Lost in the Sauce: The grift grows stronger as Trump’s election prospects dim
There was a lot to cover for Lost in the Sauce, so I’m splitting it into two posts. This is part one, focusing on the most recent reporting regarding Trump’s campaign and how he has profited off the presidency.
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Trump money and properties
Deutsche Bank is reportedly seeking to cut ties with President Donald Trump after the election. According to Reuters, bank executives are tired of “the negative publicity stemming from the ties” to the Trump family. Deutsche Bank could seek to sell or demand repayment of about $340 million in outstanding loans to the Trump Organization.
After initially planning on an election night party at his own hotel, Trump changed venues and will now host a 400-person gathering in the East Room of the White House. The decision was reportedly made due to D.C. coronavirus restrictions and a lack of campaign funds. Instead, taxpayers will foot the bill to have the event on federal property. Trump’s hotel was sold out before the change of venue, meaning the president gets his big party and profits from his business.
- There will still be some Trump figures at his D.C. hotel, down the street from the White House, and Trump has teased stopping by.
- We do not know the precise cost of rooms for election night at Trump’s hotel, but CNBC suggests “standard guest rooms are going for over $1,000 per night, and the more expensive suites are going for just under $2,000.” Watchdog group CREW states that a basic room the night after the election costs nearly 5 times the average cost: a spoke from around $331 to $1,600.
The campaign to re-elect Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) appears to have received a deep discount on lodging at Trump International Hotel in Washington during the RNC in August. Such a discount would violate federal election law barring corporations from contributing directly to campaigns.
At least 150 foreign government officials have paid visits to Trump properties. One diplomat said: “Why wouldn’t I stay at [Trump’s] hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’”
The Department of Defense has nearly doubled its spending at a Scotland Airport over the past 18 months. The unprecedented level of US defence spending at Prestwick will also raise further questions about whether US aircrews are continuing to stay at the US president’s loss making Turnberry resort, located just 23 miles south of the airport. Furthermore, Prestwick’s parent company has received nearly £25m from the Trump administration.
- Reminder: As of Sept. 2019, the U.S. Air Force had lodged crews at Trump’s Turnberry resort up to 40 times. An uptick in spending at Prestwick makes it likely that the DoD is spending more at Turnberry, as well, lining the president’s pockets.
Newly-obtained financial documents obtained by WaPo show at least $2.5 million in taxpayer funds have been spent at Trump properties. Much of that spending was triggered by Trump’s travel, or the travel of his family and aides. Highlights:
- When Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in April 2017, Trump hosted a formal dinner at the club – Trump charged the government more than $7,000 for the 30-person dinner, including charges for wine, floral arrangements and decorative potted palm trees. The bill appears to include Trump’s own meal.
- During Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago, State Department records show, a group of White House staffers kicked the bartender out of a bar at Mar-a-Lago and served themselves. The club later sent the government a bill for what they drank: 54 drinks of tequila, vodka and bourbon at $15 or $16 each, plus service charge.
- Their first meeting was a brief one on the couch in Mar-a-Lago’s central living room. No food was served. But Trump’s club charged taxpayers for each glass of water at $3 a pop.
- In April 2018, Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago. The club sharply increased its charges for flowers, billing the government $6,000 for two days’ work. The florist signed a non-disclosure agreement.
- Trump’s club in Bedminster, N.J., charges the Secret Service $17,000 a month, every month, from May to November each year.
The son of former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy helped Donald Trump in 2005 secure nearly $700 million in loans to construct a skyscraper in Chicago, despite Trump’s reputation for defaulting on business loans. Justin Kennedy, who ran Deutsche Bank’s commercial real estate team and was close with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, was “drawn to Trump’s risk-taking and glamour.”
The relationship paid off later when the Trump administration convinced Justice Kennedy to retire and make way for Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the bench:
“Trump’s flattery was part of a coordinated White House charm offensive designed to persuade the ageing justice — for years, the Court’s pivotal swing vote — that it was safe to retire, even with an unpredictable man in the Oval Office.”
Last year, Trump disclosed $61,045 in “consulting fees” that are apparently related to Trump Organization projects. It appears that Trump was paid for services he performed for his business while he also served as president. “The mere fact that a president might be engaged in for-profit consulting on the side is cause for concern.”
CREW estimates that special interests seeking to gain favor with the administration have likely spent more than $13 million at President Trump’s businesses since he took office. Such groups have hosted or sponsored 137 events at Trump properties since his inauguration.
Trump’s top campaign strategist has been hiding payments from a Steve Bannon nonprofit under investigation & taking campaign salary through another firm. Additionally, Jason Miller made as much as $99,000 in one month, but paid as little as $500 in child support.
Trump’s campaign is making the default option for campaign contributions a repeating weekly donation that will continue through mid-December. Such a boost in post-election donations would help the campaign pay off debts that may carry over from the present until after the results have been declared.
