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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 laying out what we know, what we don’t and how you can help us fill in the gaps.
WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts, including On the Media, Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Nancy and many others. ProPublica is a non-profit investigative newsroom.
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President Trump ran for president on three promises: He'd build a wall on the Mexican border, repeal Obamacare, and overhaul the nation's tax system. And approaching the 2020 election, Trump's only accomplished one of them — and even that didn't live up to the hype. "It's important to point out is the impact has been not what he said it would be," says Sally Herships, host and co-executive producer of The Heist, a new podcast from the Center for Public Integrity. "It has not been what he promised, which was, a sizable increase in jobs, higher wages ... just kind of this rainbow-like better life for many Americans." “Not only will this tax bill pay for itself," promised Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, "but it will pay down debt.” Yet nearly every analysis said the changes would add more than $1 trillion trillion to the national debt. This episode of The Heist, "Buyer's Remorse," looks at how the Trump administration rushed the law through. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations.
In his new book, "Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation," prosecutor Andrew Weissmann offers a new account into the inner workings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into President Trump. Related episodes:• The Questions Mueller Didn't Ask• Trump's Moscow Tower Problem• Six Tips for Preparing for the Mueller Report, Which May or May Not Be Coming Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations.
This story was co-published with ProPublica. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations. After the news broke in May of last year that government-sponsored lending agency Freddie Mac had agreed to back $786 million in loans to the Kushner Companies, political opponents asked whether the family real estate firm formerly led by the president’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, had received special treatment.  “We are especially concerned about this transaction because of Kushner Companies’ history of seeking to engage in deals that raise conflicts of interest issues with Mr. Kushner,” Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Tom Carper (D-Delaware) wrote to Freddie Mac’s CEO in June 2019. The loans helped Kushner Companies scoop up thousands of apartments in Maryland and Virginia, the business’s biggest purchase in a decade. The deal, first reported by Bloomberg, also ranked among Freddie’s largest ever. At the time, the details of its terms weren’t disclosed. Freddie Mac officials didn’t comment publicly then. Kushner’s lawyer said Jared was no longer involved in decision-making at the company. (He does continue to receive millions from the family business, according to his financial disclosures, including from some properties with Freddie Mac-backed loans.) Freddie Mac packaged the 16 loans into bonds and sold them to investors in August 2019. But Kushner Companies hadn’t finished its buying spree. Within the next two months, records show, Freddie Mac backed another two loans to the Kushners for an additional $63.5 million, allowing the company to add two more apartment complexes to its portfolio.  A new analysis by ProPublica shows Kushner Companies received unusually favorable loan terms for the 18 mortgages it obtained with Freddie Mac’s backing. The loans allowed the Kushner family company to make lower monthly payments and borrow more money than was typical for similar loans, 2019 Freddie Mac data shows. The terms increase the risk to the agency and to investors who buy bonds with the Kushner mortgages in them.  Moreover, Freddie Mac’s estimates of the Kushner properties’ profitability — a core element of any decision to back a loan — have already proven to be overly optimistic. All 16 properties in the firm’s biggest loan package delivered smaller profits in 2019 than Freddie Mac expected, despite the then-booming economy. The loan for the largest property lagged Freddie Mac’s profit prediction by 31% last year. U.S. taxpayers could be responsible for paying back much of the nearly $850 million in Freddie Mac financing if Kushner Companies defaults and its properties drop significantly in value. During the last real estate crash, taxpayers had to bail out Freddie Mac and its larger sibling, Fannie Mae, to the tune of $190 billion as the agencies plunged into the government equivalent of bankruptcy. (The agencies ultimately repaid the money and more.)  The involvement of Jared’s sister Nicole Kushner Meyer adds to questions about whether the family sought to exploit its political influence. Meyer, who shares her brother’s slight build, porcelain features and dark chestnut hair, lobbied Freddie Mac in person on behalf of Kushner Companies in February last year, a timeline of the deal obtained by ProPublica shows. She has previously drawn criticism for invoking her brother’s name while doing Kushner Companies’ business before.  In a statement Freddie Mac said it does “not consider the political affiliations of borrowers or their family members.” It called ProPublica’s analysis “random, arbitrary and incomplete” and asserted that the Kushner loans “fit squarely within our publicly-available credit and underwriting standards. The terms and performance of every one of these loans is transparent and available on our website, and all the loans are current and have been consistently paid.” A spokesperson for Kushner Companies did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment. There’s no evidence the Trump administration played a role in any of the decisions and Freddie Mac operates independently. But Freddie Mac embarked on approving the loans at the moment that its government overseer, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), was changing from leadership by an Obama administration appointee to one from the Trump administration, Mark Calabria, vice-president Mike Pence’s former chief economist. Calabria, who was confirmed in April 2019, has called for an end to the “conservatorship,” the close financial control that his agency has exerted over Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae since the 2008 crisis. The potential for improper influence exists even if the Trump administration didn’t advocate for the Kushners, said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University specializing in government and legal ethics. She compared the situation to press reports that businesses and associates connected to Jared Kushner and his family were approved to receive millions from the Paycheck Protection Program. Officials could have acted because they were seeking to curry favor with the Kushners or feared retribution if they didn’t, according to Clark. And if Kushner Companies had wanted to avoid any appearance of undue influence, she added, it should have sent only non-family executives to meet with Freddie Mac. “I’d leave it to the professionals,” Clark said. “I’d keep family members away from it.” The Freddie Mac data shows that Kushner Companies secured advantageous terms on multiple points. All 18 loans, for example, allow Kushner Companies to pay only interest for the full 10-year term, thus deferring all principal payments to a balloon payment at the end. That lowers the monthly payments, but increases the possibility that the balance won’t be paid back in full.  “That’s as risky as you get,” said Ryan Ledwith, a professor at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, of 10-year interest-only loans. “It’s a long period of time and you’re not getting any amortization to reduce your risk over time. You’re betting the market is going to get better all by itself 10 years from now.” Interest-only mortgages, which notoriously helped fuel the 2008 economic crisis, represent a small percentage of Freddie Mac loans. Only 6% of the 3,600 loans funded by the agency last year were interest-only for a decade or more, according to a database of its core mortgage transactions.  Kushner Companies also loaded more debt on the properties than is usual for similar loans, with the loan value for the 16-loan deal climbing to 69% of the properties’ worth. That compares with an average 59%, according to data for loans with similar terms and property types that Freddie Mac sold to investors in 2019, and is just below the 70% debt-to-value ceiling Freddie Mac sets for loans in its category. “What we generally have seen from Freddie and Fannie,” said Andrew Little, a principal with real estate investment bank John B. Levy & Company, “is they will do 10 years of interest-only on lower-leveraged deals.” Loans right at the ceiling are “not very common,” Little said, adding that “you don’t see deals this size that commonly.” Meanwhile Freddie Mac and its lending partner overestimated the profits for the buildings in the Kushners’ 16-loan package by 12 % during the underwriting process, according to the agency’s data. Such analysis is supposed to provide a conservative, accurate picture of revenue and expenses, which should be relatively predictable in the case of an apartment building.  But the level of income anticipated failed to materialize in 2019, financial reports show. The most dramatic overstatement came with the largest loan in the deal, $120 million for Bonnie Ridge Apartments, a 960-apartment complex in Baltimore. In that case, realized profits last year were 31% below what Freddie Mac had expected.  “That’s definitely a significant amount,” said John Griffin, a University of Texas professor who specializes in forensic finance and has studied mortgage underwriting. He co-authored a recent paper highlighting as worrisome loans in which projected profits exceeded actual profits by 5%. “It’s a problem when underwritten income is inflated or overstated,” he said. “That is a key metric that determines the safety of the loan.” Griffin’s paper found that 28% of all loans examined had projected profits that were 5% or more greater than what the properties actually earned in their first year. Some instances of underperformance could be caused by bad luck, the paper acknowledged, but “such situations should be relatively rare.” Yet in the case of Freddie Mac’s estimates in the Kushner deal, 13 of the original 16 loans met or exceeded the 5% threshold — many by a considerable amount. Read Heather Vogell's full print story at ProPublica. Related episodes:• He Went To Jared• Dirt• Trump and Deutsche Bank: It’s Complicated The Freddie Mac headquarters building in McLean, Va., Saturday, April 21, 2018. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)
Trump's Taxes, Finally

