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Weisselberg Dumped As Director Of Trump's Scottish Golf Course

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.

What Major Media Misunderstood About Trump Firm’s Fraud Indictment

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Last Thursday, an unsealed indictment of the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg revealed a long series of serious charges, including substantial tax fraud. Shortly after, former President Donald Trump's son Eric Trump conducted multiple interviews where he weighed in on the charges his family's organization is facing.

At one point during his appearance on Fox News, Eric Trump waved off the incentives as "fringe benefits." However, a comprehensive piece published by Just Security pushes back against Eric's claims explaining why the investigation covers much more area than that.

The pieces offers several specifics that highlight why the case is not as frivolous as the former president's son tried to suggest. It argues: "This is no mere fringe benefits case" but rather a "straight-out fraud case, claiming that the defendants kept double books: phony ones to show the tax authorities, and accurate ones to be hidden from view."

Offering an analogy of the charges brought against the organization, author Daniel Shaviro laid out an example scenario of what has allegedly been done in comparison to the diluted version of the allegations Trump's lawyers are trying to perpetuate:

"Suppose that your employer pays you monthly, through automatically deposited paychecks that end up being included on your annual W-2. But suppose that each month you could stop by the front office, request an envelope full of cash in unmarked bills, and have your W-2 reduced accordingly. So your true income would be the same as if you hadn't stopped by, but you'd be reporting less salary. If your employer kept careful records of all the cash it gave you, and also still deducted it all, we would basically have this case. That is far different from simple failure to pay taxes on fringe benefits, which is how the indictment has been widely misunderstood, thanks in part to Trump's defense lawyers' laying the groundwork before the charges were made public on Thursday."

As for "fringe benefits," the publication notes that the problem centers on the fact that the items Weisselberg received that were funded by the company "had no relationship whatsoever to the sort of items that, under appropriate circumstances, might potentially constitute tax-free employee fringe benefits."

The piece explained:

But the following items that the company paid for, on Weisselberg's behalf, most emphatically do not fit the profile of potentially excludable fringe benefits:
• private school tuition expenses for Weisselberg's family members (First Count ¶9).[2]
• a Mercedes Benz automobile that was the personal car of Weisselberg's wife (First Count ¶10).
• unreported cash that Weisselberg could use to pay personal holiday gratuities (First Count ¶11).
To treat cash as a "fringe benefit" would imply that the term covers all employee compensation. Does this mean that, whenever one is paid with cash off the books and does not report it, the IRS is merely quibbling over fringe benefits? Of course not.
• personal expenses for Weisselberg's other homes and an apartment maintained by one of his children; these included such items as new beds, flat-screen televisions, the installation of carpeting, and furniture for his home in Florida (First Count, ¶12).
• rent-free lodging and other benefits to a family member of Weisselberg (First Count, ¶13).

The extent of the charges in the indictment was also highlighted. The main charges include "New York State fraud, conspiracy, and grand larceny statutes." Other points to highlight include double bookkeeping, deceptive bookkeeping, "and fraudulent mischaracterization of employee compensation" which make the organization's actions appear to deliberate actions "conceal the fraud."

Some legal experts and observers believe the current charges are only the "first wave" for what appears to be an ongoing investigation. It's unclear yet how expansive any future charges may be.

Taxpayers Paid Thousands For Eric Trump’s Trips To Scotland

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former President Donald Trump is at the center of controversy as a new report details how he and members of his family benefited financially from his time in the White House.

According to a new report published by The Scotsman, U.S. taxpayers were left to foot the bill for Trump and his family members' trips to his foreign luxury golf resorts in Turnberry and Doonbeg. The publication reports that the invoices were obtained by the Washington, D.C.-based ethics watchdog organization American Oversight under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The report shows a number of invoices adding up to thousands of dollars for the former first family. One invoice, dated August 14, 2017, had a total cost of approximately $7,000 — equivalent to £5,400. Although it remains unclear who may have visited the resort at that particular time, Trump's younger son Eric did travel there later that month.

In addition to that invoice, there were other invoices from Trump's resort totally approximately £5,310 and £6,680. Those invoices were to cover the cost of Secret Service travel accommodations during Eric's stay.

According to the report, "US taxpayers were charged thousands of dollars for luxury-car rentals during Eric's visit in July 2017."

Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight, weighed in with his concerns about the charges to U.S. taxpayers. "No one objects to the Trump family receiving Secret Service protection," Evers said, adding, "but every time they charge their security detail to stay at a Trump hotel, thousands of taxpayer dollars line their pockets."

