In light of the upcoming second presidential debate, here are some of the most important new investigative pieces written about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- which debate moderators should read as part of their preparation. The articles examine Trump’s nearly billion dollar loss which could have allowed him to not pay federal income taxes for 18 years, potential illegalities and improprieties stemming from Trump’s use of his charitable foundation, Trump’s sexism on his TV shows and in his businesses, Trump doing business with an Iranian bank involved in terrorism, and Trump violating the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.
NY Times Reported Trump Could Have Avoided Paying Income Taxes For Nearly Two Decades
NY Times: Trump Declared Over $900 Million Loss On 1995 Tax Return, Which Could Have Allowed Him To Avoid Paying Income Tax For 18 Years. The New York Times reported that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns,” according to documents sent to the Times, which “could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.” The loss came when Trump was dealing with “mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.” From the October 1 article:
Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show.
The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.
Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump’s 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.
Although Mr. Trump’s taxable income in subsequent years is as yet unknown, a $916 million loss in 1995 would have been large enough to wipe out more than $50 million a year in taxable income over 18 years.
The $916 million loss certainly could have eliminated any federal income taxes Mr. Trump otherwise would have owed on the $50,000 to $100,000 he was paid for each episode of “The Apprentice,” or the roughly $45 million he was paid between 1995 and 2009 when he was chairman or chief executive of the publicly traded company he created to assume ownership of his troubled Atlantic City casinos. Ordinary investors in the new company, meanwhile, saw the value of their shares plunge to 17 cents from $35.50, while scores of contractors went unpaid for work on Mr. Trump’s casinos and casino bondholders received pennies on the dollar.
On Wednesday, The Times presented the tax documents to Jack Mitnick, a lawyer and certified public accountant who handled Mr. Trump’s tax matters for more than 30 years, until 1996. Mr. Mitnick was listed as the preparer on the New Jersey tax form.
Mr. Mitnick, 80, now semiretired and living in Florida, said that while he no longer had access to Mr. Trump’s original returns, the documents appeared to be authentic copies of portions of Mr. Trump’s 1995 tax returns. Mr. Mitnick said the signature on the tax preparer line of the New Jersey tax form was his, and he readily explained an obvious anomaly in the way especially large numbers appeared on the New York tax document. [The New York Times, 10/1/16]
RealClearPolitics Found Trump Used His Charity To Help His Presidential Aspirations In Potential Violation Of Law
RealClearPolitics: Trump May Have Illegally “Used His Private Foundation, Funded By Outside Donors, To Launch And Fuel His Political Ambitions.” RealClearPolitics’ Rebecca Berg reported that Trump used the Donald J. Trump Foundation “to send at least $286,000 to influential conservative or policy groups” between 2011 and 2014, likely as “part of a deliberate effort by Trump to ingratiate himself with influential conservatives and brighten his political prospects.” The donations, wrote Berg, that “granted Trump plum speaking slots or otherwise promoted his political aspirations,” “might run afoul of self-dealing rules for private foundations, which prohibit a foundation’s leadership from using donor money for its own gain.” From the October 4 article:
That check is one of at least several donations to suggest Trump used his private foundation, funded by outside donors, to launch and fuel his political ambitions. Such contributions, if they were made solely for Trump’s benefit, could violate federal self-dealing laws for private foundations.
From 2011 through 2014, Trump harnessed his eponymous foundation to send at least $286,000 to influential conservative or policy groups, a RealClearPolitics review of the foundation’s tax filings found. In many cases, this flow of money corresponded to prime speaking slots or endorsements that aided Trump as he sought to recast himself as a plausible Republican candidate for president.
Although sources familiar with the thinking behind the donations cautioned that Trump did not explicitly ask for favors in return for the money, they said the contributions were part of a deliberate effort by Trump to ingratiate himself with influential conservatives and brighten his political prospects.
“He was politically active starting in 2011,” said one source with ties to Trump, and at that point he “started to make strategic donations.”
The lion’s share of those donations came from Trump’s personal funds and went straight to political campaigns or parties. But others, in particular those directed to the nonprofit arms of conservative policy groups, originated with Trump’s foundation.
But Trump has not donated to the foundation that bears his name since 2008, CNN reported last month, which means other donors bore the cost of his giving.
The donations to groups that granted Trump plum speaking slots or otherwise promoted his political aspirations also might run afoul of self-dealing rules for private foundations, which prohibit a foundation’s leadership from using donor money for its own gain.
In 2013, Trump took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, outside of Washington, D.C., where he touted his business record, railed against President Obama’s policies, and declared: “We have to make America great again.”
