On Saturday, The New York Times published a detailed report on how their new access to President Donald Trump’s tax records reveals the extent to which he used his businesses to sell access to wealthy individuals with business before the administration.
“An investigation by The Times found over 200 companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments that patronized Mr. Trump’s properties while reaping benefits from him and his administration. Nearly a quarter of those patrons have not been previously reported,” said the report. “The tax records — along with membership rosters for Mar-a-Lago and the president’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J., as well as other sources — reveal how much money this new line of business was worth.”
In particular, “Just 60 customers with interests at stake before the Trump administration brought his family business nearly $12 million during the first two years of his presidency, The Times found. Almost all saw their interests advanced, in some fashion, by Mr. Trump or his government.”
“Patrons at the properties ranged widely: foreign politicians and Florida sugar barons, a Chinese billionaire and a Serbian prince, clean-energy enthusiasts and their adversaries in the petroleum industry, avowed small-government activists and contractors seeking billions from ever-fattening federal budgets,” continued the report. “Mr. Trump’s administration delivered them funding and laws and land. He handed them appointments to task forces and ambassadorships, victories as weighty as a presidential directive and as ephemeral as a presidential tweet.”
In one case, the report noted, one prominent Florida lobbyist, Brian Ballard, felt pressured into paying the $200,000 membership fee to join Trump’s Mar-a-Lago country club because he was made to feel that his clients would not get favorable treatment otherwise.
Another case centered on Illinois businessman David Storch. “In the closing months of the Obama administration, Mr. Storch’s company, AAR Corp., had wrested from a rival a $10 billion contract to service State Department aircraft … But as Mr. Trump took office, the competitor, DynCorp, was fighting the award in federal court.” Because the private equity manager who owned DynCorp was a huge donor to Trump, Storch and AAR felt pressure to respond in kind: “In 2017, AAR held an executive retreat at the Trump National Doral golf resort. The company returned again in June 2018, during the hot and rainy slow season, paying $120,746, records show. The following year, AAR held an event at Mr. Trump’s Chicago hotel.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere denied all of these characterizations, saying, “The president has kept his promise every day to the American people to fight for them, drain the swamp and always put America first.”
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