Created with Sketch.
51 minutes | 3 months ago
And Now, The End Is Near
This story was co-published with ProPublica. A birth certificate, a bar receipt, a newspaper ad, a board game, a Ziploc bag of shredded paper, a pair of museum tickets, some checks, and a USB drive. The series finale of Trump, Inc. This episode was reported by Andrea Bernstein, Meg Cramer, Anjali Kamat, Ilya Marritz, Katherine Sullivan, Eric Umansky, and Heather Vogell. We assembled our time capsule at Donald J. Trump State Park; it will be stored until 2031 with WNYC's archives department. This is the last episode of Trump, Inc. But it's not the end of our reporting: subscribe to our newsletter for updates on what we're doing next. Show your support with a donation to New York Public Radio.
38 minutes | 3 months ago
Nobody Wants To Work With The Trumps Anymore
In the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and an unprecedented second impeachment, a growing number of businesses, governments, and financial institutions are severing ties with President Trump. David Fahrenthold is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who covers the Trump family and its business interests for The Washington Post. Zach Everson reports on who patronizes the Trump family businesses for the newsletter 1100 Pennsylvania. Next week's Trump, Inc. will be the final episode of the series. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates on what we're doing next. Show your support with a donation to New York Public Radio.
34 minutes | 4 months ago
Donald Trump's Legal Hangover
Donald Trump's presidency is coming to end, but there are ongoing legal investigations that will be following him out of the White House. We examine two of the pending probes into potential wrongdoing by Trump and Trump Organization. One, led by Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine for potential civil violations, the other by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance into possible criminal activity. We speak with AG Racine about his pending legal action.
19 minutes | 5 months ago
This story was co-published with ProPublica. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations. Six days after President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified food safety groups that it was proposing a regulatory change to speed up chicken factory processing lines, a change that would allow companies to sell more birds. An earlier USDA effort had broken down on concerns that it could lead to more worker injuries and make it harder to stop germs like salmonella. Ordinarily, a change like this would take about two years to go through the cumbersome legal process of making new federal regulations. But the timing has alarmed food and worker safety advocates, who suspect the Trump administration wants to rush through this rule in its waning days. Even as Trump and his allies officially refuse to concede the Nov. 3 election, the White House and federal agencies are hurrying to finish dozens of regulatory changes before Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. The rules range from long-simmering administration priorities to last-minute scrambles and affect everything from creature comforts like showerheads and clothes washers to life-or-death issues like federal executions and international refugees. They impact everyone from the most powerful, such as oil drillers, drugmakers and tech startups, to the most vulnerable, such as families on food stamps, transgender people in homeless shelters, migrant workers and endangered species. ProPublica is tracking those regulations as they move through the rule-making process. Every administration does some version of last-minute rule-making, known as midnight regulations, especially with a change in parties. It’s too soon to say how the Trump administration’s tally will stack up against predecessors. But these final weeks are solidifying conservative policy objectives that will make it harder for the Biden administration to advance its own agenda, according to people who track rules developed by federal agencies. “The bottom line is the Trump administration is trying to get things published in the Federal Register, leaving the next administration to sort out the mess,” said Matthew Kent, who tracks regulatory policy for left-leaning advocacy group Public Citizen. “There are some real roadblocks to Biden being able to wave a magic wand on these.” In some instances the Trump administration is using shortcuts to get more rules across the finish line, such as taking less time to accept and review public feedback. It’s a risky move. On the one hand, officials want to finalize rules so that the next administration won’t be able to change them without going through the process all over again. On the other, slapdash rules may contain errors, making them more vulnerable to getting struck down in court. The Trump administration is on pace to finalize 36 major rules in its final three months, similar to the 35 to 40 notched by the previous four presidents, according to Daniel Perez, a policy analyst at the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center. In 2017, Republican lawmakers struck down more than a dozen Obama-era rules using a fast-track mechanism called the Congressional Review Act. That weapon may be less available for Democrats to overturn Trump’s midnight regulations if Republicans keep control of the Senate, which will be determined by two Georgia runoffs. Still, a few GOP defections could be enough to kill a rule with