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Trump, Inc.

Updated 10 days ago

Business
News & Politics
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He’s the President, yet we’re still trying to answer basic questions about how his business works: What deals are happening, who they’re happening with, and if the President and his family are keeping their promise to separate the Trump Organization from the Trump White House. “Trump, Inc.” is a joint reporting project from WNYC Studios and ProPublica that digs deep into these questions. We’ll be layout out what we know, what we don’t and how you can help us fill in the gaps. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts, including On the Media, Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Nancy and many others. ProPublica is a non-profit investigative newsroom.© WNYC Studios

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He’s the President, yet we’re still trying to answer basic questions about how his business works: What deals are happening, who they’re happening with, and if the President and his family are keeping their promise to separate the Trump Organization from the Trump White House. “Trump, Inc.” is a joint reporting project from WNYC Studios and ProPublica that digs deep into these questions. We’ll be layout out what we know, what we don’t and how you can help us fill in the gaps. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts, including On the Media, Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Nancy and many others. ProPublica is a non-profit investigative newsroom.© WNYC Studios

iTunes Ratings

3503 Ratings
Average Ratings
2993
226
86
60
138

Well done

By joesoo1963 - Jul 28 2019
Read more
Eye opening and yet not eye opening....

Very thorough and well done

By Rebafay - Jul 27 2019
Read more
A thorough investigation of the Trump administration.

iTunes Ratings

3503 Ratings
Average Ratings
2993
226
86
60
138

Well done

By joesoo1963 - Jul 28 2019
Read more
Eye opening and yet not eye opening....

Very thorough and well done

By Rebafay - Jul 27 2019
Read more
A thorough investigation of the Trump administration.
Cover image of Trump, Inc.

Trump, Inc.

Updated 10 days ago

Read more

He’s the President, yet we’re still trying to answer basic questions about how his business works: What deals are happening, who they’re happening with, and if the President and his family are keeping their promise to separate the Trump Organization from the Trump White House. “Trump, Inc.” is a joint reporting project from WNYC Studios and ProPublica that digs deep into these questions. We’ll be layout out what we know, what we don’t and how you can help us fill in the gaps. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts, including On the Media, Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Nancy and many others. ProPublica is a non-profit investigative newsroom.© WNYC Studios

Rank #1: The Questions Mueller Didn't Ask

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Perhaps you’ve heard: Special counsel Robert Mueller testified on Wednesday. There’s plenty of analysis about who won and who didn’t. We’re skipping that part.

Jul 25 2019
30 mins
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Rank #2: What We Now Know About Manafort, Cohen and ‘Individual-1’

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Court filings by prosecutors last week shined a light on the business lives of two men who worked get Donald Trump elected president: former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Trump, Inc co-hosts Ilya Marritz and Andrea Bernstein talk with Franklin Foer of The Atlantic about what the documents show -- and the further questions they raise.

Among those questions:- What exactly was Manafort’s connection to a business partner who some in the intelligence committee believe to be a Russian intelligence asset?

- Why did Russian officials approach the Trump campaign about potential “political synergy”?

- How much did Trump know about Cohen’s coordination of hush money payments to two women who alleged they had affairs with the now-president?

Dec 12 2018
25 mins
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Rank #3: The Company Michael Cohen Kept

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Long before Donald Trump’s attorney paid Stormy Daniels or had his office raided by the FBI, a pattern was established: The associates of Michael Cohen often land in legal trouble.

Apr 18 2018
45 mins
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Rank #4: The Hidden Hand of a Casino Company In Trump’s Contact with Vietnam

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Trump’s first call with the Vietnamese prime minister was arranged by Marc Kasowitz, a Trump personal lawyer who has another client with business interests in Vietnam.

Apr 25 2018
27 mins
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Rank #5: Trump's 'No Conflict Situation'

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As president, he says he can’t have a conflict of interest with his businesses. But that interpretation turns the ethics laws on their head.

Feb 07 2018
24 mins
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Rank #6: Money Laundering and the Trump Taj Mahal

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The casino’s money laundering controls were so lacking, regulators found, it amounted to “willful" violations of the law.

