Interesting Read: “The Inconvenient Legal Troubles That Lie Ahead for the Trump Foundation”

Adam Davidson, at the New Yorker:

Barring an unexpected change, the Donald J. Trump Foundation will be defending itself in a New York courtroom shortly before this fall’s midterm elections. The proceedings seem unlikely to go well for the institution and its leadership; President Trump and his elder children, Ivanka, Donald, Jr., and Eric, are being sued by New York’s attorney general, Barbara Underwood, for using the charity to enrich and benefit the Trump family. On Tuesday, the judge in the case, Saliann Scarpulla, made a series of comments and rulings from the bench that hinted—well, all but screamed—that she believes the Trump family has done some very bad things.

The judge seemed frustrated, even confused, that the Trumps were fighting the case at all. At one point, she told a lawyer for the Trump children that they should just settle out of court and voluntarily agree to one of the sanctions: a demand by the Attorney General that they not serve on the boards of any nonprofits for one year. (The case will be tried in civil court, and the Trumps aren’t facing any criminal charges.) That’s far from the worst sort of punishment, but to accede to it would be a public embarrassment and an acknowledgement that the family did, indeed, use the foundation as something of a private slush fund to enrich themselves and reward their cronies. Judge Scarpulla made clear that she felt the children should agree to the sanction now, and that, if they don’t, she will probably impose a similar restriction “with or without your agreement.”…

The case might not shift voting patterns, but it will provide one of the clearest views yet of the inner workings of the Trump Organization. Most private companies keep their internal financial information secret. The Trump Organization, though, is unusually opaque. Even now, despite all of the scrutiny it has faced, there is much we don’t know about how it raises funds, spends money, and functions internally.

A series of subpoenaed e-mails and a fascinating deposition offer a glimpse into the work of a mysterious figure, Allen Weisselberg, who has handled Donald Trump’s finances for as long as he’s had any. First hired by the President’s father, Fred Trump, Weisselberg has been the one steady presence in the Trump Organization for the entire period that Donald Trump has run the company. I have spoken to many current and former Trump Organization employees who have shared the same description of the company: it is a chaotic mess, in which projects are randomly distributed to in-house staff. A lawyer might be asked to negotiate a real-estate deal, an executive might be tasked with setting up a product-licensing arrangement. While there are traditional titles, such as general counsel or senior vice-president of operations, there is no standard business hierarchy. Trump, before he became President, would tell people what they should do with no clear regard for consistency. The currency of the place was always one’s proximity to the big boss, Donald Trump, so people didn’t tell colleagues which projects they were handling, out of fear that those colleagues might undermine them. I heard, repeatedly, that there were only two people who knew about every deal the company made: Trump himself and Allen Weisselberg. However, Trump, rather famously, rarely concerned himself with details and often forgot who had received which assignments and how different deals were structured.

Weisselberg’s testimony in the trial, then, could prove revealing. He is perhaps the only non-family member who knows the inner workings of the Trump Organization. Michael Cohen will be a key figure in understanding Trump’s recent business relationships with several overseas partners suspected of potentially engaging in money laundering, corruption, and sanctions violations. (A federal criminal investigation of Cohen includes more than four million business files that will soon be turned over to investigators and are likely to shed light on the company’s operations during the ten years that Cohen was involved.) But it is only Weisselberg who can recount the essence of the Trump Organization from the beginning of Donald Trump’s involvement: in the nineteen-seventies, when the company first discriminated against African-Americans; in the eighties, when Trump appears to have been in business with the New York mafia; in the nineties, when Trump’s casino was in violation of anti-money-laundering laws; and through the aughts, as Trump developed ties to many Russian and former-Soviet oligarchs and political figures.

The Trump Foundation case may have already revealed a potential rift between Weisselberg and the family. His deposition in the case is fascinating reading. Weisselberg makes it quite clear just how sloppy an operation the foundation was, with no meetings and no careful accounting. In a compelling exchange, Weisselberg describes how he flew to Iowa with a checkbook to give money to political allies of Trump, then a Presidential candidate, and he makes it clear that he did this because his boss told him to. It is a damning statement, and the first evidence I have seen that Weisselberg, when cornered, may be willing to shift blame to the President. Judge Scarpulla will continue pushing the Trumps to settle. Trump-watchers, though, will likely hope that the family chooses to fight. We will learn much more if Weisselberg and others take the stand.

68 replies
  1. 1
    B.B.A. says:

    Isn’t it nice to have an AG who isn’t being blackmailed by the President?

