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Ep. 296 - No More Mr. Nice Trump
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Trump and Taxes: The Art of the Dodge
The new question new subject. When are you going to release your tax returns? Well, having the made their extremely complicated. It's gonna take a little while. I thought it from the moment. He entered the race for president. The issue of taxes stuck to Donald Trump, like gum on the sole of his shoe. What's the hold up very well, very big tax returns. The biggest I guarantee of this, the biggest ever in the history of what we're doing. So it's very complicated set, but we'll be releasing eight months after entering the race offering vague excuses. Trump finally gave a concrete reason not to do what every major party presidential nominee has done for decades in a debate. He said he's under audit by the Internal Revenue Service. As far as my return, I wanna file it except for many years. I've been ordered at every year twelve years or something like that. Every year they offered me experts say it doesn't usually work that way. I have friends that are very wealthy people. They never get audited, I get every year. I will absolutely give my return, but I'm being audited now for two or three years. So I can't. Do it until the audit is finished. Obviously, I think people would understand a few days later, Forbes magazine published an opinion piece by Beverly Hills, tax attorney responding to Trump's statement. This lawyer wrote that as a wealthy man Trump was likely the target of a special group within the IRS. The group is informally known as the wealth squad includes highly trained. Examiners who look beyond the single tax return to all the related business entities and examination by the wealth squad can take years. He wrote quote, would any experienced tax lawyer representing Trump in an IRA audit, advise him to publicly release his tax returns during the audit. Absolutely not. The man who wrote this, a respected tax attorney named Charles Rettig, come to order Reading's name was in the news this summer, like to welcome everyone to on the pending nomination of Mr Charles Rettig. The nominated service IRS commissioners very important position in this country. Last month, the Senate approved Charles rags nomination. The man who argued Donald Trump shouldn't show American voters. His tax returns is now America's chief tax collector. Hello and welcome to Trump Inc an open investigation from propublica and dulling on e. I'm Ilya marritz WNYC I'm Jesse Eisenberg from propublica. This season of trumping is all about the ways people around the president are working to profit from his position. And one of the biggest most direct ways is taxes. It says something about the Trump administration's view of taxes that this is the guy Charles Riddick who Trump appointed to head up the IRS recent agency chiefs have been picked for their managerial experience. Given that the IRS is a giant government bureaucracy. They've not been tax lawyers who spent their decades studying how to help rich clients creatively legally work. The system Trump's decision not to release his own taxes, and then his decision to hire the guy who said that was a good idea. It leaves us with a lot of questions about one of Donald Trump's biggest legislative victories. The tax cut. That passed last year. This is the only major legislation signed by this president. And the main aspect of that overhaul said it provides a huge cut for corporations and wealthy people. And there are specific tax cuts aspects of the law that in particular help Donald Trump and his allies and friends, and let's not forget all the ways the Trump family and the people around Trump have thumbed their nose at the IRS years. Before those changes to the tax law sometimes to the point of criminality or other legal violations, there's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort convicted this year for a complex international tax fraud include five counts of filing false tax returns untended of millions of dollars in political consulting income, personal lawyer. Michael Cohen. Pled guilty to eight felony charges convicted of domestic tax fraud. That was extremely simple, which he failed to report approximately four point one million dollars in reported income. Then there's the. Trump's themselves, Donald is thrilled his kids, they're named in a civil suit here in New York. That suit is over the Trump foundation. It violated a legal prohibition against self dealing which allegedly violated a whole slew of IRS rules governing nonprofits families. Again, the opposite of charity. Now the details about the Trump say, they've done nothing wrong. There's a patter to Trump in Texas, and that's what this episode is all about. He didn't pay any federal income tax so that make smart. Here's the pattern and by the way, it applies to both written rules laws and unwritten rules like norms. Number one, he acknowledged them just like we told you by not releasing his tax returns. And number two, he breaks them number three. Now that he's president key changes the rules. In this episode, we're going to show you all three of these things happening. Ignore break change. I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit add to the benefit of my company, my investors and my boys. I mean, honestly, I have brilliantly, I have brilliantly used those long. You'll talk with tax lawyer who specializes in helping rich people get in trouble with the IRS get out of trouble. She says it's a good time to be a wealthy rule breaker, and we'll learn the specific tax benefits Trump and his family members are getting. There is a ton. We don't know about Donald Trump and taxes because he's kept his tax return. Secret. One thing is sure if Democrats take one or both houses of congress, this fall, they'll demand receipts, but thanks to some really excellent reporting. We know more than we did on election day twenty sixteen about Trump's taxes. We're gonna start our tour with an exceptionally audacious cr-. Creative tax dodgers the president's late father, Fred Trump. She, we go. Just a simple Canadian working at the New York time. Suzanne, Craig is an investigative reporter. You may have read her recent story reported with two other times, journalists about how Donald Trump's father, Fred Trump built a fortune and passed it on to his children while paying as little in taxes as possible. The story is almost as long as Shakespeare's MacBeth, Andrea read it three times. I went to see Suzanne Craig, the other day at work. She says, Fred, Trump's wealth came from apartment complexes. He built in Brooklyn and queens after World War Two, when demand was high. I don't think we can do to these homes, but veteran certainly should be done. Found this and the WNYC archives often the veteran just married and how small family. But there were no vacancies. Fred Trump put up unlovely brick buildings with lovely names like beach, haven shore, haven park Brier and bell crest hall. We sort of