Trump's Taxes, Finally

2020-09-2825:467

President Trump has spent years fighting with politicians and prosecutors who wanted to see his taxes. Now we know what he’s been hiding. Co-host Ilya Marritz talks to ProPublica's Heather Vogell and WNYC's Meg Cramer about what's in the groundbreaking new reporting from The New York Times and the new questions raised by 20 years of Trump tax data. Check out some of our own stories from years of covering President Trump's taxes: • The Accountants• The Family Business• The Numbers Don't Match • What We've Learned From Trump's Tax Transcripts• Trump and Taxes: The Art of the Dodge• Trump’s Company Is Suing Towns Across the Country to Get Breaks on Taxes
Block The Vote

Block The Vote

2020-09-2434:359

This story was co-published with ProPublica. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations. President Trump likes talking about voter fraud. He also likes filing lawsuits. Now his campaign is filing lawsuits across the country, citing the alleged dangers of voter fraud. Plus: ProPublica reporters Mike Spies, Jake Pearson, and Jessica Huseman on secret, Republican-only meetings about election policy.
The Qatari government rents office space in President Trump's most profitable building. No one works there. Dan Alexander is a senior editor at Forbes and author of the new book "White House Inc: How Donald Trump Turned The Presidency Into a Business." This interview is based on an excerpt of the book that ran in Vanity Fair.
Blindspot

Blindspot

2020-09-1249:156

The story of the long, strange wind-up to the attack that remade the world… and the chances we had to stop it. A new series from HISTORY and WNYC Studios.
The Perry Deals

