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Trump, Inc.

Trump, Inc.

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He’s the President, yet we’re still trying to answer basic questions about how his business works: What deals are happening, who they’re happening with, and if the President and his family are keeping their promise to separate the Trump Organization from the Trump White House. “Trump, Inc.” is a joint reporting project from WNYC Studios and ProPublica that digs deep into these questions. We’ll be layout out what we know, what we don’t and how you can help us fill in the gaps.
WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts, including On the Media, Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Nancy and many others. ProPublica is a non-profit investigative newsroom.
© WNYC Studios
20 Episodes
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Government Employees Spend Your Money at Trump Hotels
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.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.ProPublica has just released an interactive detailing 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.The vast majority of the money — at least $13.5 million — was spent by Trump’s presidential campaign.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.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.”The Trump Organization and the White House did not respond to our requests for comment.Reporting by Derek Kravitz and Derek Willis, ProPublica and Paul Cronan, Mark Schifferli and Charlie Smart, Fathom Information Design. 
The "King of Debt"? He Pays Cash.
Last week, the Washington Post had an intriguing story: In the nine years before now-President Donald Trump announced his candidacy, his company paid $400 million in cash to buy a number of properties.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.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.Eric Trump told the Washington Post 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.”In this Trump Inc. podcast extra, we speak to the New Yorker’s Adam Davidson and the Washington Post’s 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.)“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.”
The Hidden Hand of a Casino Company In Trump’s Contact with Vietnam
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 broadcast footage of the call, with the prime minister surrounded by other smiling officials.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.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.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.“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.”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.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.Falcone, who was barred from the securities industry several years ago after admitting 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.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.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.“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.”In November 2008, the Obama transition explicitly warned 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. 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.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.”***Falcone’s business interest in Vietnam goes back a decade. His Harbinger Capital fund has poured money -- Bloomberg put it at more than $450 million -- into a casino-resort called The Grand Ho Tram Strip. 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 Pearl Room.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.”To save the project, Falcone has spent years lobbying the Vietnamese government to allow its citizens to gamble in his casino.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 stake 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 admitted to taking an improper loan of over $100 million from his fund. Falcone lost his place on the Forbes’ list.Two months before the 2016 election, Falcone’s team made a play to add political heft to the Ho Tram project, appointing 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.A week after Trump won the election, the casino company sent out a new press release 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.“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.”One of Pickus’ duties at Trump’s company was overseeing anti-money laundering enforcement. The Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City repeatedly ran afoul 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.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.(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 arranging a precedent-breaking call between Trump and Taiwan’s president.)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 reported 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.”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 Vietnamese Esquire, arranging regular meetings between Falcone and top Vietnamese officials, and seeking assistance from the U.S. embassy.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 represented Falcone’s fund.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.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 centered on Bruno receiving a large consulting contract and payment for a racehorse from Abbruzzese, whose companies had business before the state. Bruno was ultimately acquitted. Abbruzzese was not charged in the case. He declined to comment on his role in Ho Tram. Two Washington-based firms stocked with former diplomats from both Democratic and Republican administrations, BowerGroupAsia and The Asia Group, 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.”Asia Group worked with Falcone to host a conference of investors in New York for Prime Minister Phuc’s visit to the U.S. last May. Luminaries including Ret. General David Petraeus, now with the firm KKR, attended.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.The White House and the Vietnamese embassy declined to comment on Trump’s meeting with Phuc. There’s no evidence Trump raised Ho Tram.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.”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.”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.“I find it shocking that people would think that the administration would bring up Ho Tram or even think about getting involved,” Falcone said.Do you have information about the Trump administration and casino companies? Contact Justin at justin@propublica.org or via Signal at 774-826-6240.
The Company Michael Cohen Kept
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.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.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.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.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.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.”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.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.)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.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.***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.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 InsideHigherEd.com once wrote, “is known for admitting students other law schools would not touch.”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. 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.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 kitschy TV-style advertisements, in Russian, for his company.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.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.)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.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.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.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.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.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.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.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.Once again, Cohen was never charged.***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.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.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.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.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.)It’s unclear when Cohen and Trump first met, but the two were publicly linked in February 2007. The New York Post published an article 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.”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.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.”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.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.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.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.Months earlier, Michael Cohen had helped set up a website called shouldtrumprun.com 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.Shouldtrumprun.com 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.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.”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 shouldtrumprun.com 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.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 shouldtrumprun.com, 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.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.  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.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.”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!”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.***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.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.”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.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.”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.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.”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.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.)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.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.