    ReplyReply
  2. 2
    The Dangerman says:

    Derp Talk, then Perp Walk.

    ETA: Happy to have order reversed.

    ReplyReply
  3. 3
    TenguPhule says:

    Up to the IRS, if they want to.

    IRS doesn’t want to. They just want their fucking money.

    ReplyReply
  4. 4
    TenguPhule says:

    The judge seemed frustrated, even confused, that the Trumps were fighting the case at all. At one point, she told a lawyer for the Trump children that they should just settle out of court and voluntarily agree to one of the sanctions: a demand by the Attorney General that they not serve on the boards of any nonprofits for one year.

    Apparently the Trumps will indeed kill themselves through sheer stupidity.

    ReplyReply
  5. 5
    MomSense says:

    I think I just read that trump’s nominee to head the IRS, Rettig, failed to disclose investment in trump properties.

    ReplyReply
  6. 6
    Groucho48 says:

    Is the guy’s name pronounced Weaselberg? Emphasis on Weasel?

    ReplyReply
  7. 7
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    Please try and fight it. Maximum damage. BTW, why is the judge trying to force them to settle?

    ReplyReply
  8. 8
    Brachiator says:

    Lock them up!

    Lock them up!

    Grifters and thieves. All of them.

    Crooked Donald. Crooked Junior. Crooked Eric. Crooked Ivanka.

    ReplyReply
  9. 9
    TenguPhule says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    BTW, why is the judge trying to force them to settle?

    Because courts are backlogged with cases and every settlement gets one off the docket faster then a trial.

    ReplyReply
  10. 10
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @Brachiator:
    You sure have changed in the past few months.

    ReplyReply
  11. 11
    Comrade Colette Collaboratrice says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Apparently the Trumps will indeed kill themselves through sheer stupidity.

    Too bad they’ve already reproduced in substantial enough numbers to carry through at least another generation. Darwin Awards are the only kind they should win.

    ReplyReply
  12. 12
    efgoldman says:

    @MomSense:

    Rettig, failed to disclose investment in trump properties.

    Of course he did.
    Isn’t putting false information on the federal forms, itself, a felony?

    ReplyReply
  13. 13
    MJS says:

    @TenguPhule: There’s nothing to be confused about here. The Trump way is generally to deny and fight up until the point where someone has to testify under oath. Then the case is settled, a la Trump University.

    ReplyReply
  14. 14
    Wayne Marks says:

    What concerns me is how long it will take to unravel all the corruption and that some of these bad actors may never face justice.

    ReplyReply
  15. 15
    TenguPhule says:

    @efgoldman:

    Isn’t putting false information on the federal forms, itself, a felony?

    Has to be intentional.

    ReplyReply
  16. 16
    burnspbesq says:

    @MomSense:

    You probably did read that. There is some unconscionably sloppy reporting going on re Chuck’s Honolulu condo, and people are convincing themselves of many things that aren’t so.

    ReplyReply
  17. 17
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @efgoldman:
    Boys will be boys. He’s a white Republican, isn’t that good enough?

    ReplyReply
  18. 18
    TenguPhule says:

    @MJS:

    The Trump way is generally to deny and fight up until the point where someone has to testify under oath.

    Someone important already did. They’re still fighting. Completely suicidal stupidity here.

    ReplyReply
  19. 19
    efgoldman says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Has to be intentional.

    I thought stupidity (“I didn’t know”) was not a valid criminal defense.

    ReplyReply
  20. 20
    TenguPhule says:

    @burnspbesq:

    There is some unconscionably sloppy reporting going on re Chuck’s Honolulu condo, and people are convincing themselves of many things that aren’t so.

    Wait, wut? They fucked up some financial disclosures in my neck of the woods? Do tell.

    ReplyReply
  21. 21
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @TenguPhule:
    Isn’t “intent” a difficult thing to find? This should disqualify him, but probably won’t.

    ReplyReply
  22. 22
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @burnspbesq:
    So what’s the real story, then?

    ReplyReply
  23. 23
    TenguPhule says:

    @efgoldman:

    I thought stupidity (“I didn’t know”) was not a valid criminal defense.

    Unfortunately, an exception exists for taxes. Cheek vs United States.

    ReplyReply
  24. 24
    MJS says:

    @TenguPhule: There is no one “important” in Trumpland but Trumps. All others are expendable. This case will be settled before a Trump has to testify for as little as they can get away with.

    ReplyReply
  25. 25
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @MJS:
    We’ll see

    ReplyReply
  26. 26
    NotMax says:

    Waiting for Godot Joe Valachi 2.0.

