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“Trump Is Still Making Money Off His Defunct University”: Despite Rampart Fraud, It Appears Business Is Boomin

Donald Trump may be facing three separate lawsuits over his now-defunct university, but he’s still raking in money from the enterprise.

According to his 2016 personal financial disclosure form, filed with the Federal Election Commission, Trump made $13,239 in the last year from the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative LLC, the company formally known as Trump University LLC. In an earlier disclosure which he filed last summer when his presidential campaign was beginning, Trump reported earning $11,819 from the company, which held live seminars about earning money from real estate and online courses providing a path to riches.

It’s unclear why or how Trump made money from a business that has been defunct since 2011 and facing litigation since 2013. Alan Garten, executive vice president and general counsel of the Trump Organization, has not responded to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.

Trump is staring down three lawsuits which allege rampant fraud in his educational endeavor. Students claimed that they put money down to learn the tricks of the real estate trade from Donald Trump only to end up with cardboard cutouts of his figure.

One, a class-action suit in San Diego, has been delayed until November 28, which is after the presidential election. There will be a hearing for a second class action suit in San Diego on July 22. Finally a state fraud case, brought down by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, will also likely only go to trial after the election now.

On Tuesday, a four-judge panel in New York agreed to let Trump’s lawyers argue their case with the Court of Appeals, hoping to challenge a ruling that let Schneiderman progress with the case this year. Cases brought to this highest court in New York take a long time to resolve, likely stretching this suit beyond the timeframe of the presidential contest.

Even as Trump managed to dodge bullets—avoiding appearances on the witness stand during a crazy election year—Schneiderman has made it clear that he intends to pursue Trump vigorously.

“I am very pleased the judge has indicated her intention to move as expeditiously as possible to trial, as thousands of Mr. Trump’s alleged victims have been waiting years for relief from his fraud,” Schneiderman said in a previous statement provided to The Daily Beast. “As we will prove in court, Donald Trump and his sham for-profit college defrauded thousands of students out of millions of dollars.”

And it’s still lining Trump’s pockets, apparently.

Overall, Trump said that his revenue grew by $190 million over the past 17 months, and that he had $557 million in earned income. Ironically, the personal financial disclosure indicates that Trump has investments in a number of companies he has publicly railed against at his rallies, including Ford Motor Co. and Apple Inc., which he wanted to boycott.

There are also a series of new LLC’s with names of foreign cities—likely for new international hotel projects—in places like Saudi Arabia, from whom Trump wanted to halt oil purchases. Not to mention that whole suggestion he made that the country was responsible for 9/11.

“Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi — take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents,” Trump said in February.

Trump has still not released his tax returns which could address more questions about his personal finances. But as he marches towards the nomination, it appears that business is boomin’.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, May 19, 2016

May 20, 2016 Posted by | 9-11, Donald Trump, Fraud, Trump University | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Reince Priebus Has A Conundrum”: How Donald Trump Trapped The Republican National Committee

On Fox News Sunday, Reince Priebus promised that Donald Trump will “bring an earthquake to Washington.”

At the least, he’s put the RNC chairman on shaky ground.

Priebus, the top official in the Republican Party, has a conundrum. His party’s presumptive nominee is making it extremely hard for him to attack Hillary Clinton, as Priebus’s most recent Sunday morning TV tour made excruciatingly clear. For years, the Republican Party has been developing talking points and strategic attacks to use against Clinton.

And one by one, Trump seems to be rendering them useless.

Priebus’s walk of Sunday shame came in the wake of a brutal few days for Trump. The Washington Post produced audio of Trump allegedly pretending to be his own PR flack, The New York Times released a scorching report about Trump’s creepy and predatory treatment of pageant contestants and female employees. On top of that, Trump spent the week arguing that he doesn’t have a responsibility to release his tax returns and that nobody wants to look at them anyway.

The tax returns—which Trump has said he will probably release at some point—are a uniquely thorny issue. When Face the Nation host John Dickerson asked Priebus whether Trump should release his tax returns, the chairman replied that voters don’t really care either way.

“This sort of traditional review and analysis of individual candidates has not applied to Donald Trump,” Priebus said—without saying why Trump should be immune to that scrutiny.

