Part VI: Behind The Curtain

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Oleg Deripaska Has Close Ties To Vladimir Putin

In part V we saw how Donald Trump’s poor judgment and lack of “give a shit” attitude, his branding and monetization of everything he touches is a direct cause of most problems besetting his administration. Scandal, ethics reviews, Senate inquiry and counter-intelligence investigations have plagued this recently installed White House.  Most of the problems are Trump’s  fault. Donald cares little about who he associates with, as long as they kiss the ring, rub his ego and equate everything to money.

Roger Stone, a disgusting creep, who is a self-described lobbyist, political consultant and “Republican operative” got together with Trump and they decided that Paul Manafort would make a great campaign chairman.  OMG. This is the same guy who was making millions of dollars working against American interests in Crimea and the Ukraine. And between these two guys the only name they could come up with was Paul Manafort to chair the Trump campaign?  That limiting of potential candidates for the job is mind bending, unless that already known relationship between Manafort and the Kremlin was considered a positive and defining qualification.

Who Was Manafort Really Working For?

Once installed at Trump’s right arm, Manafort just two weeks before Trump was nominated as the Republican nominee for the president of the United States, he offered to “provide briefings” on the presidential race, through a European intermediary, to Russian oligarch and billionaire Oleg Deripaska.  Deripaska is a known confidant of Vladimir Putin and because of his connections to organized crime has not been allowed to travel in the United States.

On July 7, 2016 Manafort wrote to his intermediary, “If he (Deripaska) needs private briefings we can accommodate.”

That quote came from an email that is part of thousands of documents turned over to investigators probing into allegations that the 2016 Trump campaign colluded with Russian operative to win the presidential election. At this point, there is no evidence that any such meetings ever took place.  A spokesman for Deripaska dismissed the email exchange as, “consultants in the notorious beltway bandit industry.”

Anonymous sources told the Washington Post Wednesday that investigators theorize that the email thread “reflect Manafort’s willingness to profit from his prominent role along side Trump creating a potential opening for Russian interests at the highest levels of a US presidential campaign.”

Interestingly, many of the emails between an employee (Kilimnik) of the Manafort consulting firm and Manafort himself seemed to focus on millions of dollars that Manafort believed was owed to him by Ukrainian clients. Jason Moloni a Manafort spokesman said, “it was an innocuous effort to collect past debts.”

The emails are a tantalizing glimpse of the Russian connections to Manafort while he acted as Campaign Chairman for the Trump election campaign. In May 2016, many insiders were promoting a visit by Trump to Moscow, a suggestion that Manafort quickly rejected.

In August of 2017, a year after his firing from the campaign, Manafort had his house raided under a “knockless search warrant”.  Boxes of evidence were taken from the Manafort residence during the raid, and some of that evidence is beginning to surface in public reports.  Investigators apparently told Manafort during that raid that he was going to be indicted on criminal charges.

According to everyone involved, Russian aluminum billionaire Deripaska and Manafort had a business relationship in which Manafort was paid as an “investment consultant.” Many believe that Manafort’s “consultation” work included actively supporting Russian interests in Crimea and Ukraine and operating a campaign to undermine the independence in the former Russian satellites in direct opposition to United States interests.

Deripaska Sued Manafort For $19 Million Dollars In Cayman Islands

In 2014 Deripaska sued Manafort in the Cayman Islands, claiming that Manafort had taken 19 million to “invest” and had not returned the money or shown any investment. That lawsuit is still moving through the court system. The Deripaska lawsuit is just a small irritation, but Manafort has serious legal problems and it seems that Manafort and Trump are about to square off in a potentially dangerous war, for both parties.

So, was Manafort attempting to monetize his political placement in the Trump campaign? Nothing would surprise me. I don’t understand why Trump would be upset with that possibility.  After all the president seems to monetize everything he comes in contact with.

Another of the Trump inner circle for a while, at least, was retired Army General Mike Flynn. Here is another person that many advisors, and even an ex-president warned Trump to stay away from, but we know Trump would never follow such sage advice. As we now know, Trump has three primary motivators, money, money and more money. I guess I left out ego massage. So, regarding Flynn, my question would be, ‘what money was he bringing to Trump?’ That question is yet unanswered, however we do know that Flynn was making some serious money, probably peddling his ‘relationship’ to the president-elect of the United States.

Emerging information indicates that in addition to undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador, and Russian bankers linked to the Kremlin, Flynn was also actively promoting “a private sector scheme to build dozens of nuclear reactors across the Middle East.” He was in fact acting as a consultant and promoter of a pay for play deal. Politico headlined the story, “Flynn backed a for-profit nuclear scheme inside the Trump transition.” It is now known that Flynn was paid at least $25,000 to promote the plan.  He told anyone that would listen that his “New Marshall Plan was a way to strength ties between Arabs and the United States.”

Mike Flynn Is Under Scrutiny

Such recent disclosures “underscore the way Flynn seemed to co-mingle his private consulting work prior to the election and his semi-official duties afterward–something that has drawn legal scrutiny and created political headaches for a Trump White House that granted him access to our country’s deepest secrets,” pointed out David Corn in a recent Mother Jones article.

Congressional investigators and Special Counsel Mueller are looking into Flynn’s activities as part of the Russian election meddling. Flynn’s behavior during the transition may have overlapped with undisclosed business dealings that involved trips and meetings with foreign nationals. Flynn’s plan to build a string of nuclear power plants across the Arab world died a swift death with Flynn’s departure from the White House.

Over multiple episodes in this series of posts several distinct patterns have emerged, none of them complimentary to the president. On January 11, Donald Trump the president-elect of the United States appeared on stage dressed in blue wool suit, white shirt, red silk tie and the mandatory American flag pinned to his lapel.  This was his first press conference since his Electoral College win. The purpose of the press conference was meant to “address the subject of his business interests and conflicts, which has become-along with the questions about Russian involvement in the election-a primary controversy for Trump” stated Suzanna Andrews in a Vanity Fair article earlier this year.

In Part VII, the last installment of Behind The Curtain, Calamity Politics will take you to the most recent political headlines and point to a darkness that I have never felt before.

Calamity Politics is a progressive political log. Our intention is to illuminate the activities of our federal government and encourage political resistance. Hopefully we present relevant and engaging commentary on issues of the day with a progressive agenda clearly spelled out.

Join the Resistance

Darlene

**Special thanks to Politico, Washington Post, New York Times, Vanity Fair, and Mother Jones for providing the names, dates and facts for this story.**

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I’m A Liberal–And Here Is Why

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The resurrection of the GOP attack on Health Care, Trump’s UN speech, and a nasty Twitter exchange with a rabid Trump supporter, or maybe, a Russian troll, has caused me to sit down and pout for a few minutes, kick my feet and wonder if the fight is worth it.  I, like many of you, get so tired.  Some days it seems like Trump, in 10 short months is on the precipice of destroying the backbone of this country, our laws and our media. In the midst of my pout, I remember what President John F. Kennedy said about his core values and I perked up and finished calling my list of potentially five persuadable Republican Senators; in an effort to stop the GOP effort to repeal the ACA. 

The JFK quote has been seen a million times, but it is worth another view.  If you are a liberal and are taking a breath, forget it. The GOP and all their ‘effing money are out to screw us all. So get up, dust yourself off, drag the sign out of the basement, and hit the streets. Or, the phone. You can have a big impact if you make those Senate office phones ring.

So, my sweet liberal friends, gather courage from the words of one of our greatest presidents, “If by a ‘liberal’ they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reaction, someone who cares about the welfare of the people–their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties–someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what it means to be a ‘liberal’ then I’m proud to say, I’m a liberal.”

Keep up the fight, the road will be hard and the results slow in coming, but a determined heart will protect health care and the social contract our government has with its citizens.

Join the Resistance

Darlene

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Part V: Behind The Curtain

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Trump Makes Decisions On Gut Instinct And Emotion

At the end of Part IV: Behind The Curtain, David Cay Johnston told the reading audience that he had never seen evidence that Donald Trump was now a billionaire, or ever has been a billionaire.   I have no idea, and actually I really could care less if Trump is a billionaire or just a multimillionaire. That shit’s all in his head, not mine. Kinda like the guy who buys the biggest most gaudy truck he can find, to make up for some secret deficiency.

What I do care about is the obvious, and quite serious conflict of interest issues.  Trump has provided no tax returns, he has not established a blind trust, or divested himself of his businesses.  There are many questions about his deals with Russian oligarchs and his ongoing effort during the 2016 campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, working behind the scenes with his long time attorney, Michael Cohen.

Jared Kushner Heavily Indebted

One of the character flaws noted by personal friends of Trump and discussed earlier in this series, is Trump’s poor judgment when choosing partners and associates. I can’t help adding my opinion on this matter.  I think, in addition to poor judgment, Trump just does not give a damn, that’s right, I don’t think he cares. The president’s  choice of Jared Kushner to be his Senior Advisor is a perfect example.

Forget that Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law.  Nepotism has never worked well in the White House, but aside from that, Trump did not need to bring his son-in-law into the West Wing. In fact, he was warned by many to keep Kushner at arm’s length and definitely not involve him in any visible position in White House operations, but Trump did not listen. In fact, Kushner has become an appendage to the president, never seeming to be more than inches from the POTUS. That closeness has drawn serious attention and strong condemnation from Democrats and other political action groups.

Kushner Flagship Property Sinking In Debt

In 2oo6 Kushner Co. made an offer to buy a 41 story Manhattan office building at 666 Fifth Ave and the sale was closed in January 2007. The address alone would have scared me off.  Against all common sense Kushner Co, a then 26-year-old Kushner, agreed to pay 1.8 billion for the building. That was a record price for a Manhattan building, in fact I think it was a U.S. record.  The purchase occurred at the height of a real estate boom, muchly inflated value crashed two years later with the Great Recession.

Kushner paid a staggering $1,200 per square foot.  Even at the time of the purchase, when there was nearly 100% occupancy, the building’s rental income only covered less than 3/4 of its annual debt payments. Things have gone from bad to worse for Kushner.  The company’s  flagship building has been described as outdated, with low ceilings, poor lighting and an unsatisfactory floor plan.

According to NY Times writer Charles Bagli, in an April 3rd, 2017 story, the building is at less than 70% occupancy with many leases expiring.  Bagli goes on to describe that the rents from the building have never generated enough money to pay its debts, forcing the owners to cover shortfalls of more than 10 million dollars annually, and that gap between what the building brings in and what it costs, keeps growing. The purchase was highly leveraged and 1.2 billion is still owed on a mortgage that will come due in January 2019.

Charles And Jared Kushner

Kushner Co, was started by Jared’s father, Charles Kushner in 1985.  The elder Kushner would later spend 14 months in Federal prison in Alabama for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering. During his time in prison Jared visited his father every week-end.  They are apparently very close. My only reason for mentioning this information is that in my experience, people are often a reflection of what they learn at home.

In 2007, Kushner Co, was one of the largest landlords on the East Coast, specializing in developing suburban garden style apartments. To finance the purchase of 666 Fifth Ave. Kushner sold thousands of apartments as they extracted millions in cash, borrowed heavily on properties already in their control, such as the recently acquired former NY Times building. The 666 Fifth Avenue building is a highly visible status symbol, but has turned into a major financial and political headache.

Name Plate At Front Entrance of 666 Fifth Ave.

Over the last ten years, to stave off foreclosure Kushner Co has sold off bits and pieces of their primary asset.  In 2010 they sold the retail space, the most valuable part of the building. Two years later they sold off a section of office space. Each sale bringing only temporary relief.

Laurent Morali, president of Kushner Co disputes the seriousness of the situation and states that there are potential investors investigating the options at this moment, however he would not disclose any  names.  Morali further contributed, “Reports that portray it as a distressed situation are just not accurate for the building or the company.”

Laurent Morali President of Kushner Co Is Optimistic That They Will Find Fresh Capital

Morali goes on to describe that the current plan is to demolish the existing building and  build an 80 story high-rise featuring luxury condos, an upscale hotel and a high-end retail mall.  Quite ambitious, considering the debt load and the low net income.

It is obvious that if Kushneer Co. is to bring this big idea to reality Kushner will need to find a deal, sooner than later, to bring a fresh infusion of cash; or a rich partner willing to pick up the bills.  Anyone that plans on coming on board will need to buy out the Vornado Realty Trust, a publicly traded company.

It will take more than $7 billion in financing to convert the existing building into the dream property Kushner Co. visualizes.  To put things into perspective, the General Motors building less than five blocks away, and considered the most valuable building in Manhattan has an established value of 3.4 billion.   The Kushner dream would cost twice that amount. Is that realistic?  Is that genius real estate entrepreneurs at work?

Jared Kushner has aggressively sought to assemble overseas investment in the proposed conversion of the building, and which until recently those efforts have been from  undisclosed sources.  Insiders are reporting that Kushner has negotiated with Israeli banks and insurance companies, Saudi developers, South Korea Sovereign Wealth Fund, a VEB Russian banker, a Qatar prince, a super rich French guy and a Chinese insurance conglomerate to refinance the building.

Kushner and Flynn Met In December 2016 With Russian VEB Banker

Kushner’s well-known financial situation has heightened speculation that Jared Kushner could use–or has already used his official position to prop up the family business. Kushner, a thirty something, who has had no life experience other than running a real estate development company has been made the unofficial prince of the realm.

Jared Kushner is the Secretary of State without the title.  Trump has delegated responsibilities to Kushner than would occupy half of the state department staff. Is it possible that Jared Kushner believes his NY real estate experience prepares him to negotiate a long-awaited  peace in the Middle East, solve the opioid crisis, and run a team of business advisors for the White House?

Is Kushner really an “I can do it all,” kind of guy.  I doubt it.  I mean I have read how ego driven Kushner is, but I seriously doubt that he actually believes he can do all the things that Trump has assigned to him. I read in a recent opinion piece where the writer postulated that Kushner considered it ” a once in a lifetime opportunity at branding the family name.”  After digesting it for a minute or two, I thought that answer was closer to  the truth than anything else I have heard. I thought it was brilliant, I just can’t remember where I read it or I would give the guy credit.

What is problematic about his “assignments” is that there will be potential conflicts of interest when Kushner is going to these same sources asking for money and then negotiating a treaty.  The situation is  becoming increasingly dangerous in the eyes of many ethics observers and the actions of his sister Nicole Kushner Meyer in May of 2017 made observers slap their foreheads in amazement.  Nicole was at a Beijing Ritz-Carlson event attempting to entice wealthy Chinese investment in One Journal Square, a two tower development, currently planned in New Jersey.

Nicole Kushner Meyer

Repoters on hand for the Ritz-Carlton event were asked to leave and were sent packing. Any information on the meeting came from the 100 or so attendees who talked to reporters after the sales event. The Kushner group teased the audience with the EB-5 immigrant investment program. The very controversial program basically allows immigrants who invest $500,000 in distressed areas of the United States to become U.S. residents.  According to witnesses to the May 2017 event there were multiple pictures of Jared Kushner, and even President Donald Trump, displayed in the event hall.

In a slide show sales pitch Meyer identified Trump “as a key decision maker” in the EB-5 program.  Responsibility & Ethics in Washington, spokesman Noah Bookbinder told news sources that the sales pitch was “highly problematic and it could be interpreted as selling access to Jared Kushner.” Not a good look in the middle of multiple investigations. Meyer later apologized for displaying pictures of President Trump and Jared Kushner, calling it, “inappropriate.”

Kushner Co Is Scouring The World For Financing

In an effort to tamper down protests from ethics watchdogs and Democrats.Kushner has “divested” his interest in Kushner Co to close relatives to conform with government ethics requirements. The Kushner lawyers have presented an outline of the plan by which Jared Kushner’s White House job would not overlap with his business interests.

It has become clear however, that Trump’s son-in-law is not divesting all parts of the family business. It is not clear at this time and the White House and Kushner spokesmen have declined to say what properties he is keeping and which ones he is giving up. Jared Kushner transferred his interest in the 666 Fifth Ave building in January 2017.  However, Kushner Co. is still a family business.

The White House has just announced that a planned Presidential trip to China will no longer include Jared and Ivanka in the entourage.The rumor mill is reporting that their “presence” was now considered “inappropriate.” Hmmm. Does that mean Kelly put his foot down, or does it mean that Donald is moving to do what he was initially encouraged to do, keep Kushner at arm’s length?  Is the golden boy losing some of his charisma? Only time will tell.

The election of Donald Trump on November 8th, unearthed controversy after controversy.  Trump is a president who openly disdains American institutions.  He lacks political experience and has no clear core values other than promoting himself.  His refusal to divulge his taxes returns, his refusal to place his business in a blind trust are going to bring a tidal wave of lawsuits and headline news stories over the next 4 years, or longer.

Trump has in fact ignored all calls to put his country ahead of his business, and has refused.  So why would it surprise anyone to learn of his foreign bank loans, real estate deals with suspicious Russian oligarchs, and now Facebook is disclosing they had been manipulated by  Russian troll farms that planted false and inflammatory ads against Clinton.

Robert Mueller Is Prying Into Trump and Kushner Dealings With Russians

Federal investigators are delving into Jared Kushner’s financial dealings along with other Trump associates as the investigation into the possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign broadens. No matter how Jared Kushner or Donald Trump tries to make a display of separating themselves from their real estate empires, it is all a facade. Another smoke and mirrors act by the Trump-Kushner Co.

A March article in the Washington Post described a meeting between Kushner in December of 2016 with a Russian banker.  That meeting with the Russian money man included the now disgraced General Mike Flynn. Kushner and the White House have maintained the meeting with banker Sergey Gorkov was “a primary point of contact with foreign governments” insisting that there was no discussions related to personal business.  Interesting, since at the time, President Obama was our president and he was in charge of foreign policy.

However, when contacted, Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, a Putin appointee, insisted that his meeting with Jared Kushner was private and personal and Kushner was representing himself as the head of his family real estate business. In case you hadn’t noticed Gorkov contradicted Kushner, and the White House. What are we supposed to believe when everyone in the game is a known liar and cheater?

Kushner Has Big Money Problems

The size of the construction loan needed by Kushner is unprecedented and there is no American bank that is willing to take such a risk. The condo’s are projected to cost over $6,000 per square foot.  My math isn’t great, but it sounds like a 1000 square foot condo, would set a buyer back $6,000,000 bucks. Really?  With such stratospheric cost projections, financing from overseas will be a necessity. However, where Kushner may have initially thought his position as Senior Advisor would help him find a loan, may in fact, prove to be just the opposite. With so much noise surrounding Kushner and his father-in-law, and a myriad of ethics investigations taking place, foreign banks and financial groups may decide it best to stay away, or end up in years of legal wrangling and potential lawsuits.

Sergey Gorkov Is Close To Putin

As Kushner has come under increased scrutiny the White House has gone off the rails.  I’m sure besides testifying to congress, Mr. Kushner will soon be talking to the Mueller team about why  he failed to disclose that December meeting on his security clearance application along with millions of dollars in art and other equities. Mr. Kushner has declined to declare any potential ethical problems and as such those issues are growing in size and concern.

The Russian investigation is reaching out, following the tentacles of the Kremlin hacking, and looking at the role of Jared Kushner on both the Trump campaign and the transition team. Most importantly his campaign data analytics operation, his relationship with former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, and his own questionable undisclosed contacts with various Russian officials and nationals.

Trump has his feet in the fire and all we can do is stand back and watch the fireworks as they unfold.  Join Calamity Politics as we try to demystify the financial entanglements of Trump and all those surrounding him. Please join me soon, for Part VI: Behind the Curtain.

Calamity Politics is a progressive political blog.  Our intention is to illuminate the activities of our federal government and present relevant and engaging commentary on issues of the day with a progressive agenda clearly spelled out.

Join the Resistance

Darlene

**Special thanks to all the fine reporting by Washington Post, Slate, NY Times, Vanity Fair, The Daily Beast which has given me the dates, and facts for this story.**

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79 Reasons To Smile

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I posted a reminder yesterday that September is National Suicide Prevention Month and then today I posted a Remembrance of 9/11/01. I decided I needed to think of “Reasons To Smile.” Here we go with a new list of things that should bring a smile to your face.

1.)Theme parties 2.) Your daily horoscope 3.) An Amish buggy on a Pennsylvania country road 4.)Levi 501 button fly jeans 5.) A day hike 6.) Pumpkin soup 7.) Filmy, gauzy dresses blowing around tanned legs 8.) Sunglasses after dark 9.) Having to replay a voicemail more than twice to get the phone number right 10.) A B & B week-end 11.) An herb garden 12.) Holiday beer gardens 13.) A shady porch on a hot day 14.) A nice driver’s license photo 15.) Small airports 16.) A mailbox filled with donation requests 17.) The sound of a Texas fiddle 18.) Doves cooing 19.) Realizing you have just said something of merit or maybe, something truly brilliant 20.) Polished brass 21.) Having my own private office with lots of windows 22.) Staying focused 23.) Smiling so big your shoulders quake 24.) Souvenir t-shirts 25.) The little deli at the “Cove”  26.) Beach side living  27.) Air dried sheets 28.) Finding a friendly adversary on Twitter 29.) Cleaning out that junk drawer 30.) The crashing sound of the ocean 31.) Having that secret place to escape to 32.) “More isn’t always better” 33.) Drawing Smile Faces in the sand 34.) Trains 35.) Habitat For Humanity 36.) Homemade fudge with walnuts 37.) Plaid flannel shirts 38.) Frosted Margarita glasses their rims dusted with salt 39.) XXX’s OOO’s on a letter from Mom 40.) The seventh inning stretch 41.) Changing my hair color  42.) Brew pubs 43.) Bright, cold, autumn days 44.) That first cup of coffee 45.) The sound of a zipper going up or down 46.) Mornings on the boat 47.) Jumping over puddles and not getting your feet wet 48.) Park benches 49.) Candlelight 50.) Finger painting 51.) Sisters, OR 52.) Reading glasses slid to the end of my nose 53.) Cypress trees 54.) My quirky, oddball friends 55.) VIP seats  56.) “I love you” 57.) Having time to check my options 58.) Saturday Night Live with Alec Baldwin doing President Trump  59.) Australia’s Great Barrier Reef  60.) The Statue of Liberty 61.) After dinner walks 62.) Google Maps 63.) No one in the express lane 64.) Yesterday’s meatloaf in today’s sandwich 65.) Amazon 66.) Hugging Teddy after a really bad day 67.) Automatic garage door openers 68.) Hot air balloons over a New Mexico landscape. 69.) The sound of church bells 70.) Planting an avocado seed and watching it grow into a tree 71.) Losing ten pounds  72.) Quiet time 73.) Caramel apples 74.) Biking the prom 75.) Watching a Bumblebee kiss every flower in the garden 76.) Fall leaves gathered in large piles 77.) A thank you note written in calligraphy 78.) “A Separate Peace”  by John Knowles 79.) A really funny dirty joke

Well, I feel better now. Hope you do too. Keep smiling.

Calamity Politics intends to present relevant and topical information on the current U.S. political scene. We’ll be back with more from the swamp, join us for the remaining installments of “Trump:Behind The Curtain”.

Join the Resistance

Darlene

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Remembering 9/11-Sixteen Years Later

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Thousands Come Together To Remember Victims Of 9-11-2001 Terror Attacks

Thousands of victim relatives, survivors, rescuers and others gathered at the World Trade Center Memorial to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the terror attacks masterminded by Al Ouida and Osama Bin Laden that took the lives of 2,977 people and will be remembered as the worst terror attack on the U.S. homeland in history. Terrorists high jacked 4 commercial airliners, two of the planes crashed into the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center, New York City, N.Y., a third was directed at the Pentagon and the fourth was crashed into a rural field in Pennsylvania when passengers and crew fought the terrorists for control of the plane leading to it crashing before reaching its intended target, savings many lives.

A Fiery Blast Rocks The South Tower As High Jacked Flight 175 Crashes Into Building

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Please Stay, Suicide Is Permanent

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September Is National Suicide Prevention Month and September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. If you are between 15-35, suicide is the second leading cause of death for your age group.  For all age groups, suicide is responsible for more deaths than murder and natural disasters, combined.  Men take their own lives four times as often as women. Many men sadly would rather be dead than seem ‘weak.’

As you can see, suicide is not a rare, or isolated event. It is very real and definitely permanent, and it leaves those who are left behind, in utter despair. For them the suicide event is plagued by stigma, guilt and self-recrimination. The most common question from those left behind is, “what could I have done differently?”

Suicide is like the tentacles of an octopus wrapping itself around all of us, casting doubt on hope, and future.  It tears at our social fabric and brings into question society’s compact with the individual.  Whether spoken or unspoken, we as people, are part of a greater society.  As a society, we have agreed to a collective future, a means to provide for our children, to continue our culture, to sustain our existence at all cost.

Jennifer Michael Hecht wrote,  Stay: A History of Suicide and the Arguments Against it. And in her words,  “Either the universe is a cold dead place with solitary sentient beings, or we are all alive together, committed to persevere.”

I was a Registered Nurse for many years and worked in Crisis Psychiatry for a large part of that time.  I saw the face of depression and suicide, day after day. I have held the hand of a man who could not see beyond his own pain.  I have sat next to a vet who couldn’t stop shaking from the night terror of PTSD. Mental illness and various addictions are often part and parcel with the depression and the overwhelming inner pain.

There is hope. Call 1-800-273-8255

The pain and despair are legitimate. Emotional pain is very subjective. To someone other than the psychologically challenged individual, the person’s feelings may seem to be completely disproportionate to the person’s life. That dichotomy of ‘reality’ and ‘feelings’ often  creates guilt within the person because of their inability to cope with life’s challenges.

If you are one of the many millions who have contemplated suicide, my self included, I am so glad you decided to stay and I hope you are satisfied with that decision.  To stay, to live every day allotted to you is, to honor your future self, to give that future self a chance at happiness. For what ever reasons you chose to stay; for your family, for your religion, whatever the reason, it takes great courage to stay and face your daily pain.

I am grateful that I made a commitment to stay. I have experienced extraordinary joy and incredible sadness, but I believe my decision was the right one.

SUICIDE SIGNALS: If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following symptoms please seek help.

  • Talking about self harm, wanting to die, or kill oneself
  • Talking about a life without purpose, “hopelessness” being “trapped”
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Noticeably agitated, anxious or reckless
  • Expressing feelings of unbearable pain
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Displays of rage
  • Plans to “get revenge.”
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from normal relationships, isolation

Please Stay For Your Future Self

Please, if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, or are showing any of the listed signals, tell someone.  Call the suicide lifeline @Lines for Life: 1-800-273-8255 for young people call: 1-877-968-8491

Please stay, tomorrow is worth living.

Darlene

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Part IV: Behind The Curtain

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The Real Donald Trump Isn’t What His Voters Bargained For

As we have already seen, Russians have floated in the Trump swamp for decades. The President’s first contacts with Russians came in the late 1980’s when Trump was wooed by the Russian government to look at the prospect of building hotels in Moscow and Kiev.

Trump has had many Russian tenants in the Trump Tower.  One very memorable Russian tenant was alleged Russian mob boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov.  An apartment at Trump Tower rented to Tokhtakhounov was the subject of a raid in April 2013 by federal agents as part of an investigation in to two separate gambling rings. Interestingly, Ali Tokhakhounov was, despite being under indictment in the United States for various gambling and corruption charges, made an appearance at Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant held in Moscow that same year.

In addition to Russian tenants, Trump has had several Russian partners, most notably the boys from Bayrock. The Trump Organization has sold an endless stream of condo’s and private residences to Russians. His children have traveled extensively throughout Russia.  In fact, according to recent news stories the Trump Organization was actively negotiating with Russian officials to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 Presidential election.

The Tentacles Of The Kremlin Reach Deep

In January of 2017 Trump tweeted, “I have nothing to do with Russia–NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING.” We now know that was a blatant lie. In separate interviews about that same time Trump said in weird rambling denials that neither he or his campaign had any connection to Russians.  Trump’s praise of Putin, and his refusal to ever criticize the Russian strong man has brought those assertions into serious question, causing many to speculate that Trump has been compromised.

Trump Asked In A Tweet If Putin Would Be His New Best Friend. Weird.

Going back to that 2013 Miss Universe Pageant, prior to the event Trump issued a very strange tweet, “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow–if so, will he be become my new best friend?”

The answer to that very strange Twitter inquiry is unknown. Putin did not go to the event, but he did send an expensive lacquered Russian box to Trump. The event venue was the Crocus City Mall.  The Crocus City Mall is owned by Aras Agalarov a Russian oligarch with known ties to Vladimir Putin.  It is common knowledge that Agalarov and Trump discussed the construction of twin adjacent Trump towers in downtown Moscow during that 2013 visit.

Agalarov Father And Son

Trump bizarrely equating business deals with diplomacy; answered as follows when a FoxNews commentator confronted him on his lack of foreign policy experience. “I know Russia well.  I had a major event in Russia two or three years ago, which was a big, big incredible event,” referring to the Miss Universe Pageant.

Really? Please explain to me, and the 70% of Americans who do not equate running a beauty pageant with running a country, how that answer and that experience would in any way qualify him as knowledgeable of foreign policy. Trump, I believe, is slowly beginning to realize what many of us already knew, that the two are in no way similar, or interchangeable.  In fact, many of the tactics used in business are inappropriate as national political strategy or policy.

It is interesting that Trump’s love for all things Russian seems to know no bounds. The Daily Beast is reporting that while Trump has made a name for himself attacking the children of undocumented Latino immigrants born in the U.S., even going so far as to cast doubt on the legality of their citizenship, he has been quietly making his Florida properties a playground for wealthy Russians who want to give their children U.S. citizenship, the easy way, by being born here.

Multiple companies in the former Soviet Union are advertising rentals in Trump properties to expectant Russian parents.  The United States offers a safe harbor for those same wealthy Russians to stash savings in U.S. dollars through real estate investment.  If they don’t buy they rent luxury digs in a  warm weather destination such as Florida to await the birth of their new baby, an American baby, with birth certificate to prove it.

Sun, Sand And Luxury Properties Draw Many Wealthy Russians To Stay With Trump

Most wealthy Russians see Trump properties as a luxurious option, offering them a place to stay for the last several months of their pregnancies, in high-end comfort. According to the Daily Beast, birth tourism can easily cost these parents upwards of $75,000.  The benefit  for their children is dual citizenship, U.S. and Russian.

It is estimated that there are no less that 40-60 women from Russia or from  former Soviet satellite countries giving birth in Miami, Florida each month. Sunny Medical even advertises “American citizenship” when birthing at the Sunny Medical Center. The birth statistics at other Florida hospitals is unknown.

Russians are not the only ‘birthing tourists.’ Wealthy Chinese parents are known to make use of such services, often preferring west coast properties to the Florida and Arizona properties most famously owned by Trump.

Undocumented Immigrants Of Color Are Not Paying Big Bucks To Trump For Birth Certificate

The Daily Beast was not  insinuating that Trump was the only guy on the block making money from ‘birthing tourism.’ I think their point, and mine also, would be that with Trump rallying against illegal immigrants crossing the border to have a baby born in the United States, it seems quite hypocritical for the president to threaten arrest and deportation of the people when other foreign individuals are hold up at Trump properties enjoying expensive surrounding and superior comfort, to do the very same thing, have a baby born in America.

We don’t hear a hue and cry over the Russians, or the Chinese dropping out of the sky on a 747 and staying six months, or longer to have that baby with its precious US birth certificate. Some would say, the Russians and Chinese and others have come on a Visa, so it’s all legal. It is the intent of the individuals and their intent to manipulate US immigration policy that is absolutely outrageous in my view.

This new drop and pop method sure beats waiting many years for citizenship, if you do it the old-fashioned way. These ‘birthing holidays’ are advertised in many countries and people from all over the world are taking advantage of the offers to secure a U.S. birth certificate for their children.

It isn’t just Trump.  It is dozens of companies that are manipulating  our immigration system.  It is common to think of Latinos manipulating ‘our born in the U.S. A.’ policy, but it is not just the Latinos that see a U.S. birth certificate as extremely valuable. It is the treatment of those moms that are the question and the intent of those who help secure American citizenship for children of foreign nationals. How can Trump in good conscience take money from Russians or other foreign nationals who are obviously subverting our immigration system. But, hypocrisy is nothing new to President Trump, but it seems especially galling in the light of Trump’s war on anyone of color.

Trump Does Not Own Most Buildings That Bear His Name

Trump owns most of the golf courses, a few office buildings, Mar-a-Lago, and Trump Tower, but he does not own most of the polished steel and glass buildings around the globe that bear his name. His involvement most often comes thru licensing and management deals.  He ‘rents out’ his name to developers, who develop the properties and then the Trump Organization manages those properties for fees of up to $5,000,000 for licensing and promotion, and another $1,000,000 annually for management of those properties.

In some cases, Trump will take an equity position in the property but such arrangements rarely carry any personal risk to the President. The risk in these multi-million dollar projects is taken by his partners, mostly foreign, mostly Russian. Remember Donald Trump Jr told us that “Russians make up a disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

“We See A Lot Of Money Pouring In From Russia, Donald Trump, Jr

The concerns about Trump and his decades old associations with Russia and Russians have invigorated an angry electorate and aroused ethics experts. In September last year an envelope with a return address to the Trump Organization was delivered to The New York Times. The contents of the envelope included, the first page of Trump’s 1995 New York state return, and the first page of his non-resident returns for the same year for New Jersey and Connecticut.

Who sent the copies of the returns to the The New York Times? We can’t know, but many suspect it was Trump himself. Trump is well-known for pretending to be his own PR man, planting stories in the New York tabloids. David Cay Johnson who met Trump in 1988 suspects it was Trump who sent the copies of the first pages of Trump’s tax returns to the NY Times.

David Cay Johnston Has Known Trump Since 1988 And Wrote Best Seller ‘The Making Of Donald Trump’

Johnston is an investigative journalist, best-selling author and expert on economics and tax issues.  Johnston claims, “If you give me Donald Trump’s complete 1,200 page tax return I will tell you all about him.” And it is that very reason that Donald Trump will never release his taxes voluntarily, because then we would be able to determine his assets, his debts and to who he is indebted to, his partnerships, his income, including offshore income, and finally, his net worth.

Trump measures his success by the size of his bank account and while he loves telling us how rich he is, the tax returns would show the truth, assuming his taxes returns were truthful.

The mysterious 1995 first pages of Trump’s tax return is however, quite revealing. Trump claimed a near billion dollar loss, a loss that would, using real estate tax credits–allow him to avoid Federal income tax for an estimated two decades.

Trump’s 1995 Federal Tax Return Indicated He Was Taking A $916 Million Dollar Loss

He lost a billion dollars in one year. That does not sound like a genius real estate tycoon.  It sounds like a guy who was a complete and utter failure, despite what he and his cronies claim.  Rudy Giuliani called Donald a “business genius” more than once.

Trump himself has claimed that “I understand the tax code better than anybody that’s ever run for president.”

Okay, so he and his CPA’s know the tax code, but that doesn’t explain how a ‘successful business genius’ could lose  $916,000,000 in one year.  To me such a loss would be definitive proof that this fellow should make a career change. Tim O’Brien author of TrumpNation, said on this subject, “It is emblematic of what an abysmal businessman he was.”

When Trump was questioned about releasing his taxes returns during the campaign he would claim to be “under audit.” I don’t believe that audit story for even a minute.  And even if he was under audit he could still release his taxes. He seems to be afraid of something those returns will show. David Cay Johnston believes that Trump is afraid that the world will discover his big lie, “there is not now and never has been any verifiable evidence that Donald Trump is, or ever has been a billionaire.”

There is a lot more going on behind the curtain than Trump wants us to know about.  Please come back for Part V:Behind The Curtain, as Calamity Politics continues our look into the sordid world of Donald J. Trump.

Calamity Politics is a progressive political blog intended to present relevant and engaging political conversation. We are aware of our bias and want readers to understand that we at Calamity Politics have a progressive agenda and our topics of discussion focus primarily on the U.S. political scene and the fight against the alt-right movement.

Join the Resistance

Darlene

**Special thanks to US Today, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg News, Daily Beast, Washington Post and The New York Times for information and dates used in this blog post.**

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The Columbia Gorge is Burning

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An Unnamed Teen Is Suspect In Starting Wildfire

I live on the North Oregon coast, that’s about 60 miles west of Portland, Oregon. The sun for the last couple of days has appeared as a bizarre red neon ball through the smoke that is now plaguing most of the state. The source of the smoke is a raging 32,000 acre blaze destroying one of Oregon’s most scenic areas, the Columbia Gorge.

The gorge was chiseled through rock by the Columbia River over a span of nearly 20 million years as it cut its way to the Pacific Ocean.  I am heart-broken watching the pictures come in. I don’t know if I can truly express the loss I am feeling. There is a beautiful piece in The Oregonian, written by Jaimie Hale. (*Please go to the left side bar of this blog site and scroll down until you see the picture of a burning forest fire and click on her article. It is well worth reading.)

A 32,000 Acre Blaze Engulfs The Columbia River Gorge

When I lived in Lake Oswego, Oregon, a suburb of Portland, I would ski at Mt Hood, party with friends in Hood River and always stop at Multnomah Falls to enjoy its iconic beauty.  The Columbia River Gorge is a national treasure and the loss is monumental.

Join the Resistance

Darlene

I will be back with Part IV:Behind The Curtain tomorrow. Please join us as we slice and dice the current administration.

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Part III: Behind The Curtain

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One thing we have learned over the years is that Donald Trump is very aware of perception, most notably, the size of his fortune. In a 2006 lawsuit Trump sued Timothy L. O’Brien, author of TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald, for $5 million in damages because O’Brien asserted that Trump was actually “worth somewhere between $150 million and $250 million.” This was after Trump had stated in the book that he was worth $6 billion.

Trump claimed that “low ball estimates of his wealth came from guys who have four hundred pound wives and were jealous of his success.” ***(“four hundred pound wives’ sounds eerily familiar. Remember that imaginary “four hundred pound hacker siting on his bed” Trump described during the debates? So, my first twisted thought is that if I hear the “400 pound” line come out of his mouth I will assume it is an outright lie.)

So, what is Trump really worth? We are now entering murky waters. In the O’Brien lawsuit Trump claimed that an unfavorable news story, article, comment, or book in this case, could “psychologically hurt me. I am a billionaire, not a perceived billionaire.”

Trump Sued The Author For $5 Million Dollars

Court records from that case, based on a Trump Organization financial statement placed his net worth at $3.5 billion, far less than the $6 billion Trump claimed to O’Brien during interviews for TrumpNation. That same year there were many other efforts to assess the size of Trump’s fortune.  North Fork Bank, now Capital One Bank, estimated his total worth to be $1.2 billion, while Deutsche Bank put the estimate at closer to $788 million in 2005.

Trump’s brand is the core of the company.  In his court deposition Trump claimed, “the brand is my reputation.” And the value of that brand, is difficult to assess. In fact, Trump’s CPA used two different values himself, when preparing the court documents, in one statement the accountant valued the brand at $2 billion, and in another set of documents supplied to the same court, the CPA declared the value of the brand to be $4 billion.

A segment of  Trump’s wealth is in real estate holdings.  Real estate appraisals are notoriously variable.  That said, Trump has been shown to create his own world view and his own property values, rarely based on any substantiated facts.  One of O’Brien’s attorneys focused on Trump’s claim that he owned the Trump Waikiki Hotel. The attorney produced a licensing agreement between Trump and the real owner of the Trump Waikiki Hotel, to which Trump answered, “This is such a strong licensing agreement.  I consider it to be a form of ownership.”

In the same deposition, Trump famously, when asked how he calculated his net worth, responded, “My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feeling, even my own feelings, it can vary actually from day-to-day.”

Trump Has A History Of Dealing With Shady Characters

Well, for God’s sake, what sense does that make? I know that some days I feel better than others, but basically when I add up the numbers of all my assets, because they are real numbers, not some number I picked out of the air, rarely do they fluctuate significantly over a short time period, and I venture to say the same is true for Trump, but in his case it is more about, how he feels. Just speaking for myself, this is very bizarre. You either have $20 bucks in your wallet, or you don’t. It isn’t like, hey its Thursday, and I feel like I have a $100 in my wallet. Really?

Trump went on to lose his lawsuit against Timothy O’Brien on appeal, in 2011.

Many paragraphs back I talked about Trump’s lackluster performance when choosing people to work with when branding his projects. In 2007 Trump was working with Bayrock on deals totaling over $2 billion. These included, Trump SoHo, Trump Fort Lauderdale, Trump Phoenix and several other proposed deals in Istanbul, Kiev, Moscow and Warsaw.  A review of Trump’s partnerships with Bayrock on many projects is a window into some ugly truths about Donald Trump’s business history, his judgment, and activities that highlight possible legal vulnerabilities for him.

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch Used Felix Sater As A Informant

One of Bayrock principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater. Sater had links to organized crime in the United States and Russia.  Sater was even a Justice Department informant spilling many secrets, according to Loretta Lynch, of his illegal activities and the crimes of many underworld figures. He served prison time in the US for felony assault. Sater had attacked a fellow stockbroker slashing the man’s face with a broken Martini glass.  The victim required a 11o stitches just to hold his face together.