The Perry Deals

2020-09-1036:058

This story was co-published with Time Magazine and ProPublica. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations. Rick Perry came to Washington looking for a deal, and less than two months into his tenure as Energy Secretary, he found a hot prospect. It was April 19, 2017, and Perry, the former Texas governor, failed presidential candidate and contestant on Dancing With the Stars, was sitting in his office on Independence Avenue with two influential Ukrainians. “He said, ‘Look, I’m a new guy, I’m a dealmaker, I’m a Texan,’” recalls one of them, Yuriy Vitrenko, then Ukraine’s chief energy negotiator. “We’re ready to do deals,” he remembers Perry saying. The deals they discussed that day became central to Ukraine’s complex relationship with the Trump Administration, a relationship that culminated in December with the House vote to impeach President Donald Trump. Perry was a leading figure in the impeachment inquiry last fall. He was among the officials, known as the “three amigos,” who ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine on Trump’s behalf. Their aim, according to the findings of the impeachment inquiry in the House, was to embarrass Trump’s main political rival, Joe Biden. Alongside this political mission, Perry and his staff at the Energy Department worked to advance energy deals that were potentially worth billions of dollars to Perry’s friends and political donors, a six-month investigation by reporters from TIME, WNYC and ProPublica shows. Two of these deals seemed set to benefit Energy Transfer, the Texas company on whose board Perry served immediately before and after his stint in Washington. The biggest was worth an estimated $20 billion, according to U.S. and Ukrainian energy executives involved in negotiating them. If this long discussed deal succeeds, Perry himself could stand to benefit: in March, three months after leaving government, he owned Energy Transfer shares currently worth around $800,000, according to his most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Perry appears to have stayed on the right side of the law in pursuing the Ukraine ventures. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York questioned at least four people about the deals over the past year, according to five people who are familiar with the conversations and discussed them with our reporting team on condition of anonymity. “As far back as last year, they were already interested in events that had taken place in Ukraine around Rick Perry,” including ­allegations that Perry “was trying to get deals for his buddies,” says one of the people who spoke to the Manhattan prosecutors. Perry is not a target of their investigation, according to two sources familiar with the probes. But two ethics experts say Perry’s efforts were violations of federal regulations. Administration officials are not allowed to participate in matters directly relating to companies on whose board they have recently served. Other experts say Perry and his aides may have broken a federal rule that prohibits officials from advocating for companies that have not been vetted by the Commerce Department. “Even if it skirts the criminal statute, it’s still unethical,” says Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyer in the White House of President George W. Bush, with whom we shared our findings. Through a spokesman, Perry said he “never connected or ­facilitated discussions” between Energy Transfer and Ukraine’s state energy firm in one of the deals we uncovered. The spokesman declined to comment on the other ventures Perry advanced while in government, including the $20 ­billion deal, or on the federal probe. In response to written questions for this article, Energy Transfer said, “We are not aware of any contact between Secretary Perry and Ukrainian officials on Energy Transfer’s behalf.” Read the full print story by Time reporter Simon Shuster. Update, Sept. 24, 2020: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter on Wednesday asking the Inspector General for the Department of Energy to investigate Rick Perry’s actions in Ukraine. Citing a joint investigation by the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and the Senate’s Committee on Finance, Wyden wrote that “witness testimony in this investigation has directly implicated former Secretary Rick Perry in alleged wrongdoing and the Department more broadly in a scheme to undermine anti-corruption efforts that were implemented by Ukraine in partnership with the international community.” The letter noted that a Naftogaz board member testified that Perry “inappropriately pressured the Ukrainian government to place Robert Bensh on the Naftogaz advisory board while Department of Energy officials were also pressuring the Ukrainian government to sign a memorandum of understanding with a private business entity connected to Mr. Bensh, Louisiana Natural Gas Exports.” The letter also cites reporting by ProPublica, Time and WNYC for “Trump, Inc.,” as well as reporting by other media outlets, and asks the IG to investigate what role Perry played in “pressuring Ukraine to make changes to the Naftogaz advisory board”; what efforts Perry and his staff made to “facilitate a deal between any American companies and Naftogaz”; whether the Naftogaz deals “were in Ukraine’s financial or economic interest”; whether Perry “undermined anti-corruption reform efforts in Ukraine” and whether Perry received ethics advice “about his efforts related to [Michael Bleyzer], Mr. Bensh, and Naftogaz.”
Mary Trump

Mary Trump

2020-08-2826:499

Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist and President Trump's niece, talks to co-host Andrea Bernstein about the Trump family, the Republican National Convention, and her book "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man." Additional reading:• In secretly recorded audio, President Trump’s sister says he has ‘no principles’ and ‘you can’t trust him’ (The Washington Post)• Mary Trump, The President's Niece (Fresh Air) This conversation originally aired as part of WNYC’s Special Convention Coverage 2020.
The Russia Report

The Russia Report

2020-08-2632:046

In this bonus episode of Trump, Inc., co-hosts Ilya Marritz and Andrea Bernstein talk to Politico’s Natasha Bertrand and The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer about the new report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence detailing Russia's role in the 2016 election. Additional reading:• “Russiagate Was Not A Hoax” by Franklin Foer• “The Trump-Putin Relationship, as Dictated by the Kremlin” and “How a Russian disinfo op got Trump impeached” by Natasha Bertrand• Read the full Senate report.This conversation originally aired part of WNYC’s Special Convention Coverage 2020.
This episode was originally released Nov. 13, 2019.  The impeachment inquiry focuses on whether or not there was a quid pro quo: Military aid in exchange for an investigation. But what if you look at the same events from a different vantage point? The business interests at play. This episode: How Rudy Giuliani's associates worked their connections to oust the U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine. How President Trump's personal interests came into alignment with the interests of an indicted foreign businessman. And how all of them have been working to discredit Joe Biden. Read more about the flow of money in the Ukraine scandal. Stay up to date with email updates about WNYC and ProPublica's investigations into the president's business practices.
'Repeat Offender'

'Repeat Offender'

