The Donald in Wonderland

One question as we head to the November midterm elections, a referendum on the president, is: Could Donald Trump be a one-man version of either Enron or Lehman Brothers, someone who cooked “the books” until he implodes? asks Nomi Prins.

By Nomi Prins
TomDispatch

Once upon a time, there was a little-known energy company called Enron. In its 16-year life, it went from being dubbed America’s most innovative company by Fortune Magazine to being the poster child of American corporate deceit. Using a classic recipe for book-cooking, Enron ended up in bankruptcy with jail time for those involved. Its shareholders lost $74 billion in the four years leading up to its bankruptcy in 2001.

A decade ago, the flameout of my former employer, Lehman Brothers, the global financial firm, proved far more devastating, contributing as it did to a series of events that ignited a global financial meltdown. Americans lost an estimated $12.8 trillion in the havoc.

Despite the differing scales of those disasters, there was a common thread: both companies used financial tricks to make themselves appear so much healthier than they actually were. They both faked the numbers, thanks to off-the-books or offshore mechanisms and eluded investigations… until they collapsed.

Now, here’s a question for you as we head for the November midterm elections, sure to be seen as a referendum on the president: Could Donald Trump be a one-man version of either Enron or Lehman Brothers, someone who cooked “the books” until he implodes?

Since we’ve never seen his tax returns, right now we really don’t know. What we do know is that he’s been dodging bullets ever since the Justice Department accused him of violating the Fair Housing Act in his operation of 39 buildings in New York City in 1973. Unlike famed 1920s mob boss Al Capone, he may never get done in by something as simple as tax evasion, but time will tell.

Rest assured of one thing though: he won’t go down easily, even if he is already the subject of multiple investigations and a plethora of legal slings and arrows. Of course, his methods should be familiar. As President Calvin Coolidge so famously put it, “the business of America is business.” And the business of business is to circumvent or avoid the heat… until it can’t.

The Safe

So far, Treasury Secretary and former Trump national campaign finance chairman Steven Mnuchin has remained out of the legal fray that’s sweeping away some of his fellow campaign associates. Certainly, he and his wife have grandiose tastes. And, yes, his claim that his hedge fund, Dune Capital Management, used offshore tax havens only for his clients, not to help him evade taxes himself, represents a stretch of the imagination. Other than that, however, there seems little else to investigate — for now. Still, as Treasury secretary he does oversee a federal agency that means the world to Donald Trump, namely the Internal Revenue Service, which just happens to be located across a courtyard from the Trump International Hotel on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue.

As it happens, the IRS in the Trump era still doesn’t have a commissioner, only an acting head. What it may have, National Enquirer-style, is genuine presidential secrets in the form of Donald Trump’s elusive tax returns. Last fall, outgoing IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said that there were plans to relocate them to a shiny new safe where they would evidently remain.

In 2016, Trump became the first candidate since President Richard Nixon not to disclose his tax returns. During the campaign, he insisted that those returns were undergoing an IRS audit and that he would not release them until it was completed. (No one at the IRS has ever confirmed that being audited in any way prohibits the release of tax information.) The president’s pledge to do so remains unfulfilled and last year counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway noted that the White House was “not going to release his tax returns,” adding — undoubtedly thinking about his base — “people didn’t care.”

On April 17, the White House announced that the president would defer even filing his 2017 tax returns until this October. As every president since Nixon has undergone a mandatory audit while in office, count on American taxpayers hearing the same excuse for the rest of his term, even if Congress were to decide to invoke a 1924 IRS provision to view them.

Conway: The people don’t care.

Still, Conway may have a point when it comes to the public. After all, tax dodging is as American as fireworks on the Fourth of July. According to one study, every year the U.S. loses $400 billion in unpaid taxes, much of it hidden in offshore tax havens.

Yet the financial disclosures that The Donald did make during election campaign 2016 indicate that there are more than 500 companies in over two dozen countries, mostly with few to no employees or real offices, that feature him as their “president.” Let’s face it, someone like Trump would only create a business universe of such Wall Street-esque complexity if he wanted to hide something. He was likely trying to evade taxes, shield himself and his family from financial accountability, or hide the dubious health of parts of his business empire. As a colleague of mine at Bear Stearns once put it, when tax-haven companies pile up like dirty laundry, there’s a high likelihood that their uses aren’t completely clean.

Now, let’s consider what we know of Donald Trump’s financial adventures, taxes and all. It’s quite a story and, even though it already feels like forever, it’s only beginning to be told.

The Trump Organization

Atop the non-White House branch of the Trump dynasty is the Trump Organization. To comply with federal conflict-of-interest requirements, The Donald officially turned over that company’s reins to his sons, Eric and Donald Jr. For all the obvious reasons, he was supposed to distance himself from his global business while running the country.

Only that didn’t happen and not just because every diplomat and lobbyist in town started to frequent his money-making new hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, according to The New York Times, the Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pressing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two of its senior officials because the president’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid off an adult film actress and a former Playboy model to keep their carnal knowledge to themselves before the election.