    ReplyReply
  27. 27
    TenguPhule says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    Isn’t “intent” a difficult thing to find?

    yes. Which is why very few people (relatively speaking) are ever prosecuted for tax crimes. Most of the time IRS and state agencies will settle for penalties and interest. Because you have to be really really fucking stupid (and I’m talking Darwin Cum Laude Degree Stupid here) to have provided the taxing agencies with sufficient evidence to justify pursuing a criminal tax case against you.

    ReplyReply
  28. 28
    burnspbesq says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    Trump has no interest in the developer. The Trump name was licensed for a one-time fee equal to 10 percent of the proceeds from condo sales. The project sold out in one day, for a total of $700 million, so Trump walked away with $70 million and went home. Chuck bought two units for a total of $2 million and change.

    An affluent lawyer bought a high-end vacation place. Not much there there.

    ReplyReply
  29. 29
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @TenguPhule:

    really fucking stupid (and I’m talking Darwin Cum Laude Degree Stupid here) to have provided the taxing agencies with sufficient evidence to justify pursuing a criminal tax case against you.

    *Looks at Cohen, Trump, his spawn, and literally everybody he has ever hired or nominated*

    So you’re saying there’s a chance?

    ReplyReply
  30. 30
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @burnspbesq:
    I don’t care. I want my scalp.

    ReplyReply
  31. 31
    PPCLI says:

    @burnspbesq: But even if this is true, doesn’t it give Rettig an interest in what happens to Trump? If Trump is disgraced — and being found guilty of grotesque tax fraud of the sort on display in the Trump Foundation actions could contribute significantly to such a disgrace — wouldn’t it seriously impact the value of a high-end Trump labeled property?

    ReplyReply
  32. 32
    Brachiator says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    You sure have changed in the past few months.

    Not at all. Maybe you’ve become more discerning.

    In any event, I’m just getting started.

    ReplyReply
  33. 33
    Roger Moore says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    BTW, why is the judge trying to force them to settle?

    She thinks they’re being stupid by not settling. She obviously thinks the evidence in hand shows they did it, so the only thing that comes out from them fighting is that more of their dirty laundry is aired in public. Meanwhile, her time and the state’s time is wasted on a case they have no realistic chance of winning. Everybody loses by dragging this out.

    ReplyReply
  34. 34
    TenguPhule says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    So you’re saying there’s a chance?

    Better then average.

    ReplyReply
  35. 35
    TenguPhule says:

    @Roger Moore: Its almost sovereign citizen level stupid on the Trump’s part.

    ReplyReply
  36. 36

    @efgoldman: I believe that “I forgot” is OK(h/t to Steve Martin).

    ReplyReply
  37. 37
    eclare says:

    @PPCLI: That was my thought, if the condo still has Trump’s name on it, he has an interest.

    ReplyReply
  38. 38
    Roger Moore says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Unfortunately, an exception exists for taxes. Cheek vs United States.

    So the category of crime where rich people are massively more likely than poor people to be guilty has a uniquely high standard of proof. Funny how that works.

    ReplyReply
  39. 39
    TenguPhule says:

    Most state leaders would avoid saying no to Trump in a room full of reporters. But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte isn’t like most leaders.

    Rutte, a liberal straight-shooter known for mopping up his own coffee spills and cycling to the royal palace in Amsterdam, met Monday with Trump amid rising trade tensions between the United States and the European Union, of which the Netherlands is a member. In a five-minute news conference in the Oval Office, Rutte spoke significantly less than Trump. But when the Dutch prime minister interjected, he made himself heard.

    About a minute into his remarks, Trump suggested that leaving the trade dispute unresolved could still be “positive.” Rutte responded by raising his eyebrows, laughing and cutting in to say, “No.” When Trump kept going, Rutte said while smiling to reporters: “It will not be positive. We will work something out.”

    Via Wapo.

    We are all Dutch.

    ReplyReply
  40. 40
    TenguPhule says:

    @Roger Moore:

    So the category of crime where rich people are massively more likely than poor people to be guilty has a uniquely high standard of proof. Funny how that works.

    Taxes are hard. People are dumb. Give them a break.

    /Supreme Court Decision in a nutshell

    ReplyReply
  41. 41
    eemom says:

    The Trump Foundation’s lawyer asked that trial not begin in October, as it was so close to the midterms.
    “Judge Scarpulla laughed in response, did not change the trial date, and hinted that she is likely to require the President to testify.”

    Cf. Comey, James.