The latest comes just months after the former president faced scrutiny over the conflicts of interest between his businesses and the presidency. Throughout Trump's time in office, he reportedly had a pattern of charging U.S. taxpayers for his stays at his own properties. The former president is said to have received at least $8 million from U.S. taxpayers.

The Trump Organization has not yet responded to the latest report.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Eric Trump Blames ‘Cancel Culture’ For Capitol Riot Blowback

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Eric Trump is not happy with the growing number of businesses that have opted to sever ties with the Trump Organization following the storming of the Capitol incited last Wednesday by his father's dangerous rhetoric. But f course he isn't blaming Daddy for the consequences their family businesses are suffering.

Instead, he claimed the distinct distancing from his father is merely a result of "liberal 'cancel culture,'" according to the Associated Press. During an interview with the publication on Tuesday, Jan. 13, Eric Trump shifted the blame instead of acknowledging his father's actions.

"We live in the age of cancel culture, but this isn't something that started this week. It is something that they have been doing to us and others for years," Eric Trump told APNews. "If you disagree with them, if they don't like you, they try and cancel you."

He went on to defend his father's actions despite the U.S Capitol riots claiming the lives of 5 people while endangering hundreds of law enforcement officials and lawmakers. "You have a man who would get followed to the ends of the Earth by a hundred million Americans," Eric Trump said. "He created the greatest political movement in American history and his opportunities are endless."

Following the chaos that erupted on Capitol Hill, Trump was dropped from nearly every major social media network due to his dangerous rhetoric. Shortly after, other companies began to follow suit.

Capital One Financial Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Deusche Bank, and New York Signature Bank, two financial institutions with long-term business relationships with the president, also joined the growing list of companies severing ties with the president. New York City officials have also announced plans to cancel city contracts with the Trump Organization.

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) released a statement addressing the civil unrest at the U.S. Capitol and the city's intent to no longer do business with the president's businesses.

"The President incited a rebellion against the United States government that killed five people and threatened to derail the constitutional transfer of power," de Blasio said in a statement. "The City of New York will not be associated with those unforgivable acts in any shape, way or form, and we are immediately taking steps to terminate all Trump Organization contracts."

How QAnon Began — And Became A Domestic Terror Threat

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Less than three years after it started on an anonymous far-right message board, the QAnon conspiracy theory was being praised by the president of the United States.

On August 19, a reporter asked President Donald Trump if he had anything to say to followers of QAnon. Speaking in the White House briefing room, Trump said, "I don't know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate," adding that it was "gaining in popularity" and consisted of "people that love our country."

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Trump Organization Must Hand Over Documents Say New York Judge

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron has just ordered President Donald Trump's company, the Trump Organization, to hand over more documents to the State of New York's Attorney General, Letitia James.

James has been investigating President Donald Trump's family businesses since March of 2019, just two months after she took office.

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That Debate Over Family Political Corruption Isn't Finished

President Donald Trump spent the final presidential debate listing bogus allegations being peddled by Rupert Murdoch's media outlets against Hunter Biden regarding the latter's business in Ukraine and China. Then he ran a series of TV ads attacking the Bidens for alleged and unproved corruption, with supporting vignettes from his lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, a rotating cast of Fox personalities, and that mysterious "laptop from hell."

Trump and his bumbling Keystone Kops were forced to push the flimsy story because Republican sleuths in the Senate, after an exhaustive, costly search, weren't able to uncover any actual evidence of Hunter Biden's corruption. Shockingly, the whole conspiracy theory is a deep fake. Yet Trump reiterated his slanders against his opponent over and over again. "He's a criminal," Trump blurted out. "And the Biden family is a criminal enterprise."

Never mind that Trump was impeached over his failed efforts to frame Biden and lure the Ukrainian government into interfering with a U.S. election by threatening to withhold financial aid unless the country's top prosecutor launched an investigation in search of bogus claims of wrongdoing. Back in the real world, it was always Trump and his family; Ivanka, Jared, Eric and Donald Jr., who were the real poster children for familial corruption — masters of self-dealing who perpetrate massive conflicts of interest as they pursue foreign business deals. And those far-reaching scandals aren't likely to evaporate even when Trump finally vacates the White House.

Nobody does projection like Trump, who is now leaning on the Supreme Court to help him hide his tax returns from public review. He and his family have torn down all guardrails designed to prevent the wholesale auctioning off of the federal government.

In fact, the endemic corruption of the Trump family enterprise is why he continues to reject the election results, desperately holding out lest he be obliged to answer for his offenses. By delaying the Biden transition, he will be responsible for more death and destruction as the pandemic continues to rage unchecked.

