Eric Trump charity paid Trump Organization companies $150K during election

Eric Trump’s charitable foundation paid nearly $150,000 to President Trump’s business during the 2016 presidential race, according to newly released tax documents reported by the Daily Beast on Thursday.

The younger Trump’s foundation, now called Curetivity, paid a total of $145,145 to four Trump companies in 2016, down from $322,000 the year before, according to the report.

Of that, $98,730 went to President Trump’s Westchester golf resort in New York, while smaller amounts were distributed to Trump’s clubs in Palm Beach, Fla., the Bronx and the Trump SoHo hotel.

Eric Trump’s charity regularly held charitable events at his father’s resorts and clubs, and the Trump Organization would then bill the foundation for services used.

Forbes reported last June that President Trump previously insisted that his son’s foundation pay the Trump Organization for the events, despite the fact that the services could be offered for free.

Forbes also reported that Eric Trump had in the past falsely claimed that his charity uses Trump Organization locations completely free of charge.

The foundation was holding events at Trump Organization properties as recently as September, when Forbes reported that Curetivity hosted a charitable event at the Trump National Golf Club in New York.

Eric Trump defended his foundation’s expenses in a statement to The Hill in September, noting the organization’s charitable work for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

“In the 10 years of operation, the Eric Trump Foundation [raised] over $16.3 million for St. Jude and maintained an expense ration of less than 10 percent,” Trump said in September.

The foundation’s dealings have come under some scrutiny. Last June, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s (D) office opened an investigation into whether Trump’s foundation improperly funneled money to the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

[The Hill]

Trump Administration Waives Punishment For Convicted Banks, Including Deutsche — Which Trump Owes Millions

The Trump administration has waived part of the punishment for five megabanks whose affiliates were convicted and fined for manipulating global interest rates. One of the Trump administration waivers was granted to Deutsche Bank — which is owed at least $130 million by President Donald Trump and his business empire, and has also been fined for its role in a Russian money laundering scheme.

The waivers were issued in a little-noticed announcement published in the Federal Register during the Christmas holiday week. They come less than two years after then-candidate Trump promised “I’m not going to let Wall Street get away with murder.”

Under laws designed to protect retirement savings, financial firms whose affiliates have been convicted of violating securities statutes are effectively barred from the lucrative business of managing those savings. However, that punishment can be avoided if the firms manage to secure a special exemption from the U.S. Department of Labor, allowing them to keep their status as “qualified professional asset managers.”

In late 2016, the Obama administration extended temporary one-year waivers to five banks — Citigroup, JPMorgan, Barclays, UBS and Deutsche Bank. Late last month, the Trump administration issued new, longer waivers for those same banks, granting Citigroup, JPMorgan, and Barclays five-year exemptions. UBS and Deutsche Bank received three-year exemptions.

In the year leading up to the new waiver for Deustche Bank, Trump’s financial relationship with the firm has prompted allegations of a conflict of interest. The bank has not only sought the Labor Department waiver from the administration, it has also faced Justice Department scrutiny and five separate government-appointed independent monitors. Meanwhile, the New York Times recently reported that federal prosecutors subpoenaed Deutsche for “bank records about entities associated with the family company of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.”

All of these interactions with the Trump administration and the federal government are transpiring as Deutsche serves as a key creditor for the president’s businesses.

Trump owes the German bank at least $130 million in loans, according to the president’s most recent financial disclosure form. Sources have told the Financial Times the total amount of money Trump owes Deutsche is likely around $300 million. The president’s relationship with the bank dates back to the late 1990s, when it was the one major Wall Street bank willing to extend him credit after a series of bankruptcies. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported Trump and his companies have received at least $2.5 billion in loans from Deutsche Bank and co-lenders since 1998.

The relationship has had problems. After the financial crash, Trump defaulted on a $640 million loan from the bank. Deutsche brought Trump to court, and the famously litigious real estate mogul countersued for $3 billion in damages, claiming the financial crisis was a “force majeure” event that Deutsche Bank helped create. But the rift was short-lived: the parties settled, the loan was repaid, and Deutsche was soon lending to Trump again.

