “Neither Mr. Kasowitz nor anyone else at the firm has used any access [to Trump] to help a client of the firm.”</p> <p>Falcone’s efforts have so far proved unsuccessful: the Ho Tram casino hasn’t yet won a local gambling license. One industry expert attributed that to disagreements within Vietnam’s Communist Party-controlled state.</p> <p>“I find it shocking that people would think that the administration would bring up Ho Tram or even think about getting involved,” Falcone said.</p> <p><em>Do you have information about the Trump administration and casino companies? Contact Justin at </em><a href=""><em></em></a><em> or via Signal at 774-826-6240.</em></p>
Apr 25, 2018
The Company Michael Cohen Kept
<p>If you’ve seen video or images of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, they’ve probably been set in locations that exude power and importance: Cohen berating a CNN anchor in a TV studio, for example, or striding across the sleek marbled interior of Trump Tower, or more recently, smoking cigars in front of Cohen’s temporary residence, the Loews Regency Hotel on Manhattan’s Park Avenue.</p> <p>But to understand how Michael Cohen arrived in those precincts, you need to venture across New York City’s East River. There, in a Queens warehouse district in the shadows of an elevated No. 7 subway line, is a taxi garage that used to house his law practice. The office area in the front is painted a garish taxi-cab-yellow, with posters of hockey players on the wall and a framed photo of the late Hasidic rabbi, Menachem Schneerson. Cohen practiced law there and invested in the once-lucrative medallions that grant New York cabs the right to operate.</p> <p>Or you could drive 45 minutes deep into Brooklyn, near where Gravesend turns into Brighton Beach. There, in a desolate stretch near a shuttered podiatrist’s office, you’d find a medical office. According to previously unexamined records, Cohen incorporated a business there in 2002 that was involved in large quantities of medical claims. Separately, he represented more than 100 plaintiffs who claimed they were injured in auto collisions.</p> <p>At the same time, in Brooklyn and Long Island, New York prosecutors were investigating what Fortune magazine called possibly “the largest organized insurance-fraud ring in U.S. history.” That fraud resulted in hundreds of criminal prosecutions for staging car accidents to collect insurance payments. Cohen was not implicated in the fraud.</p> <p>A distinctive pattern emerged early in Cohen’s career, according to an examination by WNYC and ProPublica for the Trump, Inc. podcast: Many of the people who crossed paths with Cohen when he worked in Queens and Brooklyn were disciplined, disbarred, accused or convicted of crimes.</p> <p>Cohen, 51, has always emerged unscathed — until now. Last week, his Rockefeller Center office was raided by federal agents, as were his home, hotel room, safety deposit box, and two cell phones. Cohen is under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. According to court papers, investigators are examining whether he committed fraud and showed a “lack of truthfulness.”</p> <p>He and his attorneys did not respond to a lengthy set of questions emailed to them. Cohen’s lawyers have stated that he has done nothing improper.</p> <p>Cohen has attained national attention as the man who paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her alleged affair with Trump secret. He also negotiated a $1.6 million settlement with a woman impregnated by Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy. (Cohen’s attorney told a judge on Monday that his only three legal clients over the past 15 months were Trump, Broidy and talk-show host Sean Hannity.)</p> <p>Cohen has for decades had close personal and professional relationships with many citizens of the former Soviet Union. He ended up as point men on Trump’s deals there and also turned up in the notorious Russia “dossier.” He has routinely been described as an indispensable man to Donald Trump.</p> <p>One indicator of that, according to the New York Times: President Trump is more agitated by what those New York prosecutors may find in Cohen’s files than he is by the wide-ranging investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Cohen, it seems, may hold some crucial secrets. What’s more surprising, perhaps, is the path he took to get to that point.</p> <p>***</p> <p>Michael Cohen grew up in the Five Towns area of Long Island, N.Y., a heavily Jewish enclave. His father was a surgeon, according to media reports, and Cohen enjoyed a top-tier education, graduating from the private Lawrence Woodmere Academy, then moving on to American University.</p> <p>From there, it seems, Cohen’s educational trajectory turned in a different direction. He attended the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law in Michigan, which once wrote, “is known for admitting students other law schools would not touch.”</p> <p>In 1992, after law school, he returned to his home region and landed a job working for a personal injury attorney named Melvyn Estrin, who had an office on lower Broadway in Manhattan. </p> <p>Estrin was the first in a series of colleagues who would run afoul of authorities. Within three years of Cohen’s arrival, Estrin was charged with bribing insurance adjusters to inflate damage estimates and expedite claims. He later pleaded guilty. Cohen was never implicated in any of the misdeeds. Estrin did not respond to a request for comment. He is still practicing law.</p> <p>Cohen continued to use Estrin’s address on legal filings as late as 1999, but he added several new addresses during this period, including 22-05 43rd Avenue, in Long Island City, Queens — the taxi garage. It was the headquarters of the New York branch of the empire of Simon Garber, a Soviet emigre who also has had cab companies in Chicago and Moscow. Charismatic and silver-haired, Garber released <a href="">kitschy TV-style advertisements</a>, in Russian, for his company.</p> <p>Over the years, Garber has been convicted of assault in New York, arrested for battery in Miami, and pleaded guilty in New Jersey to charges of criminal mischief involving him breaking into three neighbors’ homes, shattering glass doors, smearing blood all over, and taking a shower. In Chicago, his taxi fleet included wrecked vehicles with illegally laundered titles.</p> <p>Garber did not respond to a request for comment. (Two other attorneys had offices inside Garber’s offices in the early 2000s. One was forced to resign from the bar after he was accused of not turning money over to a client. The other was disbarred, in part for trying to steal money from the first lawyer.)</p> <p>In 1994 Cohen married Laura Shusterman, who was born in the Soviet Union. Her father, also a taxi entrepreneur, pleaded guilty to a felony, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, the year before.</p> <p>By the late 1990s, records show, Cohen had begun acquiring taxi medallions, licenses required by the City of New York to operate a yellow cab. The number of medallions has been strictly controlled for decades. Before the advent of services like Uber, they were particularly valuable, with their price peaking at over $1 million in 2014.</p> <p>Cohen co-owned some of the medallions with his wife, and indeed, his family and business relationships sometimes overlapped. Filings show his father-in-law once made a loan to Garber. And in 2001, Cohen borrowed money for one of his taxi companies, Golden Child Cab Corp., from one of the men convicted with Cohen’s father in law, Fima Shusterman, in the fraud against the IRS.</p> <p>Starting around 2000, Cohen was involved in scores of car insurance lawsuits, often on behalf of plaintiffs who claimed to have been injured in auto collisions and were seeking judgments to cover purported medical expenses.