Though Cohen effectively gave Stormy Daniels $130,000 and Karen McDougal $150,000 to keep them quiet, the Trump Organization then paid Cohen even more, $420,000, funds it didn’t categorize as a reimbursement for expenses, but as a “retainer.” In its internal paperwork, it then termed that sum as “legal expenses.”

The D.A.’s office is evidently focusing its investigation on how the Trump Organization classified that payment of $420,000, in part for the funds Cohen raised from the equity in his home to calm the Stormy (so to speak). Most people take out home equity loans to build a garage or pay down some debt. Not Cohen. It’s a situation that could become far thornier for Trump. As Cohen already knew, Trump couldn’t possibly wield his pardon power to absolve his former lawyer, since it only applies to those convicted of federal charges, not state ones.

And that’s bad news for the president. As Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, put it, “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

Cohen: Strange home loan.

The bigger question is: What else is there? Those two payoffs may, after all, just represent the beginning of the woes facing both the Trump Organization and the Trump Foundation, which has been the umbrella outfit for businesses that have incurred charges of lobbying violations (not disclosing payment to a local newspaper to promote favorable casino legislation) and gaming law violations. His organization has also been accused of misleading investors, engaging in currency-transaction-reporting crimes, and improperly accounting for money used to buy betting chips, among a myriad of other transgressions. To speculate on overarching corporate fraud would not exactly be a stretch.

Unlike his casinos, the Trump Organization has not (yet) gone bankrupt, nor — were it to do so — is it in a class with Enron or Lehman Brothers. Yet it does have something in common with both of them: piles of money secreted in places designed to hide its origins, uses, and possibly end-users. The question some authority may pursue someday is: If Donald Trump was willing to be a part of a scheme to hide money paid to former lovers, wouldn’t he do the same for his businesses?

The Trump Foundation

Questions about Trump’s charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, have abounded since campaign 2016. They prompted New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood to file a lawsuit on June 14 against the foundation, also naming its board of directors, including his sons and his daughter Ivanka. It cites “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct… occurring over more than a decade, that includes extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations.”

As The New York Times reported, “The lawsuit accused the charity and members of Mr. Trump’s family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing, and illegal coordination with Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.” It also alleged that for four years — 2007, 2012, 2013, and 2014 — Trump himself placed his John Hancock below incorrect statements on the foundation’s tax returns.

The main issue in question: Did the Trump Foundation use any of its funds to benefit The Donald or any of his businesses directly? Underwood thinks so. As she pointed out, it “was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality.” Otherwise it seems to have employed no one and, according to the lawsuit, its board of directors has not met since 1999.

Because Trump ran all of his enterprises, he was also personally responsible for signing their tax returns. His charitable foundation was no exception. Were he found to have knowingly provided false information on its tax returns, he could someday face perjury charges.

On August 31, the foundation’s lawyers fought back, filing papers of their own, calling the lawsuit, as The New York Times put it, “a political attack motivated by the former attorney general’s ‘record of antipathy’ against Mr. Trump.” They were referring to Eric Schneiderman, who had actually resigned the previous May — consider this an irony under the circumstances — after being accused of sexual assault by former girlfriends.

The New York state court system has, in fact, emerged as a vital force in the pushback against the president and his financial shenanigans. As Zephyr Teachout, recent Democratic candidate for New York attorney general, pointed out, it is “one of the most important legal offices in the entire country to both resist and present an alternative to what is happening at the federal level.” And indeed it had begun fulfilling that responsibility with The Donald long before the Mueller investigation was even launched.

In 2013, Schneiderman filed a civil suit against Trump University, calling it a sham institution that engaged in repeated fraudulent behavior. In 2016, Trump finally settled that case in court, agreeing to a $25 million payment to its former students — something that (though we don’t, of course, have the tax returns to confirm this) probably also proved to be a tax write-off for him.

These days, the New York attorney general’s office could essentially create a branch only for matters Trumpian. So far, it has brought more than 100 legal or administrative actions against the president and congressional Republicans since he took office.

The $20,000 Trump view of himself.

Still, don’t sell the foundation short. It did, in the end, find a way to work for the greater good — of Donald Trump. He and his wife, Melania, for instance, used the “charity” to purchase a now infamous six-foot portrait of himself for $20,000 — and true to form, according to The Washington Post, even that purchase could turn out to be a tax violation. Such “self-dealing” is considered illegal. Of course, we’re talking about someone who “used $258,000 from the foundation to pay off legal settlements that involved his for-profit businesses.” That seems like the definition of self-dealing.

The Trump Team

The president swears that he has an uncanny ability to size someone up in a few seconds, based on attitude, confidence, and a handshake — that, in other words, just as there’s the art of the deal, so, too, there’s the art of choosing those who will represent him, stand by him, and take bullets for him, his White House, and his business enterprises. And for a while, he did indeed seem to be a champion when it came to surrounding himself with people who had a special knack for hiding money, tax documents, and secret payoffs from public view.

These days — think of them as the era of attrition for Donald Trump — that landscape looks a lot emptier and less inviting.

On August 21, his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was convicted in Virginia of “five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account.” (On September 14th, he would make a deal with Robert Mueller and plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy.)  On that same August day, Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, also pled guilty to eight different federal crimes in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, including — yep — tax evasion.