In December, Bloomberg and others reported the bank had turned over financial records to special prosecutor Robert Mueller after his office subpoenaed the records as part of his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Trump’s lawyers have called that reporting inaccurate.

“We have confirmed that the news reports that the Special Counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the President are false,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.”

Less than three weeks later, the New York Times reported federal prosecutors had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank records related to White House senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Kushner and his vast business holdings. There is no evidence those subpoenas were related to Mueller’s investigation.

The subpoenas come less than a year after Deutsche Bank was fined $425 million by New York State for laundering $10 billion out of Russia.

All five of the banks granted waivers from the Obama and Trump administration were fined for their involvement in the LIBOR scandal that led to $9 billion worth of fines from regulators around the world. Deutsche Bank has paid $3.5 billion for its role in the scandal, more than any other bank. The scandal involved illegally manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate or LIBOR, which is used to set the cost of borrowing for a variety of financial transactions.

In 2015, Deutsche Bank pled guilty in the U.S. to wire fraud for its role in the scandal. Less than two years later, in the final hours of the Obama administration, Deutsche Bank agreed to a $7.2 billion settlement with the Justice Department for misleading investors in mortgage-backed securities between 2006 and 2007.

[International Business Times]

White House defends Trump claim tax plan will cost him ‘a fortune’

The White House defended President Trump’s assertion that the forthcoming tax reform bill will cost him a “fortune,” while admitting he could benefit from cuts to corporate taxes.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to repeated questions from reporters during Tuesday’s briefing about Trump’s assertion, which he made during a Nov. 29 speech in Missouri.

Sanders defended the president by arguing that he hasn’t been focused on himself, but instead on the impact the bill would have on everyday Americans.

“In some ways, particularly on the personal side, the president will likely take a big hit. But on the business side, he could benefit,” she said.

“The biggest focus for this White House is to makes sure all Americans are better off today when this tax package passes than they were before hand. We really focused on invigorating the middle class and making sure they get more of their hard-earned money.”

Multiple independent analyses show that Trump, whose net worth is pegged by Forbes at $3.1 billion, stands to benefit from GOP tax plan.

When reporters noted that the overall impact on Trump’s bottom line is unclear because he has not released his tax returns, Sanders said that Trump will not release his tax returns while they are under audit, which is the line that Trump took during the presidential campaign too. The IRS, however, has said an audit does not prevent an individual from releasing personal tax information.

Using information from a leaked portion of Trump’s tax returns from 2005, NBC News quoted a tax expert estimating that the combined estates of both Trump and first lady Melania Trump would save about $1 billion from the repeal of the estate tax. The expert also estimated that Trump would save $22.6 million thanks to the repeal of the alternative minimum tax, after capital gains taxes were taken into account. But without Trump’s most recent tax returns, or a more full glimpse at the 2005 return, the full impact couldn’t be nailed down.

The House passed the final version of the plan Tuesday afternoon, with the Senate expected to vote on the bill later that same day.

[The Hill]

Graham tweets about ‘spectacular’ Trump golf course

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted about golfing with President Trump at one of Trump’s courses shortly after the pair wrapped up their round.

“Trump International Golf Club is a spectacular golf course,” Graham tweeted.

“Great day of fun playing with @POTUS @realDonaldTrump.”

The pair golfed at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Sunday.

“The president is playing a round of golf with Sen. Lindsey Graham, where the two are discussing the tax cuts and reform legislation and the importance of fully funding our national security needs in upcoming government spending negotiations,” said White House spokesman Raj Shah.

Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, quickly replied to Graham’s tweet promoting Trump’s for-profit business.

Graham and Trump have golfed together before at Trump’s course in Virginia.

Graham told GOLF Magazine that Trump had shot a 73 during their game in October, a score the publication called “unlikely, to say the least.”