</p> <p>At this time, a wave of staged auto accidents, involving immigrants from the former Soviet Union who claimed to have been hurt, had led prosecutors to open a massive investigation. They dubbed it Operation Boris, an acronym for Big Organized Russian Insurance Scam. The prosecutorial push resulted in hundreds of convictions.</p> <p>Cohen also drew up incorporation papers for at least three medical practices, and three medical billing companies. One company Cohen registered in 2002, Avex Medical Care PRC, sued insurance companies nearly 300 times. The plaintiffs lawyer in almost all of these cases was David Katz, who was disbarred later for professional misconduct.</p> <p>The doctor who owned Avex was charged in 2003 with criminal insurance fraud connected with another medical business; the charge was dismissed. He’s now practicing medicine in New Jersey.</p> <p>Dr. Zhanna Kanevsky, the principal of Life Quality Medical, a clinic business that Cohen incorporated in 2002, surrendered her medical license after pleading guilty to writing phony prescriptions for 100,000 oxycodone and other pills.</p> <p>Once again, Cohen was never charged.</p> <p>***</p> <p>In the early 2000s, Trump and Cohen became connected, fittingly, through real estate. Cohen started to transfer the wealth he’d gained from taxi medallions and insurance lawsuits to apartments in Trump buildings. Along with his parents, his in-laws, and Simon Garber, Cohen acquired eight units in Trump Palace, Trump Park Avenue, and Trump World Plaza. The man who operated out of a Queens taxi garage now owned apartments alongside the likes of Sophia Loren and Harrison Ford.</p> <p>Cohen also began to show political ambitions. In 2003, he ran for city council on Manhattan’s Upper East Side as a Republican. Even people close to his campaign weren’t sure why he ran.</p> <p>His own campaign biography provided few answers — or rather, disparate ones. He claimed at the time to own 200 taxi medallions, to be a member of the Friars Club, an avid stamp collector, and a member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Inspector General advisory board.</p> <p>Cohen lost the city council race, but his donor list provides a snapshot of his network. He received contributions from his father, his father in law, and Bruce Winston, a son of the jeweler Harry Winston. A New York Republican with knowledge of Cohen’s 2003 campaign said Cohen told him then that he was Harry Winston’s in-house counsel at the time. The company says Cohen was never an employee.</p> <p>Court papers show Cohen was one of the lawyers who helped Bruce Winston, and his daughter, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, in a legal action challenging Deutsche Bank’s conduct as trustee of Harry Winston’s estate. Their petition failed. (For her part, Wolkoff, a friend of Melania Trump’s, later became the highest-paid contractor for Donald Trump’s inauguration, taking in an eye-popping $26 million, and sparking a backlash.)</p> <p>It’s unclear when Cohen and Trump first met, but the two were publicly linked in February 2007. The New York Post published an <a href="">article</a> then about an attorney who was purchasing large numbers of apartments in Trump buildings. “Trump properties are solid investments,” Cohen told the Post. Trump returned the compliment, declaring Cohen to be a wise investor. “Michael Cohen has a great insight into the real-estate market,” he told the Post. “He has invested in my buildings because he likes to make money — and he does.”</p> <p>Three months later, Cohen became an executive vice president at the Trump Organization, with the same job title as Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump.</p> <p>Cohen was never a traditional in-house lawyer for Trump. He has been described as both a “fixer” and a “dealmaker” — and it seems he embraced both roles. “He did jobs for Donald that no one else would do,” said one person who worked with Cohen, “especially not a lawyer. He did a lot of these jobs.”</p> <p>Still, even after Cohen had joined the Trump Organization, he harbored personal political dreams. In 2010, Cohen mounted a second unsuccessful campaign, this time for the New York State Senate. Among his donors in that race were shipping magnate Oleg Mitnik and tobacco tycoon and New York real estate man Howard Lorber, one of Donald Trump’s closest friends.</p> <p>Cohen continued to expand his role within the Trump universe. It had become simultaneously global, national and highly local. The Trump Organization’s business model had shifted, from building high-end Manhattan properties to scoping for international licensing deals, particularly in the former Soviet Union. Cohen, along with Trump’s adult children, headed up this effort.</p> <p>At a Trump Tower press conference in early 2011, Cohen took the public stage as an international dealmaker. “Seven months ago, at the request of a dear friend of mine from Georgia, Giorgi Rtskhiladze, I traveled to the Republic of Georgia to explore several real estate opportunities on behalf of Mr. Trump,” Cohen said in his unmistakable Long Island accent. He then introduced Trump and the then-president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili.</p> <p>The ostensible purpose of the press conference was to talk up a planned tower in the city of Batumi, on the Black Sea coast. But most of the questions centered on Donald Trump’s possible run for President.</p> <p>Months earlier, Michael Cohen had helped set up a website called with the Long Island law firm Schwartz, Gerstman, and Malito. (David Schwartz is a long time Cohen friend and attorney who made several television appearances on Cohen’s behalf when the Stormy Daniels news broke.) Cohen also traveled to Iowa to explore the political terrain.</p> <p> was billed as independent of Trump; otherwise Trump would have had to file papers with the Federal Election Commission on his own behalf. At the press conference, Trump was peppered with political questions. “Could you comment on the kind of feedback or what you took from the feedback from Mr. Cohen’s Iowa trip,” one reporter asked. “You could ask Mr. Cohen. You can speak to him,” Trump replied.</p> <p>But she pressed. “Are you encouraged by anything that you saw or read out of that? Trump couldn’t resist. “Well,” he said, “I mean the response has been amazing, actually.”</p> <p>Another response: A complaint was filed with the Federal Election Commission, alleging Trump had accepted “excessive or impermissible contributions from the Trump Organization, LLC” because was set up by an employee: Michael Cohen. Trump and Cohen were cleared of wrongdoing. One of the two commissioners who signed off on the ruling was Donald McGahn. McGahn later became Trump’s White House Counsel.</p> <p>There’s another piece of public work that Cohen was involved in that further shows the close links among Trump, Cohen, and the attorney David Schwartz. During the same time period of the Georgia deal and, Schwartz and Cohen were both working on a project called Trump on the Ocean, which aimed to construct a massive catering hall in the popular Jones Beach State Park on Long Island.</p> <p>Trump was so keen on this project that, unusually even for him, he called four governors and a state comptroller to lobby for it, according to former state officials. In at least one of the calls, he cited his generous donations as a reason to get the clearances he needed to move forward.  </p> <p>Trump put Cohen in charge of the negotiations. But some state officials balked at what they saw as an attempt to commercialize a state park, and Trump’s insistence that the state override its fire code so he could build a kitchen in the basement.