a simple majority. “This White House is not likely to be stopping things and saying on principle elections have consequences, let’s respect the voters’ decision and not rush things through to tie the next guys’ hands,” said Susan Dudley, who led the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget at the end of the George W. Bush administration. “One concern is the rules are rushed so they didn’t have adequate analysis or public comment, and that’s what we’re seeing.” The Trump White House didn’t respond to requests for comment on which regulations it’s aiming to finish before Biden’s inauguration. The Biden transition team also didn’t respond to questions about which of Trump’s parting salvos the new president would prioritize undoing. Many of the last-minute changes would add to the heap of changes throughout the Trump administration to pare back Obama-era rules and loosen environmental and consumer protections, all in the name of shrinking the government’s role in the economy. “Our proposal today greatly furthers the Trump administration’s regulatory reform efforts, which together have already amounted to the most aggressive effort to reform federal regulations of any administration,” Brian Harrison, the chief of staff for the Department of Health and Human Services, said on a conference call with reporters the day after the election. Harrison was unveiling a new proposal to automatically purge regulations that are more than 10 years old unless the agency decides to keep them. For that proposal to become finalized before Jan. 20 would be an exceptionally fast turnaround. But Harrison left no doubt about that goal. “The reason we're doing this now is because,” he said, “we at the department are trying to go as fast as we can in hopes of finalizing the rule before the end of the first term.” Read Isaac Arnsdorf's full print story at ProPublica. Track more of the Trump administration's midnight regulations here.
33 minutes | 5 months ago
As the Trump campaign wages a haphazard legal campaign against the rightful outcome of the 2020 election, the Trump administration is working to remake the federal bureaucracy. • Adam Klasfeld is a senior investigative reporter and editor for Law & Crime.• Denise Turner Roth, an Obama appointee, served as administrator of the Government Services Administration from 2015 to 2017.• Robert Shea was associate director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush.• Ronald Sanders, who until last month was chairman of the Federal Salary Council, resigned over an executive order he warned would politicize much of the federal workforce. (Read his letter of resignation here.) Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations.
39 minutes | 6 months ago
Radiolab: What If?
We're all wondering how the 2020 election will pan out. Our colleagues at Radiolab went looking for answers. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte (who's now a producer at the Gimlet podcast Resistance), with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. You can read The Transition Integrity Project’s report here. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations.
37 minutes | 6 months ago
Go to New York Magazine to read our list of insiders who profited off the Trump presidency. On April 30, 2018, nine top executives from T-Mobile checked in to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., with their names on a list of VIP arrivals. They landed in Washington at a critical moment: Just the day before, T-Mobile had announced plans for a merger with Sprint. To complete the deal, the company needed approval from the Justice Department, one block away on Pennsylvania Avenue. Hanging out in the lobby in his trademark hot-pink-and-black T-Mobile hoodie, then CEO John Legere was instantly recognizable to hotel guests. His company wasn’t just patronizing the president’s hotel. It was advertising that it was doing so. That evening, in a closed-door suite just off the hotel lobby, a small group of political donors got to have dinner with the president of the United States. The guests included a steel magnate, who complained to the president about rules limiting the number of hours a trucker could be on the road, and a property developer, who suggested holding the next summit with Kim Jong-un at a site he had built near Seoul. Also in the mix were two then-obscure businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. They had secured an invite to the dinner after promising a $325,000 donation to a Trump-aligned super-PAC. Like the other guests, they came with an agenda. Parnas and Fruman wanted to build an energy business in Ukraine but felt the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, stood in their way. Parnas fed the president a fabrication that was sure to get his attention: that Yovanovitch was an anti-Trumper. “She’s basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s going to get impeached,’ ” Parnas told the president. Trump was enraged. Parnas and Fruman and the T-Mobile executives were pulling the same lever that night. And they all got results. T-Mobile’s merger was later approved, and Ambassador Yovanovitch was abruptly removed from the U.S. Embassy in Kiev. Later, Parnas and Fruman were indicted on a -campaign-finance-violations charge (they had concealed the origins of their super-PAC donation) and were arrested with one-way tickets to Vienna in hand. (They have pleaded not guilty and face trial in 2021.) Trump claimed he did not know them. This is the Washington Trump has built