75 episodes

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

Trump, Inc. WNYC

    • Politics
    • 4.6, 4.9K Ratings

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

    'Repeat Offender'

    'Repeat Offender'

    This story was co-published with ProPublica. Stay up to date with email updates about WNYC and ProPublica’s investigations into the president’s business practices.

    President Donald Trump’s recent musings about staging his Republican National Convention speech at the White House drew criticism from government ethics watchdogs and even one Republican senator, John Thune of South Dakota.

    The suggestion wasn’t an isolated blending of official presidential duties and the campaign. It was part of a yearslong pattern of disregarding such boundaries in the Trump White House. There is a law, called the Hatch Act, that prohibits most government officials from engaging in politicking in the course of their official work.

    The law does not apply to the president or vice president. While other presidents took campaign advantage of the trappings of the office, something that came to be known as the “Rose Garden strategy,” they typically refrained from explicit electoral appeals or attacks on their opponents at official presidential events. Federal election law and measures governing appropriations prohibit using taxpayer dollars for electioneering.

    Since resuming official travel at the beginning of May after a coronavirus-imposed pause, Trump has held 25 presidential out-of-town events. Of these events, transcribed on the official White House website, the president spoke about the election or attacked his opponent, Joe Biden, at 12 of them, nearly half. His presidential stage provided a venue for supporters to urge others to vote for Trump in November at three additional events.

    Administration officials have been cited for breaking the Hatch Act 13 times by federal investigators at the Office of Special Counsel (not to be confused with special counsel Robert Mueller). Twelve more investigations are underway. The law dates from the New Deal era, enacted after a scandal where employees of the Works Progress Administration were pressured to work on the campaigns of candidates friendly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    Neither the White House, the campaign or Trump’s campaign treasurer, Bradley Crate, responded to requests for comment.

    Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, violated the Hatch Act so many times that the OSC took the drastic measure of recommending she be fired, calling her actions “egregious, notorious and ongoing.” (Trump refused to do so.)

    The special counsel, Henry Kerner, is a Trump appointee and member of the conservative Federalist Society. He previously worked for Republicans Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz on Capitol Hill.

    When asked about the OSC’s recommendation, Conway said, “blah blah blah,” adding, “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.” Hatch Act violations are not criminal. The most significant result of a violation is dismissal.

    Hatch Act violations were relatively rare in the previous two presidential administrations. Two cabinet officials were cited for Hatch Act violations during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Some half-dozen senior officials in the Obama and Bush administrations said that they were frequently advised to avoid even the appearance of electioneering at official events.

    “There was a very bright line between what was a campaign event and what was an official event,” said Greg Jenkins, the director of advance for President George W. Bush during the period that included the 2004 reelection campaign. “If you could stretch things and say, yes, it’s perfectly legal to do this, but it has the appearance of impropriety — you don't do it.”

    Kathleen Sebelius, the former secretary of health and human services under Obama, was cited for making a statement urging his reelection during a gala for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights group. Sebelius apologized, and the Treasury was reimbursed for the cost of the trip.

    “I

    • 32 min
    Why is Trump’s Campaign Suing a Small Wisconsin TV Station?

    Why is Trump’s Campaign Suing a Small Wisconsin TV Station?

    The president’s campaign has paid millions to law firms filing defamation suits against news organizations. Experts say lawsuits are doomed, but Trump could still get what he wants.

    • 30 min
    Temporary Presidential Immunity Is Not A Thing

    Temporary Presidential Immunity Is Not A Thing

    On the last day of its term the Supreme Court released a climactic set of decisions on presidential power and the rule of law. The court said that yes, the president is subject to congressional oversight — to a point — and could be subject to a criminal investigation. Melissa Murray, professor at NYU Law and co-host of the Strict Scrutiny podcast, joins us to discuss the decisions.

    • 25 min
    Trump Team Online

    Trump Team Online

    This story was co-published with ProPublica. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations.

    Donald Trump is famous — and infamous — for his use of Twitter and Facebook. But particularly since the pandemic forced him to largely swear off his favorite mass, in-person rallies, his campaign has been amping up the use of another form of alternative media: YouTube and podcasts.

    The president’s most recent sit-down interview? As it happens, it occurred last week on “Triggered,” a YouTube program hosted by his namesake son. In a conversation in the White House’s map room, Trump Jr. quizzed his dad about everything from who his favorite child is to whether aliens exist — to a Fox News report that Osama bin Laden wanted to assassinate President Barack Obama so that Joe Biden would ascend to the presidency.