Feb 14 2018
25 mins
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Rank #7: The Government's Bar Tab at Mar-a-Lago

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Spending taxpayer money at Mar-a-Lago is a such a "headache," the State Department got a special credit card for visits to the president's private club. This week, the intersection of money, presidential access and security, and the push and pull between government spending and private profits at Mar-a-Lago.

May 01 2019
36 mins
Play

Rank #8: What We’ve Learned From Michael Cohen

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For a year now, Trump, Inc. has been digging into the president’s business. We’ve reached out repeatedly to the Trump Organization with questions. Mostly, we haven’t gotten answers.  

Yesterday was different.

Michael Cohen worked for a decade as the president’s in-house attorney and fixer. In his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, he offered a detailed, insider account of alleged fraud, secrecy and cover-ups.

In many cases, what he described connected to the very stories we’ve been digging into:

-- How Cohen came to work for Trump.

-- Evidence of possible wrongdoing by the Trump inaugural committee. (The District of Columbia’s attorney general just subpoenaed the Trump inaugural committee, citing issues we revealed.)

-- How Trump often changed the value of his assets, sometimes to seem richer, sometimes to lower his taxes, like at his golf courses

Trump, Inc. hosts Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz sat down to review what we’ve learned and what it means for ongoing investigations into the president and his business. Dan Alexander from Forbes joined them.

Feb 28 2019
33 mins
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Rank #9: Trump, Russia and 'Alternative Financing'

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After Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians for an intensive, elaborate effort to interfere with the 2016 elections, President Trump reacted as he has before — with bluster and bellicosity, at everyone but Russia.

This week on Trump Inc., we’re exploring the president’s, persistent weirdness around Russia: Why has Trump been so quiet about Russia and its interference?

Glenn Simpson has a theory—that one cannot understand the Russian collusion scandal without understanding Trump’s business.

Simpson is the head of Fusion GPS, the investigative firm behind the now-famous Trump dossier. Before that, he was a Wall Street Journal reporter who specialized in the nexus of money, politics and international skullduggery. Simpson was hired, first by conservatives and then by Democrats, to dig into Trump’s business record.

Simpson has been pilloried on the right as a tool of the Clinton campaign — or worse. He’s been sued multiple times. But amid all the charges, few have followed the details of what Simpson concluded: After a string of Trump failures, disappointments, and bankruptcies, Western financiers shut him off. Trump still needed money to fund his projects. Where did he get it? Simpson came to believe it came from Russia and Russian-connected sources. It came via golf courses, condos, and other conduits.

The eventual result, Simpson suggests, is that Trump ended up beholden to those providing his businesses with “alternative financing.”

One note: The Trump Organization and White House declined to answer our questions for the podcast.

And remember, we want to hear from you: We’re always eager for tips. We also want to hear your questions. What would you like to know about Trump’s businesses? What confuses you? Contact us.

“Trump, Inc.” is a production of WNYC Studios and ProPublica. Support our work by becoming a supporting member of WNYC or visiting donate.propublica.orgSubscribe here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Feb 21 2018
24 mins
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Rank #10: Open For Business

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Forbes investigative reporter Dan Alexander found the president's company is collecting at least $175 million in commercial rents. And Trump doesn't have to tell us who's paying.

Feb 13 2018
14 mins
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Rank #11: An Opportunity for the Rich

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Under a six-lane span of freeway leading into downtown Baltimore sits what may be the most valuable parking spaces in America.

Lying near a development project controlled by Under Armour’s billionaire CEO Kevin Plank, one of Maryland’s richest men, and Goldman Sachs, the little sliver of land will allow Plank and the other investors to claim what could amount to millions in tax breaks for the project, known as Port Covington.

They have President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul law to thank. The new law has a provision meant to spur investment into underdeveloped areas, called “opportunity zones.” The idea is to grant lucrative tax breaks to encourage new investment in poor areas around the country, carefully selected by each state’s governor.