these past four years, where people who patronize Trump businesses can expect preferential treatment, where a deputy secretary can oversee a bailout that benefits his family’s company, where administration officials fly in private jets paid for by the public — and where top government officials don’t bother to divest from industries whose policies they oversee. It started at the top, of course. Just nine days before his inauguration, Trump held his first news conference as president-elect. Presiding over a table with towering stacks of folders, Trump’s lawyer suggested there would be a “wall” between Trump’s business and his presidency, even though Trump himself made it quite clear that he would not be divesting. “I have a no-conflict situation because I’m president,” Trump said. “I could run the Trump Organization, great, great company, and I could run the company — the country,” he added. “I’d do a very, very good job, but I don’t want to do that.” Trump never separated himself from his company in any meaningful way. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, also didn’t fully divest from their business interests. The couple made tens of millions of dollars from an array of limited-liability companies while also serving in the White House. Trump’s Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, pledged to Congress that he would largely sell off his assets, then took dozens of meetings with executives to whose companies he had personal financial ties. Others did divest, but then proceeded to use their agency budgets as their personal piggy banks. Friends, donors, and hangers-on also thrived. Top GOP financier Elliott Broidy leveraged his fundraising into access, including a meeting in the Oval Office. Broidy attempted to use that access as a calling card with foreign officials from whom he sought security contracts. Like several other beneficiaries of Trump’s generosity, Broidy eventually found himself in legal trouble, pleading guilty to violating foreign-lobbying laws on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese clients. But many Trump affiliates benefited in ways that are perfectly legal. Attorney William S. Consovoy, who argued before an appeals court last fall that Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and be shielded from all consequences (the judges were unpersuaded), brought in $2 million from the RNC and Trump-campaign committees. Others sought the ultimate benefit: freedom. Roger Stone, who would not turn on Trump despite the threat of jail time, was one of many Trump loyalists and allies to receive clemency from the president. To be sure, a lot of people found ways to benefit from Trump’s time in office: journalists, progressive nonprofits, high earners — Trump donors or not. But Trump profiteers went far beyond what used to count as standard-issue Washington swampiness. New York partnered with WNYC’s Trump, Inc. podcast to identify 51 such insiders, whose unprecedented ability to gain from the Trump presidency will go down in history. Their schemes became ever more brazen these past four years, even as their goals shifted. The initial grifts tended to be strictly transactional on the model of the Trump Organization itself, through which the Trump name could be had by nearly anyone for the right price. Later on, not just money but power became the president’s currency. The quids became subtler: shielding Trump from legal consequences, investigating a political opponent, providing an intellectual rationale for understanding the presidency as Trump sees it — not as a civic duty but as a business. Read our full list of 51 Trump insiders (from Sheldon Adelson to Ryan Zinke) at New York Magazine. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations.
29 minutes | 6 months ago
Who Matters In America
Trump, Inc. co-host Andrea Bernstein sits down with Kai Wright, host of The United States of Anxiety, to discuss how American history informs the 2020 election. The conversation, called "Who Matters in America 2020?," was part of Reporter's Notebook series at The Greene Space. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations.
46 minutes | 6 months ago
Trump, Mnuchin, And The 2017 Tax Overhaul
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.
30 minutes | 6 months ago
Why We Still Don't Know The Truth About Russia
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.
30 minutes | 7 months ago
The Kushners’ Freddie Mac Loan Wasn’t Just Massive. It Came With Unusually Good Terms, Too.
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)
23 minutes | 7 months ago
Trump's Taxes, Finally
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
32 minutes | 7 months ago
Block The Vote
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.
29 minutes | 7 months ago
The Empty Office at 555 California St.
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.
50 minutes | 7 months ago
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.
35 minutes | 7 months ago
The Perry Deals
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.”
26 minutes | 8 months ago
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.
31 minutes | 8 months ago
The Russia Report
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.
41 minutes | 8 months ago
The Diplomat, The Machers, And The Oligarch (rerun)
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.
33 minutes | 8 months ago
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.”
Terms of Service
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
© Stitcher 2021