    This was no ordinary campaign video, nor was it a random question, this week’s episode of “Trump, Inc.” makes clear. “Triggered” followed the exchange about bin Laden with a campaign ad that repeated the same point, showing how closely the program’s conversations are tied in with campaign talking points. “Trump, Inc.” explores the Trump campaign’s universe of podcasts and YouTube shows, which has expanded since the coronavirus began locking down huge swaths of the country. (The campaign did not respond to requests for comment.)

    Sure, every major candidate has a podcast. Hillary Clinton had one. Biden has one, though it hasn’t been updated since mid-May. But unlike those dutiful and largely ignored offerings, “Triggered” is part of a growing constellation of shows. There’s the campaign’s official podcast, hosted by Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara. (Kayleigh McEnany used to fill in occasionally as host before being promoted to White House press secretary.) And there’s “The Right View.” Just imagine “The View,” conducted entirely on Zoom, if Meghan McCain was considered too liberal to be on the panel and if no one ever disagreed. The programs have combined to create something of a Trump media network, one that takes the president’s bellicose messaging and transports it to an environment of family, friendship and banter.

    People are starting to pay attention. Nightly programming of the unofficial Trump Network reaches upward of a million viewers each week. It’s a realm dedicated to reinforcing even the president’s most incendiary ideas — with no pushback, skepticism or difference of opinion.

    To learn more about how the programs lay out their views of everything from bin Laden assassination plots to the controversy over vote by mail, listen to this week’s episode of “Trump, Inc.”

     

    • 22 min
    The Watchdogs

    The Watchdogs

    This story was co-published with ProPublica. Sign up for email updates from Trump, Inc. to get the latest on our investigations.

    When Congress was considering passing the more than $2 trillion coronavirus bailout two months ago, President Donald Trump made his vision for oversight clear. “I’ll be the oversight,” he said. 

    The CARES Act empowers a number of different offices to make sure the money is spent wisely and without favoritism. Shortly after he signed it into law, Trump ousted the inspector general who was slated to lead the oversight — one of five watchdogs the president has purged in less than two months. 

    Trump also issued a signing statement asserting that he can ignore oversight provisions of the bailout law and that Congress does not have to be consulted. “My Administration will treat this provision as hortatory but not mandatory,” he wrote. 

    We spoke to an official just hired to do one of the jobs Trump cited in his signing statement. She told us that Trump’s moves have made her particularly careful to avoid any “adverse” comments about the administration. 

    Linda Miller began work this week as the deputy executive director of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, or PRAC. Miller spent a decade at the nonpartisan, independent Government Accountability Office, where she dug into the case of a crooked Navy contractor nicknamed Fat Leonard. She said she’s learned that corruption often starts at the top. 

    Here is an edited transcript of our conversation with Miller. She spoke with “Trump, Inc.” co-host Ilya Marritz a few days before formally joining the PRAC. (Our episode also includes an interview with Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the bailout’s congressional watchdog.)

    Trump, Inc.: You warned my producer when we booked this interview that there are a lot of things that you can’t talk about or won’t talk about. Just so I know, what are those things?

    Linda Miller: Uh, anything that would be in any way adverse to the administration is something that I won’t be commenting on in any way.

    Trump, Inc.: What do you mean by “adverse to the administration”?

    Miller: I can’t speak negatively about the president or any of the decisions he’s made, particularly when it comes to the IG community. That’s the biggest, probably political football around my new role. The IG community is obviously under a lot of stress and scrutiny.

    There’s a lot of politics, and people have been asking me what it’s going to be like to go work in the inspector general community. I can speak real broadly. I just won’t say anything that’s in any way derogatory about the president because, obviously in my role, I need to stay as neutral as possible in order to basically stay in my role, frankly.

    Trump, Inc.: And that’s your judgment, coming into this job.

    Miller: Right. That’s my judgment.

    Trump, Inc.: I know that your career specialty is detecting risk of fraud. You did this at the Government Accountability Office. You also did it in the private sector. What are some of the frauds that you have uncovered?

    Miller: My specialty is less in investigating fraud and more in helping organizations prevent fraud from occurring. So, often when a big fraud event occurs, I come in afterwards and help the agency or sometimes the private-sector company think about how they were vulnerable.