2020-08-1233:3411

This story was co-published with ProPublica. Stay up to date with email updates about WNYC and ProPublica’s investigations into the president’s business practices. President Donald Trump’s recent musings about staging his Republican National Convention speech at the White House drew criticism from government ethics watchdogs and even one Republican senator, John Thune of South Dakota. The suggestion wasn’t an isolated blending of official presidential duties and the campaign. It was part of a yearslong pattern of disregarding such boundaries in the Trump White House. There is a law, called the Hatch Act, that prohibits most government officials from engaging in politicking in the course of their official work. The law does not apply to the president or vice president. While other presidents took campaign advantage of the trappings of the office, something that came to be known as the “Rose Garden strategy,” they typically refrained from explicit electoral appeals or attacks on their opponents at official presidential events. Federal election law and measures governing appropriations prohibit using taxpayer dollars for electioneering. Since resuming official travel at the beginning of May after a coronavirus-imposed pause, Trump has held 25 presidential out-of-town events. Of these events, transcribed on the official White House website, the president spoke about the election or attacked his opponent, Joe Biden, at 12 of them, nearly half. His presidential stage provided a venue for supporters to urge others to vote for Trump in November at three additional events. Administration officials have been cited for breaking the Hatch Act 13 times by federal investigators at the Office of Special Counsel (not to be confused with special counsel Robert Mueller). Twelve more investigations are underway. The law dates from the New Deal era, enacted after a scandal where employees of the Works Progress Administration were pressured to work on the campaigns of candidates friendly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Neither the White House, the campaign or Trump’s campaign treasurer, Bradley Crate, responded to requests for comment. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, violated the Hatch Act so many times that the OSC took the drastic measure of recommending she be fired, calling her actions “egregious, notorious and ongoing.” (Trump refused to do so.) The special counsel, Henry Kerner, is a Trump appointee and member of the conservative Federalist Society. He previously worked for Republicans Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz on Capitol Hill. When asked about the OSC’s recommendation, Conway said, “blah blah blah,” adding, “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.” Hatch Act violations are not criminal. The most significant result of a violation is dismissal. Hatch Act violations were relatively rare in the previous two presidential administrations. Two cabinet officials were cited for Hatch Act violations during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Some half-dozen senior officials in the Obama and Bush administrations said that they were frequently advised to avoid even the appearance of electioneering at official events. “There was a very bright line between what was a campaign event and what was an official event,” said Greg Jenkins, the director of advance for President George W. Bush during the period that included the 2004 reelection campaign. “If you could stretch things and say, yes, it’s perfectly legal to do this, but it has the appearance of impropriety — you don't do it.” Kathleen Sebelius, the former secretary of health and human services under Obama, was cited for making a statement urging his reelection during a gala for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights group. Sebelius apologized, and the Treasury was reimbursed for the cost of the trip. “I’d prefer that it not be on my record,” Sebelius said in an interview from her home in Lawrence, Kansas. Given that she was on the Kansas ethics commission and was a national board member of Common Cause, “it’s kind of a black mark.” She added: “But I did what they say I did,” and said that “it puts into perspective what goes on every day in this current administration that just makes the top of my head come off.” Previous campaigns have reimbursed taxpayers for costs associated with politicking while on official travel. And while disclosures do show that campaign committees associated with Trump have paid $896,000 to the Treasury and the White House Military Office in May and June, federal law doesn’t require an accounting of what those expenses were for. Trump would not violate the Hatch Act if he chose the White House for his nomination acceptance speech, but executive branch employees in the White House and agencies might be in jeopardy if they support or attend the event, experts said. “There are several laws that prohibit the use of federal funds and resources for partisan political events like the president’s RNC speech,” said Donald Sherman, deputy director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. “Trump’s predecessors scrupulously avoided mixing official conduct with politics in this way, but President Trump has routinely used the apparatus of the government to try to boost his electoral prospects.”
Stay up to date with email updates about WNYC and ProPublica’s investigations into the president’s business practices. This year, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign filed defamation lawsuits against three of the country’s most prominent news outlets: The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN. Then it filed another suit against a somewhat lower-profile news organization: northern Wisconsin’s WJFW-TV, which serves the 134th-largest market in the country. The Trump campaign sued the station over what it claims is a false and defamatory ad WJFW  aired that showed Trump downplaying the threat of the coronavirus as a line tracking new COVID-19 infections ticks up and up on the screen. Dozens of stations ran the ad. But the Trump campaign chose to sue just NBC-affiliate WJFW, which is owned by a relatively small company that only has two other local TV stations, both in Bangor, Maine. The campaign did not initially sue the political organization that produced the ad. That group later joined the case as a defendant. The curious lawsuit is part of a larger, aggressive and exceedingly expensive legal operation by the Trump campaign that’s the focus of our latest “Trump, Inc.” podcast. The campaign has spent over $16 million on litigation and other legal costs — more than any past presidential campaign and more than 10 times what presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has spent on legal services, according to disclosures. Trump has long boasted about his penchant for filing lawsuits. The president and his businesses have reportedly filed over 2,000 lawsuits. After losing a 2006 defamation lawsuit against the journalist Tim O’Brien, Trump told the Post that he knew he couldn’t win, but he sued anyway. “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more,” Trump said. “I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.” As with other areas, Trump has taken his approach to running his personal life and business to the presidency. Multiple media law experts told us that the suit against tiny WJFW has little chance of succeeding. Susan Seager, a media defense lawyer and adjunct professor at The University of California, Irvine, School of Law, said, “The courts are very deferential and very protective of opinions about public figures and political issues.” So if Trump isn’t likely to win, what might he be trying to do? Matthew Sanderson, who served as counsel for Sens. John McCain and Mitt Romney, said he thinks the Trump campaign is “engaging in scare tactics.” “The reason in my opinion that the Trump campaign is filing these types of lawsuits is not necessarily to punish the Wisconsin station — they’re not going to be successful,” Sanderson said. “The reason they’re doing this is to send a message to the rest of the stations to be careful” about running anti-Trump ads. Unlike many other states, Wisconsin doesn’t have a law that makes complainants pay for defendants’ legal costs if a defamation suit ends up being dismissed as frivolous. Seager estimates that fighting a defamation lawsuit brought by a high-profile group like the Trump campaign could cost anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000, just to go through the process of getting it dismissed. We asked the Trump campaign and its lawyers about the suit and why they chose WJFW. They did not respond. The TV station commented, through a lawyer, that “WJFW has no choice but to fight the Trump campaign’s attempt to bully a small-market broadcaster into surrendering its First Amendment rights. The public counts on local broadcasters, especially in an election year, to remain free to air criticisms of public officials.” Of course, one critical difference between lawsuits Trump used to file in his business dealings and the ones his campaign is filing is that Trump no longer has to use his own money. His donors are picking up the tab. Trump’s disclosures show his campaign has paid about $200,000 to the firm handling the Wisconsin case. The campaign has also paid $3.3 million to the firm of attorney Charles Harder, who specializes in high-profile reputation defense lawsuits. Harder is representing the Trump campaign in the three other defamation suits against media organizations. Harder is perhaps best known as the lawyer who successfully sued Gawker into bankruptcy on Hulk Hogan’s behalf while being surreptitiously funded by venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Another set of expenses in the disclosures is also interesting. It shows the Trump campaign spent $95,161 on “legal & IT consulting” paid to … “The Trump Corporation.” Neither the campaign nor Trump’s company responded to questions about those charges. Contact Us 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. And finally, you can use the postal service: Trump Inc at ProPublica 155 Ave. of the Americas, 13th Floor New York, NY 10013 “Trump, Inc.” is a production of WNYC Studios and ProPublica. Support our work by visiting donate.propublica.org or by becoming a supporting member of WNYC. Subscribe here or wherever you get your podcasts.
This story was co-published with ProPublica. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations. The Supreme Court issued its highly anticipated decisions yesterday in two cases concerning oversight, presidential immunity, and the balance of powers. Both cases address whether subpoenas seeking financial information about President Donald Trump's business dealings, including his personal tax returns, can be enforced.  The court held in one case that subpoenas in a criminal investigation into Trump's business dealings by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance can be enforced. The court's decision in the second case, concerning congressional subpoenas to the president's shadowy longtime accounting firm, was more complex. That case will go back down to lower courts with a four-pronged test created by Chief Justice John Roberts that aims to preserve Congress' authority to conduct oversight while ensuring they don’t abuse those powers.  Trump, Inc. co-hosts Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz spoke with Melissa Murray, a law professor at NYU, about the decisions. Here are their takeaways: We won't see the president's tax returns before the election. Trump can still try to fight Vance’s subpoenas on more specific grounds, and at the end the documents would only go to a grand jury, not the public. And while the court upheld Congress’ right to subpoena documents from the president, there is little chance this back and forth will be settled by November. The Supreme Court's decision may not have really settled the question of congressional oversight. On one hand, the court unequivocally affirmed that the president can be investigated by Congress. At the same time, it did not spell out exactly how Congress should conduct such oversight. While Roberts' four-part test seems straightforward, it's going to involve a lot of judgment in practice. The real winner isn't President Trump or Congress. "The real winner here is Chief Justice John Roberts, who's managed to keep this court out of the political fray," said Murray. "He has effectively, with both of these decisions, steered the court through a really treacherous course that could have been a polarizing mess for the court to wade into, and he's done it in advance of what will likely be one of the most polarizing elections of the modern age." 
Trump Team Online

