Sunday, October 25, 2020

Trump Family Corruption-- Unprecedented



Who didn't know that the presidential election would devolve into a question about whose family is more corrupt and disgusting/ Democrats don't want to consider that Biden's family is hideous and Republicans don't want to consider that Trump's family is far more hideous-- and I'm certainly not talking about Ivanka being a closeted lesbian, which is so awesome and the least hideous thing I've ever heard about her. [Although I do want more information about why Donald, Jr. hates Barron. That seems beyond the pale, doesn't it?] No, what I'm talking about is the familial corruption. The video above is useful and so is this Dan Alexander piece in Forbes, Forbes Estimates China Paid Trump At Least $5.4 Million Since He Took Office, Via Mysterious Trump Tower Lease. There are so many bits and pieces, deciphering them all and weaving them into an overall narrative will be a journalist-- and, more importantly, a judicial-- cottage industry for years to come.

And who didn't know that Jared was a beard?

It should have been a warning to every viewer of the Thursday debate when Trump asserted that "I don’t make money from China," that hand his spawn were no doubt on the take. And I have no doubt that it goes way beyond Alexander's revelation that he "collected millions of dollars from government-owned entities in China since he took office. Forbes estimates that at least $5.4 million has flowed into the president’s business from a lease agreement involving a state-owned bank in Trump Tower.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China signed a lease for space in 2008, years before the president took office, paying about $1.9 million in annual rent. Trump is well-aware of the deal. “I’ll show you the Industrial Bank of China,” he told three Forbes journalists touring Trump Tower in 2015. “I have the best tenants in the world in this building.”

Trump moved from the skyscraper to the White House in 2017, but he held onto ownership of the retail and office space in the building, through his 100% interest in an entity called Trump Tower Commercial LLC. That put him in an unusual position, given that government-owned entities in China hold at least 70% of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Suddenly, a routine real estate deal became a conduit for a foreign superpower to pay the president of the United States.

The arrangement posed legal concerns, since the U.S. Constitution prohibits federal officials from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state” without Congressional approval. Ethics experts, who have often focused on the president’s hotel in Washington, D.C., argued that the president would be in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause from the moment he took office.

On January 11, 2017, Trump and his team held a press conference inside Trump Tower, not far from the office of the Chinese bank. Trump’s lawyer, Sheri Dillon, claimed that routine business transactions are not violations of the so-called Emoluments Clause. But she also said the president planned to donate all foreign government profits at his hotel to the U.S. Treasury. The next month, first son Eric Trump, who had just taken over day-to-day operations of his father’s business, told Forbes the donations would come from “all the properties.”

Perhaps Eric Trump meant all hotel properties, because it sure doesn’t seem like the Trump Organization handed over all their profits from the deal with the Chinese. The Trump Organization reportedly donated a total of $343,000 to the U.S. Treasury in 2017 and 2018, Trump’s first two years as president. Yet, a document connected to Trump Tower suggests that over those same two years, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China was set to pay about $3.9 million in rent. Operating profit margins inside the building are an estimated 42%, which would suggest that the deal yielded $1.6 million of earnings over those two years. Even if you only count roughly 70% of that money as coming from the Chinese government, it still adds up to $1.2 million-- or more than three times what the Trump Organization reportedly gave to the Treasury.

The lease was set to expire on October 31, 2019, according to a debt prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2018, the state-owned bank agreed to a new lease in a different office building nearby, suggesting it might leave Trump Tower. But then, the bank decided to stay in the president’s building anyway. “They are keeping a couple of floors,” Eric Trump confirmed onstage at a business conference in October 2019.

The new arrangement is somewhat murky. Contacted Friday morning, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization initially said that the bank had “consolidated with their other offices in New York.” When told that Forbes might publish that statement, the spokesperson then seemed to confirm that the Chinese bank was in fact maintaining space in the building: “They’ve exited the vast majority of their space in Trump Tower.” The website for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China still lists an address inside Trump Tower.

Trump has other financial connections to China. The New York Times revealed Tuesday that the U.S. president has a bank account in China. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, received 41 Chinese trademarks from the time she was appointed a White House adviser in March 2017 to April 2019, according to an analysis of documents. The review also showed that the trademarks Ivanka applied for after her father’s inauguration got approved about 40% faster than those she sought out beforehand.