[The Hill]

Trump’s team insists he has a ‘full schedule’ an hour before he goes golfing

President Trump is at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, Fla., for the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s the Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, a day that can generally be fairly described as low-key for most people. In fact, you’re not even reading this right now; you’re driving to a relative’s house or you’re trying to remember what you need to get at the grocery store.

“Low-key” is also how deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters described the day to the press pool Wednesday morning. Trump would make a few calls this week, she said, but otherwise not much going on.

Less than 10 minutes later, though, the White House asked the press pool for a correction.

“While the White House communications staff expects the press pool to have a ‘low-key day,’” the update from The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson wrote, “the president will NOT have a low-key day and has a full schedule of meetings and phone calls.”

Got that? Not Trump on vacation at Mar-a-Lago. Trump working hard at what he calls the “Winter White House.” Trump tweeted to that effect Wednesday morning.

Trump calls it the “Winter White House” so that people will see his time there as an extension of his normal work life. In one sense it is: A president is never actually off-duty. In most senses, though, it isn’t. Trump’s calendar is generally clear when he’s at Mar-a-Lago (or at his club in Bedminster, N.J.), with time instead reserved for playing golf.

But Trump consistently wants to give Americans the impression that he’s working when he’s at one of his private clubs. This is the president, after all, who on the campaign trail insisted that he probably wouldn’t have time to play golf if elected. It’s why he always talks about phone calls and meetings that aren’t on his official calendar, taking advantage of the public’s assumption that a president is working 24/7 to provide cover for the time he spends at leisure.

So we get a parade of tweets like these.

[Washington Post]

Taxpayers pay legal bill to protect Trump business profits

Taxpayers are footing the legal bill for at least 10 Justice Department lawyers and paralegals to work on lawsuits related to President Trump’s private businesses.

Neither the White House nor the Justice Department will say how much it is costing taxpayers, but federal payroll records show the salaries of the government lawyers assigned to the cases range from about $133,000 to $185,000.

The government legal team is defending President Trump in four lawsuits stemming from his unusual decision not to divest himself from hundreds of his companies that are entangled with customers that include foreign governments and officials.
In the cases, Justice Department attorneys are not defending policy actions Trump took as president. Instead, the taxpayer-funded lawyers are making the case that it is not unconstitutional for the president’s private companies to earn profits from foreign governments and officials while he’s in office.

The government lawyers and Trump’s private attorneys are making the same arguments — that the Constitution’s ban on a president taking gifts from foreign interests in exchange for official actions does not apply to foreign government customers buying things from Trump’s companies. The plaintiffs, including ethics groups and competing businesses, argue the payments pose an unconstitutional conflict of interest.

The Justice Department for weeks refused to answer questions about how many employees were working on the cases and for how long, falsely saying the agency doesn’t track such information. USA TODAY identified the government legal staff who are defending Trump’s business profits using the agency’s own internal case-tracking database, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Justice Department traditionally defends the office of the president and its occupants’ rights in court, sometimes under novel circumstances. However, the cases about Trump’s businesses create a historically awkward and unusual position for the public lawyers: the result of their arguments in court is to protect the president’s potential customer base.

“We’ve never before had a president who was branded and it’s impossible to divorce from that brand,” said Stuart Gerson, who served as chief of the Justice Department’s civil division for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. “It’s blurring the lines because it’s so unusual. I can’t think of a precedent where another civil division lawyer has been called on to defend the president under these circumstances.”

[USA Today]

Trump plugs his Bedminster golf club in speech to South Korean National Assembly

During a speech on Tuesday before the South Korean National Assembly, Donald Trump could not help but plug his golf course to the delegation gathered for his address.

Trump was discussing Korean golfers being “some of the best” in the world when he boastfully brought up his Bedminster Golf Club.

“In fact—and you know what I’m going to say—the women’s U.S. Open was held this year at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey,” Trump said as the audience applauded. “And it just happened to be won by a great Korean golfer, Park Sung-hyun, and eight of the top players were from Korea, and the top four golfers, one, two, three, four, the top four were from Korea.”