That same year, Trump used his foundation to donate $50,000 to the American Conservative Union Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the group that organizes CPAC and sets its program. He did not ask for a speaking slot in return, but he did not need to.
“Everyone’s too smart to say, ‘Donate and we’ll let you speak,’” said one source familiar with the donation. “It was kind of understood.” [RealClearPolitics, 10/4/16]
WSJ Found Trump Donated To Attorneys General Who Could Have Impact On His Businesses
WSJ: Trump Donated To State Attorneys General Who Reviewed His Business Dealings. The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump has “throughout his career given campaign contributions to state attorneys general while they weighed decisions affecting his business.” Trump, added the Journal, has often donated “when Mr. Trump’s companies had decisions pending in these offices.” From the October 5 article:
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has throughout his career given campaign contributions to state attorneys general while they weighed decisions affecting his business, a review of his political donations shows.
The issue recently surfaced during a controversy over his 2013 campaign contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was reviewing a fraud case against Trump University.
Records show Mr. Trump, his family and associates donated in particular to attorneys general in New York, from Robert Abrams in the 1980s through incumbent Eric Schneiderman. The money was given often when Mr. Trump’s companies had decisions pending in these offices. Attorneys general are law-enforcement officials with significant oversight of business practices in their states.
Mr. Trump has been open about his motives. “As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” he told The Wall Street Journal in July 2015 in discussing donations to Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. “As a businessman, I need that.”
In total, Mr. Trump has given about $140,000 to a dozen people who either were state attorneys general or running for the post from 2001 to 2014, according to donation records. Some of the recipients returned the contributions. Totals before 2001 weren’t available.
Mr. Trump’s donations stretch back decades. Following a breakfast meeting with New York’s then-Attorney General Mr. Abrams in 1985, Mr. Trump pledged to contribute $15,000. At the time, Mr. Trump had three apartment-conversion proposals, which required permission from Mr. Abrams’s office, according to a 1989 report by the New York State Commission on Government Integrity. [The Wall Street Journal, 10/5/16]
Associated Press Investigated Trump’s Sexism On The Apprentice
Associated Press: Trump Was Lewd And Sexist During Filming Of The Apprentice. The Associated Press interviewed several contestants and crew members on Trump’s NBC show The Apprentice and found that Trump “repeatedly demeaned women with sexist language,” including “rat[ing] female contestants by the size of their breasts and talk[ing] about which ones he'd like to have sex with.” Crew members told the AP that Trump “repeatedly made lewd comments about a camerawoman he said had a nice rear, comparing her beauty to that of his daughter, Ivanka,” and that Trump “had one female contestant twirl before him so he could ogle her figure.” From the October 3 article:
In his years as a reality TV boss on “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump repeatedly demeaned women with sexist language, according to show insiders who said he rated female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about which ones he'd like to have sex with.
The Associated Press interviewed more than 20 people — former crew members, editors and contestants — who described crass behavior by Trump behind the scenes of the long-running hit show, in which aspiring capitalists were given tasks to perform as they competed for jobs working for him.
The staffers and contestants agreed to recount their experiences as Trump's behavior toward women has become a core issue in the presidential campaign. Interviewed separately, they gave concurring accounts of inappropriate conduct on the set.
Eight former crew members recalled that he repeatedly made lewd comments about a camerawoman he said had a nice rear, comparing her beauty to that of his daughter, Ivanka.
During one season, Trump called for female contestants to wear shorter dresses that also showed more cleavage, according to contestant Gene Folkes. Several cast members said Trump had one female contestant twirl before him so he could ogle her figure.
In portions of boardroom sessions never broadcast, Trump frequently would ask male contestants to rate the attractiveness of their female competitors, former crew members and contestants said.
Eight former crew members said Trump took a fancy to a particular female camera operator, and frequently gave her attention that made many on the set feel uncomfortable. Two former crew members said the woman made it clear to them privately that she did not like Trump's comments. [The Associated Press, 10/3/16]
Investigative Journalists Found Trump Did Business With An Iranian Bank Linked To Terrorism
Investigative Journalism Organizations: Trump Rented Office Space To Iranian Bank Linked To Terrorism. The Investigative Consortium Of Investigative Journalists, working with the Center for Public Integrity, reported that Trump’s real estate organization “rented New York office space from 1998 to 2003 to an Iranian bank that U.S. authorities have linked to terrorist groups and Iran’s nuclear program.” That bank, Bank Melli, was state-owned by Iran and was suspected to have “been used between 2002 and 2006 to funnel money to a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that has sponsored terrorist attacks.” The bank was in a building owned by Trump “from July 1998 until September 2003.” From the October 3 article:
Donald Trump’s real estate organization rented New York office space from 1998 to 2003 to an Iranian bank that U.S. authorities have linked to terrorist groups and Iran’s nuclear program.