    I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the very large Navy scandal, it’s affectionately known as the “Fat Leonard” scandal. A contractor who bribed a variety of senior government officials all the way up to admirals, in order to get information that would give him a competitive advantage.

    That particular scandal was shocking for the scale and the scope. There were bribes involving prostitutes, and meals, and jewelry and all kinds of stuff.

    And I often use that fraud example when I ta

    • 42 min
    New Questions for Trump’s Biggest Lenders

    New Questions for Trump’s Biggest Lenders

    This story was co-published with ProPublica. Our reporting on President Trump's relationship with Deutsche Bank was originally published in May 2019.

    A decade ago, loan filings showed Trump Tower in New York City had a reported profit of about $13.3 million. But when the tower refinanced its debt soon after, the profits for the same year — 2010 — somehow appeared higher. A new lender listed the profits as $16.1 million, or 21% more than they had been recorded previously.  

    The next year’s earnings for the building also “improved” between the two filings. Profits for 2011 were listed as 12% higher under the new loan than the old, according to reports by loan servicers and data provider Trepp. 

    ProPublica uncovered the Trump Tower discrepancies by examining publicly available data for mortgages that are packaged into securities known as commercial mortgage-backed securities, comparing the same years in reports for different CMBS. If a bank had held onto the loan, instead of selling it to investors, such information would have been kept private. No evidence has emerged that the Trump Organization was involved in changing the profit figures.

    Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, said: “Not only were the numbers provided to the servicer accurate, but Trump Tower is considered one of the most underleveraged commercial buildings around.” 

    The discrepancies in the tower profits match a pattern described in a whistleblower complaint filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which ProPublica revealed this month. The complaint accuses commercial lenders of fraudulently inflating the income numbers underlying loans in many CMBS. 

    The complaint named seven servicers and 14 lenders, including two of the country’s biggest issuers of CMBS — Ladder Capital and Wells Fargo. Both were involved in the more recent Trump Tower loan, one as the lender, the second as the financial institution that packaged the loan into a CMBS. The complaint does not say which entities altered specific numbers and does not address whether borrowers were involved in, or knew about, the alleged fraud.

    Wells Fargo declined to comment. Ladder Capital did not respond to questions about Trump’s signature Fifth Avenue tower. Ladder did respond to questions for ProPublica’s earlier article; it acknowledged it had altered historical numbers for two other loans ProPublica asked about, to remove expenses that were not recurring in the future. The lender said its actions were appropriate. (Ladder is a publicly traded commercial real estate investment trust with more than $6 billion in assets. It employs Jack Weisselberg, the son of the Trump Organization’s longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, as an executive director whose job is to make loans. Jack Weisselberg declined to comment.)

    When the Trump Organization refinanced its loan for Trump Tower in 2012, it increased the size of its loan from $27.5 million to $100 million, extracting $67.9 million in cash. The interest-only loan originally represented about 8% of the more than $1 billion in mortgages assembled into the CMBS. (Only the commercial part of the tower — with retail tenants such as Gucci and offices, including for the Trump Organization — served as collateral for the loan.)

    For both 2010 and 2011, data shows the discrepancies in net operating income between the old and new loans for Trump Tower were largely due to the new loan reporting lower expenses. The prospectus for the more recent loan stated that “the historical expenses exclude security associated with Donald J. Trump’s personal services” — though it did not specify dollar amounts for the change. Greater revenues were cited for both years under the new loan, too, but the prospectus did not explain why.

    The whistleblower complaint, filed by a CMBS-industry insider named John Flyn

    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
4.9K Ratings

4.9K Ratings

WishICouldSailAway ,

Deserves investigative journalism award!

I’d listen to daily podcasts. The hosts and guests are smart and the narrative is clear. They follow the $$, and they use new leads and easily accessible math to explain their findings and to identify information they would like to have at their fingertips.

I hope the show circles back at some point to review and update earlier stories, e.g., re federal expenditures at Trump properties; Trump business entanglements with Russia, Turkey and Malaysia etc.

Parisfrance-18 ,

Untangling A Knot Yeats in the Making

Surprising twists and turns give the episodes a “Who Dunnit” theme that draws you into complicated subjects that merit a closer look. Always reputable facts, interviews and documents to add substance. Worth a listen every time and time again.

bjohns383 ,

Fix Your Audio

I know you’re recording from home, but the hard p’s and plosives are out of hand.

Also, the main host has a ridiculous cadence..

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