Trump’s campaign has struggled to come up with money in the last stretch of the election, after wasting the majority of its $1 billion in funds. In January, Trump spent $10 million on a Super Bowl ad when he didn’t even have a Democratic challenger. Nearly $100,000 [was] spent on copies of Donald Trump Jr.’s book Triggered, which helped propel it to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.
- The AP report also lists: $912,000 spent on ads that ran on the personal Facebook pages of Parscale and Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson. A $250,000 ad run during Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, which came after Trump was booed by spectators when he attended Game 5. At least $218,000 for Trump surrogates to travel aboard private jets provided by campaign donors. $1.6 million on TV ads in the Washington, D.C., media market, an overwhelmingly Democratic area where Trump has little chance of winning but where he is a regular TV watcher.
In the final three days of the election, one of the most desirable billboards on the internet — YouTube’s home page — has been devoted exclusively to promote the re-election of President Trump. Working closely with Google last year, the Trump campaign locked in the key dates, including Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, with special early access that it was granted as part of an incentive program for big advertisers.
The Trump campaign still owes El Paso—a city facing a coronavirus disaster—$569,000 for his 2019 rally. “We’re told even if we filed suit, chances of collection are slim,” El Paso mayor Dee Margo said. El Paso county has one of the highest covid cases adjusted for population outside of the Dakotas, at 181 cases per million people.
Louis DeJoy gave over $685,000 to Trump’s Republican convention committee just five weeks before he became Postmaster General. Link
In the week leading up to Election day, the Trump campaign put his supporters in dangerous and life-threatening situations, including twice ditching rally-goers in very cold temperatures with no transportation.
- Hundreds of people who attended Trump’s Omaha rally Tuesday evening spent up to three hours in freezing temperatures waiting for buses to take them back to their cars. Several people who were waiting required medical attention.
- On Saturday night, thousands of attendees of a Trump rally at the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport in Butler, Pennsylvania, were left waiting for hours for bus transportation back to their cars. Reporters on the scene said the temperature was 41 degrees.
- Then, the next night, Trump fans were stranded in Rome, Georgia, after not enough buses arrived to ferry people from the president’s rallies back to their cars. NBC News Washington reporter Julie Tsirkin tweeted that it was “46 degrees and windy in the area tonight,” adding in a second post that “some of the folks left stranded were older and disabled.”
- 17 attendees of Trump’s Thursday rally in Tampa, Florida, required medical attention after spending hours in the 90 degree heat. A dozen people were reportedly taken to the hospital.
The Interior Department released a “propaganda” video praising President Trump’s efforts in office less than a week before the election. Text in the video hailed Trump for “preserving the awesome majesty of God’s great creation” and, in a tweet sharing the production, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said it celebrated Trump’s “historic feats for conservation.”
“This video seems to be one in a pattern of Interior Department making propaganda video,” watchdog group CREW said. “It seemed to be for the express benefit of President Trump. Tinpot dictators use every resource of their government to keep themselves in power.”
Trump’s three energy and environmental agency heads have been frequently touring swing states in the final month ahead of the election, raising questions about whether the administration is improperly using government resources to boost his reelection bid. Government ethics experts are concerned the travel from these officials could be used to win votes for Trump in key battleground states.
In October, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt all traveled to battleground states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio…A consistent message on many of these trips: Trump’s support for job creation, whether it’s for manufacturing in Ohio, agriculture in Florida and Georgia, or energy in Pennsylvania, at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has spurred widespread job losses and talks for a new aid package in Congress have collapsed.
Similarly, White House national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien visited two swing states – MN and WI – days before the Nov. 3 election. In Minnesota, O’Brien attended a roundtable on mining; Both Trump and Pence have visited the area to underscore their support for copper-nickel mining, which Republicans see as a way of motivating voters in the state’s Iron Range to support the president and down-ballot candidates. In Wisconsin, O’Brien visited the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard to tour the facility and meet employees; O’Brien praised the shipbuilders for helping rebuild the U.S. military, a key talking point for Trump on the campaign trail.
House Democrats accused FCC Chair Ajit Pai of trying to “influence social media companies’ behavior leading up to an election” by announcing action on Section 230 rulemaking. Trump and his allies have accused social media companies of having an anti-conservative bias and improperly censoring conservative news. House Energy and Commerce Cmte. Chair and Subcommittee Chair: “the FCC’s rush to push President Trump’s agenda weeks before Election Day should be seen for the reckless and politically-motivated stunt that it is.”
Trump’s plan to distribute $200 drug-discount cards to all Medicare recipients remains in limbo after officials missed an earlier goal of sending out millions of announcement letters and even some cards by Election Day. Officials say that there are still unresolved concerns about the legality and logistics of the nearly $8 billion plan.
“The program is approved and moving forward,” the White House official said on Friday. “Cards will be sent out in the months of November and December,” adding that all the cards would arrive by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office has agreed to review the program’s legality, according to a letter that GAO sent to Democratic lawmakers on Friday.