</p> <p>The lobbying was contentious, said Judith Enck, the top environmental advisor for Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson (and later the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency for the New York region), who was involved in the negotiations. “That was not a typical discussion with a business that was trying to do business with the state of New York. It was aggressive,” Enck said. “There were efforts to go around me to get a better outcome in the discussion… I recall it as you know one of the most unpleasant experiences I had in the governor's office.”</p> <p>Misery, perhaps for a government official — but triumph for Trump, Cohen, and Schwartz. They got permission to begin construction. “GREAT JOB!” Trump wrote in a note to Schwartz. “I will hire your firm again!”</p> <p>Alas, it was all for naught in the end. Months later, the tail of the storm Sandy inundated Jones Beach and Trump walked away from the project.</p> <p>***</p> <p>Three years later, when Trump made a run for the White House, Cohen continued to serve both as promoter and dealmaker. He frequently appeared on TV as a Trump surrogate, though he had no official campaign position. In one interview in the summer of 2016, Cohen refused to acknowledge that polls strongly favored Hillary Clinton. He badgered CNN anchor Brianna Keilar when she referred to Trump’s then-dismal poll numbers. “Says who?” Cohen shot back. “What polls?” The anchor, seemingly mystified, answered “all of them?” The clip went viral.</p> <p>Cohen’s truculent tendencies were also on display a year before that interview when he threatened Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak. Mak had resurfaced an old accusation made by Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana, during their divorce proceedings, that Trump had raped her. (She later withdrew the allegation.) “I'm warning you,” Mak says Cohen told him, “tread very fucking lightly because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”</p> <p>Behind the scenes, Cohen was still attempting to make deals for Trump in the former Soviet Union. Cohen drafted a letter of intent with a Moscow investment company to build Trump World Tower Moscow.</p> <p>Cohen’s partner in the deal was Felix Sater, a Trump associate who had been convicted of assault and securities fraud and had widely reported connections to the Russian mob. “Let’s make this happen and build a Trump Moscow,” Sater wrote in an email to Cohen. “And possibly fix relations between the countries by showing everyone commerce and business are much better and more practical than politics.”</p> <p>In another email, Sater wrote, “Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it.” In a statement issued last summer, Cohen called this “puffery” and said Sater was prone to colorful language and salesmanship.</p> <p>Cohen’s activities drew the attention of Christopher Steele, a former British spy who was assembling raw intelligence on the Trump campaign for a private client (ultimately paid for by the Clinton campaign). The resulting collection of documents has become known as “the dossier.”</p> <p>Steele’s memo included the assertion that Cohen met with Russian contacts in Prague after damaging news emerged about Trump’s former campaign manager and an aide. “The overall objective had been ‘sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connection could be fully established or proven,’” Steele wrote in a memo dated Oct. 19, 2016.</p> <p>In statements and court documents, Cohen has vociferously denied ever visiting Prague, even dispensing photos of his passport, with no Czech stamps visible, as putative proof. Cohen has filed two defamation lawsuits over the release of the dossier. But now McClatchy has reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Cohen was in Prague in late summer 2016. (And the photographic “proof” Cohen offered may turn out to be moot, according to the McClatchy article, since he reportedly entered the Czech Republic from Germany, which would not have required him to pass through immigration or customs.)</p> <p>One thing that Cohen does not dispute: In October 2016, he was involved in fixing another problem, this time by paying $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen asserts he did this on his own, with money he obtained from a home equity line of credit.</p> <p>When FBI agents searched Cohen’s offices on April 9, 2018, they were seeking evidence relating to the Stormy Daniels payment. They were also, according to the Washington Post, sifting through business records relating to Cohen’s taxi medallions. There may still be answers to be found in Queens.</p>
Apr 18, 2018
Trump’s Company Is Suing Towns Across the Country to Get Breaks on Taxes
<p>President Trump is famous for bragging about his net worth. Publicly, he claims he’s worth  <a href="">more than $10 billion</a>. He even <a href="">sued an author</a> over the issue and <a href="">lobbied</a> the editors of <a href="">Forbes</a> about his ranking on their billionaires list.</p> <p>Yet quietly in another setting, the Trump Organization says the president’s holdings are worth far less than he has proclaimed. Across the country, the company is suing local governments, claiming it owes much less in property taxes than government assessors say because its properties are worth much less than they’ve been valued at. In just one example, the company has asserted that its gleaming waterfront skyscraper in Chicago is worth less than than its assessed value, in part because its retail space is failing and worth less than nothing. </p> <p>Since becoming president, Trump’s companies have filed at least nine new lawsuits against municipalities in Florida, New York and Illinois, arguing for lower tax bills, ProPublica has found. Some of those lawsuits have been previously reported. At stake is millions of dollars that communities use to fund roads, schools and police departments.</p> <p>Real estate owners dispute property taxes frequently, and some even sue. The president has a long track record of doing so himself. But experts are troubled that he’s doing so while in office.</p> <p>No president in modern times has owned a business involved in legal battles with local governments.</p> <p>“The idea that the president would have these interests and then those companies would sue localities is really a dangerous precedent,” said Larry Noble of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. The dynamic between local and federal governments is impossible to ignore in these cases, he said, and municipalities “rely on resources from the federal government and the federal government can make your life easier or much more difficult.” He added that the concern arises because the president did not fully separate from his businesses.</p> <p>A spokesman for the Trump Organization said, “Like any other business or property owner, when property taxes become inflated, it is not uncommon to challenge the process to ensure fair treatment. This is a routine practice and any suggestion otherwise is simply ridiculous.”</p> <p>Here’s a selection of the Trump Organization’s fights:</p> <ul> <li>Just 35 miles north of New York City, the company is fighting the town of Ossining home to Trump National Westchester Golf Club.</li> </ul> <p>Trump bought the course in 1996 for $7.5 million and put in $40 million of renovations. The course includes a 75,000-square-foot clubhouse, a 101-foot man-made waterfall, and a host of luxury condominiums overlooking the fairway.