Three days later, prosecutors in the Cohen investigation granted immunity to the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. A loyal employee of the Trump family for more than four decades, he had also served as treasurer for the Donald J. Trump Foundation. If anyone other than the president and his children knows the financial and tax secrets of the Trump empire, it’s him. And now, he may be ready to talk. Lurking in his future testimony could be yet another catalyst in a coming Trump tax debacle.

And don’t forget David Pecker, CEO of American Media, the company that publishes the National Enquirer. Pecker bought and buried stories for The Donald for what seems like forever. He, too, now has an immunity deal in the federal investigation of Cohen (and so Trump), evidently in return for providing information on the president’s hush-money deals to bury various exploits that he came to find unpalatable.

The question is this: Did Trump know of Cohen’s hush-money payments? Cohen has certainly indicated that he did and Pecker seems to have told federal prosecutors a similar story. As Cohen said in court of Pecker, “I and the CEO of a media company, at the request of the candidate, worked together” to keep the public in the dark about such payments and Trump’s involvement in them.

The president’s former lawyer faces up to 65 years in prison. That’s enough time to make him consider what other tales he might be able to tell in return for a lighter sentence, including possibly exposing various tax avoidance techniques he and his former client cooked up.

And don’t think that Cohen, Pecker, and Weisselberg are going to be the last figures to come forward with such stories as the Trump team begins to come unglued.

In the cases of Enron and Lehman Brothers, both companies unraveled after multiple shell games imploded. Enron’s losses were being hidden in multiple offshore entities. In the case of Lehman Brothers, staggeringly over-valued assets were being pledged to borrow yet more money to buy similar assets. In both cases, rigged games were being played in the shadows, while vital information went undisclosed to the public — until it was way too late.

Donald Trump’s equivalent shell games still largely remain to be revealed. They may simply involve hiding money trails to evade taxes or to secretly buy political power and business influence. There is, as yet, no way of knowing. One thing is clear, however: the only way to begin to get answers is to see the president’s tax returns, audited or not. Isn’t it time to open that safe?

This article originally appeared on TomDispatch. 

Nomi Prins is a TomDispatch regular. Her latest book is Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (Nation Books). Of her six other books, the most recent is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power. She is a former Wall Street executive. Special thanks go to researcher Craig Wilson for his superb work on this piece.

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54 comments for “The Donald in Wonderland

  1. R Davis
    September 29, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    “every year the US loses $400 billion in unpaid taxes”

    In Australia My Aged Care has been outsourced.
    Yes, that’s correct – the public servants have been replaced with CORPORATE go get um’s
    I am respite approved – I have an AC number & a referral code 1- number – it should have been as easy as pie.
    The Brotherhood of St Laurence person in charge of approving my application for respite – told me over several phone calls – that
    1. I was not registered with My Aged Care
    2. that my AC number was incorrect
    3. that my referral code 1- number was incorrect
    4. that the My Aged Care website was a shambles – that it had more tits than a bull
    & on it went ….
    Each time I rang My Aged Care to report my dilemma … there is nothing like the professional gusto of corporate efficiency & KNOW ALL SEE ALL SOFTWARE in action.
    1. I was assured that I had accreditation
    2. I was assured that no one had accessed my file
    3. they tried several times to set up a conference call to guile the BSL person in charge of respite care through the simple process of approving my application to no avail.

    Today the US government brags it’s capacity to know it all about everyone of its citizens.
    And TAX EVASION is still a happening event ??

    Great Article
    Thank You

  2. Campo
    September 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Hi,
    I’m translating your article into French, and I have a question about your use or “The Donald”. Is it an allusion to the subreddit The_Donald ? Or are the terms “The Donald” widely used in the USA ?
    In this sentence from your article “Yet the financial disclosures that The Donald did make during election campaign 2016…” are you referring to Donald Trump himself or to the subreddit ?
    I am considering translating The Donald into “Donald”, because “Le Donald” sounds strange in French.
    Thanks for your answer.

    • Lucius Patrick
      September 25, 2018 at 11:26 am

      Sure better than anything HRC would have done! Go Trump!

  3. September 18, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Trump looks like an amateur piker compared to the Clintons.Trump is a greedy baboon and still looks better next to Hillary.And let’s not forget who allowed the criminal banks to not only keep their loot but continue their crime spree.

    Trump is trying to make peace with Russia and not start WW3 as Hillary and her bush neoconservatives planned.

    Trump is awful but he did save us from the TPP that allowed corporations to sue the USA government over labor and environmental laws and brought slavery back. Trump has also made the right enemies like WTO and NATO along with the criminal CIA and FBI.

    The enemy of my enemies

    Neoconservatives and neoliberals hate Trump.

    I say go Trump!

    • Albert
      September 19, 2018 at 3:39 am

      It is a sad day when the American people decide to accept criminal behavior from any president because he is less of a criminal than the rest. The deterioration of standards and what is right is mind-boggling. The American people have become complicit in the criminal behavior of its leader by accepting and defending him because he may have accomplished some positive things. Doing a few good deeds does not and should not wipe out a history of criminal behavior.