“Now, whether or not his taxes are disclosed or not is something I don’t think is going to move the electorate,” he added.

People aren’t that interested, Priebus argued.

But when it comes to transparency from Democrats, Priebus is a purist. He released a statement after the April 26 Democratic primaries needling Hillary Clinton for her refusal to release transcripts of speeches she made at Goldman Sachs.

“Whether it’s her secret email server that jeopardized national security, stonewalling on releasing the transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street banks, or deliberately misleading voters on nearly every issue, America cannot afford to have Hillary Clinton’s long track record of dishonesty and reckless judgment in the White House,” he said.

Americans are extremely curious about Clinton’s Wall Street speechifying—but tax returns, which would show how much money Trump earns and how he got it? Boring!

Priebus spent the rest of the interview—arguing that any effort to get a third-party candidate would be a “suicide mission” and that Paul Ryan will get along with Trump because they both oppose abortion. He was able to sneak in a reference to “the Benghazi,” but besides that the Democratic frontrunner went unmentioned. This isn’t a one-time thing. Some of the RNC’s favorite attack lines against Clinton could ring hollow, given the similarities between their guy and her.

Almost exactly two years ago, Priebus said Clinton’s health and age were “fair game” for her critics. He made the comment after Karl Rove reportedly suggested Clinton suffered from brain damage, as Newsweek reported.

“I think that health and age is fair game,” Priebus said on Meet the Press on May 18, 2014. “It was fair game for Ronald Reagan. It was fair game for John McCain.”

But it’s not a particularly fun game for Republicans, given that Clinton is one year younger than Trump. He’s 69, and she’s 68. Trump, in fact, was the only competitive Republican presidential candidate older than Clinton. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich are, respectively, 63, 44, 45, and 64 years old. So much for the age card.

In fact, Trump embodies many elements of the Clinton persona that Priebus used to love to rip. On June 10, 2015, for instance, he told Sean Hannity on Fox News that Clinton was “unrelatable” to typical Americans, dinging her for her wealthy lifestyle.

“She doesn’t live a life that’s even remotely close to any actual average families that are out there in Ohio that are going to be voting,” he said confidently. “And that’s going to be her Achilles’ heel.”

It’s certainly true that Clinton’s lifestyle doesn’t have much overlap with your typical soccer mom from the Toledo suburbs. The former secretary of state raked in millions by giving private speeches, and headed a foundation that kept her connected to global elites.

“The Clinton’s lifestyle has and always will be a liability because they play by their own set of rules,” said RNC spokesperson Lindsay Walters when reached for further comment. “They have enriched themselves and even their friends through any means necessary, whether it be raking in speaking fees from foreign governments or using the State Department and their family foundation for their own personal gain. If Clinton is going to claim to be a crusader against Wall Street on the campaign stump, people deserve to know what she got paid to tell them in private.”

Speaking of planes, don’t expect to hear Priebus criticize Bill Clinton for being a frequent passenger on a plane owned by sex-offending billionaire Jeffrey Epstein (nicknamed the Lolita Express). Epstein faces lawsuits from upwards of a dozen alleged victims, according to Vice. And in 2002—as Vice highlighted—Trump told New York magazine that he was a big fan of Epstein’s.

“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy,” he said at the time. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it—Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

It’s excruciating. And, by Priebus’s standards, it’s fair game. On Feb. 24, 2015, the RNC released a memo complaining that “there was hardly a single headline over Bill Clinton’s travels with Jeffrey Epstein.”

A few weeks later, Priebus told Bloomberg Politics that he had serious concerns about Clinton’s relationship with Epstein.

“I’d like to know what he was doing with Jeffrey Epstein, how many trips did he take, where was he going, what did he do when he was with this guy?” Priebus said. “When you hang out with a guy who has a reputation like Jeffrey Epstein, multiple times, on private jets, on weekends, on trips, on places at least where it’s been reported not very good things happen, it would be good to know what our former president was doing, especially because it appears he’s going to be part of a campaign ticket on the other side of the aisle.”

Vice noted that Epstein’s brother, Mark, testified that Trump took at least one flight on the Lolita Express. Awkward.