treated each building like a little personality profile. A lot of people are obsessed with Trump's tax. Returns, probably no one more than Suzanne Craig. She's the one who got a great scoop during the twenty sixteen campaign. Someone actually mailed her part of Donald Trump's nineteen ninety-five tax return, which he filed with his then wife Marla Maples. It showed a loss of almost a billion dollars harder up your head around in itself. But what that gave him which was significant was basically a gift card from the IRS in order to shelter, taxable income up to a billion dollars going forward. So in theory, you would think he maybe never would pay taxes again. Craig's curiosity led her to trove of over one hundred thousand pages of Trump family documents. Going back to the nineteen forties more than two hundred talks returns from Fred Trump's empire. Bank statements, financial statements, his own personal Bank records. It was incredible. She didn't tell us who gave it to her. It took Craig and her colleagues, two or three weeks just to scan all the documents into a computer to actually digitize them. And then the reporters spent months reading and interpreting the documents. These numbers told a clear consistent story about Fred Trump and his son Donald. I think they took delight in the talks games that they played any dollar that they could keep away from the tax man victory for them. So let's touch on one of the tax dodges grant her retained annuity trusts or 'grats. This is a way a rich person can avoid inheritance taxes when passing on an asset to their child. This is done with real estate or stocks, things value. You can even put pieces of art in them from one generation to another with paying either very little or no talks. Basically the child pays their parent to buy the asset through a trust. They can save a lot of money by undervaluing that asset. And Craig says, that's what the Trump's did. Hear the toxin gets very little money. Actually. BDO does a commercial on it where there's a father and daughter and vineyard. BDO is an accounting firm. We watched the video together. You can't just inherit for thousand acres. He's proposing to him that she's got this great idea where you can transfer all this stuff to me and put it in and trust, and we won't really owe any taxes which doesn't use the word grab. But that's what they're talking about. There's a. Away. I can buy business. We set up a trust and that's how he transferred to stop the estate tax. There are no estate taxes, and you keep getting paid saying as before run this BDO it was their idea. Thirty second version. This incredible grand. That's interesting though because if you would only know what it was, if you speak the secret language in, obviously a lot of people do according to the times to Trump's weren't just using textile. That's advertised on TV. They were undervaluing the underlying asset which can be illegal all to avoid paying taxes. Some of the maneuvers, the New York Times called quote, outright fraud. And here we get to part two in our framework Trump breaking the rules. It's interesting how it worked. It's not really. It's not complicated anyway. It sort of out of monster on a movie for upkeep on his empire of dowdy, outer borough, permanent buildings. Fred Trump was regularly buying you a quick men and supplies. He would buy boilers fridges and stoves by paint supplies. Nothing too strange about that. He was driving his own bargains building by building, and then one day county shows all county building supply. Now, this is a head scratcher to figure out what this was. One of the reporters from the times went to the Bronx to talk to a guy who used to sell boilers to Fred Trump. His name is Leon Eastman, and he remembers a deal negotiated with Fred Trump in nineteen Ninety-three for sixty boilers a huge deal for him. He remembers the lunch. He remembers the restaurant. They went to. He remembers that he had to pay the tab, and he said, there was no all county at this lunch was Fred Trump and Fred Trump's people, and the first thing you ever heard about. County. It was when the checks started willing 'cause they were cutting the checks for you. Got this. The middleman company, all county building supply is paying the price Fred Trump negotiated, and here's the trick. All county would then Bill Fred Trump a higher price, a markup of twenty percent or fifty percent maybe more. Why? Well, it turns out all county was owned by Donald Trump and his siblings and a cousin. So the markup on those boilers went straight from Fred, Trump's pockets to the next generation and all county shareholders companies, siblings split the difference that is simply a gift from Fred disguised as a business transaction, whatever taxes they're paying here are certainly less than the gift tax or the estate tax. Craig says, all toll, Fred Trump was able to steer at least one point, six billion dollars of his wealth through his kids, and they all paid minimal taxes. The president's press secretary. Sarah Huckabee. Sanders says Donald Trump only got a one million dollar loan from his dad. That's it. A lawyer for Trump called the times is reporting one hundred percent false and highly defamatory. Is there a nickname for what they did with all counties assure hand. But in the business, people know for like, that is not that I. I know of, no, there maybe. Have you heard of one middle, Anna. Yeah, it's something out of. We wanted to know how the Trump's maneuvers look to someone who's day to day job is helping rich people with taxes. So we call Jenny Jonsson wear. I am a AXA Turney and specializes in defending high net worth taxpayers in criminal and civil matters with the IRS. We're basically does the same kind of work, Charles Rettig did. He's the guy who Trump picked for Commissioner of the beleaguered IRS. She thinks highly, I think he actually understands tax enforcement and we'll do his part to turn agency around anyway where red Suzanne Craig's article. She was not entirely surprised, but the all county middle manning thing. It did catch her attention because it was perfectly designed to disappear in the blind spot of iris auditors. The fact that there was a disguised gift going out of the fathers state and into his children's state. Without getting taxed would fall through the cracks. You would never notice to catch text dogs like this. You would need to look at the big picture. She says, but typically the IRS doesn't do that. It takes a lot of resources. So let's say an examiner scrutinizing a business partnership today would pull one partnership return and take a look at it. Well, if that partnership is solely owned by an individual who owns forty three other partnerships, twenty seven as corporations and five trusts, and it's doing business with those other entities than the IRS is going to miss a lot. You have to understand how that entity functions within the unit of all of the other different entities owned by that family and how their business relationships actually completed a gift to