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Drive for Show, Putt for Dough: Trump’s Accountant’s Putting Method Revealed [UPDATE-3]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. This is a work in progress, subject to updates which will be added at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

Trump’s numbers guy, Allen Weisselberg, was indicted yesterday. The indictment was unsealed today and it’s revealing — not because there’s any big surprise but because the fifteen counts with which Weisselberg is charged point to the next hole(s) on this course to be played.

You can read the indictment here (thanks to Adam Klasfeld at Law & Crime News).

There are a lot of folks complaining this is puny stuff, whining that the Trump Organization and its CFO Weisselberg are getting away with a lot. Au contraire, mes amis, it’s too soon for such complaints.

Just Security’s Ryan Goodman notes right off the BIG FAT RED BLINKING LIGHTS embedded in the indictment which point to potential federal charges in the offing:

Sure would like to know how those IRS audits are coming along, hmm?

Here’s the thing: Trump, like his father before him, didn’t do something just once. If it worked — and it always has, never resulting in a criminal prosecution until now — Trump did it again. And again. What we see in this indictment is what will be found for every single business under the Trump Organization umbrella.

I will bet good money there will be other individuals who domiciled in New York whose compensation including living expenses were reported fraudulently to city, state, and federal authorities. The implication is right there in the repeated use of the word “defendants,” references to “Unindicted Co-conspirator #1,” and the conspiracy.

Which of the Trump kindred lived in New York and were also employed by a Trump Organization entity? Does this include ex-wives and their children while they lived at home?

As I noted above, this post is subject to updates; I am only through page 12 of the indictment so far. I’ll share a couple disjointed observations here.

— Jesus Christ, they kept goddamned spreadsheets documenting their criming. I feel like I’m watching The Untouchables with Elliott Ness wielding Capone’s bookkeeper’s black book.

— Trump Org paid tuition for Weisselberg’s family members (which was unreported compensation). This smells hinky; I wondered at first if an actual education facility received payment, but it’s likely. And yet this points to another possibility, that “tuition payments” may appear in the Trump Org’s books and not actually have been tuition payments.

— This is just the State of New York; where else did Weisselberg work for Trump beside NYS? Are there other states where Trump Org employees have failed to report their income? We know Florida doesn’t have personal income tax and can’t expect to see similar charges based on income tax evasion. But what about California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. where other Trump Org golf courses and resorts are located?

I have to say I’m surprised that Weisselberg never moved as much of the Trump Org’s business as possible to Florida because of the lack of personal income tax. There must be some other reason behind retaining a (unreported) domicile in New York instead of “moving” to Florida or any of the other six eight states which don’t have personal income tax.

Ditto the use of an entity, Trump Payroll Corp. — was this created as another opportunity to skim cash off payroll?

— The indictment spells out a period, “during the period from on or about March 31, 2005, to on or about June 30, 2021” in which the offenses occurred. This is only months after Trump’s tenure on NBC’s The Apprentice began. Is there a correlation between offenses delineated in this indictment and the reality TV series?

Is there something in any of the records related to The Apprentice which is an MGM property, and now possibly owned by Jeff Bezos’ Amazon? ~dark laugh~

I hope you stocked up on popcorn because this is going to be entertaining. We haven’t even gotten to property tax and insurance fraud suggested by Michael Cohen’s appearance before the House Oversight Committee when he testified that Trump understated asset values.

UPDATE-1 — 11:00 AM ET 02-JUL-2021 —

Before I continue I have a couple of asks, thanks for any help you can offer:

— Does anyone have access to Dun & Bradstreet? If you do can you pull up a copy of the profile on Trump Organization? I’ve not pulled a D&B in a while, not certain if it will have history of the enterprise available, but it would be VERY helpful at this point to known who the “executives” were at Trump Org according to D&B. These are likely the same individuals legitimate lending organizations understand to be the policy and decision makers for the holding company structure.

— Does anyone have a copy of proceedings mentioned last night on Maddow? (Shut it, bmaz, we know how you feel about that show.) There was a key nugget in an excerpt last night and I can’t find it because MSNBC no longer uploads their evening programs in full. It may have been a transcript related to the grand jury but I couldn’t give it my full attention at the time; it was important enough that it caught my ear, though. What caught my ear was a throwaway remark that Weisselberg had other sources of income besides Trump Org. [See UPDATE-3 below.]