Trump inherited Bank Melli, one of Iran’s largest state-controlled banks, as a tenant when he purchased the General Motors Building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, according to public records reviewed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Center for Public Integrity. The Trump Organization kept the bank on as a tenant for four more years after the U.S. Treasury Department designated Bank Melli in 1999 as being controlled by the Iranian government.
U.S. officials later alleged that Bank Melli had been used to obtain sensitive materials for Iran’s nuclear program. U.S. authorities also alleged that the bank had been used between 2002 and 2006 to funnel money to a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that has sponsored terrorist attacks — a period that overlapped with the time the bank rented office space from Trump.
Bank Melli’s office in the GM Building was listed by the Treasury Department among financial institutions “owned or controlled” by the Iranian government and subject to U.S. economic sanctions, according to the Code of Federal Regulations from the years 1999 through 2003. Trump owned the GM Building from July 1998 until September 2003, New York City property records show. [Investigative Consortium Of Investigative Journalists, 10/3/16]
Newsweek Reported That Trump’s Company Violated The U.S. Embargo Against Cuba
Newsweek: Trump Company Coordinated Business In Cuba In Violation Of U.S. Embargo. Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald reported that one of Trump’s companies in 1998 “secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal.” Trump’s business, wrote Eichenwald, “funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp,” and the firm “instructed senior officers with Trump’s company … how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.” The piece also quoted a former Trump official admitting no government permit for the transaction was ever sought. From the September 29 article:
A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.
Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.
At the time, Americans traveling to Cuba had to receive specific U.S. government permission, which was granted only for an extremely limited number of purposes, such as humanitarian efforts. Neither an American nor a company based in the United States could spend any cash in Cuba; instead, a foreign charity or similar sponsoring entity needed to pay all expenses, including travel. Without obtaining a license from the federal Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before the consultants went to Cuba, the undertaking by Trump Hotels would have been in violation of federal law, trade experts say.
A former Trump executive who spoke on condition of anonymity says the company did not obtain a government license prior to the trip. Internal documents show that executives involved in the Cuba project were still discussing the need for federal approval after the trip had taken place.
OFAC officials say there is no record that the agency granted any such license to the companies or individuals involved, although they cautioned that some documents from that time have been destroyed. Yet one OFAC official, who agreed to discuss approval procedures if granted anonymity, says the probability that the office would grant a license for work on behalf of an American casino is “essentially zero.” [Newsweek, 9/29/16]
LA Times Reported Trump Wanted Women He Thought Were Less Attractive Fired From His Golf Course
LA Times: Trump “Pressured Subordinates” At His Golf Club To Fire Employees Whose Looks He Didn’t Like. The Los Angeles Times, speaking with former employees at Trump’s golf club in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, reported that Trump “pressured subordinates … to create and enforce a culture of beauty, where female employees’ appearances were prized over their skills.” Club managers, wrote the Times, “went on alert” when Trump was there because “when Trump saw less-attractive women working at his club, according to court records, he wanted them fired.” From the September 29 article:
Donald Trump wanted only the pretty ones, his employees said.
After the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes opened for play in 2005, its world-famous owner didn’t stop by more than a few times a year to visit the course hugging the coast of the Pacific.
When Trump did visit, the club’s managers went on alert. They scheduled the young, thin, pretty women on staff to work the clubhouse restaurant — because when Trump saw less-attractive women working at his club, according to court records, he wanted them fired.
"I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were 'not pretty enough' and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women,” Hayley Strozier, who was director of catering at the club until 2008, said in a sworn declaration.
A similar story is told by former Trump employees in court documents filed in 2012 in a broad labor relations lawsuit brought against one of Trump’s development companies in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The employees’ declarations in support of the lawsuit, which have not been reported in detail until now, show the extent to which they believed Trump, now the Republican presidential nominee, pressured subordinates at one of his businesses to create and enforce a culture of beauty, where female employees’ appearances were prized over their skills.
Employees said in their declarations that the apparent preference for attractive women came from the top.
“Donald Trump always wanted good looking women working at the club,” said Sue Kwiatkowski, a restaurant manager at the club until 2009, in a declaration. "I know this because one time he took me aside and said, ‘I want you to get some good looking hostesses here. People like to see good looking people when they come in.’ ”
As part of the lawsuit over a lack of meal and rest breaks at Trump’s golf club about 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles — his largest real estate holding in Southern California — several employees said managers staffed Trump’s clubhouse restaurant with attractive young women rather than more experienced employees in order to please Trump. [Los Angeles Times, 9/29/16]