All the President’s Tax Frauds

Do read the blockbuster report out by the New York Times on the Trump Family Taxes.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

This all might have been criminal at the time, but unfortunately it’s all past the statute of limitations.

By age 3, Mr. Trump was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. By the time he was 17, his father had given him part ownership of a 52-unit apartment building. Soon after Mr. Trump graduated from college, he was receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father. The money increased with the years, to more than $5 million annually in his 40s and 50s.

Horatio Alger would have been proud.

Fred Trump was relentless and creative in finding ways to channel this wealth to his children. He made Donald not just his salaried employee but also his property manager, landlord, banker and consultant. He gave him loan after loan, many never repaid. He provided money for his car, money for his employees, money to buy stocks, money for his first Manhattan offices and money to renovate those offices. He gave him three trust funds. He gave him shares in multiple partnerships. He gave him $10,000 Christmas checks. He gave him laundry revenue from his buildings.

Much of his giving was structured to sidestep gift and inheritance taxes using methods tax experts described to The Times as improper or possibly illegal. Although Fred Trump became wealthy with help from federal housing subsidies, he insisted that it was manifestly unfair for the government to tax his fortune as it passed to his children. When he was in his 80s and beginning to slide into dementia, evading gift and estate taxes became a family affair, with Donald Trump playing a crucial role, interviews and newly obtained documents show.

Truly inspiring.

The most overt fraud was All County Building Supply & Maintenance, a company formed by the Trump family in 1992. All County’s ostensible purpose was to be the purchasing agent for Fred Trump’s buildings, buying everything from boilers to cleaning supplies. It did no such thing, records and interviews show. Instead All County siphoned millions of dollars from Fred Trump’s empire by simply marking up purchases already made by his employees. Those millions, effectively untaxed gifts, then flowed to All County’s owners — Donald Trump, his siblings and a cousin. Fred Trump then used the padded All County receipts to justify bigger rent increases for thousands of tenants.

Good ol’ American ingenuity, huh?

All told, The Times documented 295 streams of revenue that Fred Trump created over five decades to enrich his son. In most cases his four other children benefited equally. But over time, as Donald Trump careened from one financial disaster to the next, his father found ways to give him substantially more money, records show. Even so, in 1990, according to previously secret depositions, Mr. Trump tried to have his father’s will rewritten in a way that Fred Trump, alarmed and angered, feared could result in his empire’s being used to bail out his son’s failing businesses.

How heart warming. And there’s lots and lots more. So much more. And as you read it, keep reminding yourself that if Dems take back the House, the head of the House Financial Services Committee will be Maxine Waters. And Maxine Waters could subpoena all of Trump’s bank records and tax returns.

See also this Forbes article about how Trump is trying but failing to make money off the presidency. So much winning.

Why Is Kavanaugh Still a Candidate for SCOTUS?

What I’m seeing in the Kavanaugh mess is very different from what Republicans must be seeing. Because what I’m seeing is that the longer this drags out, the worse Kavanaugh looks to most voters. Yes, opinions about the candidate have hardened along partisan lines, but “swing voters” are mostly going into the opposition camp. Many people who were undecided last week are “no” this week. It also appears that opposition to Kavanaugh is stronger among Dems than support for him is among Republicans. He is, as someone might say, a loser.

Yet, rather than back off from the nomination, Republicans are doubling down. And they are doing this in spite of lots of indicators that Kavanaugh is going to hurt them more than help them in the midterms. Apparently, Republicans think otherwise.

Dylan Scott wrote a couple of days ago,

Republicans aren’t being irrational. While Democrats are appalled, Republicans are listening to a different drummer: the conservative grassroots. Those voters want their Supreme Court justice confirmed, or else they are threatening to stay home on Election Day — and that really could put the Republican majority at risk.

Evangelicals are maybe the single cohort most loyal to Trump and therefore crucial in midterm elections, which will be a referendum on the president. They were already warning Republicans not to withdraw Kavanaugh or else risk electoral disaster before Ramirez came forward. They don’t sound likely to change course now.

The nerds at FiveThirtyEight discuss this perspective and aren’t sure it holds water.  On September 26, at least, they were saying that the Republicans might be better off withdrawing Kavanaugh and replacing him with a less controversial conservative. There was still plenty of time to get the confirmation done and off the plate before the midterms.  They also questioned how important this Supreme Court pick is to the right-wing base, really. One anti-abortion judge is as good as another, and the woods are full of ’em.

However, by sticking with Kavanaugh, and making the whole confirmation about Kavanaugh, and not just about putting a conservative justice on the Court, Republicans could very well be shooting themselves in the foot. At least, it seems that way to me. But, apparently, the Right imagines it is standing on some kind of principle, or even moral higher ground, and they aren’t going to step down.

So Mitch McConnell is preparing to push Kavanaugh through, and if he doesn’t have the votes the Republicans will probably campaign on how Kavanaugh was “borked.”

Of course, a big part of the Republican’s perspective is that they don’t think sexual assault is really a wrong. Especially if it happened a long time ago and the perp is a powerful white guy.

From the perspective of not-Republicans, this issue isn’t really about what Brett Kavanaugh did to Christine Blasey Ford. It’s about a system that protects the predation of men and dismisses the damage done to those they assault. Every time someone stands up and expresses outrage about how Brett Kavanaugh and his family must be suffering, they are saying loudly and clearly that Christine Blasey Ford’s suffering is her problem and she should get over it already, and that, basically, women don’t count.

Yeah, but dude — they vote.