The more we learn about Trump, the less Priebus can say about Clinton—and the more uncomfortable his Sunday show swings will likely become. Thanks to Trump, Priebus is permanently on defense.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, May 16, 2016

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Reince Priebus | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Everywhere And Nowhere”: Trump Is Waging An Assault On The Entire Structure Of Our Democracy. Now What?

Donald Trump and Paul Ryan had their much-anticipated meeting on this morning, and while Ryan did not endorse Trump (yet), they issued a joint statement talking about their “many areas of common ground.” Speaking afterward to reporters, Ryan said, “It was important that we discussed our differences that we have, but it was also important that we discuss the core principles that tie us together,” and that “Going forward we’re going to go a little deeper in the policy weeds to make sure we have a better understanding of one another.”

This is a fool’s errand, not just for Ryan but for us in the media as well. And it poses a profound challenge to democracy itself.

Just in the last couple of days, something has changed. Perhaps it should have been evident to us before, but for whatever reason it was only partially clear. The pieces were there, but they didn’t fit together to show us how comprehensive Trump’s assault on the fundamentals of American politics truly is.

And that has left the media — whose job it is to report what’s happening and describe it to the citizenry in a coherent way that enables them to make a reasonable decision — at loose ends. We simply don’t know how to cover a candidate like this. We need to figure it out, and quickly.

The foundation of democratic debate is policy, issues, the choices we make about what we as a nation should do. That’s what the government we create does on our behalf: it confronts problems, decides between alternatives, and pursues them. That’s also the foundation of how we in the press report on politics. Yes, we spend a lot of time talking about the personalities involved, but underneath that are competing ideas about what should be done. Should we raise taxes or lower them? Spend more or spend less? Make abortions easier or harder to get? Give more people health coverage or fewer? How do we combat ISIS? How should we address climate change? How can we improve the economy? How can we reduce crime? What sort of transportation system do we want? Which areas should government involve itself in, and which should it stay out of?

We all presume that these questions (and a thousand more) are important, and that the people who run for office should take them seriously. We assume they’ll tell us where they stand, we’ll decide what we think of what they’ve said, and eventually we’ll be able to make an informed choice about who should be the leader of our country.

Donald Trump has taken these presumptions and torn them to pieces, then spat on them and laughed. And so far we seem to have no idea what to do about it.

Let me briefly give an illustration. On the question of the minimum wage, Trump has previously said he would not raise it. Then Sunday he said he did want to raise it. Then in a separate interview on the very same day he said there should be no federal minimum wage at all, that instead we should “Let the states decide.” Then yesterday he said he does want to increase the federal minimum wage.

So when you ask the question, “Where does Donald Trump stand on the minimum wage?”, the answer is: everywhere and nowhere. He has nothing resembling a position, because what he said today has no relationship to what he said yesterday or what he’ll say tomorrow. And we’re seeing it again and again. Will he release his tax returns? Yes, but then no, but then yes and no. Does he want to cut taxes for the wealthy? His plan says yes, his mouth sort of says no, but who knows? What about his promise for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” that so thrilled his supporters? Now he says it’s “only a suggestion.”

We assume that with an appropriately tough and smart interview, one or more of us in the media will eventually pin Trump down on any particular issue, and then we’ll have our answer and he can be judged accordingly. But that won’t happen.

So because we don’t know what else to do, we’re trying to hold him to the standards we use for every other candidate: what does he propose, and how reasonable are those proposals? For instance, Politico attempted to take a serious look at Trump’s policy statements, and concluded that “Trump bounces across the political spectrum,” but “Many of his proposals are either unrealistic in terms of executive power or would run into a brick wall with Congress, making a Trump administration borderline impotent on the very issues that are driving his supporters to the polls.”

We should give them credit for trying, but the problem is that if you want to evaluate Trump’s positions, you can only do so based on what they’ve been up until the moment you’re making the judgment. But if he gets asked about the same issues tomorrow, the odds that he’ll take the same position are essentially random, like a coin flip.