By now you’ve seen Marcy’s post this morning about Weisselberg’s stagnant income requiring tax evasion. My personal suspicion is that any changes to income levels were being hidden out of sight of local, state, and federal regulators as well as banks just about the point when Trump was beginning to think seriously about a run for POTUS, Trump Org was beginning to experience liquidity problems, AND they were pursuing what I might call euphemistically “alternative financing.” Trump Org purchased 4-5 golf courses in the period 2010-2011 (I need to confirm this number and which courses) which may have required filing of documents related to operating expenses for loans. Weisselberg’s income could have been suppressed on the Trump Org’s books but augmented by income not formally reported as Trump Org payroll.

Which brings me to another observation: the indictment mentions an unindicted co-conspirator. It’s not Trump because in the section Overt Acts under item 2 the indictment reads,

2) On or before April 5, 2010, the Trump Corporation, acting through its agent, Unindicted Coconspirator #1, underreported Allen Weisselberg’s taxable income for the tax year 2009.

The term agent makes it likely it’s Mazars, the accounting firm which did the bookkeeping for Trump Org.

What’s interesting to me looking at the timeline of events: Mazars, an international firm, acquired Weiser, an accounting firm in northeast U.S., in early 2010. It may be something, it may be nothing, but the acquisition happened ahead of the stagnation in Weisselberg’s income. Of course the acquisition didn’t change a history of sketchy financial reporting by Trump Org’s previous accountants, Weiser, and Spahr, Lacher & Berk before Weiser.

The term “executives” — plural — appears throughout the indictment nine times, hence my ask for the D&B profile. D&B’s freebie profile indicates the current executives are:

Eric Trump, Chief Executive Officer
Donald J. Trump Junior, Director
Ivanka Trump, Executive Vice President
A Aamiyahh, Accountant

I wonder if Aamiyahh also qualifies as controller, which may be relevant if more decision making power comes with that title. We don’t know the history of Trump Org’s executives that I’m aware of prior to Trump’s election. Were there any other persons who may also be under scrutiny as one of the “executives,” plural?

As I understand it, the indictment’s first count of grand larceny is based on theft of tax dollars owed not one victim but two — New York State and the IRS. The charge is not in lieu of a federal charge of tax fraud, though.

The multiple counts of falsifying business records have likely set any legitimate financing entities holding Trump Org debt scurrying to check documents on which they predicated lending decisions. One might imagine a liquidity crisis at Trump Org if loans are called in.

Last bit which has been niggling at me which the New York State investigation likely couldn’t encompass: what the hell was the ~$50 million “springing loan” related to Trump’s Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC? How does it fit into the Trump Org’s financial ecosystem?

I’m sure there will be plenty more to come, it’s just a matter of time.

UPDATE-2 — 11:30 AM ET 02-JUL-2021 —

Just had two three thoughts:

— Trump’s revocable trust which was last modified on February 10, 2017 after he assumed office as president doesn’t specify how the trust is revoked. The simplicity and spareness of the document is a massive loophole of sorts; at any given time Trump could give a verbal order and the trust could have been revoked and/or restored; the inclusion of an “ethics advisor” (ha!) is a mere gesture without any real brake on transactions. The two named trustees, Donnie Jr. and Weisselberg, also provide zero checks on this trust given their weaknesses. Ditto Eric Trump’s role as Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Trust; we don’t even know who that board is (could be just Eric).

In short, the trust is like the $50 million “springing loan,” the exact terms of which are unknown to the public. Is it possible the revocable trust and the springing loan are mirror images of each other, an asset in the trust and a debt in the loan, canceling each other out to avoid/evade taxes?

— The word “employees” plural appears 19 times in the indictment of Weisselberg, of which only one use is “executives and employees.” There are some employees who are not executives who must be very itchy right now, besides Weisselberg’s son Barry, the manager of the all-cash operation Wollman Rink.

— If I were a naïve and legitimate paid member of Trump Golf Courses, I’d be panicking. What happens to the tens of thousands of dollars, even hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to become a member (not to be confused with dues or fees related to monthly/annual consumption of services) should the entire Trump holding company structure go bankrupt?

UPDATE-3 — 10:50 PM ET 02-JUL-2021 —

Community member Justlp provided a link to the full transcript for last night’s Maddow show. It contains the snippet I heard which I couldn’t pick apart at the time.