another generation g you say the IRS ought to do something about that. Guess what less than a decade ago they did. They created the global high wealth industry group also known as the well squad. We talked about this right at the beginning of the episode. If Donald Trump is indeed under audit, this is the group that might be doing it. I heard of it in two thousand nine when Commissioner showman announced it, and really to great fanfare talking about how this was a game changing strategy for the IRS. We have a new global high will operating unit. Here's iris Commissioner, Doug Schulman the following year, we're, we're taking a unified look at the entire web of business and economic entities controlled by high wealth individuals. So we can better assess all of a sudden lots of financial planners and trusts and estates. Lawyers wanted to hear from me about how this is going to play out and how this is going to affect their clients took a while to figure this out. But the answer at least for where's clients is not so much. It's not a major stressor. For high wealth taxpayers the way it used to be largely because those of us who've done a lot of audits have found that this didn't turn out to be as effective as we all feared. The IRS doesn't make it civil cases public. So our knowledge of the group is limited. So in the beginning you had a bunch of these and then they've tapered off and in the last few years you've hardly had any. Is that right? Right. I think I closed the most recent one about eighteen months ago and I haven't had any new ones come in. Partly this is because of bad planning. She says, the wealth squad just never found its place within the IRS. The leaders kept changing, but a big part of it was budget cuts pushed by the Republican congress. Michael league. Paul Callan I have been looking at this for months and it's really astonishing. The IRS budget has been cut steadily since two thousand eleven. It's two point. Five billion dollars less than it was back. Then the number of auditors at the IRS is below ten thousand. You know, when it was last that low nineteen fifty three the year Stalin died. The economy was a tenth of the size. It is today the rate it which the agency audits tax returns. That's the bread and butter business of the IRS. Well, that's plummeted forty, two percent since the budget cuts, it's basically a million audits year of those million audits. Do you know how many cases they bring criminally for tax evasion when you have legal income, but you've cheated under taxes. I have no idea about eight hundred. This is a country of three hundred thirty million people. If I were good at whistling whistle. This all means that the IRS has a resource crisis in huge pressing business, and a lot falls by the wayside. We requested an interview with the IRS. We submitted a list of questions. The agency did not respond. So this is what was already happening when the man who bragged about not paying taxes who hit his tax returns from the American people who might himself be under audit by the wealth squad was sworn in as president. And since then morale is also really, really down among the enforcement units within the IRS and they've been distracted doing other things. What other things big things. Most Americans will be able to file taxes on a single sheet of paper. What do you think about that? Kevin? You still they're going to be a Trump made it clear when he became president, that one of his top priorities was rewriting the tax code and within months. He and the Republican congress succeeded h official. The house has passed the tax Bill president expected to sign at the only question is when and where and where we do expect to hear from President Trump once again this after. So this is the Bill right here, and we're very proud of it. It's a tremendous thing for the American people that's going to be fantastic for the economy, a wholesale rewrite of the tax code on a scale that hasn't been seen since the time of Ronald Reagan, we're going to sign this. Little picture of it. It fits nicely. The bucks. Jimmy Johnson wear concede at its put the IRS under enormous strain. The IRS is not putting out guidance. They're not telling people how they intend to interpret the new law. So many things are so very different in the new law, and we can't get any guidance about how it's supposed to work from an IRA that doesn't have an employee's or budget to give us guidance. What's the overall picture for the wealthy in the United States when it comes to taxes is a good time to be wealthy in the United States. If you are about your tax planning. Probably so for tax payers who want play the audit lottery and be very aggressive in their positions and just hope they never get chosen or hope that if they do get shows and they can hire me to navigate them through that process, it's a great time for those taxpayers because all the enforcement personnel across the board are way down. People are retiring and they're not being replaced and the IRS can only do so much with so little. Will the right back. We've seen how Trump ignores rules norms on taxes, how he breaks them. Now how he's changing them president. So Donald Trump and the Republican, congress passed a giant tax overhaul. It was sold as tax reform and it was sold as a tax simplification. Was it? No, absolutely. Not. I mean, I mean, it's it any where to begin. This is Jesse Drucker. He's a reporter at the New York Times who has spent years reporting on the intricacies of our tax system. The tax overhaul, both introduced kind of new, not just complexity, but also sort of incomprehensible complexity Drucker who by the way is a friend of mine, says the entire process of drafting legislation was rushed. There were no hearings to kind of explain why this industry should be favored in that wind shouldn't be. I mean, that was kind of like a massive tax cut for certain segments with no discussion of why it was happening. The tax code was already friendly to real estate investors in the new code. Some of these friendly provisions have been expand. Let's have a look. One of them is called depreciation. The way it works is when you basically the tax code has long recognized that certain kinds of property like factory Queant encounter wear and tear in the course of a year. The owners take a deduction on their taxes based on the value equipments lost. This applies to commercial building owners, even though their property often gains in value. How generous is this spell? They called depreciation. Jesse Drucker reported based on documents reviewed that over an eight year period President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, probably paid little or no federal income tax in five of those years. He could avoid taxes because he owns a lot of real estate and on paper. He could report a lot of depreciation. You can have in the real world, lots of real world profit and free cash for you and your business. But you're getting this deduction essentially for expenses that you don't really pay in the real