</p> <p>Trump said in presidential financial disclosures that this property is worth at least $50 million. Ossining currently assesses the property at only $15 million. Yet in legal filings, the Trump Organization claims that assessment is far too high. In 2015, the company said the property is worth only $1.5 million in a lawsuit filed against the town in Westchester County court.</p> <p>Municipalities almost always settle instead of taking these cases to trials, which can be expensive. But after public outcry, the town decided not to settle and instead is fighting this case and another one related to a neighboring private golf course which is not owned by Trump.</p> <p>Asked how it feels to be sued by President Trump’s company, Dana Levenberg, a town supervisor in Ossining said, “It is certainly uncomfortable at best.”</p> <p>Ossining has a population of 38,000 and an annual budget of $5.5 million. In order to fight, it’s had to bring in expert assessors and outside lawyers and that adds up.</p> <p>“When you have deep private pockets, it’s a lot easier to have staying power in these cases,” said Levenberg.</p> <p>Trump National Golf Club LLC, the subsidiary that owns the club, has filed lawsuits over property taxes each year since 2015. If the town loses, they’ll have to refund Trump National the difference between what it claimed was owed and the Trump Organization’s number — roughly $439,960 from 2015 alone. That will come out of school budgets and municipal funds. Briarcliff Schools, the district the course falls in, has put aside $2.8 million of their annual $51.4 million budget for future tax refunds. The town and a number of other municipal offices have set aside funds as well.</p> <ul> <li>In Chicago, the Trump Organization has embraced a <a href="" target="_blank">notoriously unequal system</a> of property assessment challenges to its own benefit. The Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, set on prime riverfront downtown real estate, was born out of the first season of “The Apprentice.” Completed in 2008, it rises 92 stories and includes a hotel, condominiums and retail space.</li> </ul> <p>But in lawsuits filed against the Cook County Assessor’s Office, Trump’s lawyers call the building a “failed business” and claim the riverfront commercial retail space is worthless.</p> <p>The Trump Organization, through its subsidiary, 401 Wabash Ventures LLC, has appealed valuations for Trump Tower Chicago and lowered its tax bills <a href="">by over $14 million dollars</a> over the years through settlement negotiations. Not satisfied with those reductions, the Trump Organization sued, first in 2006, and then repeatedly in subsequent years. Currently, there are five open cases filed on behalf of the Trump Organization against the county, all regarding Trump Tower. The Chicago Sun-Times estimates there are about $3 million in tax refunds at stake in these cases. </p> <p>Reports by <a href="">ProPublica</a> Illinois and the Chicago Tribune show that the tax appeals system can exacerbate existing inequalities in the tax system in Illinois, in part because appeals are filed most frequently by those who can afford lawyers. Experts said they see this in many places across the country.</p> <p>“The trend has often been that these appeals processes have been abused by those that are already advantaged,” said Andrew Kahrl, an expert in the history of taxation and an associate professor at the University of Virginia. </p> <ul> <li>In Palm Beach County, Florida, the Trump Organization <a href="">is suing</a> the tax assessor over its tax bill for the Trump National Golf Course Palm Beach. The course, located in the town of Jupiter, is one of two nearby private courses the president frequents while staying at Mar-a-Lago.</li> </ul> <p>On his financial disclosure, Trump lists the value of the Jupiter course as $50 million. Yet in the lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County Civil Court, the company says the county’s current $19.5 million assessment “<a href="">exceed[s] the market value</a>” of the course. The county and its lawyer declined to comment on the ongoing litigation. </p> <p>The county billed the company $398,315. In December, Jupiter Golf Club paid $296,595.01, calling it a “good faith estimate” of what’s owed.</p> <ul> <li>In Manhattan, the Trump Organization filed six lawsuits in New York County court over property tax assessments of Trump Tower, Trump Park Avenue, and other buildings in midtown and the Upper East Side in 2017 alone. Owners of high-value properties frequently appeal their tax bills in New York City. </li> </ul>
Apr 11, 2018
Trump, the Ex-Lobbyist and 'Chemically Castrated' Frogs
<p>This week, we’re doing a couple of  things differently on Trump, Inc. Instead of focusing on President Trump’s businesses, we’re looking more broadly at business interests in the Trump administration. We’re also giving you, our listeners, homework.</p> <p>Last month, ProPublica published the first comprehensive and searchable <a href="" target="_blank">database of Trump’s 2,685 political appointees</a>, along with their federal lobbying and financial records. It’s the result of a year spent filing Freedom of Information Act requests, collecting staffing lists and publishing financial disclosure reports.</p> <p>We’ve found plenty in the documents. We know there are lots of lobbyists <a href="" target="_blank">now working at agencies they once lobbied</a> (including one involving <span>an herbicide that could affect the sexual development of frogs). </span>We know there are dozens of officials who’ve <a href="" target="_blank">received ethics waivers</a> from the White House. We know there are “special-government employees” who are working in the private sector and the government at the same time.</p> <p>But there’s so much more to do. Remember, we have multiple documents for nearly 2,700 appointees. And we need your help. For example, you can help us unmask who is actually behind LLCs listed in officials’ financial disclosures. (A reader did that last year and turned us on to<a href="" target="_blank"> an interesting below-market condo sale</a> the president made to his son, Eric Trump.)  </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Here’s step-by-step-instructions on how you can dig in</a>.</p> <p><strong>You can also contact us</strong> via Signal, WhatsApp or voicemail at 347-244-2134. <a href="" target="_blank">Here’s more</a> about how you can contact us securely.</p> <p>You can always email us at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.</p> <p> </p>
Apr 04, 2018
The Many Red Flags of Trump’s Partners in India
<p>President Donald Trump does not like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “<a href="" target="_blank">It’s a horrible law</a>,” Trump has said. The FCPA makes it a crime for U.S. companies to bribe foreign officials, or to partner with others who are clearly doing so.</p> <p>Trump has argued that the law puts U.S. firms at a disadvantage. “It’s things like this that cause us to not be able to lead the world,” Trump said on CNBC in 2012. “For this country to prosecute because something took place in India is outrageous.”</p> <p>Corruption in India is quite common, particularly in the real estate industry. India’s also where the Trump Organization has four projects currently under construction and another just completed, more than it has in any other foreign country. As we detailed last week on Trump, Inc., Donald Trump Jr. has been <a href="" target="_blank">closely involved in much of the work</a>.</p> <p>This week, we’re looking at the Trump Organization’s partners in India — and red flags their work has raised. We worked with <a href="" target="_blank">Investigative Fund </a>reporter Anjali Kamat, whose <a href="" target="_blank">story on the Trumps’ business in India</a> appears in the latest issue of <em>The New Republic</em>.