You want to see the swamp drained for real?

Remember when Trump campaigned on draining the swamp? That was a joke then because Trump is and has always been the swamp. Yesterday Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman and David Farenthold reminded Washington Post readers that we're living through the most corrupt presidency ever. They noted that "during his four years in office, Trump has taken few steps to clean up Washington. He has instead presided over a norm-shattering expansion of private interests in government. The government has had to spend money at Trump’s private hotels as his family has traveled around the globe. Trump sidestepped rules that had been designed to prevent nepotism, allowing his son-in-law to serve in a top government role. He has touted companies run by supporters and allies who received government contracts. His administration has allowed former lobbyists to serve in jobs in which they have oversight of policies that affect their former employers... [T]he president has worsened Washington’s profiteering culture in nearly every way."
“The whole administration has taken Trump’s tone-- self-dealing, self-enriching, enriching your friends and families-- that’s smart, if you listen to Trump,” he said.

...Rich contributors have long had access to elected officials in Washington, but as president, Trump has dropped any pretense that they should not be afforded special treatment.

Donors and others seeking access appear routinely at his private clubs in Florida and New Jersey, where they have buttonholed the president on the patio or golf course.

The ability of outside favor-seekers to influence Trump has at times worried administration officials. A group of Mar-a-Lago members sought to shape the direction of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as the former VA secretary detailed in a book. Donors attending fundraisers at his Bedminister club weighed in on the GOP tax bill, according to people familiar with internal discussions.

Meanwhile, lobbying firms that can claim access to Trump’s inner circle have thrived.

Barry Bennett, a 2016 Trump campaign adviser and lobbyist for foreign interests, said business for him was booming before the coronavirus pandemic.

The president’s attacks on the swamp have been effective in one way, he said: “To the extent that Washington is less popular, and people are more angry at their government, that’s been the effect of the Trump presidency.”

When Trump launched his presidential bid, he distinguished himself from rivals for the Republican nomination by saying he would fund his own campaign, eschewing the support of donors who he said corrupted the political system by seeking favors in exchange for their contributions. The argument proved powerful with voters.

“I will say this--  [the] people [who] control special interests, lobbyists, donors, they make large contributions to politicians and they have total control over those politicians,” he said at a Republican primary debate in March 2016. “And frankly, I know the system better than anybody else and I’m the only one up here that’s going to be able to fix that system, because that system is wrong.”

He likewise termed super PACs, which can accept unlimited amounts of money, a “disaster.” “They’re a scam,” he said at a debate in October 2015. “They cause dishonesty.”

Trump unveiled the phrase “drain the swamp” in a speech in Green Bay, Wis., in October 2016, wielding it as a weapon against Democrat Hillary Clinton, who was benefiting from a network of wealthy donors that she and former president Bill Clinton had cultivated over four decades.

“There were a lot of Democrats that Trump may not have beaten with that message,” said Charles R. Black Jr., who has worked as a Republican lobbyist and consultant for nearly five decades. “The message worked-- but it worked especially because of who she was.”

It was quickly a hit with Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, entering the lexicon of call-and-response cries at his signature rallies. It remains one of the most popular chants and resonant messages, campaign aides say.

“We’re going to go to Washington. We’re going to drain the swamp,” Trump said at a North Carolina rally in 2016. As the crowd picked up the chant-- “Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp!”-- Trump explained that when he first heard the phrase, he hated it. He thought it was “hokey.” But then he said he noticed how crowds responded.

“The place went crazy,” he said, adding: “Now I love the expression. I think it was genius.”

By then, Trump’s original promises to use his own wealth to power his campaign had crumbled.

He ultimately reported spending $66 million of his own money on his winning campaign, only a small portion of the more than $564 million he raised by the end of 2016. By July 2016, he began appearing at fundraisers for a super PAC supporting his election.

Trump made no pretense of self-funding his 2020 campaign. Instead, he spent four years attending closed-door events for his wealthiest supporters, raising millions of dollars for his campaign and the America First super PAC.

Some of the country’s most powerful individuals have lent their properties for Trump’s gilded fundraising events, from the California hillside mega-mansion of Oracle founder Larry Ellison to the Hamptons beachfront palace of hedge fund manager John Paulson. The entry fee for some: as high as $580,600 a person, with much of the money flowing to the Republican National Committee, which as a party committee can accept large contributions. Many of the events are at Trump’s private clubs or hotels, where donors both contribute to his campaign and stay or dine at his properties.