Trump Team Online

2020-06-2422:579

This story was co-published with ProPublica. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations. Donald Trump is famous — and infamous — for his use of Twitter and Facebook. But particularly since the pandemic forced him to largely swear off his favorite mass, in-person rallies, his campaign has been amping up the use of another form of alternative media: YouTube and podcasts. The president’s most recent sit-down interview? As it happens, it occurred last week on “Triggered,” a YouTube program hosted by his namesake son. In a conversation in the White House’s map room, Trump Jr. quizzed his dad about everything from who his favorite child is to whether aliens exist — to a Fox News report that Osama bin Laden wanted to assassinate President Barack Obama so that Joe Biden would ascend to the presidency. This was no ordinary campaign video, nor was it a random question, this week’s episode of “Trump, Inc.” makes clear. “Triggered” followed the exchange about bin Laden with a campaign ad that repeated the same point, showing how closely the program’s conversations are tied in with campaign talking points. “Trump, Inc.” explores the Trump campaign’s universe of podcasts and YouTube shows, which has expanded since the coronavirus began locking down huge swaths of the country. (The campaign did not respond to requests for comment.) Sure, every major candidate has a podcast. Hillary Clinton had one. Biden has one, though it hasn’t been updated since mid-May. But unlike those dutiful and largely ignored offerings, “Triggered” is part of a growing constellation of shows. There’s the campaign’s official podcast, hosted by Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara. (Kayleigh McEnany used to fill in occasionally as host before being promoted to White House press secretary.) And there’s “The Right View.” Just imagine “The View,” conducted entirely on Zoom, if Meghan McCain was considered too liberal to be on the panel and if no one ever disagreed. The programs have combined to create something of a Trump media network, one that takes the president’s bellicose messaging and transports it to an environment of family, friendship and banter. People are starting to pay attention. Nightly programming of the unofficial Trump Network reaches upward of a million viewers each week. It’s a realm dedicated to reinforcing even the president’s most incendiary ideas — with no pushback, skepticism or difference of opinion. To learn more about how the programs lay out their views of everything from bin Laden assassination plots to the controversy over vote by mail, listen to this week’s episode of “Trump, Inc.”  
The Watchdogs