world. Now, can I do this? If I have my my cabinets. Need replacing, haven't they lost value? Appreciate your cabinets. Actually look pretty good, but I think that no, so so the issue is that this is something that applies to someone's business investment, right? You as a as a homeowner or an apartment owner, you don't get to take advantage of this. So that's a big tax perk for the real estate industry and the Jared Kushner's of the world. It's existed for years. A spokesman told the times that Kushner quote, paid all taxes do. Now let's move to inauguration day twenty seventeen. The Trump administration comes into office and they're in office for less than a year. And the president signed this massive overhaul of the country's tax laws that the specifically made the provision that Jared Kushner uses even more generous. They basically opened up the opportunity to take much bigger, much faster deductions related to depreciation. There's one more perk you need to know that's benefiting the Kushner's. It has a classic IRS name, ten thirty one like kind exchanges. There's nothing unusual or nefarious about this. It just says, if you sell a thing of value, you can avoid paying capital gains tax by buying something similar within a given timeframe. Ten thirty one's been used in lots of industries, livestock coins, aircraft all kinds of insects when people want to swap one cow one Cessna for another or an impressionist painting. It's very popular in the art field. And this is one techs vantage actually was removed in the new law. Well, it was removed for some investors in the tax law overhaul signed by the president last year, a limited ten thirty one for every industry in America except one real estate. Polling shows that the tax rewrite is not popular with the American people. They're even things the real estate industry doesn't like like a reduced tax deduction for mortgage interest payments on expensive homes. But overall, this industry did strikingly. Well. The reason this is important is kind of looking at Jared Kushner's taxes to the prism of his ability to take advantage of things that are in the tax law. And the two things that were aware of that drove his tax Bill. So low were made more generous in the law. Did he have any hand in writing the law? You know, it's a really interesting question. I mean, we asked his spokesman what role he had in some of the provisions that were made more generous that he took advantage of and they wouldn't answer and I was a little surprised. They definitely didn't say he had no role in. Humankind has not always pay taxes before the dawn of agriculture people foraged and hunted, their food. There was no government and nothing for the government to take. It was only when people started growing grain historians believe that the first states came into existence and the first taxes at the end of the season, the farmers needed to protect the grain. They had grown so they paid the prince a portion of their around this time that cats were domesticated as another way to guard your grain anyway, this social contract, pay your taxes, get government protection. It's been with us ever since in ever more complicated forms, taxes predate democracy there, a necessary condition for the functioning of society. Okay. So that's pretty high falutin. Thank you for the history lesson Ilia. Oh, you're very welcome. But let's think about what has actually happened with Fred and Donald. And Jared, they have as we all know, commercial real estate businesses that's not a piece of breakthrough intellectual property or some disruptive business model success in commercial, real estate is much more dependent on having a solid tax base in their local area, which means real estate appreciates when a city functions when there's low crime because the police are funded when their job opportunities because people want live there and create businesses, and they have a customer base, the parks are beautiful, the roads and bridges and subways function when the schools are adequately funded and providing education when people get subsidies to afford the rent that all takes tax dollars. So what it Fred and Donald and Jared do well, they took those tax dollars going. Into New York City and New Jersey, which thrived as New York did and privatized a portion of the public gain, they owed their wealth in large part. It can be said to our collective payments and there's more they game the Techsystems so they would pay even less. Then they get into power and they gave themselves huge techs cuts effectively. They were finalizing their transfer of public spending to their private purse. We are starting to see the consequences of tax overhaul this month. The treasury department reported that corporate tax revenue is down thirty. One percent President Trump promised economic growth and that is happening. But the US federal deficits biking seventeen percent a year ago bringing the deficit to seven hundred seventy nine billion dollars highest. The deficit has been in six years. The publican leaders are warning there may have to be cuts social programs. Remember this overhaul is the first true rewrite of the tax code since Ronald Reagan. And if history is a guide, it will be with us. Long after Trump has exited the stage. Coming up on trumping the president's part time, unpaid lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. What does he make money. Theron. By the way we love tips right now, we're looking to hear from people who've had experience owning property in Trump branded buildings that leader failed. If that's you or someone, you know, we wanna hear about it. Go to trumping podcast dot org to find out how to get in touch. This episode was produced by Meghan treat. The senior producer is made Kramer the associated producers, Alice wilder Bill Moss's the technical director with additional help from James Coyle Charlie, Herman Nicobar, Chavarria and Eric Manzke, or the editors, Robin fields propublica managing editor. Jim Schachter is the vice president for news at WNYC. Steve Engelberg is the editor in chief at propublica. We sincerely thank palled. He'll Andre Andre, comet and being for their help. In making this episode. The music is my Hannah's Brown.
Aired 5 months ago 33:37
Elliott Broidy's All-Access Pass
