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Corruption

A 'MAGA Mo' campaign sign.

Photo from Rep. Mo Brooks' verified Facebook.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who is currently a candidate for Alabama's U.S. Senate seat, paid out over $25,000 to former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort just days after receiving an endorsement from Trump.

Brooks is running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Shelby, who has announced he will not run for reelection in 2022. The seat has been rated as "solid" for the Republican Party by multiple political ratings organizations.

On Thursday, in a federal campaign finance filing, Brooks' campaign disclosed that it had paid over $25,000 to Mar-a-Lago for catering and event space. Shelby held a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago on April 23 and Trump, who currently lives at the resort after losing the presidential election, was scheduled to be in attendance.

Just a few weeks before, on April 7, Trump endorsed Brooks over the three other Republican candidates who have already declared their candidacy.

"Few Republicans have as much COURAGE and FIGHT as Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks," Trump wrote in a statement, noting that the candidate "has my Complete and Total Endorsement."

Trump told Fox News on April 20 that Brooks would have "clear sailing" in his campaign for the seat and asserted he "just went up 41 points" even though no poll to support that claim has been released.

During his presidency, members of the Republican Party and businesses and governments seeking Trump's influence frequently spent money at his properties, with Trump businesses profiting throughout his term in office.

Brooks has deeply integrated the Trump endorsement into his campaign. On his official campaign Twitter account, Brooks refers to himself as "Mo Brooks – Endorsed by President Trump." The phrase "Endorsed by Trump" appears in the banner of the account as well, and the same language appears on Brooks' official campaign website and Facebook account.

Brooks has been under fire for a speech given on January 6 at a "Save America" rally protesting the outcome of the 2020 election. Before Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol, Brooks told the crowd to "stop at the Capitol" and that "today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass."

Several members of Congress called for Brooks to be formally censured for inciting the crowd.

"Censure seems too trifling a punishment in this horrific case, but it's the minimal level of accountability Congressman Brooks should face from the same Congress he goaded rioters to assault," Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement in January.

Brooks is also being sued by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) for his role in the insurrection. Swalwell alleges that Brooks, along with Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, broke the law by inciting the riot.

Despite this criticism, Brooks recently spoke at CPAC in Dallas, Texas, on July 9 and told attendees, "Our choice is simple: We can surrender and submit, or we can fight back."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Trump Turnberry Golf Resort in Scotland

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Allen Weisselberg, the indicted Trump Organization executive, was removed this week as a director of Donald Trump's under par golf resort in Aberdeen, Scotland, public records show.

The move is the first to indicate how the indictment of Trump's longtime chief financial officer is affecting operations of the twice-impeached former president's real estate and resort empire.

Weisselberg's removal comes as Scottish lawmakers and Avaaz, a global public-interest organization, are pushing for an "unexplained wealth" inquiry into how Trump got the money to buy and refurbish both of his money-losing Scottish golf courses.

A 2018 British law lets investigators examine company and personal financial records to determine sources of money and riches that they deem suspicious. It's been called the McMafia law.

Trump's Aberdeen course lost nearly $1.5 million (£1.1 million) in 2019, up slightly from 2018. The property has lost money for seven years in a row.The course also has an interest-free loan from the Trump Organization of $61.1 million (£44.4 million), disclosure documents show. Manipulating interest expenses is a common tax avoidance technique that can justify criminal charges of tax fraud unless executed with extreme care.

There are only two ways Weisselberg could be removed as a director of the Trump International Golf Club Scotland, Ltd.

Weisselberg could have done so on his own. In that case, lawyers may have advised him to do so for reasons not yet clear.

The other way would have been on orders from Donald Trump and executed through his sons Don Jr. and Eric, who remain as the only directors. That, too, may indicate a criminal defense strategic move. Since Weisselberg remains on the Trump Organization payroll it almost certainly does not suggest a split between the interests of Weisselberg and his boss.

Trumps Tighten Grip

The move suggests that Trump may be trying to make sure only he and his family members exercise any legal control over the Trump Organization.

Removing Weisselberg would not block or limit any Scottish inquiry or the investigation by the New York county district attorney's special grand jury, which on July 1 indicted Weisselberg and the Trump Organization.

The New York indictments detailed a calculated 15-year scheme using two sets of books to cheat the federal, state and city governments out of more than $800,000 in taxes.

Larceny, Tax Fraud, Conspiracy

Weisselberg and the Trump Organization face 15 counts of grand larceny, tax fraud and conspiracy. Weisselberg could get 15 years on conviction, but he also could get probation without even home confinement. None of the crimes for which Weisselberg is charged come with a mandatory prison sentence upon conviction.

Weisselberg plead not guilty when brought in handcuffs before a state judge in Manhattan. The judge released the 73-year-old executive on his own recognizance.

The 25-page indictment is the first in what I'm sure will be multiple cases as prosecutors try to persuade insiders that they will be better off turning state's evidence than sticking with Trump.

Those who agree to help prosecutors early on get the best deals, often involving no prison time. Those who hold out may face prison even if they eventually cooperate. The indictment signals that prosecutors have solid evidence against tax cheats in the Trump Organization as well as anyone who took part in manipulating business records.

As I read it, the indictment hints at future charges against Trump's two oldest sons, daughter Ivanka and Weisselberg's son Barry. The latter runs the cash-only ice rink and carousel in Central Park for Trump.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to cancel that lucrative contract and another pact Trump has for a municipal golf course.

'Consultant Fees' For Ivanka

Ivanka was a Trump Organization vice president when she was paid more than $700,000 in consulting fees, which may be a disguised gift subject to tax.

Barry Weisselberg got a free apartment near Central Park, a car and other perks on which his ex-wife Jennifer has said no taxes were paid. Jennifer Weisselberg, following a contentious divorce, is supplying prosecutors with extensive financial documents.

Donald Trump and his lawyers have tried to minimize the criminal charges while not disputing that Weisselberg received $1.7 million in non-cash compensation that was never reported to tax authorities as required by law.

I critiqued Trump's cavalier attitude in this earlier column.

Weisselberg has never been a director of Trump's larger Scottish course, Turnberry, where son, Eric, is the sole director. Weisselberg, however, is listed in British disclosure reports as a person exerting significant control along with Don Jr., while Eric is not listed as having significant control.

Trump's Turnberry golf resort showed a small loss in 2019 after losing $19 million (£13.8 million) in 2018. It has never turned a profit under Trump.

The United Kingdom requires private companies like the Trump Organization to make more disclosures than American law requires. The list includes total revenue (called "turnover") and profits, fees paid to directors, dividends paid to owners and loans outstanding.

In America, only companies with publicly traded stock or bonds must make such disclosures. As Donald Trump's personal property, the Trump Organization and its more than 500 affiliated enterprises are not required to make similar public disclosures.

David Cay Johnston is the Editor-in-Chief of DCReport. He is an investigative journalist and author, a specialist in economics and tax issues, and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting.