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Trump inflated net worth by $4 billion in bid to buy Bills

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To hear Michael Cohen tell it, Donald Trump inflated or deflated his own net worth depending on what was best for him at the time.

And according to financial documents Trump’s former lawyer filed with Congress on Wednesday, the New York developer – now the president of the United States – inflated his net worth to the tune of $4 billion while bidding to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014.

That revelation, revealed amid a lengthy House committee hearing Wednesday, might have gotten lost amid all the talk of Trump’s payoffs to a porn star and hacking by WikiLeaks.

But Cohen’s testimony on Trump’s failed bid for the Bills stood out anyway – because they hinted that Trump might have broken the law.

Lying to a financial institution to get a loan constitutes bank fraud. In discussing Trump’s attempts to get a loan from Deutsche Bank to finance his purchase of the Bills, Cohen came close to accusing Trump of just that.
“Mr. Trump is a cheat,” Cohen told the House Oversight and Reform Committee, later adding: “It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.”

To prove his point, Cohen gave the committee Trump’s financial statements from 2011-2013, which the billionaire developer submitted to Deutsche Bank in his 2014 attempt to get a loan to buy the Bills.

Those documents show Trump with a net worth of $4.26 billion as of June 30, 2011, and $4.56 billion a year later. But the third financial report, dated March 31, 2013, showed Trump’s net worth as $8.66 billion, largely because an additional $4 billion line item – labeled “brand value” – appeared on that last document.

Those figures stoked the curiosity of Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Missouri Democrat.

“Inflating assets to win a newspaper poll to boost your ego is not a crime but to your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to a bank in order to help him obtain a loan?” Clay asked at the hearing.

Cohen’s response: “These documents and others were provided to Deutsche Bank on one occasion in which I was with him in our attempt to obtain money so that we can put a bid on the Buffalo Bills.”
By no means was that the only time Trump provided inaccurate information regarding his finances, he said. In response to a question from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx Democrat, Cohen said Trump also inflated his net worth in filings to insurance companies.

Ocasio-Cortez then asked if Congress could find documentation of that in Trump’s tax returns – which the president has refused to release but that House Democrats could subpoena.

“You’ll find it at the Trump Organization,” the president’s company, Cohen replied.

Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization replied to emailed questions about the sudden leap in Trump’s net worth during his pursuit of the Bills, which ended when the NFL approved the sale of the team to Terry and Kim Pegula in September 2014.

But if what Cohen said is true – if Trump did inflate his net worth in documents filed with Deutsche Bank – it might make the president’s legal troubles worse.

That’s because the U.S. criminal code defines bank fraud as, in part, obtaining help from a financial institution “by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises.” While many legal experts doubt whether a president can be indicted, the criminal code sets the punishment for bank fraud as a fine of up to $1 million, or a prison sentence of up to 30 years, or both.
The appearance of an extra $4 billion in “brand value” on Trump’s balance sheet raises questions, said Michael J. Dambra, an assistant professor of accounting and law at the University at Buffalo’s School of Management.

“It’s pretty unusual,” Dambra said.
By brand value, Trump appears to be referring to the net worth he generates by licensing his name to various products.

“But usually, you’re going to see brand value incorporated into the value of the business,” not separated out into an additional line item that suddenly appears on a financial report, Dambra said.

What’s more, Dambra noted that a lot of Trump-branded products have disappeared over time. The Washington Post reported last year that of 19 Trump-branded products that the developer identified in 2015, only two – Trump furniture and a line of Trump home goods – remained. Trump steaks, Trump deodorant and Trump underwear all went the way of Trump University: They all disappeared.

That being the case, “I’d be hard-pressed to believe those products were ever worth $4 billion,” Dambra said.

Even Rep. Tom Reed, a Corning Republican who’s usually a Trump supporter, expressed skepticism over the appearance of $4 billion in Trump brand value just before he attempted to buy the Bills.

“I could see a legitimate question being raised in regards to where that value comes from,” Reed said.

Reed added, though, that many brands have a history of being difficult to value accurately.

Cohen made his comments on Trump’s effort to buy the Bills at one of the most highly anticipated congressional hearings in years.

Cohen served as Trump’s personal lawyer from 2007 until last year. Their relationship began to fall apart last April when the FBI raided Cohen’s New York offices, and it officially ended when Cohen started cooperating with federal prosecutors last June.