    ReplyReply
  42. 42
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷 says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Oh but your average “intellectual” conservative knuckledragger who listens to Ben Shapiro will assure you that the system is set up to do two things: 1. Be good for the smart and hardworking and 2. Push down bad ideas and laziness.

    This is what we’re dealing with.

    ReplyReply
  43. 43
    B.B.A. says:

    Awaiting a 5-4 ruling that Clinton v. Jones only applies to Democratic presidents, on grounds of “suck it, libtards.”

    ReplyReply
  44. 44
    burnspbesq says:

    @PPCLI:

    What you described would be a breach of most license agreements of this type that I’ve ever read. The developer would take the Trump name off the building in about 48 hours.

    I don’t know Chuck well. I know him well enough to say hello at conferences, and I know several of his partners quite well from having worked with them at various stages of my career. My impression has always been that he’s a straight shooter. I don’t think he would derail a criminal referral to DOJ that had merit. I don’t know Bilbo Bigfoot, and don’t trust him any farther than I can throw him. I have no doubt that he would decline to prosecute.

    What I will say is that although Check’s disclosures were legally sufficient, they were a little tone-deaf.

    ReplyReply
  45. 45

    I have questions:

    1) If trump is required to testify in court – he can’t claim national security or executive privilege or anything, from what I understand – does he risk the likelihood of committing perjury? Given trump’s uncontrollable habit of saying whatever is on his mind, given how he embellishes if not outright lies about himself or others in order to make himself look good at that particular moment even if it contradicts an earlier answer, how likely is it he just flat out lies in a way that can’t be ignored by the court? Does perjury in a civil case translate into a CRIMINAL charge?

    2) if trump refuses to testify, can the judge hold trump in contempt? Is the judge compelled to do so, or is it up to the judge’s discretion?

    3) what kind of financial information is going to be exposed here? will trump’s federal income tax returns get released during trial? COULD they get introduced as new evidence if trump or someone else tries to use those returns to defend themselves?

    ReplyReply
  46. 46
    trollhattan says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA:
    Speaking of Steve Martin, saw him and Martin Short live last week and it was simply one of the best two hours I’ve spent. Two pros on their game. Martin Short surprised me since I primalily know him through his characters. He’s lightning quick, has a vast range and is utterly fearless in the self-deprecation department. Steve Martin is still Steve Martin, enough said.

    ReplyReply
  47. 47
    burnspbesq says:

    Damn auto-correct. That was “Bilbo Biggott.”

    ReplyReply
  48. 48
    eclare says:

    @eemom: Wanted to let you know I read your comments on the Montana Woman post, and I completely agree.

    ReplyReply
  49. 49
    TenguPhule says:

    @PaulWartenberg:

    if trump refuses to testify, can the judge hold trump in contempt?

    Yes. of course, who exactly is going to go and enforce it?

    ReplyReply
  50. 50
    Roger Moore says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Taxes are hard. People are dumb. Give them a break.

    /Supreme Court Decision in a nutshell

    Having checked out the Wikipedia article, though, it looks as if the willfulness standard was included by statute; Cheek vs US only decided on what the standard for willfulness was (and set it very high). So Congress could rewrite the statute to lower the standard of proof if they wanted to. It’s just that Congress is apparently just fine with violation of the tax code being a purely civil matter in almost all cases.

    ReplyReply
  51. 51
    TenguPhule says:

    @Roger Moore:

    it looks as if the willfulness standard was included by statute

    Yep. And its almost as bad when it comes to white collar crime. Having to prove intent with finances really really sucks.

    ReplyReply
  52. 52
    gvg says:

    I don’t see how this Weisselberg guy can be any less guilty than Trump. Obeying bosses orders isn’t an excuse for really illegal acts. I’m not sure it’s in his interest to cooperate although if the case is documented enough he’ll get convicted anyway.
    I know people are usually influenced by actual people testifying but i like nice verifiable facts especially since I have never seen such a collection of pathological liars who have lost touch with reality long ago, It’s not just Trump though he may be the cause of much of it. They all lie. I’d be hesitant to convict just on one of their words especially since it’s so obviously desirable for them to pass the buck.
    This reminds me of one of the take aways from Clinton’s impeachment. Everybody on all sides has too much at statke in the trial going the way they want so they all try to influence things. It really is hard to have a fair trial. I thought that was important after Clinton’s. Now I am so frightened of Trump’s manias that i just want him gone. Sad isn’t it?

    ReplyReply
  53. 53
    Dev Null says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    *Looks at Cohen, Trump, his spawn, and literally everybody he has ever hired or nominated*

    So you’re saying there’s a chance?

    snap!