But Port Covington, an ambitious development geared to millennials to feature offices, a hotel, apartments, and shopping, is not in a census tract that is poor. It’s not a new investment. And the census tract only became eligible to be an opportunity zone thanks to a mapping error.

As the selection process was underway, a deputy chief of staff to Maryland's governor wrote in an email that “Port Covington does not qualify” as an opportunity zone.

Maryland's governor chose the area for the program anyway — after his aides met with the lobbyists for Plank, who owns about 40% of the zone.

“This is a classic example of a windfall benefit,” said Robert Stoker, a George Washington University professor who has studied economic development in Baltimore for decades. “A major investment was already planned and now is in a zone where they are going to qualify for all kinds of beneficial tax treatment.”

In selecting Port Covington, the governor had to exclude another Maryland community from the opportunity zone program. In Baltimore, for example, the governor dropped part of a neighborhood that city officials recommended for the program — Brooklyn — with a median family income one-fifth that of Port Covington. Brooklyn sits just across the Patapsco river from Port Covington, in an area that suffers from one of the highest drug and alcohol death rates in Baltimore, which in turn has one of the highest drug fatality rates nationwide.

In a statement, Marc Weller, a developer who is Plank’s partner in the project, defended the opportunity zone designation. “Port Covington being part of an Opportunity Zone will attract more investors, foster more economic growth in a neglected area of the City, and directly benefit all of the surrounding communities for decades to come,” Weller said. Supporters say the Port Covington development could help several nearby struggling south Baltimore neighborhoods.

An official in the administration of Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, said, “The success of that project is really going to go a long way to providing benefits for the whole city of Baltimore.” The official added: “The governor is a huge supporter of the development.”

A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, which was involved in the selection process, said that “due to the time limits of the federal tax incentive, the state of Maryland did purposefully select census tracts where projects were beginning to increase the odds of attracting additional private sector investment to Maryland's opportunity zones in the near term.”

The Birth of a New Tax Break

In December 2017, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, his signature legislative achievement. Much criticized as a giveaway to the rich, the law includes one headline provision that backers promised would help the poor: opportunity zones.

Supporters of the program argued it would unleash economic development in otherwise overlooked communities. “Our goal is to rebuild homes, schools, businesses and communities that need it the most,“ Trump declared at a recent event, adding, “To revitalize these areas, we’ve lowered the capital gains tax for long-term investment in opportunity zones all the way down to a very big, fat, beautiful number of zero.”

The provision has bipartisan support. “These cities are gold mines,” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a 2020 presidential hopeful and main Democratic architect of the program, told real estate investors in October. “They’re domestic emerging markets that are more exciting than anything you’ll see overseas.”

Here’s how the program works. Say you’re a hedge fund manager, you purchased Google stock years ago, and are sitting on $1 billion in gains. If you sell, you’d send the IRS about $240 million, a lot less than ordinary income tax but still annoying. To avoid paying that much, you can sell the shares and put the $1 billion into an opportunity zone. That comes with three generous breaks. The first is that you defer that $240 million in capital gains tax, allowing you to invest more money up front. But if that’s not enough for you, you can hold the investment for several years and you’ll get a significant reduction in those taxes. What’s more, any additional gains from the new investment are tax-free after 10 years.

It’s impossible to predict how much the tax break will be worth to individual investors because it depends on several variables, not least whether the underlying project gains in value. But one investment pitch projected 10-year returns would jump to 91% from 29% on a hypothetical $1 million investment. That includes $284,000 in tax breaks — money the federal government would have collected from taxpayers with capital gains but for the program.

The tax code already favored real estate developers like Trump, and his overhaul made it even friendlier. Investors can put money into a range of projects in opportunity zones, but so far most of the publicly announced deals are in real estate. The tax break has led to a marketing boom, with Wall Street pitching investors to raise funds to invest in the zones. Critics argue that the program is flawed, pointing out that there’s no guarantee that the capital investment will help community residents, that the selection process was vulnerable to outside influence, and that it could be a giveaway for projects that were going to happen anyway. In a case in Chicago uncovered by the Real Deal, two tracts already slated for a major development project were selected by the governor as opportunity zones even though city officials hadn’t initially recommended them.