Sater is not a nice guy.  Somebody you would keep away from your kids, away from, right?  Not in Trump’s case. Sater is known to have escorted the Trump kids around Moscow solo, many years ago, rented space at Trump Tower, was a business partner and an “advisor” for at least a decade.

Trump’s method of distancing himself from his old friends and partners that come under legal, or media scrutiny, is to claim, “I barely knew the guy. He could be sitting across the table and I wouldn’t recognize him.”   Another view into the warped Trump world, “It’s all good, until you get caught.”

Bayrock Boys With Ties To Russian Money Laundering

From what I have read, in 2002 representatives from Bayrock met with Trump, who was struggling to overcome a long period of financial instability and public humiliation.  Remember, this was before The Apprentice.  Trump was a pariah to both New York banks and New York society.

When Bayrock came calling, Trump  as with many associations in his life didn’t ask a lot of questions, other than, “how much money can I make?”

Bayrock offered Trump a sweet deal, 18% equity stake in the future Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium project, a steady stream of management fees on all Bayrock projects and the ability to plaster his name on properties without him having to invest any of his own money.

Obviously, Trump did not care about his partners honesty, or their background.  He did not vet potential partners, but rather relied on “gut instinct.” Using such methods he created a situation where his already diminished reputation was at further risk.

It is said that his father, Fred Trump was friendly with multiple New York mobsters. While doing business in Atlantic City, Donald was known to have had ties to organized crime. It fits the pattern of doing what benefits Trump.

The Trump Clan At SoHo Project Announcement

Initial marketing literature from Bayrock indicated that the primary source of funding for the firm was a Russian oligarch. A former insider and now contentious outsider and litigant, Jody Kriss, has a lawsuit proceeding through Federal court alleging that he departed Bayrock because he became convinced that the company was a front for a huge Russian money laundering scheme.  In addition, to the millions Kriss claimed Bayrock stole from him personally, he claimed Bayrock also participated in cash skimming, and tax dodging.

In a 2007 deposition Trump testified that Bayrock had brought Russian investors to his offices at Trump Tower to discuss investing in Russia. Trump volunteered that, “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”

Tevfik Arif A Former Soviet Official And Bayrock Partner

It is not entirely clear, to me at least, when Trump first became involved in Russia related deals.  I am aware of a trip Trump took to Russia in the 1987 after the fall of the Soviet Union.  That 1987 trip was arranged by the Russian government to examine potential business opportunities. It was as if from the beginning the Russians were building a portfolio on the bombastic American.  They immediately recognized his susceptibility to flattery and according to a Bloomberg News article written by none other than Trump nemesis, Timothy L. O’Brien, “this big, black hole of need inside Donald Trump for praise, attention, and affirmation.”

No deals emerged from that contact, at least that I have been able to uncover.  By 2001 Russia was being looted of vast wealth by a kleptocracy that arose with Vladimir Putin.  These oligarchs were mostly hand-picked Putin loyalists. This new class of ultra rich Russians needed a method to legally, or illegally hide their money overseas.

Real estate was an appealing vehicle for such money laundering.  By this time, Trump had hooked up with Bayrock, a real estate development company supported by Russian money. Tevfik Arif, a former Soviet official ran Bayrock along with the previously mentioned Felix Sater.

Arif and Sater offered several projects to Trump and in 2004 signed a deal to explore the potential of building a Trump Tower in Moscow and at least on project in Ukraine.  Things looked promising enough for both Ivanka and Donald Jr to travel to both Kiev and Moscow in search of the “right deal.”  Between 2007-2008 Don Jr went to Russia six times.

Jody Kriss A Former Insider Is Now Embroiled In Legal Battle With Bayrock

In 2007, Jody Kriss claimed in his ongoing lawsuit against Bayrock that an Icelandic fund, FL Group, working with wealthy Russians invested $50 million in the Trump SoHo development project. According to Kriss this “investment” was in reality part of an elaborate tax-fraud”, money laundering scheme.

In 2008 Trump sold a Palm Beach estate he had bought in 2004 for $40 million to a Russian fertilizer billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95 million. Trump states he has never met Rybolovlev.  That claim was brought into question when on November 3, 2016 Rybolovlev’s Airbus A319 was photographed in Charlotte, North Carolina parked near Trump’s Boeing 757. Really? Seems a strange coincidence. But, then Trump expects us to believe in a series of odd coincidences.

Donald Jr in 2008 at a real estate conference said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” The question for me becomes, what specifically were the Trump’s doing with all this money that was “pouring in.”

Donald Junior Went To Russia Multiple Times Looking For Real Estate Investments

Suzanne Andrews writing for Vanity Fair in March 2017 asked the same question, “Was he referring to investments in the Trump Organization, loans to the company, or the flood of Russian money being spent to buy Trump condominiums? Exactly which, is difficult to know without Trump’s tax returns.”

If nothing else, Trump has proved himself a survivor with a dedicated and tireless ability to self promote and self aggrandize. He leveraged those skills to recreate himself as a branding dynamo and a golf course developer.  But it wasn’t until The Apprentice that his fortunes truly changed.  The Apprentice would become a platform by which Trump would convince the weekly viewing audience of over 10 million that he was a business genius. He impressed his audience with his televised swanky lifestyle, luxury penthouse apartment,  private jet and personal helicopter.

Part IV of this series will continue to unravel the complicated history of Donald Trump, the Russians and the money.

Calamity Politics is a news and opinion site focusing on analysis and commentary on the US political scene. Join us for news stories, opinion pieces, games, contests, cartoons and Resistance items.

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Darlene

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Part II: Behind The Curtain

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Donald Trump Kept Saying He Was A Great Businessman While Failure And Bankruptcies Were The Reality

I have talked about Donald Trump and his struggle to overcome his boyhood wealth in the dismal back water of Queens, N.Y. and his four decade effort to impress the only world that mattered at the time., the glittery world of Manhattan real estate. It was only later that he set his sights on the White House. Come with me while we continue that tumultuous journey.

In 1988, Donald bought a profitable shuttle line from the failing Eastern Airlines.  He had assembled a $380,000,000 loan from a consortium of twenty-two banks. Trump decided to go “high-end,” turning the shuttle service  into a very pricey hour trip. By 1992 the Trump Shuttle was in receivership and had ceased operations.

Trump has learned the art of spin.  He tells anyone that will listen, that every major bank in the country is begging him to borrow their bank’s money.  What a crock of crap.  In fact, according to many financial sources, Trump had no choice but to morph his real estate business in to a “licensing, branding company, where other people own the assets, because he couldn’t get bank loans, he had no choice.”

Mike Burnett Hot Off The Dizzying Success Of Survivor Pitched The Apprentice To Donald Trump

Mike Burnett, a transplanted Brit, was riding high in 2002 with the biggest hit on reality television, Survivor. Burnett wanted to spend more time with his children in New York and Survivor was filmed in far off jungle islands.  Burnett came  up with an idea for a show set in New York and he  needed a bigger than life central character to pull it off.

After seeing Trump’s picture plastered everywhere he looked around New York he decided to pitch the project to Donald Trump.