Two months later, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felony charges, including fraud and tax evasion in connection with his New York taxi business. He also pleaded guilty to a campaign finance violation tied to his role in paying Trump’s hush money to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who alleged she had a brief affair with Trump in 2006.

Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison sentence on May 6.

In response to his testimony, Trump tried to use Cohen’s guilty plea against him.

“Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately),” the president tweeted Wednesday morning. “He had other clients also. He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”
The relationship between Cohen and Trump is far different today than it was five years ago, when Cohen served as Trump’s main spokesman in his effort to buy the Bills.

“The Bills have a rich history in Western New York, and Mr. Trump’s interest is to preserve that,” Cohen told The Buffalo News in April 2014.

At the time, Cohen gave no hint of what he told Congress on Wednesday: that his former boss played fast and loose with numbers specifying his own net worth.

On the contrary, as Trump ramped up his bid to buy the Bills in April 2014, Cohen told The News: “Mr. Trump’s wealth is far greater than what has been reported.”

Source: https://buffalonews.com/2019/02/27/cohen-claims-calls-trump-a-cheat-citing-records-used-in-2014-bid-to-buy-bills/

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Analysis: Deval Patrick revives debate over ‘electability’

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s late entry into the presidential race offers Democrats a fresh — and perhaps last — chance to reassess who they think is the strongest candidate to take on President Donald Trump.

It adds to the now months-long debate within the Democratic Party over “electability” less than three months before the first votes are cast. For a party that prides itself on diversity, the answers so far have been consistent and, to some, frustrating — a top tier dominated by white candidates, only one of whom is a woman.

But Patrick’s campaign is a reminder of the divergent paths to victory for presidential hopefuls. White candidates must prove they can win over black voters. Blacks and other minority contenders, however, must show they can build white support.

That type of multiracial coalition has eluded virtually everyone in the race except Joe Biden, who — for now — has deep support among black voters in addition to working-class whites. Those who assess that backing as soft, however, see an opening for a moderate candidate like Patrick, a black governor who made history winning in a majority-white state.

That, some strategists say, differentiates Patrick from Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, the two other major black candidates whose past electoral success has come in more diverse states and who are lagging in the presidential polls.

“Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are well-funded, high-profile black candidates, but have not been able to rise during a cycle where appeals to black voters are central to who will be the eventual winner of the primary,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. He said the election will confront what stigma still exists with white voters toward black candidates in the post-Barack Obama era.

“We can make the assumption that Patrick will be the next black candidate to face this test, but his appeal is altogether different than Booker and Harris,” Payne said. “The Patrick candidacy is an appeal to moderation and to the center-left more than a direct appeal to black voters.”

In 2008, then-Sen. Obama was the lone black candidate in the Democratic primary field and didn’t begin to gain momentum until the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, trailing Hillary Clinton and John Edwards for much of the contest. But Obama’s showing— winning an overwhelmingly white electorate — gave him momentum to convince black voters in South Carolina and across the Black Belt that he was viable.

Obama’s diverse coalition was a new blueprint in Democratic electoral mapmaking, earning him the party’s nomination and his history-making general election victory. Observers say it’s an electorate Democrats will have to replicate to win in 2020.

The trio of African Americans have taken different approaches in how they contend with the racial aspects of their candidacies.

Harris announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and has unique status as an alumna of historically black Howard University, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and the lone black woman in the 2020 fray.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker announced during Black History Month. The former mayor of Newark touts his residency in an impoverished black neighborhood in the city but has also sought to cast himself as a bridge builder — pointing out his ties to a civil rights legacy that changed his family’s trajectory with intervention from progressive whites that helped him integrate his childhood neighborhood.

In a brief interview Friday, he encouraged voters to “pull the lens back on diversity.”

“We have women in this race, we have an openly gay person in this race, we have (a) biracial person in this race, African-Americans in this race,” he said. “It is an incredible moment in American history that our field is so diverse and that voters have such qualified folks to choose from.”

Patrick himself has made relatively few references to race since launching his campaign. But as he registered this week to appear on the ballot in the New Hampshire primary, he spoke of the “skepticism” he has experienced as a black man.

“He has demonstrated an ability to win over white voters in an overwhelmingly white state,” said Democratic strategist Doug Thornell. “The question is whether he has enough time, whether he can raise the money, and whether he can carve out a compelling narrative and identity that allows him to break through. That’s a lot to accomplish in two months, but it’s not crazy.”