The problem isn’t that Trump’s positions don’t add up to a coherent ideology along the liberal-conservative spectrum, it’s that you can’t even call them “positions,” because you can never be sure which of them he’ll hold next week, much less if he eventually becomes president.

And remember, that’s really the point of the campaign: to figure out what kind of president each of the contenders would be. There’s always some measure of uncertainty, since we don’t know exactly what crises the next president will confront or what kind of manager he or she would be. But with every other person who ran this year, an informed observer could tell you 90 percent of what they would do if they eventually became president. You might love or hate Hillary Clinton, but we can all come to at least a basic agreement about the policies she’ll pursue. At this point, can anybody say what Trump would do as president? About anything?

It’s important to be clear that Trump isn’t just a “flip-flopper.” When that charge has been leveled in the past, whether against a Democrat or Republican, it was because they had one position (or set of positions) and then changed them. Even if the critique was animated by the concern that they might change again in the future, at any given moment you knew where they stood. You might judge them too opportunistic, or like their previous position more than their current one. But there was a progression and a logic to where they stood, and the assumption was that whatever their position was, they’d act on it.

This is the way we’ve tried to explain Trump, assuming that there’s some kind of linear progression to what he says about issues: he was in one place appealing to primary voters, and there are things he might change to appeal to general election voters. But it’s clear now that that was a mistake, because that’s now how this works with him.

That leaves us unable to talk about Trump and issues in the way we normally would. And this is a serious problem. The basic issue divides between the parties comprise one of the key foundations on which we build our explanations of politics. They structure the arguments and the contest for power, they give meaning to the whole game. They’re the reason all of this silliness matters, because at the end of it we’ll be choosing a new government, led by one individual who will make choices that affect all of us in profound ways.

It’s clear now that Donald Trump may be unique in American history — not just in his inexperience, not just in his ignorance, not just in his bombast, and not just in his crypto-fascist appeal. He’s unique in that he doesn’t care in the least about the the things that politics and government are all about, and he won’t even bother to pretend he does. I’ll confess that I don’t know where this leaves us in the media, and how we should approach his candidacy from this point forward in order to help the public understand it. But that may be the most important question we need to answer right now.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 12, 2016

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Donald Trump, Media, Policy | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“On Tax Deductions, Sanders Is No Hypocrite”: Conservatives Confused About How Hypocrisy Works On A Conceptual Level

When Bernie Sanders said his tax returns would turn out to be pretty boring, he wasn’t kidding. After a bit of a delay, the senator’s campaign released his 2014 returns last Friday night, and as expected, there wasn’t much in there of interest.

At least, that’s what I thought. National Review published a piece this week making hay of the senator’s deductions.

Sanders released his 2014 tax return this weekend, revealing that he and his wife took $60,208 in deductions from their taxable income. These deductions are all perfectly legal and permitted under the U.S. tax code, but they present a morally inconvenient, if delicious, irony: The Democratic socialist from Vermont, a man who rages against high earners paying a lower effective tax rate than blue-collar workers, saved himself thousands using many of the tricks that would be banned under his own tax plan. […]

What Sanders did, using every option and advantage available under a Byzantine tax code to minimize his tax payment, is a normal practice for many Americans. But it’s also exactly what the targets of his anger do. You can argue about whether or not that’s greed, but it’s impossible to argue that it isn’t hypocrisy. The paragon of liberal purity is not as pure as he’d like the world to believe.

Actually, it’s quite possible to argue that this isn’t hypocrisy, because, well, that’s not what hypocrisy means.

Current tax laws allow Americans to take a variety of deductions, and Sanders followed the laws as they’re written. Does Sanders hope to change the laws related to deductions? He absolutely does, even if that means he and his family have to pay more. But those changes haven’t yet happened, so the senator continues to do what he’s permitted to do.

As Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum put it, “If you don’t like the designated hitter rule in baseball, does that mean you should send your pitcher to the plate just to prove how sincere you are? Of course not. You play by the rules, whatever those rules are.”

All of which leads me to an ongoing point of concern. When I argue that many conservatives don’t seem to understand what hypocrisy means, I’m not being coy or snarky. I mean it quite literally: some on the right throw around accusations about various figures on the left being hypocrites in a way that suggests they’re genuinely confused about how hypocrisy works on a conceptual level.