sometime in the blur of twenty teen. This haven't late today. Top GOP fundraiser, Elliott Freud, abruptly resigned from the Republican National Committee, ROY d. is a portly man with a wide far head thatch of straw, colored hair. And sometimes blond mustache. He's a California financier and the owner of a security firm. He's been player around governments in California. New York in Washington was at the top of Trump's fundraising apparatus, but chances are you've never heard of him and if you did, you forgot the venture capitalist acknowledged paying one point, six million dollars to a former playboy model who said that he'd gotten her pregnant. The lawyer who negotiated the payoff. Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal attorney, ROY d. coming. The story came and went so fast. The name Elliott Brady barely registered a cloud of scandal that follows. President Trump like dirt around the peanuts character, pig pen. Rates Dighton. It's guilty, pleas convictions, sex scandals influence peddling. All the reports said the fundraiser broadly held out access to Trump as the prize for perspective customers for his private business Brighty the Associated Press reported had pushed policies favored by princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates directly to President Trump and his security company had signed a contract or hundreds of millions of dollars with the UA. The emerets Brady's title at the Republican National Committee was national deputy finance co chair the same title as this guy better to make America. Great. Again, Michael Cohen make this company what it needs to be than Donald Trump. We need great feels we need when Elliot ROY d. needed a lawyer for a hush money agreement. He hired comb than the president's attorney. Both men raised money for Trump. They both had his ear and. Both made money from that connection. You only know about one of them. Hello and welcome to season two of Trump Inc a podcast from WNYC and propublica that Deeks deep into the intersection of business and politics and the Trump administration. I'm Andrea Bernstein this season where broadening our open investigation to look not only at the president and his family, but also the people around Trump and the ways they might be profiting from their proximity to the president. This is not a new phenomenon. There's been corruption in both democratic and Republican administrations, but this time around something feels very different. Protocols and norms are being tossed assigned. This chaotic environment creates fertile ground for people who want to influence the president like Elliott, ROY, d. as historian phones, you can see the dynamics at play, but before we get to Elliott, ROY, d. we're bringing in propublica Eric humanity Herrick, hey, Andrew, Eric. You have been thinking about the ways that people around Trump are making money or potentially benefiting from the presidency, and you've come up with three categories. That's right. Three categories. So let's start with the basic stuff. The first one is using your government post to fund your lifestyle or that of your friends or loved ones who is this. So one of the clearest examples is former EPA chief Scott Pruitt about blatant corruption that reaches to the very top of the Trump administration, but also lotion among the many, many things. He had a staff drive him around town looking for his favorite fancy lotion, and then there's Chick-fil-A right Pruitt used his job to try to get a chick fillet franchise for his wife, and then you have a whole lot of travel not just a Scott Pruitt you have, for example, Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who took military flights, costing nearly a million bucks including one with his wife, where they happen to land at a great. Spot to view the solar eclipse fifteen minutes ahead of time. I put on the glasses there like paper glasses. I'm like, I'm worried I'm getting getting my eyes burned out for like two seconds. That was the end of my interest in the eclipse after he was criticized. The treasury department said Mnuchin would reimburse the government for his wife's portion of the travel. And then there was an investigation into the trips which didn't find anything illegal, but it did note previous treasury secretaries typically flew commercial on their domestic flights. And so what's category to category? Two is possibly making money from your government position. Take commerce, secretary. Wilbur Ross who basically got negative information about a company and then essentially bet against the company stock raw says it was part of a complex trade to actually divest from the company, but they're just a lot of open questions there. So also in this category is President Trump and his family. The list there is very long. You have President Trump spending a lot of time at his properties and constantly. Using the presidential pulpit to talk up his various properties. And then there's Trump's hotel in DC which has become the place to be for lobbyists and foreign officials category. One is using your government posts to fund a lifestyle for yourself, your friends, your family category. Two is possibly using your government position to make money what's three. So the third categories essentially selling and benefiting from access to power. And we've long seen that in Washington, but what's different now is the level of chutzpah is really remarkable. So for example, we just heard Michael Cohen a minute ago, and he made deals with companies to quite explicitly, sell them access to the presidency. One of those companies, by the way happens to be connected to a Russian oligarch and then there's Rick gates, right? Who pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiracy against the United States. But before he did that, he reportedly sold. His own access to the administration to Elliott Brody propublica 's, Eric humanity. So Elliott party Brody operates so far below the radar. We couldn't find any tape of him speaking. We asked to interview him for this story, but a spokesperson decline. We sent a long list of questions in an emailed statement. The spokesman said, Elliott Brady has never agreed to work for been retained by Norman compensated by any foreign government for any interaction with United States. Government ever in the implication to the contrary is ally. There's a reason we know so much about Elliott ROY. His emails were hacked and released to some reporters, Brody sued over the hack. He felt cases in New York and California alleging the state of cutter, orchestrated, the hack, and that hundreds of thousands of stolen documents were distributed to the media to harm him cutter. Did this brought his lawyer says because he was an outspoken advocate of Israel and the critic of cutter, and he was making Hanway persuading President Trump that cutter. Harbors terrorists cutter denies this. The White House did not comment for the story in a statement to the AP a lawyer for ROY d. also called some of the emails, fraudulent and fabricated the AP and other news organizations check their contents with dozens of sources and confirmed tracked closely with real events. It's because of the emails and this reporting that we have an unusually complete picture of influence peddling and the Trump era. We're pulling the story of Elliott Brady in this episode. As a template for our open investigation this season. It's something we're trying to understand more about how nine only Trump, but his associates maybe benefiting financially from his presidency. ROY d. story starts a decade ago. Gentlemen, thank you for standing buying, welcome to the attorney general's conference call back in two thousand nine. Then new York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. He's now the governor and his