His path would be a challenging one. Though Patrick is not a national name, he is fairly well-known in neighboring New Hampshire, where voters saw television ads for his gubernatorial campaigns.

A strong finish in the Granite State could provide momentum heading into South Carolina, disrupting the field and leaving no clear frontrunner heading into Super Tuesday, said Thornell.

“If you look at the African American candidates running, he might be the best positioned to pull that off,” Thornell said.

Patrick’s late entry is reminiscent of Gen. Wesley Clark’s 11th-hour bid in 2003. Clark was able to briefly break through after some among the electorate worried about then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s path to the nomination, or that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was too liberal.

As a prominent African American who can appeal to black and white voters, Patrick could appeal to soft Biden voters looking for an alternative to Booker or Harris, or who don’t like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders’ progressive agenda, said Democratic strategist Adrienne Elrod.

“He can create that ‘I’m more left than Biden, but not crazy like Warren/Sanders’ message,” Elrod said. “He could appeal to some of those voters who are on the fence and not satisfied with others in the field. He can say, ‘I can be your candidate.’”

— Errin Haines

 

Source www.amny.com

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White House beancounter defies Trump to tell impeachment inquiry about $400M in suspended Ukraine aid

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A White House budget official defied President Trump and testified Saturday in the House impeachment inquiry about the controversial suspension of defense aid to Ukraine.

Mark Sandy, a career Office of Management and Budget official, told lawmakers that he raised questions about whether the decision by Trump acolytes to hold up $400 million in desperately needed military assistance violated laws mandating money allocated by Congress be spent, CNN reported.

The budget expert did not explain what reasons were given for the hold up in aid. He testified behind closed doors in a rare Saturday session as the impeachment investigation continues to deliver heavy blows to Trump.

Sandy acted on orders to put an initial hold on the aid in late July and the issue was later handed over to Trump political appointees.

The aid was already appropriated by Congress, meaning the White House would have had to offer a legally valid reason for withholding it.

It’s not known what explanation if any, was given for removing the suspension from Sandy’s purview.

Sandy’s testimony shone a harsh spotlight on Mick Mulvaney, who is both the OMB director and Trump’s acting chief of staff.

“Mulvaney not only has refused to testify, but actively worked to block others from complying with subpoenas,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Cal.) in a statement. “(He also) refused to provide Congress with documents relating to Trump’s suspension of Congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine.

Mulvaney admitted that Trump imposed an improper “quid pro quo” on Ukraine at a disastrous press conference although he later sought to walk back his admission. He has refused to testify to the impeachment probe.

A key contention of impeachment advocates is that Trump suspended the aid so he could use it as leverage to force Ukraine into launching bogus investigation of Trump’s Democratic rivals.

In fact, the suspension of aid shocked Ukraine officials and reportedly led them to consider announcing the corruption probes to get the cash flowing again.

By that time, in early September, the intelligence whistleblower complaint had hit the headlines, forcing the White House to reinstate the aid without getting the investigations announcement that Trump wanted.

In a statement Saturday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called out Mulvaney for refusing to testify.

“If Mulvaney had evidence that contradicted what we’ve already heard, he’d be eager to testify and provide documents. Instead, he’s hiding behind, and assisting in, Trump’s efforts to conceal the truth from the American people,” Schiff said.

Also on Saturday, impeachment investigators released the transcripts of depositions given by deputy assistant to the president Timothy Morrison, and Vice President Pence’s special adviser on Europe and Russia, Jennifer Williams.

In Morrison’s Oct. 31 deposition, he testified U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland told him he’d spoken with Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak about American military funding being conditioned on corruption investigations. “My concern was what Gordon was proposing about getting the Ukrainians pulled into our politics,” Morrison testified.

In Williams’ Nov. 7 deposition, she confirmed that Trump told Pence to not attend the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s inauguration in an apparent signal that he needed to pursue the corruption probes or be frozen out of the military aid.

“My understanding from my colleague—and, again, I wasn’t there for the conversation—was that the President asked the Vice President not to attend,” she testified.

Source www.nydailynews.com

By DAVE GOLDINER

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Social networks have been weaponized for the impeachment hearings

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facebook, instagram whatsapp also affected

Impeachment hearings got underway in the House of Representatives this week, as you likely noticed from the wall-to-wall coverage. The process involves the sort of high-stakes, highly partisan events that naturally dominate social feeds. What television was to impeachment in the 1970s and 1990s, Facebook and Twitter — and YouTube and maybe TikTok — will be to impeachment in 2019.