</p> <p>Kamat traveled to the location of each of the projects that are still under construction. Here’s what she found:</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The project:</strong> Trump Tower Kolkata</p> <p><strong>What Trump Jr. has billed it as:</strong> Kolkata’s “<a href="">first residential building with floor to ceiling glass.” </a></p> <p><strong>What’s there now: </strong>The foundation and a billboard</p> <p><strong>A partner: </strong>RDB Group</p> <p><strong>The red flags: </strong>Back in 2011, the RDB Group’s directors were charged with insider trading and were barred from the Indian stock market for four years. Also, the day after Trump Jr.’s visit, tax officials raided RDB’s offices over alleged “<a href="">financial irregularities</a>.” The group did not comment on the raid at the time.  </p> <p><strong>Their response to us: </strong>None</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The project:</strong> A residential tower in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi</p> <p><strong>What Trump Jr. has billed it as:</strong> “<a href="">The most prestigious address in the city</a>”</p> <p><strong>What’s there now: </strong>A small patch of empty land</p> <p><strong>A partner: </strong>M3M, which stands for “Magnificence in the Trinity of Men, Materials &amp; Money”</p> <p><strong>The red flags: </strong>Tax investigators seized about $70 million of undeclared money from M3M offices in 2011. The company later <a href="">paid back taxes</a> on the money, according to the <em>Washington Post</em>. Last year, a forest official filed a complaint alleging the company <a href="">bribed forest guards</a> to illegally cut trees. We couldn’t find any response from M3M about the alleged bribes.  </p> <p><strong>Their response to us: </strong>None.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The project:</strong> An office tower in Gurgaon</p> <p><strong>What Trump Jr. has billed it as:</strong> “<a href="">One of the most exciting and sought after commercial towers in India and beyond”</a></p> <p><strong>What’s there now: </strong>An empty lot with goats grazing</p> <p><strong>A partner: </strong>IREO</p> <p><strong>The red flags:</strong> Last month, <a href="">two investment companies filed a criminal complaint </a>against IREO for defrauding investors of nearly $150 million. It cites the former CEO, who said he witnessed “various acts of cheating, fraud, and misappropriation of money.”</p> <p><strong>Their response to us: </strong>None. In a letter to investors earlier this month, IREO’s managing director called the charges “false, baseless and devoid of any merit.”</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The project:</strong> Trump Tower Mumbai</p> <p><strong>What the Trumps have billed it as</strong>: “<a href="">The most spectacular addition to the Mumbai skyline</a>.”</p> <p><strong>What’s there now: </strong>The tower is almost complete</p> <p><strong>A partner: </strong>The Lodha Group</p> <p><strong>The red flags:  </strong>Officials at multiple Indian agencies told Kamat they had been looking into allegations of money laundering, tax fraud, and violations of foreign exchange regulations involving Lodha Group subsidiaries. No charges have been brought.</p> <p><strong>Their response to us: </strong>None. The Lodha Group has previously responded to one reported investigation, saying they were not aware of it.</p> <p> </p> <p>Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization spoke to us for this story.</p> <p>Remember, we want to hear from you. <strong>Our latest request: Do you know of lawsuits the president or his businesses have filed since he took office?</strong></p> <p><strong>You can contact us</strong> via Signal, WhatsApp or voicemail at 347-244-2134. <a href="" target="_blank">Here’s more</a> about how you can contact us securely.</p> <p>You can always email us at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. </p>
Mar 28, 2018
Former Indian Official: Donald Trump Jr. Pushed 'Blatantly Illegal' Project
<p>Last month, Donald Trump Jr. visited India to <a href="">tout new Trump properties</a>. Full page ads in India’s top papers announced, “Trump has arrived. Have you?”</p> <p>It wasn’t Trump Jr.’s first trip to India. "I've been coming to India for over a decade,” he said during the visit. “There’s an entrepreneurial spirit needs no further explanation.”</p> <p>This week on Trump Inc., we’re looking at the Trumps’ years-long work in India, where corruption in the real estate industry is endemic.</p> <p>We worked with Investigative Fund reporter Anjali Kamat, whose <a href="">reporting on the Trumps’ business in India</a> appears in the new issue of <em>The New Republic</em>.</p> <p>As with many of the company’s deals abroad, the Trump Organization's India projects are licensing deals. Trump Jr. has been closely involved in much of the work.</p> <p>The Trumps’ first India project, in Mumbai, was halted in early 2012 after investigators found significant “irregularities.” The investigators had been tipped off by a state lawmaker who suspected a possible $100 million fraud scheme and warned of “gross violations” in the project’s plans. Authorities revoked the building’s permits.  </p> <p>A few months later, in April 2012, Trump Jr. traveled to Mumbai and, along with his Indian business partners, met with a top official to try to get the project restarted.</p> <p>Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, the equivalent of a U.S. governor, had been told Trump Jr. wanted to discuss investing in the state. But instead, Chavan recalled, Trump Jr. and his partners asked Chavan to overturn the decision to revoke the permits.</p> <p>Chavan declined.</p> <p>“I would get into trouble to sanction something that was blatantly illegal,” he told Kamat. The plans were “not within the existing rules.” (Chavan has described the encounter to the <a href="">New York Times</a> and <a href="">Washington Post</a>, though he has not previously called the project "blatantly illegal.")</p> <p>The Trumps were back in India in 2014, after a new government came into power, Narendra Modi’s political party, the BJP. The Trump Tower Mumbai — a gold-hued skyscraper that the Trump Organization describes as “unlike anything you have ever seen” — is now slated to finished next year. It is one of five Trump-affiliated projects currently under development in India.</p> <p>The Trump Organization said the projects are doing well. One Trump partner said they booked <a href="">$15 million in sales</a> on just one day during the visit by Trump Jr. It was the last day buyers would qualify for an offer by the Trump Organization’s partners to dine with the president’s son. Most of the names of buyers in the Trump projects have not been disclosed.</p> <p>The Trump Organization, the White House and the developers for the projects did not respond to our requests for comment.</p> <p>Remember, we want to hear from you: Do you have information about Trump-branded projects in India? Or do you have photos of them? Let us know.</p>
Mar 21, 2018
Where’d Trump’s Record Inauguration Spending Go? 'It’s Inexplicable'