Under the new law, areas of the country deemed to be “low-income communities” would be eligible to be named opportunity zones. The Treasury Department determined which census tracts qualified. Then governors of each state could select one quarter of those tracts to get the tax benefit.

That governor prerogative turned out to be very useful to Kevin Plank.  

Plank’s Dream

In 2012, Plank-connected entities quietly began buying up waterfront property on a largely vacant and isolated peninsula south of downtown Baltimore. Often using shell companies to shield the identity of the true buyer, they ultimately spent more than $100 million acquiring much of the peninsula. Plank’s privately held Sagamore Development now controls roughly 40% of the area that would later be named an opportunity zone.

In early 2015, more than two and a half years before Trump’s tax law passed, Plank revealed himself as the money behind the purchases. He planned a new development and headquarters for Under Armour, the sports apparel company he started after coming up with the idea as a University of Maryland football player. Today, Under Armour employs 15,000 people. Plank has a net worth of around $2 billion.

Though the Port Covington area was cut off from downtown by I-95, Plank said he likes the location because of the visibility. “When people drive through Baltimore [on I-95] I literally want them to drive through and go, 'There's Baltimore on the right. There's Under Armour on the left,’” he told The Baltimore Sun.

A year later, Plank’s firm took his vision to the general public, running TV and print ads touting the new project. One of the ads, reminiscent of the Democratic presidential primary spots airing at that time, was filled with a diverse cast sharing their dreams for a new city within a city.

“We will build it. Together,” the ad begins, before running through a glittering digital rendering of contemporary urban design features. Office towers, shops, transit, parks, jobs — all of it to be anchored by a new world headquarters of the city’s most visible brand name, Under Armour. Sagamore would spearhead the project and sell land to others who would build businesses and housing.

Even before qualifying for the opportunity zone break, taxpayers were going to subsidize the development. Days after the ads touting togetherness, Plank proposed that the city float $660 million in bonds to help build what the company has said would be a $5.5 billion development. Opponents contended Plank’s proposal amounted to corporate welfare that would exacerbate the city’s stark economic and racial divides. But the company agreed to provide millions of dollars to the city and a group of nearby low-income neighborhoods to gain support for the project, and the City Council passed the measure that fall.

As Under Armour’s stock plummeted in 2017 amid slowing sales growth and progress on the Port Covington project lagged. That September, Goldman Sachs stepped in to commit $233 million from its Urban Investment Group. Hogan, himself a real estate developer, personally spoke with the then-CEO of Goldman, Lloyd Blankfein, about the deal.

Meeting With the Governor’s Office

In the weeks after the 2017 federal tax overhaul passed, Plank’s team spotted an opportunity.

Nick Manis, a veteran Annapolis lobbyist who has also represented the Baltimore Ravens, reached out to Hogan’s chief of staff about Port Covington, according to emails obtained by ProPublica through a public records request. The developers and their lobbyists had given at least $15,000 to Hogan’s campaigns in recent years. A meeting was set for early February.

But the developers had a problem.

The Friday before the meeting, a deputy chief of staff to the governor wrote in an email that “Port Covington does not qualify” for the coveted tax breaks.

The Port Covington tract, which includes a gentrified corner of South Baltimore north of the largely empty peninsula, was too wealthy to be an opportunity zone. There is a second provision of the law for wealthier tracts: A tract can qualify if it is adjacent to a low-income area. But Port Covington failed that test, too. Its median family income — nearly 160% of Maryland’s — exceeded the income cap even for that provision.

Port Covington was out — unless the tract could somehow be considered low-income in its own right.

On Feb. 5, the Port Covington development team arrived at the second floor of the statehouse in the opulent governor’s reception room to meet with top Hogan aides. The agenda for the meeting included opportunity zones, as well as transit and infrastructure issues. The developer’s team requested that the Port Covington tract be made an opportunity zone. The state officials “acknowledged their interest in receiving that designation,” a Hogan administration official said.