The Watchdogs

2020-06-1042:339

This story was co-published with ProPublica. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations. When Congress was considering passing the more than $2 trillion coronavirus bailout two months ago, President Donald Trump made his vision for oversight clear. “I’ll be the oversight,” he said.  The CARES Act empowers a number of different offices to make sure the money is spent wisely and without favoritism. Shortly after he signed it into law, Trump ousted the inspector general who was slated to lead the oversight — one of five watchdogs the president has purged in less than two months.  Trump also issued a signing statement asserting that he can ignore oversight provisions of the bailout law and that Congress does not have to be consulted. “My Administration will treat this provision as hortatory but not mandatory,” he wrote.  We spoke to an official just hired to do one of the jobs Trump cited in his signing statement. She told us that Trump’s moves have made her particularly careful to avoid any “adverse” comments about the administration.  Linda Miller began work this week as the deputy executive director of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, or PRAC. Miller spent a decade at the nonpartisan, independent Government Accountability Office, where she dug into the case of a crooked Navy contractor nicknamed Fat Leonard. She said she’s learned that corruption often starts at the top.  Here is an edited transcript of our conversation with Miller. She spoke with “Trump, Inc.” co-host Ilya Marritz a few days before formally joining the PRAC. (Our episode also includes an interview with Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the bailout’s congressional watchdog.) Trump, Inc.: You warned my producer when we booked this interview that there are a lot of things that you can’t talk about or won’t talk about. Just so I know, what are those things? Linda Miller: Uh, anything that would be in any way adverse to the administration is something that I won’t be commenting on in any way. Trump, Inc.: What do you mean by “adverse to the administration”? Miller: I can’t speak negatively about the president or any of the decisions he’s made, particularly when it comes to the IG community. That’s the biggest, probably political football around my new role. The IG community is obviously under a lot of stress and scrutiny. There’s a lot of politics, and people have been asking me what it’s going to be like to go work in the inspector general community. I can speak real broadly. I just won’t say anything that’s in any way derogatory about the president because, obviously in my role, I need to stay as neutral as possible in order to basically stay in my role, frankly. Trump, Inc.: And that’s your judgment, coming into this job. Miller: Right. That’s my judgment. Trump, Inc.: I know that your career specialty is detecting risk of fraud. You did this at the Government Accountability Office. You also did it in the private sector. What are some of the frauds that you have uncovered? Miller: My specialty is less in investigating fraud and more in helping organizations prevent fraud from occurring. So, often when a big fraud event occurs, I come in afterwards and help the agency or sometimes the private-sector company think about how they were vulnerable. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the very large Navy scandal, it’s affectionately known as the “Fat Leonard” scandal. A contractor who bribed a variety of senior government officials all the way up to admirals, in order to get information that would give him a competitive advantage. That particular scandal was shocking for the scale and the scope. There were bribes involving prostitutes, and meals, and jewelry and all kinds of stuff. And I often use that fraud example when I talk about how fraud manifests itself, and especially when leadership is in any way participatory in it. And I’ve always found that interesting, that people who otherwise wouldn’t accept a bribe or participate in a collusion scheme, when they see other people doing it, and the people that they see doing it are people they respect, they tend to think it may not be so bad.   Trump, Inc.: Right. You’re saying, if people at the top or near the top do it, everyone else thinks it’s OK. Miller: Yup. Exactly. And it’s shocking how many fraud schemes are perpetrated by senior leadership of an organization. Often people below them won’t question decisions they make because they’re in charge. So they’ve got all this power and using that power, abusing that power, is a really common way that fraud shows up both in government, and in [the] private sector. Trump, Inc.: So we are talking just a few days before you start work as the deputy executive director of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, the PRAC. By the time people hear this, you will be at the PRAC already. How are you thinking about how you’re going to do that job? Miller: I'm really excited about the opportunities for this new role. I mean, the PRAC was created by the CARES Act, which is the coronavirus stimulus act. As most people know, there’s over $2.4 trillion of federal money that went out in that stimulus bill. And so there’s obviously an enormous opportunity for fraud to occur across a variety of ways, programs and benefit programs, different agencies. Trump, Inc.: So what are the main categories of fraud that you’re going to look for? Help us think about where things can go wrong. Miller: I would say No. 1 on my list of concerns is identity theft. The biggest difference between the Recovery Act back in 2009 and now is the vast number of breaches that have occurred in the last 12 years. Obviously the [Paycheck] Protection Program has gotten a lot of scrutiny, and we will be looking at a deeper dive into [it].  And then I think another big area that I envision the PRAC playing a role is building out some advanced data analytics capabilities that can look across the different government agencies and really identify patterns, trends, with the aspirational goal of essentially being able to provide indicators and red flags to agencies. Because you know, most of the IG’s world is what we call “pay and chase.” The money’s gone out, and we’re trying to go back and get it back. Trump, Inc.: Will you be looking at contracting as well? Miller: Yes, definitely. Obviously when you put this much money out, and opportunities for contractors to gain an advantage over their competitors, they start to engage in a variety of fraudulent activities, including kickbacks and bribery and collusion, and all these sorts of corruption schemes. And friendships between leadership and contracting companies way too often plays a role in who gets a contract. Trump, Inc.: At the beginning of this interview, I was actually kind of surprised you basically said, like, I cannot anger the president. So given that you have this concern about angering the president and knowing that investigations you do, or conclusions you draw, could anger the president, how do you do your job? I mean, see a lot of potential conundrums for you that you might face very, very quickly. Miller: You know, actually, I don’t think we’re going to get on the wrong side of the president here at the PRAC. I think that what we’re really trying to do is go after unscrupulous actors who may have tried to get funding they weren’t entitled to. We’re going to be looking at the bad guys outside of government. We’re going to be looking at the identity theft rings, and we’re going to be looking at the everyday bad actor who wants to cash in on a huge government program. And so we’re all on the same side here. Trump, Inc.: I understand there are things that you don’t want to say, but the president has made it pretty clear that he sees government as a tool to reward allies and punish critics and enemies. Here’s this huge pile of money that’s going out. It’s going out through executive branch agencies. One could imagine any number of scenarios where the president would be unhappy with a bright light being shined on bad things being done in those agencies or laws being broken in those agencies or rules being bent in those agencies. So if and when it comes to that moment, what are you going to do? Miller: You know, the thing I’m being hired to do, and the thing I did for 10 years at GAO: to maintain generally accepted government auditing standards. I'm a big believer in, my mom used to say, “Always keep your side of the street clean.”  Which really meant, focus on the things you can control. And for me, I’ve got a mission and I’ve got a job to do in this role. And I’m really excited and I feel a sense of responsibility. Really, truly, a sense of awesome responsibility to American citizens and American taxpayers to carry that role out. And nothing’s going to change about how I will assist and direct our organization in adhering to those standards. And I think that’s what the country was founded on. And there’s a reason that the inspectors general were created in 1978. And I think the mission is as important now, if not more than it ever has been. Contact Us 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. And finally, you can use the Postal Service: Trump Inc at ProPublica155 Ave of the Americas, 13th FloorNew York, NY 10013 “Trump, Inc.” is a production of WNYC Studios and ProPublica. Support our work by visiting donate.propublica.org or by becoming a supporting member of WNYC. Subscribe here or wherever you get your podcasts.