top assistant a conference call with New York reporters today. We announced that this afternoon, Elliot Brady founder and chairman of California based private equity fund Mark stone, capital partners, pled guilty to a felony count of rewarding official misconduct. None of us had really heard of Iliad Brune even. But his Cuomo laid out Brody successfully steered a quarter of a billion dollars of New York state retirees, pension money into his investment fund Mark stone capital group, an old fashioned payoff of. Of state officials case. This is a fact of bribery of state officials, right? He paid almost a million dollars in gifts and favors to the officials and not just one, but a number of state officials in the controller's office by the control, his family on luxury tours to Israel, paid for hotels flights helicopter tours. The payoffs took more creative forms as well. For example, three hundred thousand dollars was paid to finance. The la- glee seat, family movie termed shoots David. Likley see was a pension fund official. The movie was his brother, Steve's production, David likley see also pleaded guilty and the pay to play scandal. Steve wasn't charged with any wrongdoing. We couldn't reach either Gleevec for this story. If anyone remembers Brady's pension fund, bribery conviction, they remember to a movie said in queens. Vanity Fair called it. The worst movie ever made. June. As for the New York pension fund investment, it had lost three fifths of its value as of its latest report in two thousand seventeen Brady pleaded guilty to a felony charge that day in two thousand nine. It was a sharp steep fall just a couple years earlier. He'd been a so called super ranger for George W Bush meaning. One of his top top bundlers of campaign donations. He and his wife threw a party for Bush and their newly purchased Bel Air mansion, but then came the New York investigation, a guilty plea and a fine. He had been Friday, ten million dollars, so they had to get rid of the mansion for one. This is Michael Finnegan Los Angeles Times, political reporter who's covered Brady. He says him, did not start out rich. It was a tax accountant. One of his clients was Glen bell. Bell. Who was the founder of Taco Bell? Bernie ends up managing bills. Assets becomes rich after that Brody founds the investment firm. Mark stone, cultivates connections with. Pension funds and California and New York. He becomes a major player in the Republican Jewish coalition and in a pack, the Israel lobby under President Bush. He gets appointed to a homeland security panel then comes the guilty plea. After that Reuters, legal team convinces a judge to do something unusual, reduce his charge to a misdemeanor. He gets no jail time. Then birdie starts a new career and he uses that security credential from Bush to stage a comeback. He had to sort of very quietly build his way back into Republican politics, and he wound up investing in a global security company called sir Psomas or buying the company. Rather it's a company founded by former military guys, what it sells, essentially intelligence gathering which it calls threat determines the threat, deterrence intelligence aggregation system or TD. I isn't advanced technology developed for the analysis of. Formation from multiple data sources in two thousand fourteen sir. Since gets a defense department contract, though, no payments go through until twenty seventeen. And by the time, the two thousand sixteen presidential campaign came around Brody was ready to begin fundraising aggressively for Republican candidates for president genn boy, I back Lindsey Graham than Marco Rubio than Ted Cruz. When the primaries are over Brady signs on starts raising money in a big way for Trump just a couple of months later. Thank you very much Republican national convention in Cleveland according to some lists that were posted by Bloomberg news Brody has the run of the high donor suites. This is a man has been convicted of political payoffs who didn't even support Trump until he literally had no other choices, but who quickly began raising millions for Donald Trump humbly and gratefully accept. Your nomination for the presidency of the United stinks. Above the crown in the most elite and spacious of sweets high rollers, eight and locked. If you looking Rhone tasty. Every time John cats Matiz owns a lot of supermarkets in New York and has given Trump a lot of money. He described for us what it was like a lot of people that working with each other and all it was met working network network. They're Republican National Committee cordoned off a set of suites for what it called its highest level donors was called the presidential trust. One was first so called vice chairs. Another was the Mnuchin sweet after Steve Mnuchin who is now the Treasury Secretary, they were all making a long bet. Nobody thought Trump could win. Nobody with. But. And he, they hoped credential. Guests included friends of the president like New York, real estate man, Howard Lorber and California financier, Tom barrack Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, there were bankers titans of steel and coal. There were billionaires like Wilbur Ross and Betsy DeVos. Nobody knows the system better than me. Provincial to walk from sleep to sweep was Elliott Brady, though he just joined the Trump team. He had access to the upper levels of the campaign as Trump became the nominee, which is why I alone can fix it. Against all odds Trump wins the presidency Brueghel sets to work. We'll be right back. Trump Inc is an investigative reporting partnership from WNYC and propublica were following leads talking to people and seeing where the facts take us along the way. We're bringing you what we find. Sometimes the tips come from you. Our story about the Trump golf course t. markers and blazoned with the presidential seal that came from a listener. We've received hundreds of tips like that, and we're working on a bunch of stories based on them. Reporting can take time and we know you don't wanna miss a single Trump Inc story. So good at Trump in podcast dot org slash updates or text Trump Inc. That's t r u m p I n c, two, seven, zero one zero one and make sure you sign up for our periodic updates. We've won't spam. You just give you an update when there's something new for your ears and more stories are on the way. Thanks. Hey, it's, I will rod this season more perfect from WNYC studios might be the most perfect yet nineteenth amendment linen have been fighting for the legal right to phone says the eighteen forties this season. We are making an album featuring, for example, Dolly Parton, an album of songs and stories inspired by the amendments to the US constitution. Listen more perfect wherever you get your podcasts. But as you can see the plane ferrying the Trump family to Washington DC from New York has its Kan.. 2017 Trump is about to be noggin rated and Brady he's getting ready to before. Trump was elected. The leadership page on his business or cynicism website was a list of former generals and