      The pedophile priest prays to god, but do his prayers mitigate his deviancy or assuage the anguish of his victims? Even John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer responsible for the murder of over 30 people, had a few moments of “goodness.” He would dress up as a clown and entertain children. Should this behavior be factored into his murderous career? I doubt it would make much difference to the families of the 30 odd victims.

      The danger with people like Trump and Mnuchin is that their criminal behavior becomes acceptable on certain levels which adds to the already rotting moral decay of our political system and ultimately the further moral decay of the people.

      • September 19, 2018 at 4:38 am

        It’s a sad day indeed!

        Hillary made Trump the baboon look decent in comparison the irony is Hillary even picked Trump.

        Trump and Hillary are the 2 most hated candidates in the history of the country and Trump is more popular than Hillary.

        Hillary Clinton is the only human being who could cheat and still lose to her own pied piper baboon.

        Sanders would have won and easily.Hillary cheated the country out of a Sanders president and was so repulsive she gave us Trump.

        Ironically Trump saved us from WW3 with Russia that Hillary and her Bush neoconservatives planned and democrats now pine for.

        Trump tried to pull us out of Syria and the CIA pulled another false flag attack and blamed Assad with zero evidence and pushed us back in.While democrats cheered.

        Trump is also trying to make peace with N Korea.Ironically it was mentioned in Woodward’s book about the “ anonymous “ staffer stealing Trump’s plans for withdrawing troops and pulling out of S Korea.Cant have any overtures for peace!!We have much more killings to do in the name of freedom and profit.

        Trump looks like a peacnick compared to the democrats and their neoconservative Bush alliance.

        • September 26, 2018 at 4:04 pm

          Someday you should produce proof of all Hillary’s wrongdoing. She’s been investigated more than anyone in the country. We are just getting started with trump.

      • September 19, 2018 at 4:52 pm

        Bush was a war criminal and worse.Ditto Obama and Hillary.Sanders would have won if not for Hillary and democrats cheating him.

        Trump is just a symptom and a stiff middle finger to the bush republicans and GOP and Hillary.

        What choice did they have?

        Trump who killed the TPP that allowed corporations to sue the USA government over labor and environmental laws?

        Or Hillary who pushed every disasterous free trade deals that republicans wanted.

        Trump who wants to work with Russia and have a Trump tower in Moscow or Hillary who wants WW3 with Russia.

        Trump is a greedy baboon who looks decent next to Hillary Clinton and is taking on some of the most insidious and criminal institutions on the planet.

        WTO

        NATO

        FBI

        CIA

        I cheer on this fight .Its long past due and I never thought it would happen.Who knew Trump was the one that would push back at the deep state.

      • Paul G.
        September 20, 2018 at 1:30 pm

        Julian Assange described the election,”… as a choice between gonorrhea and cholera”. This is why I voted “none of the above”. I regard a ballot as a stamp of approval not just a choice. No choice, no approval, I am sick of the “lesser of two evils”.

        Trump, on the other hand, is doing a magnificent job of destroying US hegemony by alienating the US’ vassal states, “allies”. He even has Teresa May talking to Putin and now Merkel and Putin are in his sanctions crosshairs and conferring. Way to go, the Europeans may now act like an adults not the US’ pet poodles.

        His outrageous policies are invigorating a revived progressive movement; which if Hillary was POTUS would be smothered by the corporate Democrats. And of course with herself-remember Libya- as Commander in Chief, Syria would have faced much worse military actions.

        Trump may be to Washington like a drunk bottoming out ; things get so bad there is no choice but to sober up and deal with the addiction to war and corporate greed, both of which are on a steroid level.

        • September 21, 2018 at 4:08 am

          Exactly.

  4. Mild-ly - Facetious
    September 18, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Nancy — “The 2016 election truly revealed what a sham the two-party system is.”

    What the 2016 election revealed, //\\, ought to’ve REMINDED us of the Right-Wing SCOTUS ** \ SELECTION / of GW Bush as POTUS of the United States — UNDER THE CLOUD OF TAINTED BALLOTS, RIGGED COMPUTERS, UNCOUNTED BALLOTS, AND JOHN BOLTON LEADING CUBAN OPERATIVES INTO THE CHARGE TO STOP-THE-COUNT!, STOP-THE-COUNT!-STOP-THE-COUNT-!

    The Count was Stopped !!! — By a Paid Crowd of Rich right-wing Cubans who’ve benefitted greatly in South Florida by being “Anti- Castro” (White) Cubans who transferred their Heritage-of-Spanish-‘Royalty’ (white privilege) as Over and Against the Peoples mixed with Imported Slaves which formed a New Culture, a culture of their own. … (A “new ethnic” Cuban ???)

    The Right-Wing SCOTUS –INSTALLED– GW Bush as POTUS,
    because the Right-Wing had a PLAN IN PLACE to Instigate War On / In the Middle East — Propagated by the “Project For (A), The New American Century” — Built around the BUSH 41 DECLARATIONS- in1990/91, of “A NEW WORLD ORDER”.

    Bush Junior’s overseer, VP Robert Cheney, had been Mapping Iraq’s Oil Fields together with United States OIL EXECUTIVES after “Gulf War 1” and were salivating at the chance to gain control of Iraq’s Black Gold oil fields. ———

    So, war was declared on Saddam Hussein and Iraq, EVEN THOUGH IRAQ/SADDAM HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TWIN TOWERS EVENT IN NYC… .

