Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bombshell Newsweek Report: Trump’s Biz Ties Would Be NatSec Nightmare


Donald Trump’s sprawling web of business ties around the world would make him the most conflicted president in American history, with virtually no foreign policy decision untainted by Trump Organization interests, according to a bombshell Newsweek cover story published online Wednesday.
As investigative reporter Kurt Eichenwald details in the story, which is based on confidential interviews with executives, foreign politics, global financiers, and even criminals, the GOP nominee personally tried to woo Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, did business with the son of an Azerbaijan official who is accused of laundering money for the Iranian military, and holds the trademark for possible Trump branded projects in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
One of Trump’s most troubling business entanglements is in Turkey, a critical U.S. ally in the fight against ISIL in the Middle East. After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presided over a 2012 ribbon-cutting dedication of a Trump property in Istanbul, relations between him and the real estate mogul have frayed, with the president speaking out against Trump’s derogatory remarks about Muslims. The politically influential Dogan family, whose Dogan Group was Trump’s Turkish business partner on the project, is embroiled in criminal allegations, with its owner facing charges that he engaged in a fuel-smuggling scheme.
Eichewald writes:
The Trump family rakes in untold millions of dollars from the Trump Organization every year. Much of that comes from deals with international financiers and developers, many of whom have been tied to controversial and even illegal activities. None of Trump’s overseas contractual business relationships examined by Newsweek were revealed in his campaign’s financial filings with the Federal Election Commission, nor was the amount paid to him by his foreign partners.
It would also be a monumental task for Trump to untangle these conflicts of interest, according to the report:
Trump’s business conflicts with America’s national security interests cannot be resolved so long as he or any member of his family maintains a financial interest in the Trump Organization during a Trump administration, or even if they leave open the possibility of returning to the company later. The Trump Organization cannot be placed into a blind trust, an arrangement used by many politicians to prevent them from knowing their financial interests; the Trump family is already aware of who their overseas partners are and could easily learn about any new ones.
It's worth reading the whole report over at Newsweek.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A tale of many Trumps: book reveals the showman, womaniser and slick operator

Dan Roberts in Washington and Lauren Gambino in New York 

Donald Trump’s shifting political and business loyalties are laid bare in a new book that challenges his credentials as a conviction politician in often lurid detail.
Despite a recent campaign focus on letting “Trump be Trump”, the 431-page biography instead charts the career of many Trumps: the showman, the womaniser, and a business partner who quickly ditches failing schemes.
The book, the first of several expected on Trump, was compiled by a team of two dozen Washington Post journalists, led by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, during a three-month period earlier this year, in which they had some 20 hours of interviews with him.

Challenged with evidence that he had changed party affiliation seven times between 1999 and 2012, the Republican candidate defended his political flip-flopping as a necessary expediency. “I think it had to do more with practicality, because if you’re going to run for office, you would have had to make friends,” he told the authors.

He declined to say whether he had voted for Hillary Clinton, for whom he once hosted a packed penthouse fundraiser and donated campaign contributions six times over a decade. “I felt it was an obligation to get along, including with the Clintons,” he once said, according to the book titled Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money and Power.

But the team of reporters also reveal new accounts of business reversals, including interviews with some of the victims of a collapsed Florida property scheme who sued after discovering that he had little responsibility for it other than receiving income for the use of his name. 

Instead, reports the Washington Post book, one of the project’s actual developers had pleaded guilty in a separate Wall Street fraud case involving mafia crime families. Trump insists he “barely knew” the man.

 Trump also confirms a notorious incident in which unwelcome tenants in one of his skyscrapers were encouraged to leave by being told they would have to walk 60 flights to get to work because the elevators had mysteriously shut down. 
Yet much of the detail of Trump’s business dealings – from a mortgage venture described as a “boiler room” to a vitamin sales scheme said to share similarities with pyramid schemes – may please supporters with depictions of a man who invariably ends up “winning”. A controversial clothing line, made mainly in low-wage factories offshore, is said to have netted Trump $1m with no money down.

The self-proclaimed teetotaler, who doesn’t like shaking hands for fear of germs, also emerges as a consummate master of media manipulation.
NBC executive Jim Dowd is quoted saying Trump believed the Apprentice TV show provided him with the opportunity to run for the White House. “He told me ‘I’ve got the real estate and hotel and golf niche. I’ve got the name recognition, but I don’t have the love and respect of middle America.’ Now he did. That was the bridge to the [2016 campaign].”

The book details Trump’s parasitic, and at turns downright bizarre, relationship with the press. Trump even granted a reporter an in-person interview at the hospital on the day his daughter Tiffany was born. In another instance, it appears Trump, pretending to be a spokesman for himself, leaked details of his first divorce from Ivana to People magazine. 

Early in his career, he employed a “carrot and stick” approach with reporters to both garner attention and pre-empt negative press. When Trump learned a journalist from the Village Voice was interested in digging into his business dealings, he called the reporter, Jack Newfield, and later referred to him as a friend. At one point he offered to help get Newfield an apartment in a more affluent neighborhood. But Trump also warned him, “I’ve broken more than one writer.” 

“For decades, Trump’s daily morning routine included a review of everything written or said about him in the previous 24 hours. The clippings were usually culled by Norma Foerderer – for two decades Trump’s ever-present chief assistant – who also handed her boss a spiral notebook containing media requests, most of which he would handle himself,” according to the book. “As his celebrity grew, the daily pile of Trump related news coverage swelled; still, he diligently tried to review everything written or said about him.” 