military leaders. According to one of the documents released during the hacks Brady moves his name up to the top of the page. Around this time, his company starts getting payments from the twenty four team defense department contract. He's able to point to that work pitching foreign governments. He becomes finance, co chair, the inaugural committee wrote. He's reaching out to foreign governments to pitch his company's security services. The documents and news reporting shows bragging about his access to Trump Mike Pence, Steve Mnuchin, Jeff Sessions. He even has sessions private Email account according to propublica and suggest some names. For US attorney for sessions two point Brady, give some of his inauguration event tickets to his perspective clients in one letter released in that E mail hack first reported by the New York Times, forty cents to top and Golan government officials and invitation to the fifty eighth presidential inaugural. In the same Email, he sends them a contract with his firm. Cintas, the record show the firm will get six million dollars in payments from Angola. ROY d. pitches his access in its firms counter terrorism surveillance work across the globe Romania, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, we're gonna look at each of these. I Romania. Right before the inauguration ROY d. invite some senior Romanian officials to inaugural events. This was first reported by McClatchy during the festivities Brody goes to a lunch with Trump, but Trump hotel in Washington. Somebody uploaded a video of Trump arriving there. Some blurry pictures taken in the restaurant that appear to show Brady sitting at a small table next to the president-elect underneath the white iron grillwork in the old post office. During the meal. The view drag NIA a Romanian powerbroker walks right up to Trump and shakes his hand. According to drag me as Facebook page, Trump tells him, Romania isn't fortin to us. One Romanian expert told me that drag NIA is the Romanian Darth Vader. He can't run for public office himself because he's been convicted of vote rigging. According to sources, familiar with drag, Neha being seen with Trump is validation and for Brady being seen with Trump at this luncheon by drag, Neha is testament to his own importance. Brody goes onto pitch business in Romania and eventually lands a preliminary agreement for two hundred million dollars though. As of now, the funding has gone through. According to the emails and reporting McClatchy and the Romanian news site hot news Brady has a business partner in Romania with a familiar name, Steve league Lisi. Maybe you remember that name. He used to be a movie producer. June. Steve's brother. David is the one Brady pleaded guilty to paying off in that New York pension scandal back in two thousand nine. In this world of events around the inaugural Brady strikes up a relationship with a man named George Nader who's about to become an important Brady business contact. Neighbors got connections with top leaders in the United Arab Emirates and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This part of the story was first reported by the New York Times and the Associated Press based on the emails which we've seen Brady's teams has emails were stolen in a cert. Some were forged. They told the that Nater is a US citizen, and he did not direct any of Brady's actions. Over the course of the next year Nater holds out the prospect of ROY d. of hundreds of millions of dollars in security contracts with United Arab Emirates for his part Brody offers Nater access to Trump and the opportunity to press for major foreign policy changes on behalf of Nader's clients. In the Middle East, one of their goals is to isolate cutter where there's a US military base. Another of the hacked emails shows Brody writing. We must help them kill all the snakes in the emails. Snake is the code word for cutter. In may of twenty seventeen Trump makes his first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia. It's their Trump in Saudi leaders, arrest their hands on glowing or. Crowded room is dark. As the news wells, they're lit up by panels from below. The next month at an RNC event at Trump's hotel in Washington Trump says, Elliott, ROY d. is fantastic. The intercept published this tape. Later in the speech President Trump says. We're having a dispute with Qatar were supposed to say cutter, it's they prefer. I prefer that they don't fund terrorism cares. ROY D. And made her all this as an opening. They discuss getting an in person meeting with Trump at the White House. In late September Brady attends a fundraiser with Trump, but an upper crust restaurant in New York, the Cirque Brody rights to Nater. I met the chairman last night. The chairman is their code for President Trump. Lots of people around nothing was discussed. I asked him for the meeting. He agreed a few days later Royd. He goes right to the Oval Office. He sends a detailed Email telling Nater he has pitched his causes right to the president. Nader is thrilled, but he wants one more thing. He wants to get his picture with Trump at a fundraiser in Dallas. There is a problem as I described by the AP. The secret service doesn't want to approve it in two thousand two Nater was convicted of sexually abusing minors. In Prague. He served time in prison. It's not clear if the sex abuse charges. The reason why the secret service objects Brady drafts an Email to Trump's chief of staff vouching for Nader. Grody also tells Nater he needs to make a minute. Payment of a hundred thousand dollars to the Republican National Committee. We don't know how this is resolved and there's no record of payment by Nater, but neater does get his photo taken with Trump the next month. Brody Gibbs. His biggest donation ever to the RNC a hundred and eighty nine thousand dollars. In December. There is another big dollar fundraiser Brody refers to his emails. This one's at Cipriani New York restaurant in vault ceiling. Old Bank building across from Grand Central terminal, comes in a good mood because he's just gotten his tax Bill passed. Joel them how we don't on the fundraising front because of him. And because of you, we have broken every record in the history of the RNC standing on stage a video of American flags, overlaying blue Kurt. He's joking with the crowd. You look at that table. That's a rough table. I have this. That's my friends and that table. In New York that weekend, ROY D. And Trump meet again to discuss the Middle East, Grady sends an Email to George Nader outlining when he tells Trump days later, Brody sends a contract nature's way. It's for work in the emerets. ROY d. starts getting payments through shell company in Canada. The first wire is for thirty six million dollars, but that's just a down payment. Brody's contract with the UAB is worth up to six hundred million dollars. Third country birdie sought business with Malaysia. Around the time, Brady neater, working on the Muratti deal. Now, zebra Zok, then the prime minister of Malaysia meets Trump at the