<p>Last month, the committee that ran President Donald Trump’s inaugural festivities released <a href="">basic details</a> about its revenues and spending. Trump raised $107 million, almost twice the previous record, and spent $104 million. The committee’s tax filing showed that $26 million of the spending went to an event planning firm started in December by a friend of the First Lady.</p> <p>It’s not clear how the firm spent that money, or how most of the money raised for the inauguration was used. The tax filing doesn’t show spending by subcontractors, nor is it required to do so.</p> <p>In this week’s episode of Trump Inc., we dig into the inauguration. We’ve found that even experienced inaugural planners are baffled by the Trump committee’s massive fundraising and spending operation. We also noticed that two members of the inaugural committee have been convicted of financial crimes, and a third — the committee’s treasurer — was reportedly an unindicted co-conspirator in an accounting fraud.</p> <p>Greg Jenkins led President George W. Bush’s second inaugural committee in 2005, which raised and spent $42 million (that would be $53 million in today’s dollars). Asked about how Trump’s team managed to spend so much more, Jenkins said, “It's inexplicable to me. I literally don't know.”</p> <p>“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 said. “So there's the obvious question: where did it go? I don't know.”</p> <p>Steve Kerrigan, who led both of President Obama’s inaugural committees, agreed. “There was no need for that amount of money,” said Kerrigan.” We literally did two inaugurations for less than the cost of that.”</p> <p>According to Trump’s filing, slightly more than half of the money went to four event-planning companies, including the firm owned by the First Lady’s friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Her company, WIS Media Partners, <a href="">paid the co-creator of “The Apprentice,” </a>Mark Burnett, to help with the festivities, as the New York Times reported.  </p> <p>Melania Trump has since cut off her work with Wolkoff after the disclosure of the spending. Wolkoff and WIS Media Partners did not respond to a request for comment.</p> <p>We asked the White House and the inaugural committee about fundraising and spending related to the inauguration. Officials did not agree to be interviewed on the record.</p> <p>We also looked at members of the inaugural committee, which had about 30 people in leadership and fundraising roles.</p> <p>The committee’s treasurer, Doug Ammerman, was named by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in a tax shelter fraud in the early 2000s, <a href="">according</a> to the Wall Street Journal.  Ammerman was a partner at the accounting firm KPMG, which later <a href="">admitted</a> criminal liability. A Senate <a href="">investigation</a> from the time includes emails from Ammerman suggesting he was aware of the scheme.</p> <p>Ammerman is also currently accused in a shareholder lawsuit of dumping stock in a grilled chicken chain, El Pollo Loco, where he was on the board, ahead of a bad quarterly report. Ammerman did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>The finance vice-chair for the inaugural committee, Elliott Broidy, <a href="">pleaded guilty</a> in 2009 to paying bribes to get investments from the New York State pension fund. His felony conviction was later downgraded to a misdemeanor. Broidy, a top Trump fundraiser, has also come <a href="">under scrutiny</a> in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Broidy did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>Another inaugural organizer was Rick Gates, the former deputy to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. <a href="">Gates pleaded guilty </a>this year to lying to the FBI and to conspiracy in a vast money laundering scheme, charges that came from Mueller’s office.</p> <p>At the time that Gates worked on the inauguration, he had not been indicted, but his dealings with former Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych had already come under scrutiny. Gates’ business partner, Manafort, was forced off of the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016 after it was reported he got nearly $13 million of undisclosed payments from Yanukovych. Gates did not respond to requests for comment.</p> <p>We found one more thing that set this inauguration apart: Some of the donations are almost impossible to trace. As the Center for Responsive Politics <a href=";utm_medium=social&amp;utm_campaign=crspost-secret-contributions-to-trump-031318">reports</a>, two “dark money” groups, which do not disclose their donors, gave $1 million each. Trump’s inaugural committee appears to have been the first to accept significant donations from dark money groups.</p> <p>Kerrigan, Obama’s inauguration chief, said he would have rejected a check from a group designed to preserve donor anonymity. “I would have said, ‘Prove who you are and if you can’t pass vet, I’ll have to give the check back,’” Kerrigan said.</p> <p>There are also, of course, many donors we do know about. Like other presidents, Trump raised millions from <a href="">corporate contributions and wealthy individuals</a>. The securities and investment industry contributed the most, nearly $15 million. Other top industries included real estate, casinos, oil and gas, and mining — each of which later benefited from various presidential initiatives and policies. The existence of a contribution, of course, doesn’t mean that’s the reason for a policy change.</p> <p><span><a href="">Click here</a> to explore OpenSecrets’ analysis of inaugural contributions. And <a href="">click here</a> to check out journalist Christina Wilkie’s easy-to-search spreadsheet of inaugural donors. </span></p>
Mar 14, 2018
Son-in-Law Inc: The (Other) Secretive Real Estate Scion in the White House
<p><span>We’ve seen headline after head-spinning headline about Jared Kushner, son-in-law of President Donald Trump. We’ve heard that his company has been on a</span><a href=""><span> global search for cash</span></a><span>, that it </span><a href=""><span>got giant loans</span></a><span> from two big financial institutions after Kushner met with officials from those companies at the White House, and that countries believed they could </span><a href=""><span>manipulate Kushner</span></a><span> through his “complex” business arrangements.</span></p> <p><span>Like his father-in-law, Kushner has not fully divested from his family’s business, <a href="" target="_blank">Kushner Companies</a>. His disclosure forms show he owns at least $761 million in assets. Meanwhile, the company owes hundreds of millions of dollars in debt that comes due in less than a year.  <br></span></p> <p><span>All of this while Kushner Companies has worked very hard to keep some of its <a href=""><span>partners a secret</span></a><span>. </span><br></span></p> <p><span>It gets back to a familiar question: How can we know whether Kushner is operating in the interests of the country or his company? </span></p> <p><span>A spokeswoman for the Kushner Companies said in an email that it “is financially very strong” and that “Jared Kushner is not in any way involved in the management of the business.” </span></p> <p><span>Peter Mirijanian, spokesman for Jared Kushner’s attorney, said in a statement Kushner’s meetings are “to hear ideas about improving the American economy” and that he “has followed the ethics advice he has received for all of his work which include the separation from his business and recusals when appropriate.”</span></p> <p><span>Joining us on this episode are </span><a href=""><span>David Kocieniewski</span></a><span> and</span><a href=""><span> Caleb Melby</span></a><span> of Bloomberg, who’ve broken a series of stories about the Kushner Companies' financial stress. They take WNYC and ProPublica on a tour of some of the real estate company's marquee properties.</span></p> <p><span>Then we take a different kind of tour with ProPublica’s </span><a href=""><span>Alec MacGillis</span></a><span>. For the past year, he's been tracking the travails of tenants living in apartment complexes in Baltimore owned by Kushner Companies -- and the extent to which the real estate company has gone to keep its partners secret. </span></p>
Mar 07, 2018
Trump Org Ordered Golf Markers With the Presidential Seal. That May Be Illegal.