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Trump routinely made headlines for his splashy persona and high-stakes investments. The book notes that he was adored by working-class New Yorkers, especially ones from the outer boroughs who appreciated his Queens accent, and by immigrants, who saw him as the epitome of the American dream, excessive but successful.  

Reporters became accustomed to speaking to Trump directly. On occasion, the book said, it appeared he would masquerade as a spokesman for the organization under the name “John Miller” or “John Barron”. He even used “The Baron” as a codename when leaving messages for Marla Maples while he was still married to Ivana Trump. Barron is also the name of his youngest son with his current wife, Melania Trump. Incidentally, when he first met Melania, he allegedly asked for her phone number even though he was on a date with another woman at the time.

The book also describes how Trump was devastated by the deaths of his casino executives, Stephen Hyde, Mark Grossinger Etess, and Jonathan Benanav in 1989. The four attended a meeting at Trump Tower in New York that ran longer than expected. Having missed their flight home, the men boarded another helicopter back to Atlantic City. A scrape on the rotor blades caused the helicopter to split apart in mid-air.
Trump learned of the crash first, and called the three families to inform them, according to the book. In an interview with the Post, Trump compared that experience to when the military informs “soldiers’ families when they’re gone”. Later Trump would claim that he was supposed to be on the helicopter and changed his mind at the last minute. “It was, like, a fifty-fifty deal,” he told CNN, though this account has been disputed

The book describes how Trump adopted the ethos of Roy Cohn, a fearsome New York lawyer and former consigliere to Senator Joseph McCarthy, who represented the builder for 13 years: “All press is good press”. Cohn, who died of Aids in 1986, weeks after being disbarred, is credited with inviting Trump into New York’s influential social and political circles that proved useful as he grew his business in the city. 

Trump later explained his philosophy to Elizabeth Jarosz, a second-season contestant who later became a brand strategy consultant. “All publicity is good publicity … When people get tired of you is when you do more publicity, because that’s when you become an icon,” she recalled.

Monday, July 11, 2016

GOP platform draft declares pornography 'public health crisis'


Cleveland (CNN)The Republican Party will declare internet pornography a "public health crisis" under an amendment added to the draft party platform Monday at preliminary meetings in Cleveland.
North Carolina delegate Mary Frances Forrester successfully proposed the amendment in a subcommittee of the platform committee Monday morning.
"The internet must not become a safe haven for predators," the provision states. "Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children's safety and well-being. We applaud the social networking sites that bar sex offenders from participation. We urge energetic prosecution of child pornography which closely linked to human trafficking."
The amendment passed with little debate.
The debates over the platform on Monday touched on a variety of topics, from endangered species to medical marijuana to abortion and international trade.
The full committee continues its deliberations on the platform into Tuesday and will send a full draft to the floor of the convention next week.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

White House Blasts Benghazi Report As 'In-Kind Contribution' To RNC


"Is the RNC going to disclose the in-kind contribution that they received from House Republicans today?” Earnest said at his daily media briefing.
Earnest went on to note that House Republicans spent $7 million taxpayer dollars on their investigation, which he said was intended to "tear down Secretary Clinton's poll numbers."
Clinton herself responded to the report earlier in the day, saying it was "time to move on." House Republicans determined in their report that President Obama's administration acted too slowly in response to the attacks.
"The variety of conspiracy theories that have been flowering on the Republican side of the aisle are politically motivated fantasies," Earnest said.

Witness At Cruz Hearing Smears 2 Dem Reps As Tied To Muslim Brotherhood


“I attended a convention in Columbus, Ohio, in 2008, organized by Muslim Brotherhood group, ISNA, and both the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons had recruitment and outreach booths,” Gaubatz said. “Both Congressman Keith Ellison and Andre Carson spoke at the Muslim Brotherhood event.”
Ellison's office confirmed to the Huffington Post that he indeed attend the 2008 convention and other conventions organized by ISNA, while Carson's office did not return Huffington Post's request for comment. Huffington Post pointed out that President Obama has addressed the group's convention in 2015, via a video message. ISNA, meanwhile, has denied any connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the Huffington Post.
Gaubatz was described as a "National Security Consultant" in the hearing's witness list, and has long accused Islamic advocacy groups of being front groups to influence U.S. national security policy. He once posed as an intern at the Muslim civil rights group Council on American Islamic Relations, where he collected documents for a 2009 book co-authored by his father, "Muslim Mafia."
He was testifying in front of the the Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, of which Cruz is the chairman.
Later in the hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) praised Ellison for his "great patriotism."
Another witness, Zuhdi Jasser -- the founder of American Islamic Forum for Democracy and “A Battle for the Soul of Islam” -- bashed President Obama for speaking at a Baltimore mosque in February.
“Here’s a mosque that had gender apartheid as a policy within its mosque. It had a sermon which was a screed against homosexuals a year prior, that our Muslim reform movement publicized and said, ‘Look at it. Why is he going to this mosque?’” Jasser said. “It appeared to be a bigotry of low expectations that somehow we don't hold Muslims accountable to the same values we do everybody else in the West and in this country.”
Jasser then referenced a speech Obama gave at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast, in which the President compared concerns about Islam and terrorism today to Christianity and the Crusades.
“We'll give lectures to Christians, Jews and others, but when it comes to muslims, the mosque he chooses as a backdrop is in the 13th century when it comes to women's rights, gay rights and other rights.”