Over four years, the evidence of historic self-dealing and graft, legal or otherwise, has piled up around the president. "From Scotland to New Jersey to Florida and beyond, Trump properties have raked in tens of millions of dollars from those seeking to curry favor with, or at least express their appreciation for, the president," the New York Times recently noted.

The quid pro quo is rampant and out in the open, as hundreds of companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments have shelled out millions at Trump's properties, while cashing in on administration policies. A visit from an entourage of Saudi Arabian officials to the Trump International Hotel in New York City in 2018 helped boost the hotel's sagging business.

There are also the allegations of mafia ties, obvious conflicts of interest galore, and Trump's dubious dealings with an overly generous Russian oligarch, who just happened to wildly overpay for a Trump property. And just before the election, the Times revealed that Trump has maintained a secret Chinese bank account.

On top of ethical conflicts is the fact that several of Trump's business partners are themselves foreign government officials who have been entrusted with prominent public functions, calling into question basic assumptions concerning conflicts of interest and improprieties. Many interpretations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) reportedly consider any monetary exchange with a foreign government official or political official to run afoul of ethics guidelines, raising major questions as to the melding of international politics and business inherent in Trump's foreign business relationships:

In the Philippines, shortly before the 2016 election President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Jose E.B. Antonio, the chairman of Century Properties Group – Trump's business partner in the Philippines – as special envoy to the United States for trade, investment, and economic affairs.

In Turkey, Mehmet Ali Yalcindag – the son-in-law of Trump's business partner Aydin Dogan – in 2018 was appointed head of the Turkish-American Business Council (TAIK), a government entity. Media reports indicate that Yalcindag was appointed to this role solely due to his relationship with Trump

In Indonesia, the Trump Organization's partner Hary Tanoesoedibjo – who is currently developing multiple Trump-branded golf courses and properties – formed a political party in 2016 called the Indonesian Unity Party and is close to other senior leadership figures.

Keep in mind that since his inauguration, the Trump children have sold off more than $100 million of the president's real estate holdings. It was heavily ironic when Don Jr. complained to Sean Hannity that if his last name were Biden, "I could go abroad, make millions off of my father's presidency. I would be a really rich guy."

That, of course, is exactly what Don Jr. has been doing for the last four years as the front man for the Trump Organization, despite the fact that Trump claimed his firm would cancel all of its pending deals and stop pursuing foreign business during Trump's presidency.

Here's what they actually did:

Weeks after Trump was inaugurated, Eric and Don Jr. jetted off to

Dubai to toast the opening of the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai, only to return to Dubai a few weeks later for their business partners daughter's wedding costing the US taxpayer at least $230,000. The Trump Organization's partner in Dubai, Hussein Sajwani, the chairman of property developer DAMAC, likewise attended Trump's 2016 inauguration. In May 2020, an Iraqi parliamentarian announced an investigation into DAMAC on corruption charges, which follow a previous legal case for corruption in Egypt from the mid-2010s. If that was not enough, the Chinese Communist party is building the new Trump World Golf Club Dubai.

Two years ago Don Jr. traveled to India, where he gave a foreign policy speech and then met with real estate brokers selling Trump-brand luxury apartments, giving the political elite in India a way to gain favor with the U.S. administration. He deliberately and lucratively blurred the lines between his role as a businessman and as the son of the president. Further blurring these lines, in July 2019 Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Chairman of the Lodha Group, the Trump Organization's business partner in India since 2013 – was appointed chairman of the Mumbai branch of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party in India.

In the Dominican Republic, Don Jr. helped sell a piece of land in January 2018 for $3.2 million, violating his father's pledge to do no new foreign deals while in office.

The Chinese government has granted more than three dozen trademarks linked to Ivanka, a senior White House adviser. The trademarks she applied for after her father was elected got approved roughly 40 percent faster than those she requested before his 2016 campaign victory. Seven of the trademarks came in 2018 when her father was pledging to save a major Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, from going bankrupt.

All of this questionable activity occurred after Trump refused to place his business dealings into a blind trust. Instead, he simply handed over executive duties of the Trump Organization to his sons. And then during his failed re-election campaign, he brazenly insisted on a discussion about corrupt political families.

He lost that debate. Until we know the truth about his taxes, his deals, and his family's abuse of the presidency, however, Trump's corruption is an issue America must still pursue.

Amed Khan is a philanthropist and human rights activist. He directs Paradigm Global Group, a private international investment firm.