“So, congratulations,” Trump added.

[Raw Story]

Media

 

 

Trump chooses not to deport wealthy Chinese fugitive – after finding out he’s a Mar-a-Lago member

President Donald Trump was reportedly on the verge of deporting billionaire Chinese fugitive Guo Wengui, but changed his mind after aides informed him that Guo is a fellow billionaire and a member in good standing at the president’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago.

According to Vanity Fair‘s Isobel Thompson, Guo is wanted on charges of rape, bribery and kidnapping in his native China.

Much like Trump, the international fugitive is a wealthy real-estate developer with a massive Twitter following and an intense interest in building and promoting his personal brand.

Longtime Trump friend and casino magnate Steve Wynn delivered Trump a letter from the Chinese government demanding Guo’s extradition. Trump was inclined to take his friend’s advice, in spite of the conflict of interest posed by the fact that Wynn is dependent upon China’s approval to obtain licenses for his casinos in Macau.

Guo built a real estate empire in Beijing, but fled China in 2014 after being informed that he was about to be arrested. Since then he has taunted the Chinese government on Twitter, telling sensational — and possibly apocryphal — stories about Chinese government corruption.

There is no extradition treaty between China and the U.S. — meaning Trump is not obligated to hand over criminals wanted in China. Guo bought a $67.5 million apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City.

In May, Chinese government operatives visited Guo at his apartment — in violation of their visa status.

Thompson explained, “Entering the country on a visa that allows foreign government officials to travel through America en route to another destination without conducting official business, they met Guo at his apartment and pressured him to return to China and drop his accusations.”

The officials were nearly arrested at JFK airport, which could have sparked an international incident.

In June, Trump met with aides to discuss foreign policy toward China. He stunned the group by producing the letter forwarded to him by Wynn and saying that he was inclined to agree to the extradition.

Fearing that the handover would make the U.S. look weak and establish a dangerous precedent with foreign governments, aides urged set about trying to convince Trump not to fulfill China’s request.

They informed Trump that Guo “happens to be a member of his Mar-a-Lago resort (a privilege that costs $200,000 in initiation fees plus $14,000 in annual dues),” Thompson said. “The president subsequently changed his mind, exposing a secondary set of even more problematic biases. Apparently, Trump was more than happy to allow a wealthy friend to pressure him on foreign policy — until he was made aware of an even more pressing concern,” the possibility of losing a paying member of Mar-a-Lago.

[Raw Story]

Secret Service paid Mar-a-Lago at least $63,000, documents show

The U.S. Secret Service paid tens of thousands of dollars to President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in the span of a few months, according to documents obtained by CNN.

The expense forms show that taxpayer dollars have flowed into Trump’s private club as a result of his repeated visits to the so-called Winter White House, which pulls in millions a year from members who pay a premium for its oceanside amenities and bedroom suites.

Most of the $63,700 in payments from the Secret Service to Mar-a-Lago were made between February and April, and were categorized as hotel costs on government expense forms. The payments are detailed in forms and more than a dozen invoices on Mar-a-Lago letterhead ranging from $1,300 to $11,050.

The purposes of the expenses were not spelled out in the documents, which were redacted before CNN reviewed them. The redactions make it unclear whether there were additional payments to Mar-a-Lago.

Experts said the bills could be for rooms rented to agents, space leased for communications equipment or other purposes.

The payments to Mar-a-Lago are just a fraction of the total Secret Service costs detailed in the records CNN reviewed, which include bills from other hotels, car rental companies and event services in South Florida.

Although the Secret Service routinely pays private businesses for costs that arise while protecting the president, government ethics hawks argue Trump may personally profit from his visits. Or worse, they allege, he’s violated the Constitution.

The payments appear to overlap with some of Trump’s weekend visits to the club in Palm Beach, Florida. After his inauguration, Trump spent a total of 25 full or partial days at the Mar-a-Lago between February 3 and April 16.