Bank Error in Your Favor

Three days after that meeting, Plank and the Port Covington developers got bad news. The Treasury Department released a list of census tracts across the country that were sufficiently poor to be included in the program. Port Covington was not included in that list.

Three weeks later, however, things turned around. The Treasury Department issued a revised list. The agency said it had left out some tracts in error. The revised list included 168 new areas across the country defined by the agency as “low-income communities.”

This time, Port Covington made the cut.

It couldn’t have qualified because its residents were poor. It couldn’t qualify because it was next to some place that was poor. But the tract could qualify under yet another provision of the law. Some tracts could make the cut if they had fewer than 2,000 people and if they were “within” what’s known as an empowerment zone. That was a Clinton-era redevelopment initiative also aimed at low-income areas.

Port Covington wasn’t actually within an empowerment zone, but it is next to one. So how did it qualify? The area met the definition of “within” because the digital map files the Treasury Department used showed that Port Covington overlapped with a neighboring tract that was designated an empowerment zone, Treasury officials told ProPublica.

That overlap: the sliver of parking lot beneath I-395. That piece of the lot is about one one-thousandth of a square mile.

(ProPublica)
(ProPublica)

There are no regulations or guidance on how to interpret the tax law’s use of “within,” said a spokesman for the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which compiled the maps. The agency made what it called a “technical decision” that any partial overlap with an Empowerment Zone would count as being “within” that zone — no matter how small the area, or if anyone lived there.

Or, if the overlap was even real.

Turns out, no part of Port Covington actually overlapped with the empowerment zone.

Treasury’s decision ignored a well-known problem in geographic analysis known as misalignment, mapping experts said.

Misalignment happens when the lines on digital maps made by two sources differ slightly about where things like roads and buildings lie, according to Henry Luan, a professor of geography at the University of Oregon.

For example, if a tract ends at a highway, one file might show the border on the near side of the highway while another — when zoomed all the way in — might show it a few feet away on the far side. When laid on top of each other, the two files end up with minuscule differences that don’t mean anything in the real world.

Except in this case, it had big real world consequences for Port Covington. The mapping error allowed the entire tract to qualify as an opportunity zone.

“That area of overlap is a complete artifact of” the map files Treasury used, said David Van Riper, director of spatial analysis at the Minnesota Population Center. “It’s not an actual overlap.”

Sometime in the mid-2000s, the Census Bureau used GPS devices to make its map files more accurately represent the country’s roads. One of the maps used by Treasury appeared to be based on the older, less accurate Census maps, Van Riper said.

Even accepting Treasury’s misaligned maps, the entire Port Covington tract receives tax benefits, even though less than 0.3% of it overlaps with the neighboring tract.

“Only a minimal overlap, but you make the whole Census tract benefit from the policy?” Luan said. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Port Covington is one of just a handful of tracts in the country that ProPublica identified that qualified through similar flaws in Treasury’s process.

Taking the Break

There is no evidence that Plank or the Port Covington developers influenced the Treasury Department’s revision.

But the lobbying of the governor before the Treasury change appears to have paid off.

As they were lobbying, Baltimore officials were working out which parts of the city would benefit most from being opportunity zones. They petitioned the governor to pick 41 low-income city neighborhoods to get the tax break, all of them well below the program’s maximum income requirements.

The city’s list remained largely intact when the governor made his selections in April. Hogan made just four changes, three of which qualified under the main criteria without the benefit of the mapping error. But the fourth didn’t: Port Covington.

Plank’s team cheered the revision. The very thing that made Port Covington a poor candidate to be an opportunity zone — that it wasn’t a low-income area — could make it exceptionally attractive to investors. In January, they convened an opportunity zone conference at their Port Covington incubator called City Garage featuring state officials and executives from Goldman, Deloitte and other firms.

“Port Covington kind of fits all the needs,” said Marc Weller, Plank’s partner, at the conference. “It has all the entitlements, and it has a financial partner in place as well. It’s probably the most premier piece of land in the United States that’s in an opportunity zone.”