<p>Donald Trump loves putting his name on everything from ties to steaks to water — and, of course, his buildings. But now the Trump Organization appears to be borrowing a brand even more powerful than the gilded Trump moniker: the presidential seal.</p> <p>In recent weeks, the Trump Organization has ordered the manufacture of new tee markers for golf courses that are emblazoned with the seal of the President of the United States. Under federal law, the seal’s use is permitted only for official government business. Misuse can be a crime.</p> <p>Past administrations have policed usage vigilantly. In 2005 the Bush administration ordered the satirical news website <em>The Onion</em> to remove a replica of the seal. Grant M. Dixton, associate White House council, wrote in a <a href="">letter to <em>The Onion</em></a> that the seal "is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement.”</p> <p>After listening to the new ProPublica/WNYC podcast Trump, Inc., a listener brought the signs to our attention.</p> <p>Eagle Sign and Design, a metalworking and sign company with offices in New Albany, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky, said it had received an order to manufacture dozens of round, 12-inch replicas of the Presidential Seal to be placed next to the tee boxes at Trump golf course holes. Two tee markers are placed on the ground at the start of a hole on golf courses to indicate where golfers should stand to take their first swing.</p> <p>“We made the design, and the client confirmed the design,” said Joseph E. Bates, who owns Eagle Sign, declining to say who the client was.</p> <p>An order form for the tee markers reviewed by ProPublica and WNYC says the customer was “Trump International.” The Facebook page for Eagle Sign and Design <a href=";album_id=1673005599426216">shows a photo</a> of the markers in an album with the caption “Trump International Golf Course.”</p> <p>It is unclear how many Trump International golf courses could feature the markers. The Trump Organization owns four courses with the “International” name in the U.S. and abroad, with a fifth course in Bali, Indonesia, in the works.</p> <p>Eagle Sign makes a wide array of tee markers out of bronze and aluminum, and has made other signs for Trump’s courses, according to its website. At some of Trump’s golf courses, tee markers have sported the Trump family crest, which he took from the family that <a href="">originally owned Mar-a-Lago</a> without permission and then altered by adding his own name.</p> <p>Ethics experts have long been on the lookout for signs that the Trump Organization would exploit the office of the presidency for commercial gain. Several said that using the Presidential Seal on the company’s golf courses would fall into this category.</p> <p><a href="">A law governs</a> the manufacture or use of the seal, its likeness, “or any facsimile thereof” for anything other than official U.S. government business. It can be a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in prison.</p> <p>The “law is an expression of the idea that the government and government authority should not be used for private purpose,” said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University specializing in government and legal ethics said. “It would be a misuse of government authority.”</p> <p>The Department of Justice declined to comment on whether it was aware the seal had been used by entities outside the government. The White House and the Trump Organization did not respond to request for comment.</p> <p>The presidential seal was <a href="">first sketched</a> out by President Millard Fillmore in 1850 and the current design — which shows a bald eagle with an olive branch in its right talon, a bundle of 13 arrows in the left, and a scroll bearing the words “E pluribus unum” in its beak — was chosen by President Truman and made official in a 1945 <a href="">executive order.</a> </p> <p>The seal that adorns the president’s speaking lecterns is <a href="">hand-made</a> by the <a href="">Institute of Heraldry</a>, a department of the Army located at Fort Belvoir in Virginia that designs and provides guidance related to military and governmental symbols.</p> <p>Versions of the seal have occasionally been put to personal use by past presidents. George W. Bush and Barack Obama had custom sets of <a href="">golf balls</a> made with the seal. Ronald and Nancy Reagan had a set of <a href="">presidential china </a>bearing the seal, and there have even been <a href="">M&amp;M’s and jelly-beans</a> that featured the seal.</p> <p>In this case, the difference is that a private company is using the seal, said Richard Painter, vice chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government accountability group. Painter also served as an associate White House counsel during the George W. Bush administration.</p> <p>“If we had heard of a private company using it for commercial purposes, we would have sent them a nasty letter,” he said.</p> <p><em>Update: After this story was published, the Facebook page with the image of the Presidential Seal golf tee marker was removed.</em></p> <div class="embedded-image" style="max-width: 800px;"><img class="mcePuppyImage" src="" alt=""> <div class="image-metadata"> <div class="image-caption">Screen shot of Facebook page of Eagle Sign &amp; Design.</div> <div class="image-credit">(katherine Sullivan, ProPublica/WNYC/Facebook)</div> </div> </div> <p><em> </em></p> <p> </p> <p> </p>
Mar 05, 2018
The Mysterious Loan Trump Made to Himself and More
<p>Listeners have been sending us lots of questions about President Trump and his businesses. So we sat down with one of the best in the business to answer them. The Washington Post’s <a href="">David Fahrenthold</a> has been digging into Trump for nearly two years. And he’s involved <a href="">readers from the get-go</a>.</p> <p>Among the questions Fahrenthold takes on: How much money has the government spent on Trump properties? How much does it cost taxpayers and does Trump profit when he visits Mar-a-Lago? And who is Trump literally indebted to?</p> <p>Fahrenthold also has his own question for listeners. He’s been looking into Trump’s debts and one loan in particularly piqued his interest: Trump has disclosed at least a $50 million loan from something called “Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC.” And according to Fahrenthold, it turns out Trump also owns that entity. Now, there can be a perfectly good explanation for why Trump would lend money to himself, but he should then also disclose the loan as an asset and Trump didn’t.</p> <p>Fahrenthold wants to know more about “Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC.” (To get started, check out this <a href="">Mother Jones story</a>.) You can <a href="">email</a> Fahrenthold or reach us through our <a href="">tip line</a>. We’ll pass along the message, promise.</p> <p>We also have our own request: Did you have any involvement in Washington, D.C.’s most expensive party ever? Yes, we’re talking about President Trump’s Inauguration.  Perhaps you worked at it? Or attended the Candlelight Dinner? We want to hear from you.</p> <p> </p> <p><em>“Trump, Inc.” is a production of </em><a href=""><em>WNYC Studios</em></a><em> and </em><a href=""><em>ProPublica</em></a><em>. Support our work by visiting </em><a href="!/donation/checkout"><em></em></a><em> or by becoming a </em><a href=""><em>supporting member</em></a><em> of WNYC. </em><a href=""><em>Subscribe here</em></a><em> or wherever you get your podcasts.</em></p>
Feb 28, 2018
Trump, Russia and 'Alternative Financing'