This story was co-published with ProPublica. Our reporting on President Trump's relationship with Deutsche Bank was originally published in May 2019. A decade ago, loan filings showed Trump Tower in New York City had a reported profit of about $13.3 million. But when the tower refinanced its debt soon after, the profits for the same year — 2010 — somehow appeared higher. A new lender listed the profits as $16.1 million, or 21% more than they had been recorded previously.   The next year’s earnings for the building also “improved” between the two filings. Profits for 2011 were listed as 12% higher under the new loan than the old, according to reports by loan servicers and data provider Trepp.  ProPublica uncovered the Trump Tower discrepancies by examining publicly available data for mortgages that are packaged into securities known as commercial mortgage-backed securities, comparing the same years in reports for different CMBS. If a bank had held onto the loan, instead of selling it to investors, such information would have been kept private. No evidence has emerged that the Trump Organization was involved in changing the profit figures. Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, said: “Not only were the numbers provided to the servicer accurate, but Trump Tower is considered one of the most underleveraged commercial buildings around.”  The discrepancies in the tower profits match a pattern described in a whistleblower complaint filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which ProPublica revealed this month. The complaint accuses commercial lenders of fraudulently inflating the income numbers underlying loans in many CMBS.  The complaint named seven servicers and 14 lenders, including two of the country’s biggest issuers of CMBS — Ladder Capital and Wells Fargo. Both were involved in the more recent Trump Tower loan, one as the lender, the second as the financial institution that packaged the loan into a CMBS. The complaint does not say which entities altered specific numbers and does not address whether borrowers were involved in, or knew about, the alleged fraud. Wells Fargo declined to comment. Ladder Capital did not respond to questions about Trump’s signature Fifth Avenue tower. Ladder did respond to questions for ProPublica’s earlier article; it acknowledged it had altered historical numbers for two other loans ProPublica asked about, to remove expenses that were not recurring in the future. The lender said its actions were appropriate. (Ladder is a publicly traded commercial real estate investment trust with more than $6 billion in assets. It employs Jack Weisselberg, the son of the Trump Organization’s longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, as an executive director whose job is to make loans. Jack Weisselberg declined to comment.) When the Trump Organization refinanced its loan for Trump Tower in 2012, it increased the size of its loan from $27.5 million to $100 million, extracting $67.9 million in cash. The interest-only loan originally represented about 8% of the more than $1 billion in mortgages assembled into the CMBS. (Only the commercial part of the tower — with retail tenants such as Gucci and offices, including for the Trump Organization — served as collateral for the loan.) For both 2010 and 2011, data shows the discrepancies in net operating income between the old and new loans for Trump Tower were largely due to the new loan reporting lower expenses. The prospectus for the more recent loan stated that “the historical expenses exclude security associated with Donald J. Trump’s personal services” — though it did not specify dollar amounts for the change. Greater revenues were cited for both years under the new loan, too, but the prospectus did not explain why. The whistleblower complaint, filed by a CMBS-industry insider named John Flynn, concerns the nearly $600  billion CMBS market. It accuses lenders and servicers of manipulating historical cash flows, failing to report misrepresentations, changing names and addresses of properties, and “deceptively and inaccurately” describing loan representations. The complaint asserts that Flynn has found overstatements in $150 billion worth of CMBS since 2013. The misrepresentations allowed properties to qualify for loans they wouldn’t have otherwise, Flynn asserts, while leaving investors in the dark. The SEC has not taken any public action in response to Flynn’s complaint; the agency declined to comment.  Altering past profits without providing an explanation is “highly questionable,” John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School and an expert in securities regulation, told ProPublica for its earlier article on CMBS. As hotels, retail and office properties face unprecedented difficulties due to the virus that has shuttered much of the country, Flynn says the manipulations have increased the likelihood and potential severity of a crash.  Last year, ProPublica revealed another set of income discrepancies at Trump Tower and other company-owned buildings, ones that seemed to hark to the testimony of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who testified that Trump would inflate income figures when seeking a loan and deflate the figures when filing taxes. Other Trump Organization properties investigated by ProPublica reported higher profits in the CMBS filings than they did in tax filings. A Trump Organization spokesperson said at the time that “comparing the various reports is comparing apples to oranges” because reporting requirements differ. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations.
This story was co-published with ProPublica. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday, via teleconference, about the power to investigate the president.   President Donald Trump has objected to subpoenas for his tax returns and other financial records. New York City prosecutors have demanded the documents as part of a criminal investigation into the president’s hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels, while the House of Representatives has been seeking to investigate the conflicts of interests of a president who still owns a sprawling business.  Trump’s lawyers have argued that a president shouldn’t be subject to investigation while in office. “We're asking for temporary presidential immunity,” attorney Jay Sekulow said. Andrea Bernstein of Trump, Inc. and NYU law professor Melissa Murray listened to the oral arguments and chatted with co-host Ilya Marritz about what struck them. A few takeaways:     • Fights between the legislative and executive branch are not normally heard in front of the Supreme Court. Congress and the White House have typically negotiated solutions to such disputes. “And the fact that we're in court is because this president hasn’t acceded to those norms,” Murray said. • A phrase that came up repeatedly: “presidential harassment.” It’s language that Trump frequently uses on Twitter and his lawyers raised in court. The assertion, Murray said, “has transformed what would be considered, I think in other times, ordinary and essential legislative oversight into what accounts to bullying, harassment and mere partisan politics.” • A number of the justices — including the liberal Stephen Breyer — expressed sympathy for the White House’s arguments against the House’s demands for documents, but they were far more skeptical about the claim that the president is immune from even criminal investigation. “The court seemed not to be amenable to that kind of argument at all,” Murray said.  The justices are expected to deliver a decision in the cases — Trump v. Mazars, Trump v. Deutsche Bank and Trump v. Vance — this summer. Related reporting:• The Accountants• Trump and Deutsche Bank: It's Complicated• How Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., Avoided A Criminal Indictment
The Accountants