The opportunity zone program has restrictions intended to prevent already-planned developments from benefitting. But the Port Covington developers told Bloomberg that the firm will be able to reap the benefits of the tax break because it has found new investors. Among the potential new investors who might take advantage of the tax break are Plank’s own family, one of the developers told the Baltimore Business Journal. A Port Covington spokesman denied that Plank’s family members are potential investors.

To get the maximum benefit, investments need to be made in 2019, though investments made through 2026 can take advantage of growth tax-free. Only a portion of the Port Covington project is expected to be underway by then.

A Goldman spokesman said it is “likely” that the firm will take advantage of the opportunity zone benefits in Port Covington, adding that it has “made no firm decisions about how each component will be financed.”            

Margaret Anadu, the head of Goldman’s Urban Investment Group and the lead on the Port Covington investment, recently said of the opportunity zone program: “These are the same neighborhoods that have been suffering since redline started decades and decades ago, pretty much eliminating private investment. … And so we simply have to reverse that. And the only way to reverse that is to start to bring that private capital back into these neighborhoods.”

The Port Covington tract is just 4% black. For it to be included in the program, another community somewhere in Maryland had to be excluded. The ones that the city suggested that were excluded by the governor, for example, are 68% black and have a poverty rate three times higher than Port Covington’s.

There is some evidence suggesting being named an opportunity zone has already been a boon for property owners. An analysis by Zillow found that sale price gains in opportunity zones significantly outpaced gains in eligible tracts that weren’t selected. Real Capital Analytics found that sales of developable sites in the zones rose 24% in the year after the law passed.

Under Armour has said it’s still committed to building its new headquarters on the peninsula, but it’s not clear when that will happen.

Still, other aspects of the once-stalled project finally started moving forward in recent months. After presenting plans for the first section inside the opportunity zone this winter, the project finally got underway on a rainy day in early May of this year.

"The project is real,” Weller said at the kickoff event, which included Anadu, the Goldman Sachs executive, and city and state officials. “The project is starting. We're open for business."

Jun 19 2019
29 mins
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Rank #12: Trump’s Moscow Tower Problem

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This week, we’re exploring President Donald Trump’s efforts to do business in Moscow. Our team — Heather Vogell, Andrea Bernstein, Meg Cramer and Katie Zavadski — dug into just who Trump was working with and just what Trump needed from Russia to get a deal done. (Listen to the podcast episode here.)

First, the big picture. We already knew that Trump had business interests involving Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign — which he denied — that could have been influencing his policy positions. As the world has discovered, Trump was negotiating to develop a tower in Moscow while running for president. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has admitted to lying to Congress about being in contact with the Kremlin about the project during the campaign.

All of that explains why congressional investigators are scrutinizing Trump’s Moscow efforts. And we’ve found more:

•  Trump’s partner on the project didn't appear to be in a position to get the project approved and built. On Oct. 28, 2015 — the same day as a Republican primary debate — Trump signed a letter of intent with the partner, a developer named Andrey Rozov, to build a 400-unit condominium and hotel tower in Moscow.

In a letter Rozov wrote to Cohen pitching his role, he cited his work on a suburban development outside of Moscow, a 12-story office building in Manhattan’s Garment District (which he bought rather than constructed) and two projects in Williston, North Dakota, a town of around 30,000.We looked into each of them.

Rozov’s Moscow project has faced lawsuits from homeowners, some of which have settled and some of which are ongoing, and the company developing it filed for bankruptcy. It remains unfinished.

Property records show that Rozov owned his New York building for just over a year. He bought it for about $35 million in cash, took out an almost $13 million loan several months later, made no significant improvements and then sold it for a 23 percent profit. Trump’s former business associate, Felix Sater, who once pleaded guilty to financial fraud and reportedly later became an asset for U.S. intelligence agencies, is listed on the sale as an “authorized signatory.”

We did find a developer with a workforce housing project in Williston, as well as approved plans for a mall/hotel/water-park. (The town attracted interest from developers as the center of North Dakota’s oil boom earlier in the decade.) Rozov’s name doesn’t appear on materials relating to the company, but a person familiar with the project confirmed that this is what Rozov was bragging about in his letter. Oil prices cratered and the mega-mall was never built.