The hearings on President Donald Trump’s apparent attempted bribery of Ukraine won’t be the first time a president has had to contend with, or benefit from, a hyper-partisan media. Conservative talk radio and Fox News were in full swing when Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, even if their rhetoric looks quaint by today’s standard. But the World Wide Web was in its infancy, and the world was then still innocent of algorithmically sorted news feeds, partisan bot armies, and state-sponsored meme warfare.

Not anymore. If the first day of hearings is any indication, social networks promise to play a powerful role in shaping the way that impeachment hearings are understood by Americans. They are also playing a powerful role in shaping the hearings themselves.

As Ryan Broderick documented at BuzzFeed, Republican lawmakers used their time during Wednesday’s hearing to promote discredited conspiracy theories that are popular on right-wing message boards:

There is one America that believes what was in former FBI director Robert Mueller’s report, that there was coordinated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which helped the Trump campaign. But there is a second America that believes that in the summer of 2016, the Democratic National Committee colluded with Ukrainian nationals to frame the Trump campaign for collusion with Russia, implicating a Ukrainian American DNC contractor, Alexandra Chalupa, in the collusion and the California-based cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike in the subsequent cover-up.

This unfounded theory has been propped up by a 2017 Politico story; reporting from right-wing political commentator John Solomon published earlier this year in the Hill; Attorney General Bill Barr’s summer travels; the yearlong personal investigation into Ukraine conducted by Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer working for Trump; and coverage from Fox News and conservative news sites. All of that came into play during Wednesday’s hearing, sometimes implicitly and sometimes explicitly.

After Republican members of Congress promoted these various smokescreens, right-wing media universally dismissed the hearing — either as an absurd exercise led by clowns, or as an outrageous abuse of power. Brian Stelter described the atmosphere on cable news:

Here’s what else I heard: Wednesday’s hearing was a bust. It was all just hearsay. It was a “disaster” for the Democrats and a “great day” for the Republicans. Impeachment is “stupid.” Impeachment is “fake.” There’s nothing impeachable here. There’s no reason to hold hearings. This inquiry needs to stop right now.

The message was one-sided and overwhelming. Every host and practically every guest said the Republican tribe is winning and the Democrat tribe is losing. I’m sure the president loved watching every minute of it. That’s one of the reasons why this right-wing rhetoric matters so much — because it is reassuring and emboldening Trump.

Meanwhile, if you’re reading the New York Times or watching CNN, you’re getting the sense that the case against Trump is a slam dunk, with multiple people having heard the president directly pressure his ambassador to the European Union to pursue a bribery plot. As Ezra Klein wrote recently, this impeachment is “the easiest possible test case for can our system hold a president accountable.” And yet with something like 40 percent of the country living in an alternate media universe, the basic, actual facts of the case may never penetrate into their reality.

Of course, that fear was one of the best reasons for Democrats to initiate impeachment proceedings in the first place: Show people real witnesses answering important questions over a long enough period of time — train everyone’s eyes on the same set of facts — and maybe a greater consensus will emerge.

Time will tell if they succeed. In the meantime, impeachment has proven to be big business on Facebook — where politicians are taking out highly partisan ads consistent with their respective worldviews. Emily Stewart and Rani Molla have a thorough walkthrough of how impeachment is playing out on Facebook, with Trump and Sen. Elizabeth Warren using ads to fire up their base and build their donor rolls; Tom Steyer using impeachment as a signature issue to promote his presidential candidacy; and a spice company buying tens of thousands of dollars worth of pro-impeachment advertising because they spread farther on Facebook than non-impeachment ads, resulting in a better return on investment.

Much of the debate about whether Facebook should allow political advertising noted that it represents a small fraction of the company’s business. But as the Vox writers note, that doesn’t mean it’s an insignificant business:

Facebook itself has grown into a formidable political platform in recent years, with campaigns and outside groups spending $284 million on the platform during the midterm elections, according to a report by Tech for Campaigns, a nonprofit that helps political campaigns with digital tools. While that’s just a small share of Facebook’s overall ad revenue, it’s a growing chunk of what campaigns are spending to reach constituents.

As impeachment hearings intensify, it seems likely politicians’ spending on Facebook ads will increase. And a good number of those ads, like so much about impeachment in 2019, will seem to have been created in a parallel world. In many ways, they were.

 

 

read more theverge.com

By Casey Newton

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