    ReplyReply
  54. 54
    Yutsano says:

    @burnspbesq: Forgive me for my cynicism, but I refuse to trust anyone Dolt45 puts up to head my agency. Least of all someone who could have that tenure for ten years and could really make a mess of things beyond what they already are. I have yet to see anything in his background that he’s qualified to run an organization the size of the IRS. Do you?

    ReplyReply
  55. 55
    gvg says:

    @PaulWartenberg: perjury could be interesting. We have all seen Trump lie like crazy and seem not in control, however there have been articles that say in the past Trump lied to make sales or promote himself but on the stand he was truthful enough not to get caught in perjury even when it contradicted things he said publicly before and after, like how much he was worth. So the question is, is he actually now a senile old liar or is it all just an act that he doesn’t remember the truth. I read some prior testimony of his. Strikingly different on the stand.

    ReplyReply
  56. 56
    Roger Moore says:

    @PaulWartenberg:
    IANAL, but my understanding is that Trump could use the threat of criminal prosecution for the same charges to plead the 5th, but doing so would just show how stupid he was to have fought the case. Pleading the 5th in a civil case is allowed, but it’s unlikely to get you anywhere. The judge is free to decide that the jury (or herself if it’s a bench trial) can make an adverse inference based on your unwillingness to testify. If you’re thinking about pleading the 5th in a civil trial, you might as well settle and save yourself the time and effort.

    ReplyReply
  57. 57
    gene108 says:

    @efgoldman:

    Some people move a lot, so they may forget a place they stayed in for only a few months. Or they travel overseas a lot, so they may have forgotten a vacation or business trip.

    These errors of omission happen.

    ReplyReply
  58. 58

    @Roger Moore:

    you might as well settle and save yourself the time and effort.

    True, but that would cost Trump money and he’s cheep and not as rich as he claims.

    ReplyReply
  59. 59
    eemom says:

    @eclare:

    Thank you! ❤️

    ReplyReply
  60. 60
    Teddys Person says:

    @Roger Moore:

    the only thing that comes out from them fighting is that more of their dirty laundry is aired in public.

    Yes, please.

    ReplyReply
  61. 61
    Teddys Person says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷: I long for the days when I had no idea who Ben Shapiro was.

    ReplyReply
  62. 62
    FlipYrWhig says:

    You know how Kay likes to point out that none of the Trump children appear to have ever had a job that wasn’t for their father? From reading this I feel like Trump has no idea what a business is or what it’s supposed to do, and he’s running the White House and America the same way. He just randomly tells this guy to do this thing and some other guy to do some other thing, forgets both, and then amuses himself with some TV because he’s the boss and he gets to do whatever he likes.

    ReplyReply
  63. 63
    burnspbesq says:

    @Yutsano:

    Understood, but you could have said the same thing about Mort Caplin when LBJ nominated him, and Mort turned out to be one of the best commishes ever.

    The idea that the commish should have experience running large, complex organizations rather than being a smart tax geek is of relatively recent vintage. I think Chuck will be fine as long as he gets a deputy who can make the trains run on time.

    ReplyReply
  64. 64
    J R in WV says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳 🌷:

    I don’t care. I want my scalp.

    Wait, you have YOUR scalp, on your head, don’t you? Don’t you mean you want HIS scalp? ;-)

    ReplyReply
  65. 65
    Johannes says:

    @Roger Moore:Well, we the people win as Judge Scarpulla, whom I’ve appeared in front of, does what she always does: Gives them every chance to settle, and, when they don’t, applies the law with precision and fairness.

    In other words, if it goes to trial, she will flay them more thoroughly than Ramsay Bolton ever dreamed possible.

    ReplyReply
  66. 66
    Tehanu says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    From reading this I feel like Trump has no idea what a business is or what it’s supposed to do, and he’s running the White House and America the same way. He just randomly tells this guy to do this thing and some other guy to do some other thing, forgets both, and then amuses himself with some TV because he’s the boss and he gets to do whatever he likes.

    That’s dead on target. As far as I can figure out, Dump has no idea how anything works — and if it doesn’t involve telling him how great he is, letting him feel up teenage girls, or cash checks, he doesn’t care, either.

    ReplyReply
  67. 67
    Sherparick says:

    @TenguPhule: They are so use to getting over & having their money to protect them. The powers that be in New York state were far more interested in cultivating them as donors. Very much the ethic of “being nice” to the Donald & his family & expecting he would be “nice” to them.

    ReplyReply
  68. 68

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