Rozov did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Here is a rendering of the plan:

Plans for "Williston Crossing," a 218 acre site in Williams County, North Dakota.
(Williston Crossing Major Comprehensive Plan Amendment Presentation/Gensler)

•  An owner of a sanctioned Russian bank that vouched for the Trump Organization in Moscow had a criminal history that included involvement in a Russian mafia gas-bootlegging scheme in the U.S.

Making a business trip to Russia requires an official invitation. According to correspondence published by BuzzFeed, Sater arranged for an invitation from Genbank, a small Russian bank that expanded significantly in Crimea after Russia invaded in 2014.

One of Genbank’s co-owners is Yevgeny Dvoskin, a Russian-born financier who grew up in Brighton Beach at the same time as Sater. Dvoskin pleaded guilty to tax evasion in federal court in Ohio for the bootlegging scheme and spent time in prison. He was later deported to Russia, according to press accounts. In Russia, he remained tied to criminal networks, according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. (We were unable to reach Dvoskin for comment.)

•  We also get a hint about why Trump may have needed the Kremlin to get his deal done. Some of the sites under consideration for a potential Trump Tower Moscow were in historic areas with strict height restrictions. Just a few years before the 2015 letter of intent that Trump signed, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin pledged to do all he could to prevent the city from being overrun by skyscrapers.

If Trump’s deal was to move forward in some place like the Red October Chocolate Factory, one of the spots that was considered, getting around zoning restrictions would need help from the very top.

Sater and Cohen were also kicking around a plan to offer Putin the building’s $50 million penthouse, according to BuzzFeed. That need for special help, combined with the potential offer of a valuable asset, raises questions about whether the plan ran afoul of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, according to Alexandra Wrage, the president and founder of Trace International, an organization that helps companies comply with anti-bribery laws. “What you describe is certainly worrying,” she said.

The Trump Organization, the White House, and Michael Cohen did not respond to requests for comment.

For his part, Sater is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on March 27. The committee members will undoubtedly have plenty of questions.

You can contact us via Signal, WhatsApp or voicemail at 347-244-2134. Here’s more about how you can contact us securely.

You can always email us at tips@trumpincpodcast.org.

And finally, you can use the Postal Service:

Trump, Inc. at ProPublica

155 Ave of the Americas, 13th Floor

New York, NY 10013

“Trump, Inc.” is a production of WNYC Studios and ProPublica. Support our work by visiting donate.propublica.org or by becoming a supporting member of WNYC. Subscribe here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Mar 21 2019
38 mins
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Rank #13: The Mysterious Loan Trump Made to Himself and More

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David Fahrenthold with the Washington Post answers your questions — and then asks one himself.

Feb 28 2018
24 mins
Play

Rank #14: Trump and Deutsche Bank: It’s Complicated

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Whispers of money laundering have swirled around Donald Trump’s businesses for years. One of his casinos, for example, was fined $10 million for not trying hard enough to prevent such machinations. Investors with shady financial histories sometimes popped up in his foreign ventures. And on Sunday, The New York Times reported that anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank internally flagged multiple transactions by Trump companies as suspicious. (A spokesperson for the Trump Organization called the article “absolute nonsense.”)

The remarkably troubled recent history of Deutsche Bank, its past money-laundering woes — and the bank’s striking relationship with Trump — are the subjects of this week’s episode. The German bank loaned a cumulative total of around $2.5 billion to Trump projects over the past two decades, and the bank continued writing him nine-figure checks even after he defaulted on a $640 million obligation and sued the bank, blaming it for his failure to pay back the debt.

Trump, Inc. isn’t the only one examining the president’s relationship with the bank. Congressional investigators have gone to court seeking the kind of detailed — and usually secret — banking records that could reveal potential misdeeds related to the president’s businesses, according to recent filings by two congressional committees. The filings were made in response to a highly unusual move by lawyers for Trump, his family and his company seeking to quash congressional subpoenas issued to Deutsche Bank and Capital One, a second institution he banked with. Trump’s lawyers have contended that the congressional subpoenas “were issued to harass” Trump and damage him politically.

