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Major red flags found in Trump’s taxes — and now New York City wants a criminal investigation

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that he had asked Manhattan’s district attorney to investigate discrepancies ProPublica and WNYC revealed last fall between what President Donald Trump’s company reported in filings to city tax officials and what it reported in loan filings. The discrepancies made his properties seem more profitable to a lender and less profitable to the city’s tax authorities.

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After ProPublica published its findings, de Blasio said Friday, the city decided to examine the issues. That process resulted in one matter being turned over to the district attorney in November. De Blasio said he made the referral “because there is a possibility of a criminal act having been committed.” The referral related to Trump’s historic downtown skyscraper at 40 Wall Street, a city spokeswoman added.

De Blasio’s comments came during a conversation with WNYC reporter and “Trump, Inc.” podcast co-host Ilya Marritz on the “Ask the Mayor” segment of “The Brian Lehrer Show.” De Blasio, who ended a presidential bid in September, said Trump’s efforts to avoid taxes have gone beyond the measures taken by most wealthy Americans. He “consistently has believed he was above the law, even before he was president,” de Blasio said. “So this is a real problem, and I think there could be some real exposure here.”

In an emailed statement, a Trump Organization spokeswoman blasted de Blasio for “using the power of his office to try and launch an investigation into his political opponent.” The statement called the allegations “unfounded and clearly motivated by politics.”

A mayoral spokeswoman said that “the Manhattan DA is the proper jurisdiction to investigate these claims, as the city can only review what is directly reported to us. The DA has the jurisdiction to take appropriate steps if they find wrongdoing.” The city’s Department of Finance could also pursue back taxes if it concluded Trump’s company had underpaid, but such information is confidential, according to a spokesperson for the department.

A spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. declined to comment.

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For its October article, ProPublica used New York’s Freedom of Information Law to request records from Trump’s property tax appeals for four buildings, among them 40 Wall Street, Trump Tower and the Trump International Hotel and Tower. ProPublica compared those records with loan documents that became public when Trump’s lender, Ladder Capital, sold the debt on his properties as part of mortgage-backed securities. Both sets of records list multiple real estate and financial metrics, including occupancy, income and expenses.

In the case of 40 Wall Street, for example, documents intended for investors showed a striking rise in occupancy, illustrating the sort of “leasing momentum” that lenders and investors like to see. The company had told a lender that 40 Wall Street was 58.9% leased on Dec. 31, 2012, rising to 95% a few years later. But in filings with tax officials, the company reported it was already 81% leased as of Jan. 5, 2013.

A refinancing occurred in 2015, but as of 2018, the building had not met underwriters’ profit expectations, spending three months on a servicer’s “watch list” in 2016 because of lagging profit.

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The story also found that in the lender’s reports, the building cited lower expenditures for property insurance and a ground lease than it did in filings made to tax officials some years. That made 40 Wall Street appear more profitable to lenders than it did to tax authorities.

A subsequent ProPublica story found that Trump Tower’s tax and loan filings also exhibited inconsistencies, even as to how much space the Trump’s company occupied in Trump Tower. The tower’s overall occupancy rate during three consecutive years appeared 11, 16 and 16 percentage points higher in filings to a lender than in reports to city tax officials, records showed.

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Trump Organization attributed the discrepancies to differences in the reporting requirements for preparing tax submissions and loan submissions.

The city’s Tax Commission, which handles property tax appeals, also reviewed submissions by Trump’s company for space it owns in the Trump International Hotel and Tower, a person knowledgeable about the commission said. Trump’s company had failed to report income from antennae it rents on the roof. The commission’s examination, according to the person, found no problem.

Last year, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who is now in prison, testified before Congress that Trump sometimes boosted the value of his assets in documents given to lenders in order to secure loans and reduced those values to lower their tax value. The Trump Organization and Trump himself are fighting multiple subpoenas for financial and tax records.


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BUSTED: Trump said no one saw pandemic coming — but his own officials admitted it kept them up at night

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President Donald Trump has tried to claim that the coronavirus pandemic came out of nowhere and that his administration couldn't have possibly been better prepared for it.

However, CNN reports that past statements from his own administration's officials show that the threat of a pandemic hammering the United States was long seen as a danger that the country was not equipped to handle.

"Of course, the thing that people ask: 'What keeps you most up at night in the biodefense world?' Pandemic flu, of course," said Trump HHS Secretary Alex Azar nearly one year ago.

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Arkansas church vows to continue services: ‘Jesus died with COVID-19 so that you didn’t have to bear it’

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An Arkansas church intends to hold church services despite recommendations from state officials to limit gatherings as part of the fight against the coronavirus.

Awaken Church, in Jonesboro, vowed in a Facebook post to continue holding services in defiance of a Health Department directive banning gatherings of 10 or more, and after churches in other parts of the country were the source of community outbreaks, reported Newsweek.

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2020 Election

Trump’s path to re-election ‘smashed to splinters’ as his only achievement is swallowed up by the pandemic: report

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In a piece for Politico, Ben White writes that Donald Trump was going into November's election with only one achievement under his belt -- a healthy economy -- and now he has nothing left to run if he wants to be re-elected.

With all of the gains made in the stock market long gone due to the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of oil prices, White claims that the president's campaign strategy lies in tatters.

"The fundamental pillars of Donald Trump’s presidency — a hot economy, strong job growth and a rocking stock market — are all being smashed to splinters by the ravaging coronavirus, which has shuttered much of the nation and now officially ended a streak of 113 months of job gains dating back to the end of the Great Recession a decade ago," he wrote before noting the explosion of unemployment claims -- over ten million so far -- that has the country reeling.

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