    The Middle East HAS BEEN DEVASTATED /BY-AND-LARGE/, through the reason of UNITED STATES’ CORPORATE GREED FINANCED by MILITARY POWER — and sustained by an IGNORANT POPULOUS – which is too busy to see/understand/perceive
    the Fleece / Wool being pulled over their eyes. …

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Corporate Tax Havens Shield Corporate Profits / While We-The-People deal with the “Power Shift” Alvin Toffler warned us about, in 1990 as an/in opposition to GHW Bush’s New World Order Edict… . — which led us into global war, massive displacement of Peoples / and People Groups W/ THE TOTAL DISRUPTION OF HUMANITARIAN SECURITY – bowing to the whims of United States DESIGNATION (by indiscriminate choice) of which wedding/funeral/loving family/group-of-farmers/ or individual person,
    should be BLOWN APART by a Drone / or Targeted Munition, at the whim of some American Flag wearing “Officer” – based on hearsay – on /upon who/whom ought to ‘Targeted’ for extermination / by reason of a conversation he/she had with an
    “suspected ‘terrorist’ – ” ////// /////// – an innocent father or mother which may’ve harmlessly exchanged innocent local news/events that turn into US/NATO Drone Kills of harmless Wedding or Funeral civilians.

    Where is the Love?
    I ask you Flag Wavers.
    Where is the Love ?

    Is it Always to be

    We Are Americans”
    And the rest of the world
    must bow & kiss our Feet?

    (Recognize and Consider
    The Beast as Last Empire)
    “Oh Say Can You See”???

    • david thurman
      September 26, 2018 at 4:47 pm

      I don’t know about John Bolton’s involvement in the brooks brothers florida recount, but for sure John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch & Brett Kavanaugh were involved; just the type we need on SCOTUS. Why isn’t it common knowledge that no republican has won potus w/out cheating since Eisenhower?

  5. AJ
    September 18, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Pretty sure the DOJ went after the Trump firm in 1973, not Donald personally. The Donald was the titular head, and Dad Fred was Chairman. The firm owned 14000 apartments. Fred had been building them for a long time (since 1930) before 1973, when Donald was 27. So yeah, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, but that firm was Fred’s baby, and Don was learning the ropes.

    • Mild-ly - Facetious
      September 18, 2018 at 5:59 pm

      Beautiful five lines of New York reality, AJ.

      I grew up in East NY (East Bronx) –

      Attended Aviation Trades HS in Astoria.
      (c. 1960/61)

  6. George McMichael
    September 18, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Prins should stick to Wall St corruption and leave the politics to more knowledgeable voices. This is a coup on Trump from fascist networks including Wall St (Koch, Soros, Steyer, Bloomberg, et al), lead from London (MI-6, GCHQ, Downing). Anyone who comments on the current financial danger without first addressing this, is just one more lump on the bandwagon which is heading for the cliff of nuclear war and financial disaster. Perhaps Prins should look at Trump’s commitment to Glass-Steagall in October of 2016. She would fare better working for GS within better aspects of the admin, than standing on the proto-nazi picket line hoping to get political kudos.

    • tim
      September 19, 2018 at 7:37 am

      +1

    • david thurman
      September 26, 2018 at 4:59 pm

      “…Trump’s commitment to Glass-Steagall in October of 2016.” Campaign talk is cheap; has he done anything about it since taking office except going the other way, e.g. appointed Mulvaney (counter the organizational guidelines) at CFPB, signed into law a bill calling for less oversight of the banks?

  7. September 18, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Not sure why anyone fell for the “I’m a great businessman” con, but they did. Not sure why anyone believed a billionaire cared about regular people (does he even know any regular people?), but they did.

    It’s all going to happen again. The recession/ depression. The question now is: who is going down with the ship? Will it be regular Americans only (again)? or will some rich folks drown too this time?

    The Next Financial Catastrophe is Cooking with Trump in the Kitchen

    • September 19, 2018 at 12:54 am

      Trump is a middle finger to the bush republicans and Gop and democrats who have completely corrupted the entire process and country.

      Trump ran against the bush republicans and Gop free trade agenda and wars.

      What Trump voters voted for

      Trump; Bush worst president ever

      https://youtu.be/j6N8l8DMu3M

      Trump on Bush going into Iraq: ‘They lied’

      https://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/269410-trump-on-bush-going-into-iraq-they-lied

      And what did democrats offer?

      Hillary Clinton warmongering and neoliberalism?

      Trump looks decent next to Hillary.

    • September 19, 2018 at 8:52 am

      Everyone gets a middle finger. Wonderful.

      When the game of musical chairs stops, the people will have lost again.

      Trump not only hasn’t fixed the economy, his deregulation administration is kerosene.

      Pigs Feed at the Trough Again

      • September 19, 2018 at 10:13 pm

        No WW3 with Russia as Hillary planned and no TPP that allowed corporations to sue the USA government over labor and environmental laws and brought slavery back.

        Trump pulled the mask off the abject corruption and systemic depravity that we call the USA government.