Trump transferred Mar-a-Lago and his other business holdings into a trust while he serves as president. But he refused to follow precedent by divesting his holdings, and he stands to accrue any business profits when he leaves office.

His financial disclosure forms for this year show that Mar-a-Lago made $37 million in revenue between January 2016 and April 2017. The club raised its membership initiation fee in January to $200,000, double what it was a year earlier.

While the Secret Service payments are a small share of the revenue, critics of the administration, along with prominent experts in government ethics, say Secret Service payments to Mar-A-Lago could violate a constitutional provision meant to prevent self-dealing and corruption.

The domestic emoluments clause bars the president from accepting gifts, or emoluments, other than his compensation from the federal, state, or local governments.

Whether the Mar-A-Lago charges amount to “gifts” is up for debate. It may rest on how much Secret Service paid for services or rooms at the resort. That information is redacted on the documents reviewed by CNN.

“The president risks violating the domestic emoluments clause if his company is making money off of the Secret Service,” said Richard Painter, the former White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. “To avoid that, Mar-a-Lago should either charge Secret Service a rate federal employees are authorized to pay for a hotel room under ordinary circumstances or not charge at all.”

But waiving all charges could create additional legal issues under rules that prohibit gifts to government agencies.

Earlier this year, a government transparency group called Property of the People obtained a receipt from the Coast Guard for a stay at Mar-a-Lago. That document revealed the government was billed the so-called rack rate — an industry term that usually suggests the non-discounted price for a hotel room. That charge amounted to $1,092 for a two-night stay.

Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent who served in the Presidential Protection Division, pointed out that, putting ethics arguments aside, the president always requires some level of Secret Service protection.

Although some agents could stay at nearby hotels, he said at least some members of the detail must stay with the president day and night in the event of an emergency.

“The Secret Service will make every attempt to be financially cautious, but there is an operational necessity for particular people to stay in close proximately to the president 24 hours a day,” said Wackrow, a CNN law enforcement analyst. “And they can’t sleep in the hallway.”

He said additional charges to the Secret Service could arise from the need for storage space for communications equipment, or for additional workspace.

The Mar-a-Lago expenses, detailed in records released by the Secret Service after CNN submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, are not the first payments made by the Secret Service for the use of a property owned by a White House official.

Federal contracting data show the Secret Service has paid about $170,000 to rent former Vice President Joe Biden’s property in Wilmington, Delaware since 2011.

Democrats have seized on other examples of government money flowing into Trump’s businesses to support criticism that the president may be profiting personally from his office.

In August, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee requested documents from federal agencies that detail taxpayer money going to products or services “provided by businesses owned by or affiliated with the Trump Organization.”

A spokesperson said the committee is in the process of collecting responses.

The Trump Organization and the White House did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

[CNN]

Trump Congratulates African Leaders for Making His Friends Rich

President Donald Trump on Wednesday was met with silence when he congratulated the leaders of African countries on the continent’s economic progress, telling them, “I’ve so many friends going to your countries, trying to get rich. I congratulate you. They’re spending a lot of money.”

Trump delivered the remark at a luncheon he hosted with the leaders of many of the 54 diverse nations on the African continent. And while Trump almost certainly meant it as compliment, and even seemed to pause for applause, not one attendee clapped.

For centuries, Europeans and Americans have exploited Africa’s natural resources and labor force, not least during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In the post-Colonial era, the U.S. government has supported dozens of authoritarian regimes on the African continent, while American companies have made billions of dollars from deals with dictatorships.

Since taking office in January, Trump has nominated ambassadors to only around a dozen African nations, despite having recalled all Obama-era ambassadors before he was inaugurated. This means that the vast majority of nations on the continent do not currently have a U.S. ambassador with whom they can conduct bilateral diplomacy.

During the same speech, Trump also mispronounced Namibia as “Nambia,” saying very clearly that “Nambia’s health system is increasingly self-sufficient.”

A White House transcript confirmed that Trump meant to say Namibia.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

[CNBC]

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