The Accountants

2020-05-0638:089

On May 12, after a six-week delay caused by the pandemic, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the epic battle by congressional committees and New York prosecutors to pry loose eight years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns. Much about the case is without precedent. Oral arguments will be publicly broadcast on live audio. The nine justices and opposing lawyers will debate the issues remotely, from their offices and homes. And the central question is extraordinary: Is the president of the United States immune from congressional — and even criminal — investigation? The arguments concern whether Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, must hand over his tax returns and other records to a House committee and the Manhattan district attorney, which have separately subpoenaed them. (There will also be arguments on congressional subpoenas to two of Trump’s banks.) Trump’s accountants have been crucial enablers in his remarkable rise. And like their marquee client, they have a surprisingly colorful and tangled story of their own. It’s dramatically at odds with the image Trump has presented of his accountants as “one of the most highly respected” big firms, solemnly confirming his numbers after months of careful scrutiny. For starters, it’s only technically true to say Trump’s accounting work is handled by a large firm. In fact, Trump entrusts his taxes and planning to a tiny, secretive team of CPAs who have operated at various times from humble quarters in Queens and two Long Island office parks. That team, which has had two leaders with back-to-back multidecade terms, has been working for the Trumps since Fred Trump began using the firm back in the 1950s. It was eventually subsumed into Mazars USA, the American arm of a large international firm, through a series of mergers over decades. One theme has been consistent: partners and sometimes the firm itself have faced accusations of fraud, misconduct, and malpractice on multiple occasions, an investigation by ProPublica and WNYC has found. This story was co-published with ProPublica; visit their website to read Peter Elkind's full text story on President Trump's relationship with his accounting firm. Stay up to date with email updates about our investigations into the president’s business practices.
He Went To Jared

He Went To Jared

2020-04-2235:338

On April 2, Jared Kushner uncharacteristically took to the podium to speak at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing. He’d been given the task, he said, of assisting Vice President Mike Pence’s Coronavirus Task Force with supply chain issues. “The president,” Kushner said, “wanted us to make sure we think outside the box, make sure we’re finding all the best thinkers in the country, making sure we’re getting all the best ideas, and that we’re doing everything possible to make sure that we can keep Americans safe.” That very day, he said, President Donald Trump told him that “he was hearing from friends of his in New York that the New York public hospital system was running low on critical supply.” So Kushner called Dr. Mitchell Katz, who runs the 12-hospital system, which serves, in a normal year, over a million patients. Kushner said he’d asked Katz which supply he was most nervous about: “He told me it was the N95 masks. I asked what his daily burn was. And I basically got that number.” In a chaotic environment, the New Jersey boy turned Manhattan businessman turned senior White House adviser is using his clout to help the cities and states at the epicenter of a global pandemic get the aid they need.  Yet there’s another side to the equation. Kushner’s role is also a symptom of the dysfunction of the Trump administration, according to critics, some of whom worked in emergency management under Republican and Democratic administrations. The ad hoc nature of Kushner’s mission and its lack of transparency make it hard for people — and government agencies — to know exactly what he’s doing. So far, those officials say, there's little sign Kushner or anyone at the White House is helping New York or New Jersey with their urgent longer-term needs, particularly more testing and billions from Congress to ease the gaping holes that have emerged in local budgets.  ”If you can reach Jared, if you can applaud Jared, if you can convince him that you're the most needy, he will deliver for you,” said Juliette Kayyem, faculty chair of the homeland security project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a former assistant secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration. But his role bypasses long-held tenets of how the federal government should work in a national emergency, she said, without addressing systemic problems, much less reinventing the bureaucracy. “What's outside the box? What process is outside the box? It can't possibly be Kushner's [giving out his] cellphone number,” Kayyem said. “But that's what it appears to be.”  Read the text version of this story at ProPublica. Related episodes:• Dirt• How Trump Is Eligible For A Coronavirus Rescue• What To Look Out For
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Comments (161)

Carol Reed

I cannot get this episode to play.

Sep 26th
Reply

Nonya Bizness

'voting should be like abortion: difficult and rare.' -- all authoritarians everywhere.

Sep 24th
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David S

It's "Too Much AND Never Enough". Driving me up a wall to hear her keep saying the title incorrectly.

Aug 29th
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Kyle Reynolds

This episode is not working for me either.

Aug 21st
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Carter Waite

Episode not downloading or playing!

Aug 21st
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Logi Wan

This episode isn't working.

Aug 20th
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Joshua Davis

This reporting is excellent and is much appreciated.

Aug 17th
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Kathy Simpson

Who are is donating to him?

Jul 27th
Reply (1)

Joshua Davis

This is so good. it's like watching a trainwreck in the making in slow motion.

Jun 15th
Reply (1)

Pedro

shut up Joe you're hyper again. The Mueller investigation wasn't a hoax and Trump is a crook. Get a grip man, we did land on the Moon.

May 16th
Reply

kurt simon

How about we do a new podcast on OBAMAGATE!

May 14th
Reply

daisy

why. just why.

Apr 23rd
Reply (2)

kurt simon

I respect the effort. I see the bias. I know your agenda. You have to understand. Donald Trump is a human being that comes one in a lifetime. Do your worst. Get all the most powerful, most famous people, groups whoever, whatever to try to bring him down. The God of Israel is on his side. Remember you have been doing this even before he started his republican candidate campaign.

Apr 13th
Reply (3)

Tim Simon

he such a snake. shame so many of his followers turn a blind eye to his shenanigans

Jan 13th
Reply (1)

Bard Groupie

Fantastic journalism on the Mongolian Don Jr story. Just another reality check for anyone who is still not getting how disguisting that whole family is. They care about nothing except their own life. They don't even care about the future their children will be living in. It makes me ill as far as all the D Jr hunting stuff goes.

Dec 24th
Reply (1)

daisy

Gordon sondland is a predator. I just listened to this, why isn't this in the news more?

Dec 20th
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Rich Berry

it's great to have you back guys.

Sep 19th
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Shawn Fehr

Until it costs as much as michelle's trip to India, idgaf.

Aug 1st
Reply (3)

jersey2777

these "opportunity zones" sound just like a tax shelter, yet another for the uber rich..

Jul 21st
Reply (2)

Mel Vis

It's become increasingly difficult to listen to anything Trump, especially corruption-related stories, while Daddy T does his clown routine to keep us all distracted. Please god, make the madness stop.

Jun 19th
Reply (1)
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