        No more pretending.

        Long past due

  8. September 18, 2018 at 11:30 am

    This story is mostly a tissue of speculation. As such it’s an unfortunate departure from the fact-based tradition that Robert Parry established. I hope it isn’t a sign of things to come.

    • Tim
      September 19, 2018 at 7:38 am

      +1

    • MoreFreedom
      September 22, 2018 at 10:56 am

      I agree. Fred Trump was the one who built the Trump fortune and who was accused of bias. Investigating Fred’s buying of favors from NY Democrats would be interesting. That the IRS has been auditing Trump’s returns should be enough to let people know Trump isn’t cheating on his taxes (or how about the return Maddow revealed). Trump has every right to use the loopholes that exist, and what does it matter anyway given he’s already rich. I don’t see Trump scheming to use his government power to enrich himself unlike so many of his predecessors, or other politicians. Instead, it seems he’s trying to rid the system of government making people rich based on donations to politicians (Fred did better, while Donald only got the booby prize of Hillary showing up to his wedding for his political donations – admitting he’s a businessman). It’s not businessmen trying to buy favors that’s the immoral action, it’s the politicians selling such favors. As for the charity, while I agree paying for a portrait reeks of self promotion, it pales in comparison to what the Clinton Foundation does, and doesn’t put money in Trump’s pocket, and at best gives him a discount on a portrait to advertise his charity.

      Let’s get to the real big fraud: our previous politicians’ promises while raiding the treasury such that their promises regarding Social Security and Medicare (socialist programs that should be phased out) won’t be kept, and one wonders if promises to US treasury bond holders will be kept or will be inflated away. Congress controls the purse strings, and has shown it wants to keep spending, and it’s a battle I believe Trump knows he can’t win so he barely fights it. The political class has been using government to steal from the productive, for decades. Mostly thru control of business, control of the currency, and ongoing war to enrich those invested in the military industrial complex (mostly politicians who make bets on their inside information as to what government will do).

  9. September 18, 2018 at 10:55 am

    The only time a President is obliged to release his tax returns is after he is elected. That is the law. In the past, no President (before his election) who did not previously hold a federal office (where they were obliged to release tax returns) did not release his tax returns, eg. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan. He does not have to release tax returns before his election (that is not the law), nor should he release his tax returns before his election. He has every right to keep that private. The tax code is composed of two volumes each of thousands of pages of regulations. Everyone on the face of the earth has violated at least one of them in their lifetime (without even knowing it). Why should he give that kind of fuel to the media? . As far as his violating housing regulations, that is alot of bull too. There is no developer or landlord who owns multiple buildings who have not violated Housing regulations. They are worse than the IRS regulations. People in politics know so little about business. That is why Madoff got away with stealing bilions right under the nose of the Securities and Exchange Commission – that is why Enron and the banks got away with what it did. I did not see anyone, other than Madoff get penalized for it. They all got rewarded. There is no way that Trump is Enron or Madoff. Trump is a real estate developer. Does anyone know how difficult it is to make money as a real estate developer? There is no doubt that unlike most billionaires, Trump earned his money – the hard way.

  10. xeno
    September 18, 2018 at 10:20 am

    Are you sure you’re not just being jealous of Stormy?

    Why not go to Youtube, search on “Charles Ortel”, and get educated on why, with all his faults, we’re lucky to have “The Donald” versus the nasty perverse incompetent he defeated.

  11. caseyf5
    September 18, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Hello Nomi Prins and Everyone,
    Thank you for reminding us of the history of a few of the GRIFTERS, CON ARTISTS AS WELL AS SCAMMERS in our not to distant past. George Santayana comes to mind. https://www.google.com/search?q=those+that+forget+history+are+condemned+to+repeat+it&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1-ab
    As for the sixty three or so million of supporters of EVIL you need to wake up and smell the sulfur! The same goes for others that do not think of the happenings now as EVIL. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwqPBlSxb-0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj65AcbekIE

  12. SteveM
    September 18, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Re: “Since we’ve never seen his tax returns, right now we really don’t know.”

    Well the IRS has seen Trump’s tax returns year in an year out. And you can be sure that they were reviewed by the IRS with a fine tooth comb. So how many actions against Trump did the IRS issue in all those years?

    This is another garbage post. There is a lot to not like about Donald Trump but tax evasion is not one of them. Otherwise the IRS would have put him in jail way before he ever became president.

    The larger issue here is the sorry decline of Consortium News into a “progressive” rag since Robert Parry passed away. Robert was neither a progressive or a conservative when writing. He was a journalist who swung a 2X4 in every direction.

    Robert is even more missed now than I would have ever imagined.

    • JoeSixPack
      September 18, 2018 at 9:39 am

      Agreed. This is unworthy of Consortium News. Tax Returns show you nothing. It’s a complete red herring.

      What is telling is that the author doesn’t bring up the Emoluments Clause. If you want to go after Trump, the Emoluments Clause would be the way to go about it. There’s legitimate concern about Trumps businesses doing business with foreign officials.

      And yet the same scrutiny was not applied to the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state….