Looking at the transcript I didn’t hear exactly what I thought I heard, but it does raise questions:

The prosecutor says to the judge: While these charges are eligible for bail, we believe there is a flight risk associated with this defendant. So surrender of the passport is necessary to reasonably assure his return to court. This defendant has been and apparently will remain the CFO of a company with international tentacles, and the evidence on this would demonstrate an ample record of travel by private jet and defendant has significant means and connections to support himself outside the jurisdiction, including in places beyond our powers of extradition.

The surrender of the passport is the least restrictive alternative condition that would reasonably assure defendant`s return to court. It`s our understanding that defendant Weisselberg consents to this condition and is prepared to surrender the passport to our investigators.

Emphasis mine — it was this bit in the transcript from the indictment hearing which caught my attention. It wasn’t that he had other income streams but assets and a network outside New York State and the U.S. such that prosecutors think he’s a flight risk.

Was Weisselberg paid enough during his tenure in spite of what reported expenses he had residing in New York, or are we supposed to believe he’s a talented asset manager after hours?

Impeachable Acts: What GOP Spin Can’t Change

[NB: note the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I wrote this in comments but in hindsight it should be shared as a post.

Nothing the GOP has said about the impeachment hearing witnesses, their testimony, the rules and circumstances, can change these facts.

Though this isn’t the word-for-word transcription of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s President Zelensky, the content not omitted or redacted in the published telephone conference memo is damning enough:

The GOP wants the public to forget that Trump asked for a favor.

The GOP wants people to forget that 18 USC 201 Bribery says no public official may demand or ask for anything of value for personal use, and Trump specifically mentions Biden during the call, making this about his personal re-election campaign.

The GOP wants people to forget that 52 USC 30121 Contributions (campaign finance) says no candidate may solicit anything of value from a foreign national.

The GOP wants people to forget Trump used his office for the purposes of campaign work — while not a Hatch Act violation, certainly an abuse of office.

The GOP wants people to forget that Trump removed former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch after assassinating her character — not merely removing her at his discretion as executive, but an unlawful retaliatory firing — also implying during the July 25 call that she would be harassed or persecuted in some way even though she had already been recalled from her position as Ambassador to Ukraine.

And the GOP wants want you to forget that Trump intimidated witnesses even as they testified before Congress, a violation of 18 USC 1512.

But facts are stubborn things and in this case, the facts before us are simple, straightforward, inescapable as presented during the hearings to date and in published government documents. Trump bribed Ukraine’s Zelensky, violated campaign finance law, tampered with witnesses, and abused his office.

We don’t even need to look at his extortion (18 USC 872) or weigh whether he committed Honest Services Fraud (18 USC 1346), or his role in obstruction of proceedings (18 USC 1505) and contempt of Congress (2 USC 192 – preventing witnesses from testifying or withholding evidence), or conspiracy to defraud the United States by agreeing to commit any of the above acts with Rudy Giuliani and/or others (18 USC 371).

Republican lawmakers, aides and strategists surveyed by CNBC’s John Harwood have uniformly treated Trump’s bribery — asking for foreign interference in our presidential elections again — as an inconvenience, some annoyance which will blow over.

None of the elected Republicans so far have been willing to live up their oath of office to defend and protect the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic. The only elected Republican to do so had to leave the GOP because he believed impeachment hearings were warranted.

Voters can’t forget this at the polls: our democracy and the Constitution are inconveniences to the Republican Party.

ODNI Whistleblower Complaint: Shoes Dropping All Over the Place [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Check the byline. Updates are anticipated and will appear within the timeline or at the bottom of the text. /~Rayne]

In an effort to guess at the likely subject of a whistleblower complaint, the emptywheel community started a crowdsourced timeline of events surrounding the complaint received by the Intelligence Community Office of Inspector General on August 12.

As noted in the timeline, the House Intelligence Committee subpoena issued last Friday required the acting Director of National Intelligence (ADNI) Joseph Maguire to report to Congress about the complaint by Tuesday, September 17; failure to comply would require an appearance before Congress on Thursday, September 19. Maguire did not report as expected.

However dates for the ADNI to testify before the House have now been arranged:

. . .

[emphasis mine]

The Washington Post reported more details Wednesday evening about the whistleblower complaint:

Trump’s communications with foreign leader are part of whistleblower complaint that spurred standoff between spy chief and Congress, former officials say

One bit stood out for me in the lede:

The whistleblower complaint that has triggered a tense showdown between the U.S. intelligence community and Congress involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Emphasis mine. Two former officials.