Earlier today, a federal judge in New York declined to issue a preliminary injunction to block the subpoenas. During the hearing in which he delivered that ruling, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos said Congress is within its rights to require the banks to turn over Trump’s financial information, even if the disclosure is harmful to him.

For their part, the filings for the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees say they are “investigating serious and urgent questions concerning the safety of banking practices, money laundering in the financial sector, foreign influence in the U.S. political process, and the threat of foreign financial leverage, including over the President.” The inquiry includes investigating whether Trump’s accounts were involved in two large schemes involving Deutsche Bank and Russian clients.

The committees want to determine “the volume of illicit funds that may have flowed through the bank, and whether any touched the accounts held there by Mr. Trump, his family, or business.” Links to Russia will get a particularly close look. “The Committee is examining whether Mr. Trump’s foreign business deals and financial ties were part of the Russian government’s efforts to entangle business and political leaders in corrupt activity or otherwise obtain leverage over them,” the filing stated.

The episode explores some of the Trump-related moves by the bank:

➧ Deutsche Bank’s private wealth unit loaned Trump $48 million — after he had defaulted on his $640 million loan and the bank’s commercial unit didn’t want to lend him any further funds — so that Trump could pay back another unit of Deutsche Bank. “No one has ever seen anything like it,” said David Enrich, finance editor of The New York Times, who is writing a book about the bank and spoke to Trump, Inc.

➧ Deutsche Bank loaned Trump’s company $125 million as part of the overall $150 million purchase of the ailing Doral golf resort in Miami in 2012. The loans’ primary collateral was land and buildings that he paid only $105 million for, county land records show. The apparent favorable terms raise questions about whether the bank’s loan was unusually risky.

➧  To widespread alarm, and at least one protest that Trump would not be able to pay his lease obligations, Deutsche Bank’s private wealth group loaned the Trump Organization an additional $175 million to renovate the Old Post Office Building in Washington and turn it into a luxury hotel.

Like Trump, Deutsche Bank has been scrutinized for its dealings in Russia. The bank paid more than $600 million to regulators in 2017 and agreed to a consent order that cited “serious compliance deficiencies” that “spanned Deutsche Bank’s global empire.” The case focused on “mirror trades,” which Deutsche Bank facilitated between 2011 and 2015. The trades were sham transactions whose sole purpose appeared to be to illicitly convert rubles into pounds and dollars — some $10 billion worth.

A spokesperson said Deutsche Bank has increased its anti-financial-crime staff in recent years and is “committed to cooperating with authorized investigations.” The bank said it has policies in place to address the potential for conflicts of interest, including “special measures with respect to clients that hold public office or perform public functions in the U.S.”

The bank was “laundering money for wealthy Russians and people connected to Putin and the Kremlin in a variety of ways for almost the exact time period that they were doing business with Donald Trump,” Enrich said. “And all of that money through Deutsche Bank was being channeled through the same exact legal entity in the U.S. that was handling the Donald Trump relationship in the U.S. And so there are a lot of coincidences here.”

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May 22 2019
41 mins
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Rank #15: Trump, Inc. Goes Beyond Collusion

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In this Trump, Inc. podcast extra, we talk about what we know, what we don’t know and what we still want to know after Attorney General William Barr gave his summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Trump, Inc co-hosts Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz joined Maya Wiley, professor at the New School and MSNBC Legal Analyst on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show to review the on-going investigations. 

Collusion was never the only thing. For the last year and a half, we have been looking at the conflicts of interest that pervade President Donald Trump’s administration. That trail has led us from Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, to Panama, India and, yes, Russia, where we reported on how Trump’s associates appealed to the Kremlin for help at the same time the Kremlin was preparing an attack on the 2016 elections.

And Andrea Bernstein also talks with Eric Umansky, Trump, Inc. Editor and Deputy Managing Editor at ProPublica, about how to interpret what we know (and don't know) about the special counsel's report.

Mar 25 2019
36 mins
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