The Company Michael Cohen Kept

2018-04-1800:45:5811

Trump’s Company Is Suing Towns Across the Country to Get Breaks on Taxes
President Trump is famous for bragging about his net worth. Publicly, he claims he’s worth  more than $10 billion. He even sued an author over the issue and lobbied the editors of Forbes about his ranking on their billionaires list.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. 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.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.No president in modern times has owned a business involved in legal battles with local governments.“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.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.”Here’s a selection of the Trump Organization’s fights:Just 35 miles north of New York City, the company is fighting the town of Ossining home to Trump National Westchester Golf Club.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.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.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.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.”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.“When you have deep private pockets, it’s a lot easier to have staying power in these cases,” said Levenberg.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.In Chicago, the Trump Organization has embraced a notoriously unequal system 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.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.The Trump Organization, through its subsidiary, 401 Wabash Ventures LLC, has appealed valuations for Trump Tower Chicago and lowered its tax bills by over $14 million dollars 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. Reports by ProPublica 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.“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. In Palm Beach County, Florida, the Trump Organization is suing 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.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 “exceed[s] the market value” of the course. The county and its lawyer declined to comment on the ongoing litigation. 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.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. 
Trump, the Ex-Lobbyist and 'Chemically Castrated' Frogs
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.Last month, ProPublica published the first comprehensive and searchable database of Trump’s 2,685 political appointees, 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.We’ve found plenty in the documents. We know there are lots of lobbyists now working at agencies they once lobbied (including one involving an herbicide that could affect the sexual development of frogs). We know there are dozens of officials who’ve received ethics waivers 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.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 an interesting below-market condo sale the president made to his son, Eric Trump.)  Here’s step-by-step-instructions on how you can dig in.You can also contact us via Signal, WhatsApp or voicemail at 347-244-2134. Here’s more about how you can contact us securely.You can always email us at tips@trumpincpodcast.org. 
The Many Red Flags of Trump’s Partners in India
President Donald Trump does not like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “It’s a horrible law,” 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.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.”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 closely involved in much of the work.This week, we’re looking at the Trump Organization’s partners in India — and red flags their work has raised. We worked with Investigative Fund reporter Anjali Kamat, whose story on the Trumps’ business in India appears in the latest issue of The New Republic.Kamat traveled to the location of each of the projects that are still under construction. Here’s what she found: The project: Trump Tower KolkataWhat Trump Jr. has billed it as: Kolkata’s “first residential building with floor to ceiling glass.” What’s there now: The foundation and a billboardA partner: RDB GroupThe red flags: 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 “financial irregularities.” The group did not comment on the raid at the time.  Their response to us: None The project: A residential tower in Gurgaon, a suburb of New DelhiWhat Trump Jr. has billed it as: “The most prestigious address in the city”What’s there now: A small patch of empty landA partner: M3M, which stands for “Magnificence in the Trinity of Men, Materials & Money”The red flags: Tax investigators seized about $70 million of undeclared money from M3M offices in 2011. The company later paid back taxes on the money, according to the Washington Post. Last year, a forest official filed a complaint alleging the company bribed forest guards to illegally cut trees. We couldn’t find any response from M3M about the alleged bribes.  Their response to us: None. The project: An office tower in GurgaonWhat Trump Jr. has billed it as: “One of the most exciting and sought after commercial towers in India and beyond”What’s there now: An empty lot with goats grazingA partner: IREOThe red flags: Last month, two investment companies filed a criminal complaint 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.”Their response to us: None. In a letter to investors earlier this month, IREO’s managing director called the charges “false, baseless and devoid of any merit.” The project: Trump Tower MumbaiWhat the Trumps have billed it as: “The most spectacular addition to the Mumbai skyline.”What’s there now: The tower is almost completeA partner: The Lodha GroupThe red flags:  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.Their response to us: None. The Lodha Group has previously responded to one reported investigation, saying they were not aware of it. Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization spoke to us for this story.Remember, we want to hear from you. Our latest request: Do you know of lawsuits the president or his businesses have filed since he took office?You can contact us via Signal, WhatsApp or voicemail at 347-244-2134. Here’s more about how you can contact us securely.You can always email us at tips@trumpincpodcast.org. 
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Comments (103)

Minnich

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

Aug 13th
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Michelle T Usher

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

Aug 6th
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BnB 44901

where have you gone?! been waiting super patiently!