<p>After Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians for an intensive, elaborate effort to interfere with the 2016 elections, President Trump reacted as he has before — with bluster and bellicosity, at <a href="">everyone but Russia</a>.</p> <p>This week on Trump Inc., we’re exploring the president’s, persistent weirdness around Russia: Why has Trump been <a href="">so quiet</a> about Russia and its interference?</p> <p>Glenn Simpson has a theory—that one cannot understand the Russian collusion scandal without understanding Trump’s business.</p> <p>Simpson is the head of Fusion GPS, the investigative firm behind the now-famous Trump dossier. Before that, he was a <em>Wall Street Journal</em> reporter who specialized in the nexus of money, politics and international skullduggery. Simpson was hired, first by conservatives and then by Democrats, to dig into Trump’s business record.</p> <p>Simpson has been pilloried on the right as a tool of the Clinton campaign — or worse. He’s been sued multiple times. But amid all the charges, few have followed the details of what Simpson concluded: After a string of Trump failures, disappointments, and bankruptcies, Western financiers shut him off. Trump still needed money to fund his projects. Where did he get it? Simpson came to believe it came from Russia and Russian-connected sources. It came via golf courses, condos, and other conduits.</p> <p>The eventual result, Simpson suggests, is that Trump ended up beholden to those providing his businesses with “alternative financing.”</p> <p>One note: The Trump Organization and White House declined to answer our questions for the podcast.</p> <p>And remember, we want to hear from you: We’re always eager for tips. We also want to hear your questions. What would you like to know about Trump’s businesses? What confuses you? <a href="">Contact us.</a></p> <p><em>“Trump, Inc.” is a production of </em><a href=""><em>WNYC Studios</em></a><em> and </em><a href=""><em>ProPublica</em></a><em>. Support our work by </em><em>becoming a </em><a href=""><em>supporting member</em></a><em> of WNYC or visiting <a href="!/donation/checkout"><em></em></a>. </em><a href=""><em>Subscribe here</em></a><em> or wherever you get your podcasts.</em></p> <p> </p>
Feb 21, 2018
Money Laundering and the Trump Taj Mahal
<p>Just months before Donald Trump announced his bid for president in 2015, federal regulators announced they were slapping one of his longtime Atlantic City casinos with <a href="" target="_blank">a record-setting $10 million fine</a> for lack of controls around money laundering.</p> <p>The problems went back years. The penalty was actually the second record-setting fine for the Trump Taj Mahal involving money-laundering oversight.</p> <p>What exactly did the Taj fail to do? Casino officials admitted to “willful and repeated” violations of the Bank Secrecy Act: As federal authorities put it in a <a href="">settlement</a>, the Trump Taj Mahal “failed to report suspicious transactions; failed to properly file required currency transaction reports; and failed to keep appropriate records as required.”</p> <p>In this episode of <a href="">Trump, Inc</a>., our podcast with ProPublica, we dig into the now-bankrupt and shuttered Trump Taj Mahal, once one of the biggest and glitziest casinos in the world. It’s a story of chaotic operations, massive debt, and a tendency to treat rules as more like suggestions. Ring a bell?</p> <p>And remember, <a href="">we want to hear from you</a>: We’re always eager for tips. We also want to hear your questions. What would you like to know about Trump’s businesses? What confuses you? We <em>may </em>be able to answer, and even if not, we can at least try to explain why something isn’t known.</p>
Feb 14, 2018
Open For Business
<p>Last year, Trump's attorney Sheri Dillon made a promise to the country: The Trump Organization would donate all the profits its hotels collected from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury. But what she didn't mention was what the president would do with the profits from his commercial tenants. According to <a href="" target="_blank">Dan Alexander</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Matt Drange</a> in<em> <a href="">Forbes Magazine</a>, </em>that's where the real money is.</p> <p>The two investigative reporters dug through financial documents, real estate websites and even measured off square footage in some properties with their feet to come up with a $175 million in commercial rent. That's the estimated amount that the president's company is collecting from "law firms that lobby the federal government, banks controlled by foreign states, and big media companies that cover Trump."</p> <p>In this bonus episode of <a href="" target="_blank">Trump Inc.</a>, Alexander tells WNYC's <a href="" target="_blank">Andrea Bernstein</a> how he uncovered these little-known payments to the president's company.</p>
Feb 13, 2018
Trump's 'No Conflict Situation'
<p>A couple of months ago, a few of us from ProPublica and WNYC sat together in a conference room and started scribbling on a whiteboard. We were brainstorming all the possible paths to explore around President Trump and his family businesses.</p> <p>It looked like <a href="">Carrie Mathison’s wall</a> from <em>Homeland. </em>There’s so much that’s still unknown: We don’t know if the president is taking money from his businesses, or what deals are happening, or who his business partners are, who’s providing the financing. It goes on and on.</p> <p>Sitting there, staring at the whiteboard filled with basic, unanswered questions, something occurred to us: That <em>is </em>the story.</p> <p>More than a year into Trump’s presidency, we still have no way to know whether he is making decisions that place his company’s interests — and profits — ahead of the country’s.</p> <p>There’s never been a situation like this before, where the person elected to lead our country owns a sprawling, active business empire. Trump has refused ethics experts’ advice to <a href="">divest himself</a> from his businesses.</p> <p>So we’re trying something new: ProPublica and WNYC are teaming up to launch Trump Inc. It’s a weekly podcast that will start with questions, not answers.</p> <p>We’re thinking of it as an “open investigation.” We’ll be laying out what we know and what we don’t. And we’re inviting everyone — our journalism colleagues elsewhere, experts, tipsters and<em> anyone else </em>interested — to join us in the quest for answers.</p> <p>In our first episode, we take a breath, roll back a year, and lay out how we got to this point, where it’s almost impossible to see the line between Trump the president and Trump the CEO. </p> <p>In his first year, the president spent <a href="">a third of his time at a Trump-owned property</a>. He promoted his winery in Virginia during a press conference about the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He plugged his New Jersey golf resort at an official speech in South Korea. And his daughter and son had nearly simultaneous business in India: one official, one private. The lines are blurred.</p> <p>We’re trying to make sense of this situation, and we want to hear from you. We’re always eager for tips, so <a href="">contact us</a>. We also want to hear your questions. What would you like to know about Trump’s businesses? What confuses you? We <em>may </em>be able to answer, and even if not, we can at least try to explain why something isn’t known.</p>
Feb 07, 2018
Coming Soon: 'Trump Inc.' the Podcast
<p>Donald J. Trump is president, yet we're still trying to answer basic questions about how his family business works. In the new podcast <em>Trump Inc.</em>, WNYC Studios and ProPublica jointly investigate and report on the central mysteries of the Trump Organization, laying out what we know, what we don't and how you can help fill in the gaps.</p> <p>The first episode airs February 7, 2018.</p> <p>If you know something we should know, tell us. Here’s how: Send us a Signal or WhatsApp message, or leave a voicemail at 347-244-2134.</p> <p>You can also use the postal service:</p> <p>Trump Inc at ProPublica</p> <p>155 Ave of the Americas, 13th Floor</p> <p>New York, NY 10013</p> <p>Here’s more about <a href="">how you can contact us securely</a>.</p> <p>And, finally, you can always email us tips at <a href=""></a></p> <p><span>Finally, while you should definitely use secure channels like Signal or WhatsApp to send or talk about anything sensitive or non-public, you can always email us other tips at </span><a href=""></a> </p> <p> </p> <p><em>Trump Inc. is a production of <a href="">WNYC Studios</a> and <a href="">ProPublica</a>. Support our work by becoming a <a href="">supporting member</a> of WNYC or visiting <a href="!/donation/checkout"></a>.</em></p>
Feb 05, 2018