      • Lucius Patrick
        September 18, 2018 at 10:22 am

        I had a similar reaction, that this article was unworthy of Consortium News. However, I think that overall Consortium News has been doing a good job since the passing of Robert Parry. It will be interesting to see what happens to Consortium. I do know that I occasionally (very occasionally) give money to Consortium and I have not in a while–not due to the quality of Consortium, but due to my own circumstances… About time to make a donation I think.

        • SteveM
          September 18, 2018 at 11:19 am

          I submitted a comment to the editors about this previous entry:

          “Beyond Bolton: The Path to a Progressive Foreign Policy”

          Since when is being non-interventionist “Progressive”? The leaders of the non-interventionist movement, e.g. Philip Giraldi, Pat Buchanan, Drs. Paul, Justin Raimondo, etc. would hardly label themselves Progressive. Yet the author of that piece claims ownership of that policy framework by the Progressives.

          An additional irony is the sudden Progressive sanctification of über-war-monger John McCain simply because he hated Trump and he hated Russia. With the Progressive Left using Russia hysteria as a political weapon.

          Robert Parry would have never made that claim of Progressive ownership if he had written the article. But that appears to be the political leanings of the new editorial leadership.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      September 18, 2018 at 11:53 am

      We are non-partisan and publish articles critical of both Trump and the Democrats.

      https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/consortium-news/

    • Consortiumnews.com
      September 18, 2018 at 11:54 am

      No one misses Bob Parry more than we do.

    • Joy Knight
      September 18, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      I only found CN just before Robert Parry passed. So you’re seeing a big difference in content?

  13. Jose
    September 18, 2018 at 8:18 am

    That Trump was elected president in the first place is surely commentary enough about our cesspool of a political system. The voters knew about Trump University before the election. What more would one need to know about his character? The very fabric of this country is corrupt; even if the swamp creatures take down the Swamp Creature-in-Chief it changes little. . .sort of like Lehman and Enron did little to forestall the corporate takeover of the country.

    • xeno
      September 18, 2018 at 12:26 pm

      “Trump University” – Clinton was involved in the same scam and probably made more money from it.

      “The very fabric of this country is corrupt” – we live in a kakistocracy. That’s a real word which I think is best defined as: a government controlled by sociopathic criminals.

  14. Sally Snyder
    September 18, 2018 at 7:38 am

    While the United States is distracted with Donald Trump and Russiagate, there was another recent release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s home server as shown here:

    https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2018/08/hillary-clintons-latest-classified-home.html

    This most recent release from last week shows, once again, that Hillary Clinton was clearly breaching Department of State confidentiality and that Americans had little choice when it came to the 2016 election.

    • Bob Van Noy
      September 18, 2018 at 8:15 am

      Thank you Sally Snyder for keeping us focused on the essential problem… With all of the widespread criminality, it seems that the place to begin is to concentrate on blatant election fraud because it IS the heart of the System.

    • backwardsevolution
      September 18, 2018 at 4:01 pm

      Sally – good stuff. Thank you. Judicial Watch is doing a great job, the job that the Department of Justice SHOULD be doing.

  15. backwardsevolution
    September 18, 2018 at 5:00 am

    Stormy Daniels was paid for sexual services at the time those services were rendered. But then she turned around years later and wanted more money to keep her mouth shut – lots more money. Why isn’t she being charged with extortion? I mean, if we’re going to talk about looting, then let’s talk about looting. No books were cooked, but money was took.

    The Russiagate investigation was supposed to find whether there was collusion between Trump/Trump associates and Russia. Mueller couldn’t find any collusion, but he had to find something because you can’t spend millions of taxpayer dollars and come up empty-handed. I know, tax evasion! Because we all know that that’s under any elite rock you want to look under. Well, bravo, Mr. Mueller! Let me know when he starts investigating the Podesta’s, just to be fair.

    The Russiagate investigation is unraveling as we speak. There was no there “there” to begin with, and they knew it. The Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC paid a law firm, Perkins Coie, some campaign finance money (yeah, there’s some laws broken) to hopefully get some dirt on Trump. Perkins Coie hired Fusion GPS, an investigative firm. Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele, an ex-British MI6, who then came up with a dossier on Trump filled with unverified and uncorroborated information from anonymous Russian sources. (There’s your Russian collusion!)

    The FBI and DOJ decided to spy on the Trump campaign, but before doing that, they needed to get a warrant from the FISA Court. They also needed more justification than just the Steele dossier to give to the court, so they leaked classified information to the press, and once the press published this classified information, they used these press clippings as further justification to give to the court. They apparently neglected to tell the court that the Steele dossier was paid for with “campaign finance money” from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC.

    The House Intelligence Committee has been requesting documents on this illegal spying operation for months now.
    The DOJ and FBI have been playing a game with them; sending them redacted documents or no documents at all.
    Trump has just ordered that the FBI and DOJ now hand over all requested documents. If justice is served, some higher-ups in the DOJ and the FBI may see some jail time. What a scheme! Purposely leaking classified information is a ten-year offence. Many other laws were broken. These people tried to thwart the Trump campaign, and having lost, they tried to take down a duly-elected President. What is that? Sedition?