The show’s premise was that teams of desperate job seekers (the contestants) would compete in a series of business projects.  In the end, the winner would be given the opportunity to run one of Donald Trump’s businesses.  According to the plot line, Trump was the final arbiter of ability.  Trump was the last and absolute judge of talent and future potential of the contestants, because he was deemed to be a good judge of business skills and talent. Trump’s most notable line was saved for the show’s last moments, “You’re fired!”

The Apprentice Showcased Trump’s Wealth, his Penthouse, His Yacht, His Casinos

In 2004 The Apprentice premiered.  The series showcased the glamour of the Trump empire, the Trump Tower penthouse, the casino’s, the yachts, the private jet, personal helicopter, and even Mar-a-Lago.  From what can be gleaned of the situation, Trump saw The Apprentice as a vehicle to reshape his reputation and introduce his ‘brand’ to a new audience.

Trump University Bilked Students Out Of Millions

During this time he was also promoting Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks, a board game, and most famously Trump University.  The reason The Donald paid $25,000,000 to claimants in the Trump University case was because it was a massive scheme to take money from the unwary.

First, Trump University, was by no stretch of the imagination a “university”. Trump, after several states filed suit against him, changed the name to Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.  The scam started out with a free seminar/workshop purporting to teach students how to use Trump techniques to do big real estate deals.  Trump’s image as a giant real estate mogul, as seen on television, was used to effectively bilk thousands of people out of a huge sums of money.

Trump University Scam Was Settled As Trump Looked Like He Had A Chance At The White House

At that first “get to know you,” attendees were pressured into signing up for a worthless training course for $1,500.  After the first course prices went up even more. The ‘Gold Elite’ package cost $35,000 and the Trump crew knew how to use the carrot and the stick to get people signed up.  Many people borrowed money from friends, family and retirement accounts with the promise of learning the ins and outs of big time real estate. The whole scheme imploded, as an increasing number of “students” contacted state attorney generals and private attorneys, complaining they had gotten no special training, or access to lenders, as they had been promised.

Trump made success look so easy on television. However, in life, Trump had failed miserably in almost everything he tried.  A gigantic failure was Trump’s inability to choose honest, and competent people to work with when building hotels that bear his name and that he later manages. His ‘partners’ have gone bankrupt, mismanaged projects, faced legal charges of money laundering and tax fraud. So, much for Trump’s ability to measure people’s abilities.’

Trump’s Choice Of Partner’s Is Questionable To Say The Least.

An abbreviated list of controversies arising through partnerships with the wrong people, include, 1) Rio de Janeiro: under investigation by the Brazilian government for financial improprieties 2) Baku Azerbaijan: long delays caused by the developer who is linked to government corruption 3) Fort Lauderdale, FL: In 2010, Bayrock Group, Trump’s partner and owner of the Trump International Hotel defaulted on a $139,000,000 loan costing them control of the hotel 4) Manhattan,  NY: In 2014, Bayrock, partner and developer of Trump SoHo, a 46 story hotel and condominium project in Lower Manhattan was forced out by a lender 5) Trump Toronto Hotel and Tower partners Russian-Canadian Alex Shnaider and Val Levitan defaulted on a $260,000,000 loan.  Subsequently, JFC Capital bought the debt and the Toronto hotel is on the market for less than the $300,000,000 that is still owed on the mortgage.

Moving on, Trump’s Washington D.C. hotel is a lightening rod for heated criticism and controversy.  The General Services Administration, in 2011 offered a lease on the iconic 1899 landmark Washington, D.C., Post Office building.  Several groups were interested in pursuing a lease on the property, including Hilton Hotels.

The Old Post Office Building Was Leased To Trump in 2011 After Trump Made Multiple Promises To The GSA

Trump because of his past bankruptcies and other controversies was considered an underdog in the lease process. Trump had made many promises to strengthen his application, 1) to use Arthur Cotton Moore as chief architect.  (The GSA favored Moore because of his commitment to the restoration of the Post Office building), 2) Trump sweetened his application with a commitment to bring the highly respected Colony Capital in as his partner. Colony is owned by Trump friend, Tony Barrack. (Barrack would later head Trump’s Inauguration Committee), 3) additionally the Trump Organization offered the GSA a very lucrative $250,000 a month rent for an annual revenue of $3,000,000, 4) Lastly, Trump  promised the GSA a $200,000,000 renovation, which was at least a 1/3 more than Hilton Hotels had suggested for the project.

Tom Barrack, Colony Capital

When Trump was announced as the winner of the lease, Hilton Hotels filed an angry 120 page complaint with the GSA.  In their complaint Hilton called Trump “an unreliable business partner” and the GSA decision would result in a “devastating failure for this historical landmark , with a business partner whose history of repeated failure demonstrates that it cannot be counted upon to deliver what it promises.”

It was only a few months before the predictions made in Hilton’s complaint began to manifest. First, it was announced that the favored architect would not be involved in the project. Next came the report from the Trump Team that they would not be financing the project with Colony Capital. In 2014, Deutsche Bank provided a $170,000,000 construction loan to the Trump Organization using the Old Post Office lease as collateral.

Deutsche Bank Lent Trump $170,000,000 Using Lease On Old Post Office Hotel In Washington DC As Collateral

GSA came to the quick realization that they had made a deal with the devil.  Trump had essentially done the bait and switch routine on the US government and they were unable, or unwilling to bring Trump to court to challenge the growing list of broken promises. All the while, Trump attorney’s were busy suing the Washington tax commission to cut the evaluation of the property from close to $100,000,000 down to $28,000,000.

All the while the GSA has sat speechless, and appears to be as helpless as a bowl of Jello.  We can’t forget that the head of the GSA is a political appointee and probably has his eye on his paycheck instead of the Democratic officials and ethics groups that are screaming bloody murder over what appears to be a blatant case of conflict of interest running amuck. The position of Trump opponents is pretty straight forward, they argue that because Federal officials are barred from holding a lease on the building, Trump must divest himself of the property. Simply put, the argument boils down to, Trump cannot be both landlord and tenant.

As many had expected, the hotel opened in a blood bath of red ink. After the hotel’s September opening reservations were slim to poor.  The GSA released income information on the hotel after demands from congressional Democrats.  The profit and loss figures from the Trump Washington DC hotel show that in both September and October of 2016 the Trump Organization lost $1.1 million dollars.

Since Trump’s election, the hotel’s fortunes have risen significantly, and the hotel is making big bucks on overpriced rooms and meals, causing increasingly loud protests against Trump’s continued participation in the hotel operations by ethics watchdogs. Delegations and officials from all over the world are clamoring for reservations at the hotel. Some countries have cancelled long standing reservations at other Washington hotels to stay with the president.  Concerning, to say the least.

Please come back for Part III of this series on Donald Trump and what lies behind the curtain.

Calamity Politics offers analysis and commentary primarily examining U.S. national political scene. While on site please join us for games, contests, cartoons and Resistance items.

Join the Resistance

Darlene

**Special thanks to US Today, Bloomberg News, Vanity Fair, MSNBC and NY Times for facts and figures for this post.**

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