Aug 1st
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Michael Haworth

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

Jul 9th
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Marcee Beth

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

Jul 12th
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Jack White

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

Jun 22nd
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Loyal R

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

May 14th
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Z

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

Jul 22nd
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Pieter Moreels

Loyal R hahahahahaha best joke ever!! 😂😂

Jul 16th
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Loyal R

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

May 14th
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Ryan O

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

May 11th
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Victoria Green

excellent reporting! keep up the good work

May 7th
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shon driggers

Drain The Swamp!!!

Apr 23rd
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Michael Haworth

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

Apr 22nd
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Cullen Logan

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

Aug 17th
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Dave Minnich

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

Apr 24th
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Telle0

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

Apr 20th
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Rick Arden

FOUR MORE YEARS!

Apr 11th
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John Wiley

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

Apr 1st
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Dave Minnich

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

Mar 29th
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Caesura

Cullen Logan "Civility" is sheer nonsense. "Civility" is a politically correct veneer that exists to normalize irredeemable politics and a long term erosion of public power. I'd rather we all be uncivil with one another if it brings about political change than to maintain the status quo but adopt "civil discourse".

Aug 17th
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Ezra Fickov

Marcee Beth i didn't vote for Trump, nor do i support him. disagreement doesn't mean someone is trolling by default... sometimes it just means disagreement. but lumping thoes you disagree with into some "other" group such as "Trump's trolls" or "amerikkkans" without attempting to engage them yourself, or give their comments fair airing, is a bigger problem for civility then our ridiculous prez could hope to be. because it involves individuals themselves discouraging others from even entertaining civil engagement (which you did literally in your own comment). let's not give him what, most presume, he wants.

Aug 17th
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Bill Holliday, CFP

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

Mar 28th
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Z

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

Jul 22nd
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Minnich

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

May 16th
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Jillian Vesterfelt

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

Mar 14th
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Cullen Logan

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

Aug 17th
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Marcee Beth

Jillian Vesterfelt I HOPE SO 👴

Jul 12th
Reply

Brett Delph

more lethal garbage, lol

Mar 10th
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Ryan O

As a former bankruptcy paralegal and document nerd, I've spent hours and hours pouring over pacer reporting on trump company filings and schedules. It's endless. A bottomless pit. It depicts something. A story, a biography that tells the tale experienced legal professionals quickly can recognize. Smoke and mirrors. Look here at the sparkling shiny thing while I make and drain money over here.

Mar 4th
Reply

Marcee Beth

Caesura I think what Ryan O was referring to vast amount of legal dealings Trump's had in bankruptcy court AND being sued by small independent contractors. He lives to fuck over the smaller businesses. He's put many out of business by not paying his bills. If I remember correctly, he's had over 3000 civil lawsuits. Many are contractors, subcontractors or previous employees. He's shady.

Jul 12th
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Caesura

Dave Minnich It never applied. There was a time when the public was bought off with welfare expansion, but now that's eroded and all that remains is a bloated, poisonous and impenetrable beauracracy in constant struggle with itself and accountable only to those who hold the most wealth. In reality that's always ben American democracy, just a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. You are right in that Trump is just a sideshow, and just one segment of the elite that's unpopular with the others. But he has declared open war on the few concessions the elites grant the people and the few restrictions they are supposed to abide by. Yesterday he destroyed diplomacy with Iran, and today he will be putting a mass torturer and liar in the highest intelligence position. The ruling elites have lost control and are letting the warmongerers and beurocrats steer us into hell. At least under Obama you could expect a cowardly status quo.

May 9th
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Chicken Dumpling

This is an interesting, well documented podcast. I suspect that those who are reviewing it negatively have refused, inside their minds, to actually listen to anything factual. I may be wrong... these people may have actually listened to this pod, but I'm doubtful.

Feb 28th
Reply
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