White House. Trump seated at the table with his cabinet flanked by Mike Pence, and John Kelly, his chief of staff of the prime minister of Belinda and his distinguish delegation with us today. The meeting is a good look for naive, who at the time is under fire for corruption. In Malaysia, he'll be charged his own country a year later for money laundering and abuse of power. But behind the scenes for this event, there's been a lot of hustling is the Wall Street Journal. First reported, ROY d. wants to get security work in Malaysia to help get the deal. He's put together some talking points for the prime minister to tell Trump about how both countries are fighting ISIS and North Korea. We don't know whether Brody discussed the talking points with the prime minister, or if the prime minister raised them with Trump. What we do know in the cabinet room Trump says them out loud together. They'll fight ISIS allowing, I suppose you say, dash. And others to exist at another point in his remarks that day Trump invokes North Korea does not do business with North Korea, any longer. And it's not clear if ROY these business dealings with Malaysia there fruit, not too long. After the meeting, prime minister Najeib is voted out in an anti-corruption wave. In early twenty eighteen things begin to go badly for ROY d. he plans to meet the president at mar-a-lago, but the government shutdown and Trump cancels his trip south George Nader is also on his way Tamara Lago, but he stopped at Dulles airport by federal agents who questioned him about possible foreign interference. In Trump's 2016 campaign, he had a meeting with Don Jr. at Trump Tower in August twenty sixteen, not too long. After all this Brady's hacked, e mails get released. The New York Times the Associated Press McClatchy, the Wall Street Journal. They each get. Some of the emails reports about ROY attempted influence, peddling start to emerge in their literature was brought his lawyers, say cutters modus up. Rhonda appears to be selected group of emails on topics intended to generate negative publicity about Mr. Brody and to repeat the cycle with as many news outlets and stories as can brody's financial story remains part of the background noise around. Trump then newsbreaks about the one point, six million dollar payment to a former playboy model that the deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee had an affair with a playboy model gutter pregnant and paid her to stay silent about it all, including the abortion. Less than ten years after admitting to paying off New York state officials, ROY d. again, faces public shaming. He resigned from the RNC Brody cancels an appearance with Trump at a Los Angeles event. His superpower to get close to Trump is gone. In August of this year, the Washington Post reports that ROY d. is under scrutiny by federal prosecutors are trying to manipulate the US president on behalf of foreign governments. Rhody denies this. He still has his contracts, seven point, five million in contracts and subcontracts with the US government. An agreement with Romania for the possibility of up to two hundred million dollars of work and a contract worth up to six hundred million with the United Arab Emirates. We have such a complete story to tell you because Brady's emails got hat, but ROY d. story is just one of many examples of tempted influence peddling and the Trump administration. It's important to note that ROY d. has not been convicted or even accused of any crimes in relation to President Trump, but there's a pattern of behavior that's becoming all too familiar WNYC and propublica. We've been asking ourselves if what we're seeing in the Trump administration is actually worse than what we've seen during past presidencies. Right. I mean, Trump ran with the slogan drain the swamp. So to put this in context. Sarah, what a second, let me get my phone's on. We caught up an expert in international corruption. So, yeah, I'm Sarah cheese. I encountered corruption living on the ground Afghanstan where turned out to be the most important issue driving the conflict. There chains was an NPR reporter. She ended up in Afghanistan working on economic development there and wrote a book about her experience called thieves of state. She studied corruption in Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia. She's advised the military and the joint chiefs of staff in Afghanistan. Chase a corruption. All the time. Amang officer wants demanded. She pay a bribe to make a Bank deposit. Man doesn't really happen in the US, but what's going on in the United States as far as I'm concerned is an American version of phenomenon that I've been seeing all over the world which is to say networks made up of top government officials captains of industry out. Note criminals woven. Together are hijacking government and economic function and bending it to serve the purposes of their personal enrichment and not the public interest. She says, these networks are key indicator of corruption. It's not an accident that, for example, we're seeing group of people attempting to profit from Trump's presidency who are connected to the president, but to each other, like members of a club, you've got in the Trump administration, a much higher level of overlap between private and public sector members of the network then has typically been the case in the past, but and this is key. President Trump is really taking the veil off of practices that have been moving in this direction anyway. Chase has corruption in the US a bipartisan problem. We've got the electorate doesn't even vote in presidential elections. I've been asking people why and get answers like will they're gonna put who they want in office. Anyway, I say we'll what's rigged about the system too much money. I mean, these are absolutely unanimous answers. You've made a convincing case that the American system has been a lot sicker than most people have thought for a long time. It looks to me like we're sort of sliding down a mountain and then with Trump we've fallen off a cliff. I think that's exactly the right way to put it is that we've been flying down this mountain and mountains are not, you know, just gently rolling things. Mountains includes sudden and violent drop offs. coming up on Trump eight. The numbers. Like that. The running down then. The air deal Trump keeps those around him silent. Trumping is an open investigation. Have you seen a Trump nondisclosure agreement him? You perhaps even signed one yourself. Email us at tips at Trump. In podcast dot org, find out how to send secure documents that Trump Inc podcast dot org. Trumping is produced by Meg Kramer. The associate producer is Alice wilder. The technical director is Bill moss original music by Hans Brown, Charlie, Herman, and Eric Manzke are the editors. We had helped this episode from Catherine Sullivan. Jake Pearson in Gillam propublica Robin field says propublica managing editor, Jim Schachter as the vice president for news at WNYC and Steve invert the editor in chief at propublica.