Donors have gotten access not just to Trump at these events, but also to a range of senior Cabinet officials such as Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Trump advisers such as Peter Navarro, Kellyanne Conway, Bill Stepien and Corey Lewandowski, invitations show.

While his predecessors typically kept their remarks at donor events short and scripted, Trump speaks loosely and profanely-- even discussing sensitive military operations and vulgarly describing political foes.

...The ability of high-dollar donors to shape Trump’s views was put into sharp relief earlier this year, when onetime Trump supporter Lev Parnas released recordings of events.

In the recordings, one donor could be heard proposing the president hold a summit meeting with Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, at a South Korean golf course he owned. Another donor, who owns a Canadian steel company, pushed Trump to limit steel imports to the United States.

Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman, who were working with Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, urged the president to recall the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, whom they viewed as unfriendly to interests of a new natural gas company they had formed.

“Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow,” Trump could be heard immediately instructing an aide after the two made the request.

Parnas, now a sharp critic of Trump, has been charged with campaign finance violations and defrauding investors in his company. He has denied wrongdoing. Parnas said it was widely understood by donors that they were paying for face time with Trump.

“Everyone knew that about Trump-- all it took was that one minute, if he liked it,” he said. “It was okay to spend a million dollars on a dinner. Because that dinner could make your whole life.”

...Overall, Trump has largely failed to fulfill the pledges he made in his Green Bay “drain the swamp” speech. He had promised he would push Congress to pass a five-year lobbying ban into law so it could not be lifted by a future president. But he never proposed such legislation. Nor did he ask Congress to impose a similar five-year lobbying ban on its members, as he had promised he would in 2016.

In addition, he never tried to seek to “close all the loopholes” used by former government officials who get around registering as lobbyists by calling themselves “consultants” and “advisers.” And he never acted on his pledge to stop foreign lobbyists from campaign fundraising-- and in fact, has benefited from their financial support.

As his promises to curtail lobbying have faded, Trump allies who can offer insight to private interests have flourished.

“People who know how Washington and the administration works, those people are always going to be valuable,” Bennett said.

...[A] report compiled by Public Citizen in March 2018-- only 14 months into the administration-- found that 133 former lobbyists had been appointed to the Trump administration. They included 60 who had lobbied within two years of joining government and 35 of those former lobbyists were appointed to oversee the specific topics about which they had previously lobbied.

Last year, ProPublica found that at least 33 former Trump administration officials had found ways to essentially lobby after leaving government, despite the supposed five-year ban on such activities. Some styled themselves consultants and advisers-- the kind of end run around the rules that Trump once railed against.

“It’s a meaningless piece of paper that was just put out to live up to the ‘drain the swamp’ promise,” Holman said of the executive order. “No one takes it seriously.”

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At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is anyone going to DO anything about Trump? Or, are we to again be disappointed that no one will?

I already expect the latter.

At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the remedy is written in clear language in the constitution. But no android exists who will follow programming to enforce it. it still takes conscientious action by those tasked with its enforcement.

so what do american voters do about the person so tasked who refuses to do her fucking job?

well, $he got re-elected 6 times since $he first refused to do her fucking job... and has been re-elected house tyrant twice in that span when her worthless feckless corrupt party fell face-first into a house majority... by everyone that american leftys keep sending to DC... presumably to NOT DO THEIR FUCKING JOBS... because they keep being sent again and again.

so blame the house tyrant... or blame the fucking idiot voters who keep sending all of them. I blame the voters.

At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the difference between COVID-19 and the Trump family?

COVID-19 caused a panDEMic while the Trumps ARE a panDUMBic.

Use this definition for "pan-" if you don't get the vulgarian humor. Flora can only take so much humor before their roots wither.

At 4:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all seriousness, we'd have been better off had we elected the Gambinos instead of the trumps. They at least cared a little bit about the country where they make their money.

At 6:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

soo, no author on this?
I have to admit, I quit when I saw the
"grifter" counter allegation as it had
already been applied previously. And so
the story goes, however the trademark
accusation mirror strategy has become
a rather tell-tale sign, no author required.


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