A few years ago, for example, President Obama attended a fundraiser with some wealthy donors. The Republican National Committee insisted it was “the definition of hypocrisy” for the president to “run against” the wealthy while seeking campaign contributions from wealthy contributors.

The trouble, of course, is that this wasn’t even close to the “the definition of hypocrisy.” Having a policy agenda that asks more from the very wealthy does not preclude seeking contributions from those who also support that agenda, including accepting donations from the very wealthy.

Last year, Hillary Clinton was accused of being “hypocritical” for criticizing the existing campaign-finance system, even while raising money within that system. But again, that’s not what “hypocrisy” means – there is no contradiction when a candidate plays by the rules while hoping to someday change those rules.

Circling back to an old post, hypocrisy in politics is not uncommon, and it’s worth calling out once it’s uncovered. But can we try to separate legitimate instances of hypocrisy and stuff that looks kind of funny if you don’t give it a lot of thought? They are two very different things.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, April 20, 2016

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Conservatives, Hillary Clinton, Tax Code | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Foundation Of Evasions And Lies”: Can A “Post-Truth” Candidate Be Elected President?

Not long ago, Jay Rosen memorably dubbed Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency a “post truth” campaign. Within 48 hours, we may find out whether a “post truth” candidate can be elected president.

If there is one constant to this campaign, it’s that Romney has startled many observers by operating from the basic premise that there is literally no set of boundaries he needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of his assertions, the transparency he provides about his fundraising and finances, and the specificity of his plans for the country. On the dishonesty front, this has grown more pronounced in recent days, with Romney’s embrace of the Jeep-to-China lie as a closing argument in Ohio and his absurd attacks on Obama for urging people to vote.

But the key to this is how elemental it has long been to his campaign. Romney’s entire bid for the presidency rests on a foundation of evasions and lies. David Corn explains:

The Republican presidential candidate built much of his campaign on basic untruths about the president. Romney blasted Obama for breaking a “promise” to keep unemployment below 8 percent. He claimed the president was “apologizing for America abroad.” He accused Obama of adding “nearly as much debt as all the previous presidents combined” and of cutting $500 million from Medicare. None of this was true. (See here, here, here, and here.)

All of these apocryphal statements have been essential parts of Romney’s fundamental case against Obama: He’s failed to revive the economy and he’s placed the nation at risk. Rather than stick to a discourse premised on actual differences (he believes in government investments and would raise taxes on the wealthy to fund them; I want to shrink government and cut taxes) — and bend the truth within acceptable boundaries to bolster the argument — Romney has repeatedly relied on elemental falsehoods.

But this goes well beyond Romney’s claims about Obama. It also concerns what he would do as president. Romney’s own campaign has proven unable to back up the promises in his 12 million jobs plan, even though it is the centerpiece of his governing agenda and his response to the most pressing problem facing the nation. And that’s only the beginning. Jonathan Cohn:

Here we are, a day left in the campaign, and Romney still hasn’t told us how he’d offset the cost of his massive tax cut — except to say he’d do it through deductions without raising taxes on the middle class, an approach that independent analysts have said is mathematically impossible. Romney still hasn’t provided details on his “five-point plan” to boost the economy, even though his central claim as a candidate is that he’d do more to improve growth. Romney still hasn’t told us which programs he’d cut in order to cap non-defense federal spending at 16 percent, even though independent analysts have suggested doing so would require draconian cuts few Americans would find acceptable. Even in the spotlight of a nationally televised debate, when confronted with these questions, Romney wouldn’t answer.

And let’s throw Romney’s “47 percent” comments into the mix. Within 48 hours, we may find out whether it’s possible to get elected president after advancing a set of policy proposals that amount to a sham; after openly refusing to share basic governing intentions until after the election; after shifting positions relentlessly on virtually every issue the campaign has touched upon, including the one (health care) that once was seen as central to his case for national office; after refusing to share the most basic info about his own massive fortune and about the mega-bundlers that are fueling his enormous campaign expenditures; and after writing off nearly half the nation as freeloaders.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post Plum Line, November 5, 2012

November 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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