    When I read this article, I got the impression that there’s Enron, Lehman and Trump – all bad. I don’t know enough about Enron to speak on it, but I did somewhat follow the 2008 financial crash. It wasn’t just Lehman who was over-leveraged to the hilt. Weren’t all of the Wall Street banks insolvent at the time? Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan were all holding junk (mortgage-backed securities full of subprime loans). They were all insolvent. These shysters were selling this garbage to unsuspecting investors, knowing full well it was garbage, but they got caught holding some of it. Oh, and instead of demanding they go under, they got to keep this junk on their books as if it was still worth full price.

    But Eric Holder and Obama didn’t jail a single banker. If not for the Fed, they all would have gone under. They all SHOULD have gone under. Then there’s John Corzine, the swindler. I mean, how long a list do you want?

    And the Fed has been cooking the books for years. No audit for them! No, no. They took a lot of this junk onto their balance sheet, then manipulated interest rates down, paid the banks interest on their reserves…..stop me now.

    Bubble, bust, a great big pyramid scheme. They’re all crooks. Wake me when a full audit has been done on the Clinton Foundation, a full investigation of Uranium One.

  16. Emily Tock
    September 18, 2018 at 1:31 am

    All of Trump’s financial crimes seem like low-hanging fruit to ordinary people, but those in the upper echelons of government probably see Trump’s fate as the canary in the coal-mine for their own misdeeds. Going after Trump with the full force of the law will not happen because it might be the tipping point for the exposure of similar crimes committed by the establishment. It’s a big club, and the masses ain’t in it.

    • Barrie
      September 18, 2018 at 4:46 am

      And that’s the same club they beat you over the head with telling you what to think and what to. believe( as quoted by the great George Carlin)

    • Skip Scott
      September 18, 2018 at 11:42 am

      Emily-

      I agree and was going to make a similar post before I saw yours. RussiaGate is a safe way for them to go after the Donald. If they went after his financial misdeeds they would have to be wary of throwing stones while living in a glass house. The “big club” is well occupied by members on both sides of the isle, and the Donald is an unwelcome interloper that somehow got past the bouncer.

  17. Lucius Patrick
    September 17, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    Looks like a lot of wishful thinking by a Trump hater. I hope Trump comes through all of this unscathed, good chance he’s gonna. Do these Trump haters realize that if Trump did not win, Hillary would have? Perhaps they are still Hillary fans?

    • Surrealisto de Fierros
      September 18, 2018 at 9:04 am

      Both candidates were the Worst Ever Offered to Americans in our history. Rammed down our throats by the collective leadership of both parities. Choose “Evil or Lesser Evil. It’s still, choosing the Evil. Which evildoer will do our country less evil? Looks like there was a trade-off happening for one way or another. Would we rather get wrapped up in a war with Russia? Or is a war with Iran yet an alternative for the MIC? Oh yes there’s Syria, and Yemen. Still lots of room to play with the battleships and marbles.

      • September 19, 2018 at 12:58 am

        Hillary even picked Trump.

        Best tidbit from the Stormy Daniels new book?

        Clinton

        “Amazingly, Hillary Clinton makes a brief but memorable appearance in
        the book, as Daniels recounts a scene where she and Trump were hanging
        out in his hotel room back in 2007. As they were watching “Shark Week”,
        Clinton apparently called Trump.

        Daniels’ alleged relationship with Trump included one moment in 2007,
        she writes, in which she is with Trump in a hotel room watching a Shark
        Week broadcast on cable television when he receives a phone call from
        Hillary Clinton, then running against Barack Obama for the Democratic
        presidential nomination.

        “Then, to make it crazier, Hillary Clinton called,” Daniels writes. “He had a whole conversation about the race, repeatedly mentioning ‘our plan’…”

        https://www.zerohedge.com/n

        WHAT PLAN?

        Remember Trump was a HUUUUge Hillary supporter and was spreading Hillarys vicious rumors about Obama being born in Kenya etc…….

    • Dave
      September 18, 2018 at 9:21 am

      So you don’t care if he’s guilty or not is what you’re saying ? You actually like the idea of rich people being above the law ? You believe one criminal that’s notorious for not paying his bills is better than another who is famous for getting into politics to get rich ?? I’d say you’re not even trying think, you’ve been programed.

      • JoeSixPack
        September 18, 2018 at 9:46 am

        You presuppose he is guilty. The poster said nothing about guilt. The problem is we don’t know. What we do know is that this Russia investigation has been going on for 2 years and nothing has been found. Far longer than Clinton’s email investigation.

        The irony is in Clinton’s case, a crime was committed. Hillary Clinton was in violation of the Espionage Act. The same Act that was used to go after Aaron Swartz and who committed suicide after being bullied by the FBI. No such treatment to Clinton, whose crimes were far worse.

      • September 18, 2018 at 11:22 am

        You actually think rich people AREN’T above the law?

    • Mild -ly - Facetious
      September 18, 2018 at 10:15 am
    • September 18, 2018 at 11:19 am

      Good point. I’m certainly no Trump supporter but I was relieved that we weren’t going to get more disingenuous BS from the phony Democrats. The 2016 election truly revealed what a sham the two-party system is.

      • September 19, 2018 at 10:17 pm

        And both parties hate Trump.

        Interesting times.

Comments are closed.