Speculation about the whistleblower’s identity is rampant across social media. Some suggest Fiona Hill, former Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs, as the whistleblower; her planned departure in August was announced June 18. Others suggest an as-yet unnamed low-level analyst.

Marcy tweeted earlier,

It’s not outside the realm of possibility. Bolton seems in a mood to burn it all down, ‘shanking’ POTUS during a Trumpists-dense luncheon on Wednesday. But given the “two former U.S. officials” and former DNI Dan Coats interruption of a meeting to ask his deputy Sue Gordon to resign, I wonder if both Coats and Gordon resigned so they would be able to testify before Congress while escaping the appearance of being compromised by unethical or unlawful acts?

Important points for consideration:

  • What constitutes an “urgent concern” validated by the Intelligence Community Inspector General as credible?
  • What constitutes an unlawful act that would compel a whistleblower to file a complaint if the president can declassify information at will?
  • What kind of unlawful act characterized as an “urgent concern” could occur as a “promise” in communications with a foreign leader?
  • How does the existing timeline frame this “promise”?
  • Who is the “higher authority” who ordered the ADNI not to turn over the whistleblower complaint to the HPSCI, obstructing investigatory oversight?

Promising to violate or ignore violation of bipartisan sanctions against Russia would be unlawful, but would this be an “urgent concern”?

Was there instead an unlawful act with regard to the doxxing of the exfiltrated Russian asset?

Or was there a promise related to surveillance of North Korea?

Did the tensions between the U.S. and Iran spawn an unlawful promise?

There are probably dozens more scenarios that might fit. They may be related to items we didn’t add to the crowdsourced timeline, like these items directly related to North Korea:

28-FEB-2019 — Trump cut short the two-day summit with North Korea for no clear reason.

11-JUN-2019 — Trump received a “beautiful letter” from North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

09-AUG-2019 — Trump received another “very beautiful letter” from Kim.

This one related to Iran:

03-SEP-2019New sanctions were placed on Iran after Trump administration claimed it was developing ballistic missile technology using its communications satellite program as cover.

And these related to Russia:

26-JUN-2019 — Trump told reporters that his anticipated discussion with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Japan was “none of your business.”

31-JUL-2019 — Trump and Putin talked over the phone about Siberian wildfires and trade.

29-AUG-2019 — Trump’s trip to Poland canceled, ostensibly to monitor Hurricane Dorian though he ended up playing golf instead at his N. Virginia course. Was he avoiding conflict over increased Russian troop presence at the administrative border between Russian-occupied South Ossetia and Georgia? (Georgia has been pursuing NATO membership but is not yet a member state.)

Time will tell what other events were needed to pick out the narrative behind the complaint. One more data point may flesh out the nature of the challenge:

Is the complaint about a Trump-Russia issue alone, or does it also include a promise related to one of the other countries in the timeline — like North Korea or Iran?

Share your thoughts in comments with supporting content.

UPDATE — 19-SEP-2019 9:23 A.M. —

The ADNI should be in a closed door session with the House Intelligence Committee at this time.

Important to note that the IC IG is a Trump appointee — Michael Atkinson. He’s responsible for the determination that the unidentified whistleblower’s complaint was credible and an “urgent concern.”

ADNI broke the law as Amee Vanderpool noted here because the complaint was deemed credible:

Very, very odd how CNBC’s website news crawl makes zero mention of this unfolding story even though an NBC story confirmed WaPo’s report last night.

UPDATE — 19-SEP-2019 8:20 P.M. —

This is like a really cheap game of Clue. It wasn’t Professor Plum in the Library with a Lead Pipe.

It was Trump about Ukraine with a phone call to Zelensky, according to the latest report by WaPo.

(Although Trump does look like a crappy version of Colonel Mustard.)

Explains why the suggestions the matter was part of an ongoing investigation; the House was already investigating whether Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani were trying to persuade President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to help dig up dirt on Joe Biden to help Trump’s 2020 campaign.

Now we need to know if the $250M aid to Ukraine was dependent on this matter, as well as a meeting later this month between Trump and Zelensky — and if Vladimir Putin had been involved in this exchange in any way.

Waiting for the next version of  “No Collusion!” tweets from Team Trump.

May explain why Rudy had been radio silent for three days on Twitter though he’s resumed his brand of trash talking in the last hour.